It's a whole new world we live in when full-size workaday pickups like the 2011 Ford F-150 sport not a honkin' V8 engine but a twin-turbocharged direct-injected gasoline V6. Welcome to your whole new world.
The idea of trading cubes for boost, of course, is to squeak out better fuel economy. But what about the performance side of the coin -- can a turbocharged gasoline V6 really provide the power delivery to which we've become accustomed? To achieve these learnings, we headed to the chassis dyno at MD Automotive in Westminster, California.
Newfangled turbos aren't exactly newfangled. Think about every diesel truck engine made in the past, oh, twenty years. All turbocharged. It was only a matter of time before the demand for improved fuel economy justified the cost of implementing turbos into a high-volume gasoline truck powertrain. Expect other manufacturers to follow suit.
Ford's literature claims 420 lb-ft of torque from 1,500 to 5,500 rpm and 365 horsepower at 5000 rpm, as measured at the flywheel. Without further delay, here's what we measured at the wheels of the 2011 Ford F-150 Ecoboost:
At the wheels we measured 350 lb-ft at 3600 rpm and 319 hp at 5150 rpm. This test was run using 87 octane fuel.
It's always difficult to reproduce the slabular torque curves touted by manfacturers when using an inertia chassis dyno. It's down to that quasi-steady effect I've talked about before.
This Ford, though, throws two more complications into the mix. The first is a speed limiter. If you dyno it in fourth gear, you run into a max speed governer before the tach hits the redline.
So I had to dyno it in third gear instead. This avoids the speed limiter but makes our measured numbers lower than they were in the fourth gear run that checked out early. Remember, the Dynojet is an inertia dyno. Accelerating its inertia quickly (third gear) sucks up more power than doing it more gradually (fourth gear).
The second complication is its transmission's torque converter, which actively manipulates its lockup characteristics. When you whack the throttle to the floor when holding a fixed gear, it slips to let the revs soar so that the turbos can come on song. This produces the best acceleration possible, but the Dynojet doesn't record data during the slip period. It wants to see closer agreement between drum speed and engine speed.
Anyway, the upshot is that the data doesn't begin until just after 3000 rpm even though I wooded it at around 1800 rpm. And the measured torque is artificially low due to the third gear thing. So not an ideal test, but what does it tell us? Hard to say without some basis for comparison.
With that I urge you to examine the squiggles over here on the right. This is the F-150 Ecoboost and our now-departed 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 , which I dyno-tested a while back on the same dyno. To recap, the Ram is powered by the 5.7-liter "Hemi" V8 rated by Dodge at 390 horsepower and 407 lb-ft of torque.
It appears the Ecoboost is the real deal. Despite the sub-optimal test conditions for the Ford, it out-torques the Dodge by 14 lb-ft, and the Dodge out-powers the Ford by just 9 hp. Furthermore, although the Ram's downshift-happy transmission means no data below ~3700 rpm, there's little chance it can touch the Ecoboost at revs below this point -- torque curve breadth is a specialty of turbo gas engines.
It's worth noting, too, that the normally aspirated V8 in the Ram recommends 89 octane, while the Ecoboost did its stuff on 87 octane. A whole new world, indeed.