The best-selling half-ton truck in the country is getting an all-new engine lineup for 2011. Ford is replacing its legacy two-valve and three-valve 4.6-liter V-8 twins and the venerable three-valve 5.4-liter V-8 in the F-150 with technically advanced six- and eight-cylinder engines that Ford says will be the most fuel-efficient in the industry. The truck maker is also shifting exclusively to six-speed automatic transmissions for every powertrain.
Six-cylinder engines are the unloved stepchildren of the half-ton segment. These entry-level mills have significantly less power and are only marginally more fuel efficient than most available eight-cylinder engines, making them an unpopular choice to power a full-size truck.
Ford dropped its old 4.2-liter V-6 from the F-150 lineup after 2008 – offering only V-8 engines – because even its two-valve 4.6-liter V-8 with a four-speed automatic was less thirsty yet delivered more power.
But for 2011, V-6 is no longer a dirty word when it comes to full-size pickups.
Ford’s all-new Duratec 3.7-liter V-6 is the new base engine for the F-150. It’s rated at 300 horsepower and 275 pounds-feet of torque on regular unleaded fuel, though it will also burn E85 ethanol. It debuted earlier this year in the 2011 Ford Mustang, where it’s rated at 305 hp and 280 pounds-feet of torque. It’s also shared with the Ford Edge crossover.
Fleet owners are most likely to be its customers, looking for a low-cost capable pickup. Ford Ranger buyers are another potential target for the 3.7-liter V-6, when production of Ford’s compact pickup ends in 2011. Ford also says it will be the most fuel-efficient engine in the segment.
The dual-overhead-cam, all-aluminum, 60-degree V-6 is stuffed with technology. Starting with composite upper and lower intake manifolds to feed air to the engine, the engine’s heads have four valves per cylinder (two intake, two exhaust) that are combined with twin independent variable camshaft timing, or Ti-VCT in Ford speak. Ti-VCT varies valve actuation throughout the power band so there’s improved torque at the low end, cleaner emissions and better fuel economy throughout the rpm range. Bucket tappets that actuate the valves are low-friction and designed to boost mileage further.
The 3.7-liter V-6 also features a die-cast aluminum deep-sump oil pan that helps the engine go up to 10,000 miles between oil changes. The high use of aluminum throughout the engine saves weight and further improves fuel economy.
With all of this power, maximum trailer towing with the 3.7-liter V-6 is up to 6,100 pounds. That’s more than the maximum 5,760 pounds for today’s Ranger.
The 3.7-liter V-6 will be available for all cab configurations, up to a two-wheel-drive SuperCrew – the only V-6 full-size pickup with a crew cab.
Which F-150 Models Get It? XL, STX, XLT
Availability? Fourth quarter of 2010
3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6
Ford isn’t bringing back just one V-6 for 2011. It’s offering two. However, the second six-cylinder engine has about as much in common with the first as Jaws does with Flipper. And this is one six-cylinder with lots of teeth.
As originally announced in 2009, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 will be the first application of Ford’s gasoline direct-injection twin-turbo technology in a half-ton pickup. It’s Ford’s effort to shrink engine displacement for improved fuel economy while delivering tons of low-end power.
How much power? Ford is still coy, but we estimate the 3.5 will be about 400 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque, enough to give it best-in-class towing and highway fuel economy. Ford says it will be able to pull up to 11,300 pounds, which is today’s maximum towing rating for the F-150. That’s amazing when you imagine its displacement is smaller than a pair of 2-liter bottles of Coke.
EcoBoost V-6 performance is said to be diesel-like, with peak torque coming on early in the power band and staying flat throughout the rev range.
The twin-turbo setup should also prove ideal for towing at altitude, where a naturally aspirated engine can have difficulty feeding air to its cylinders.
In the engine lineup, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 6.2-liter V-8 will occupy the top two slots. Ford hasn’t said how much it will cost. It may carry a premium over the 6.2.
Official fuel economy and power figures will be revealed during the State Fair of Texas in September. We’ll be there to bring you initial driving impressions, too.
Which F-150 Models Get It? All except for Harley-Davidson and SVT Raptor
Availability? First quarter of 2011
The 3.7-liter V-6 isn’t the only engine that the F-150 will share with the Mustang. It’s also getting the all-new 5.0-liter “Coyote” V-8.
The engine, which makes 360 hp (at 5,500 rpm) and 380 pounds-feet of torque (at 4,250 rpm), is positioned as the midrange engine choice for the F-150, below the 3.5-liter V-6 and conventional large-displacement 6.2-liter V-8.
Although the 5.0 produces more power than the outgoing 5.4-liter V-8, it won’t carry as high a tow rating. Its maximum will be only 9,800 pounds trailering, instead of 11,300 pounds. Peak torque has also moved up the rpm band, from a low 3,500 rpm in the 5.4-liter V-8.
“It’s positioned as an entry-level V-8,” said Mike Harrison, Ford V-8 engine programs manager. “It’s one step up from the 3.7-liter V-6. It’s really replacing the [discontinued 2010] three-valve 4.6-liter V-8.”
The F-150’s 5.0 benefits from some of the work done on the Mustang’s 5.0, which was engineered with the goal of being able to add a supercharger at a later date to boost performance, Harrison said.
“We put a forged crank and good rods in [the Mustang’s 412 hp, 390 pounds-feet 5.0 V-8],” Harrison said. “The head bolts are upsized. The main bearing bolts are upsized. That then lends itself for a very robust truck application.”
The 5.0 also uses Ti-VCT to continually optimize power and fuel economy during two cam timing schedules – one for performance and one for mileage. It’s also E85 ethanol capable, which gives it increased power figures (and lower fuel economy), though Ford won’t say by how much.
There are some physical changes, too. The exhaust headers for both engines are different from each other for extra durability in the F-150. Instead of the Mustang’s unique tubular stainless-steel exhaust headers, the F-150 uses thermally tougher conventional cast-iron exhaust manifolds that give it a small loss in low-speed torque and performance, which has to recovered to improve the driving experience and meet long-duration high temperature work demands – such as during cross-country towing. To do that, Harrison’s team shrank the duration of the intake cam duration from 260 degrees to 240 degrees, dropped the compression ratio from 11:1 to 10.5:1 and advanced spark timing for extra low-speed torque. The changes also help F-150 owners run their 5.0 V-8 with regular unleaded instead of super unleaded for optimal performance in the Mustang.
The F-150 5.0 also gets a heavy-duty oil cooler that's not shared with the Mustang.
Which F-150 Models Get It? All except Harley-Davidson and SVT Raptor
Availability? Fourth quarter of 2010
The single-overhead cam 6.2-liter V-8 that debuted in the 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor is rated at a brawny 411 horsepower and 434 pounds-feet of torque. But compared to the other engines for 2011, it’s a bit of a throwback. It has two valves and two spark plugs per cylinder, a cast-iron engine block and aluminum cylinder heads. It also features a cast-iron crankshaft, forged steel connecting rods and cast-aluminum pistons. "Powered by Ford" is proudly embossed on the valve covers.
Since it only has a single cam per cylinder bank, instead of Ti-VCT, the 6.2 uses dual-equal variable cam timing, where the intake and exhaust valve opening and closings are phased at the same time.
We expect that in the next two to three years Ford will revise the 6.2 with new heads, four-valves per cylinder, direct injection and Ti-VCT for improved mileage and power.
For now, this engine is a brute force power lifter that’s rated to tow up to 11,300 pounds (depending on model), the same as the EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6.
Which F-150 Models Get It? Harley-Davidson, SVT Raptor and Platinum and Lariat with Max Trailering Packages
Six-Speed Automatic Transmission
Every engine for 2011 will be paired with the F-150’s existing 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission, but Ford has improved the gearbox as well, with features inherited from the 2011 F-Series Super Duty HD pickups.
Progressive Range Select allows a driver to reduce the number of available gears so it’s easier to tow up a grade and hold a specific top gear without worrying about the truck upshifting and getting bogged down in a higher gear.
There’s also a manual shift function, which lets a driver operate the truck like it had a manual transmission. The driver can shift whenever needed, as long as it doesn’t over-rev the engine.
The transmission also receives new ratios so it can operate with a lower final drive ratio for improved highway mileage – we’re waiting for the final ratios from Ford and word about rear axle changes – tow/haul mode has been re-calibrated for improved grade-shifting during descents and there’s also a new one-way clutch for smoother 1-2 and 2-1 shifts between the first two cogs.
Which F-150 Models Get It? All 2011 models. No more four-speeds.
Availability? Fourth quarter of 2010