2018 Ford F-150 Diesel: Does It Have Enough Grunt?

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After years of fielding hungry Ford fans' questions about when the Blue Oval planned to put a light-duty diesel in the world's best-selling truck, the moment has finally arrived. The turbocharged 3.0-liter Power Stroke V-6 is now nestled beneath the aluminum body panels of the F-150 and is slated to hit showrooms before spring turns to summer in the U.S. We just had our first turn behind the wheel of a Ford F-150 powered by the baby Power Stroke in the hills above Denver, spending half a day towing, hauling and muddin' with the little oil-burner, and we've come away with mixed feelings about it.

What It Is

The 3.0-liter Power Stroke V-6 is a single-turbo engine that's derived from an earlier Land Rover motor but has received significant changes from the one you'll find under the hoods of the British luxury SUVs. It has a new forged crankshaft, a variable-geometry turbocharger and a high-pressure common-rail injection system that pumps up to 29,000 pounds per square inch. The cylinder heads are aluminum, and there's a two-stage oil pump and a host of other modifications to make the 3.0-liter ready for tougher pickup truck duty.

The result is a motor that cranks out 250 horsepower and 440 pounds-feet of torque, which is currently best-in-class territory — at least until we hear what the new 2019 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel brings to the party later this summer. It's mated to the same 10-speed automatic that the gas-engine Ford F-150 employs and can be had in 4x2 or 4x4 configuration. EPA fuel economy numbers have been released, with Ford saying that the 4x2 trucks earn 22/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined, and the 4x4 gets 20/25/22 mpg. Compare that with the 2018 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, which gets 20/27/23 mpg for the 4x2 and 19/27/22 mpg in 4x4 trim using its eight-speed automatic. The Ford gets the nod in 4x2 configuration and the difference isn't great in 4x4 trim. It makes us wonder what the Ram might get if it had two more gears to play with (and was made of aluminum).

How It Drives

From the outside, there's absolutely no way to know that the F-150 you're looking at is a diesel, unless you spot the subtle Power Stroke badging on the base of the front doors or hear the quiet ticking idle of the compression ignition engine. And quiet it is — idling at drive through or at wide-open throttle, the 3.0-liter Power Stroke is impressively hushed. It still has that diesel rhythm common to all diesel motors, but it's not loud, harsh or crude. The noise it makes is smooth, refined and completely unobtrusive. If noise is your worry about checking that diesel box on the order form, rest assured that it shouldn't be. It's a nonissue.

I sampled the diesel in several different Ford F-150 trims, ranging from an empty Sport model to a King Ranch loaded with 625 pounds of landscaping materials to towing two different trailers with two different axle ratios to finally bombing around a muddy field in a King Ranch with Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires. The verdict: The 3.0-liter Power Stroke works really well in some situations, less well in others.

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Where it works well is hauling a load or being used as a commuter. A snowy, slippery, twisty drive up a mountain with a load of mulch in the bed revealed a well-balanced truck with plenty of power and easy acceleration when needed. The diesel makes an already impressively engineered, luxurious truck even more of a sweet rig when you're using it as a transporter. The weight in the bed smooths out frost heaves and any choppiness that the Ford F-150 exhibits while empty. If you're willing to live with a little bounciness, the Sport 4x2 fuel-economy champ I drove returned 27.4 mpg in a brief 10-mile test loop, which I hesitate to even mention as this isn't a statistically valid distance from which to derive a fuel-economy number. Stay tuned for a more comprehensive fuel-economy information later this summer when we get our hands on one for a longer road trip.

How It Tows

Where the 3.0-liter Power Stroke engine works less well is — surprisingly — towing. I sampled two different setups: An F-150 with a 3.31:1 axle gears (which is what you get when you specify the FX4 Off-Road Package) that towed a 6,240-pound box trailer and a second half ton with an optional 3.55:1 axle ratio hauling a 5,500-pound horse trailer. Off the line, the new Power Stroke exhibits excellent initial low-end grunt and has absolutely no problem moving these loads up hills at speeds below 40 mph. But once the speed and rpm begin to climb, the transmission starts to behave in a way that keeps this engine from shining like it should.

Towing up a hill with a 3 to 4 percent grade at 55-60 mph, I routinely slowly lost speed despite having my foot to the floor. Even with Tow/Haul mode selected, the transmission refused to kick down from 6th gear, despite having another 1,000 rpm before redlining. The struggle was most noticeable in the 3.31-equipped truck, with the 3.55-equipped truck only slightly less out of breath, but until I slipped the transmission selector into manual and dropped a gear myself, no more oomph was to be found. Once I took over shifting duties, performance felt a little better.

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In contrast, the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 I recently drove for 250 miles in Ford's new 10-speed-equipped 2018 Expedition SUV had no such deficiencies. It towed a 3,500-pound camper trailer in the Cars.com 2018 Full-Size SUV Challenge up 6 to 7 percent grades with absolutely no issues, accelerating all the way. Simply put, the twin-turbo 3.5-liter engine and 10-speed transmission combo might be a better towing setup than the 3.0-liter diesel with the 10-speed.

But the tradeoff for that superior towing performance became obvious to me when I parked the F-150 and looked at the fuel-economy reading — the 3.0-liter Power Stroke returned 11.4 mpg over the towing loop, while the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 in the Expedition was much thirstier, averaging 10.2 mpg when pulling a lighter load. It would seem that the diesel trades some capability for fuel economy, which is an interesting way to market this powertrain.

Is It Worth It?

The diesel is ostensibly aimed at people doing regular towing of a decent-sized boat or camper. With a maximum towing capacity of 11,400 pounds, I expected it to have more guts than it did for towing. But the Power Stroke struggled to maintain speed with a trailer weighing just more than half its max tow rating up hills that I would best describe as moderate grades. The engine also lacks an exhaust brake function, either automatic or manually activated, something Ford engineers told me they believe the baby Power Stroke doesn't need as it wouldn't provide much benefit since it's a relatively small engine. That idea confused me a bit, given that GM includes a Tow/Haul-mode-triggered exhaust brake function on the 2.8-liter Duramax four-cylinder diesel found in the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon that works quite well when towing a load. The Ford F-150 Power Stroke may not be a Ford Super Duty in terms of purpose, but one would think that buyers opting for the F-150 diesel might expect it to have some similarities in towing with its bigger brother.

Anyone towing something nearer the 11,400-pound range is likely to already be looking at a Super Duty anyway, if only for the larger brakes that it brings. This leaves the light-duty diesel suitable for people who tow moderate loads but want a little better fuel economy than they'd get with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, or commuters who put a lot of highway miles on an unladen truck and just want to maximize that benefit. Ford expects just 5 percent of F-150 sales to be the 3.0-liter Power Stroke, and given that its mission seems a little murky, this might not be a bad estimate. We're looking forward to matching this smooth and refined engine up against the updated Ram 1500 EcoDiesel that we expect to see later this summer, and the new Chevrolet Silverado 1500 turbo-diesel 3.0-liter inline-six-cylinder that should arrive in the fall. It's going to be interesting to see which one comes out on top.

Manufacturer images

 

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Comments

I'm not a Ford guy but it seems that the transmission programming/gearing in the 10 speed isn't really optimized for the 3.0 powerstroke. Almost verbatim what people describe with the transmission gearing/programming for Ram and the 6.4 motor.

That is very doubtful since it is a Ford product. I may be switching brands very soon. I will be looking at Ram, both GMs, Toyota, and Nissan this weekend. My friend Hemi Rampage has me leaning heavily toward a 2019 Ram!!!

Both the eco-diesel and baby Powerstroke have left the door wide open for the new 1/2 ton Duramax to steal all their candy. The inline six Duramax is going to steal there lunch money also while both Ram and Ford are being schooled. It is going to be y2k all over again with the Duramax stealing the headlines and winning comparisons for years to come.

rather walk than drive a turd


Both the eco-diesel and baby Powerstroke have left the door wide open for the new 1/2 ton Duramax to steal all their candy. The inline six Duramax is going to steal there lunch money also while both Ram and Ford are being schooled. It is going to be y2k all over again with the Duramax stealing the headlines and winning comparisons for years to come.

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | Apr 27, 2018 11:19:34 AM


Well said!!! That is why I am thinking about jumping ship!!!

Well said!!! That is why I am thinking about jumping ship!!!


Posted by: Frank | Apr 27, 2018 12:21:38 PM

Nobody cares.

rather walk than drive a turd


Posted by: juanfo | Apr 27, 2018 12:03:19 PM

is this why your dodge is parked.

So, do we have 2 Franks now in the comment section or is his split personalities coming out??

@author (Aaron Bragman):

Question for you: Some vehicles with automatic transmissions, including 9- and 10-speeds, have an ability to manually bump gears higher or lower on the shifter. Did this truck have that ability? As you say, not having the ability to force a downshift seems counter-productive.

The only other method I could think of is to release the pedal and slap it back down to see if that would force a downshift.

Hey there’s two FRANKS ONE LIKES GM AND THE OTHER ONE IS TRYING TO DEFEND HIM SELF. Just like me the CHINGON, SOMETIMES THERE IS TWO CHINGONES ONE DEFENSE HIS BELOVE GARBAGE MOTORS AND THE OTHER ONE BASHING IT. AND GUESS WHAT THIS IS THE REAL CHINGON I LIKE FORD AND I WOULD NOT BETRAYED MY FORD BRAND AND GUESS WHAT? I WILL RATHER DRIVE A SMARTFORTWO MINE CAR 🚗 THAN A GARBAGE MOTOR PRODUCT.

And being a FORD FAN I WILL NOT GET THIS MOTOR BECAUSE I’VE HEARD THAT YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THE TIMING BELT EVERY 150,*** MILES. SO I THING ILL PASS I WILL BE LOOKING IN TO THE 5.0 MOTOR.

And being a FORD FAN I WILL NOT GET THIS MOTOR BECAUSE I’VE HEARD THAT YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THE TIMING BELT EVERY 150,*** MILES. SO I THING ILL PASS I WILL BE LOOKING IN TO THE 5.0 MOTOR.

A 3.0 litre diesel in a crew cab 4X4 pickup is bound to disappoint.

Even the 5.0 diesel in the Nissan left a lot of testers underwhelmed. For some reason engineers at the big 3 picked the three litre size as adequate...

I'm still not getting it.

I'm not a Ford guy but it seems that the transmission programming/gearing in the 10 speed isn't really optimized for the 3.0 powerstroke. Almost verbatim what people describe with the transmission gearing/programming for Ram and the 6.4 motor.


Posted by: Maurice | Apr 27, 2018 10:17:05 AM

Yes, this is the problem most manufacturers who primarily focus on higher reving/higher horsepower gas engines try and just drop a smaller displacement diesel into an existing powertrain configuration. Although it seems from the way the author describes it, the transmission is almost programmed with too much bias towards holding higher gears/lower revs. Knowing Ford though, they will release software upgrades as TSBs over time that correct this. Or the aftermarket will do it for them.

Gnerally though, small diesels just tend to feel slower because of the way they build power. The power doesn't build sequentially with the increasing revs like it does in a gas engine so you feel the initial shove off the line and then just steady acceleration rather than the surging sensation you get as you wind out a gas engine. If the transmission isnt matched to the engine performance this effect will be dramatically more apparent.

@Mark Williams
“Where it works well is hauling a load or being used as a commuter”

Pretty well sums up our experiences with Global Pickups. They tend to be very quiet and have exceptional fuel economy

“ 11,000lb towing” this like seeing a UFO in your garden.
Best towing numbers that Australian Govt Regulator will give for a 3.5 Ecoboost F150 is 8200lbs MAXIMUM. Not recommended for continuous towing
A 6.7 RAM 2500 HD Diesel is 8,800lb with a 35mm hitch, 9,900lb with a 70mm hitch and 15,000lb with a Pintle Hitch.
No Gooseneck rating given.
These ratings are now being adopted for the EU for any US or Global Pickups.

And being a FORD FAN I WILL NOT GET THIS MOTOR BECAUSE I’VE HEARD THAT YOU HAVE TO CHANGE THE TIMING BELT EVERY 150,*** MILES. SO I THING ILL PASS I WILL BE LOOKING IN TO THE 5.0 MOTOR.
Posted by: Chingon | Apr 27, 2018 1:27:48 PM

150k miles is about double the mileage you'll get out of an Ecoboost timing chain and at least as many miles as you'll get out of a Coyote timing chain.

This thing is weak! Who would want this crap for that extra money.
I really would like to see a test done with any F150 towing 13000 lbs.
Put your truck where your mouth is Ford.

GM is going to spank this Ford and the Ram when it releases it's baby Duramax. Guaranteed! A neighbor just came home with a White 2018 Ford Raptor and all the surrounding neighbors came out to look it over and take a drive in it. The first thing I noticed was the V-8 sound coming through the speakers. However, when he drove off with other neighbors, it sounded like a cheap V-6 with "glass packs" on it. A few of us laughed as he sped away, no way should a truck like that sound so cheap. Ford really screwed that truck up by putting a V-6 in it! I don't care how much HP it has, a mean looking truck like that should have and sound like an American V-8. Period. I'm so glad GM and Ram are sticking with V-8's! I'd much rather have a Z-71 with the 6.2 than that pansy sounding Raptor, any freaking day of the week!

. For some reason engineers at the big 3 picked the three litre size as adequate..."

Posted by: papajim | Apr 27, 2018 1:29:11 PM

FEDERAL REGULATIONS Thank God their is no such restrictions on H.D. trucks for MPG.

The GMC Canyon Duramax did better towing same weight up steeper grade,had no issues with power , and got better fuel mileage. Interesting how an inline diesel can feel stronger than the v6 diesel.

Lame ford junk! It'll blow up before 60,000 miles like all the other ford junk engines.

@hemiV8

thanks for the insight. I did not know that. Is it CAFE or EPA or ?

@papajim
The Big Three did not pick 3 litres as the optimum size for smaller diesels, it is a common size for European Diesels and also Japanese Pickups

It seems the author was disappointed with the diesel F-150.

Why are they not using a 3.78 axle ratio? The transmission also doesn't sound as if it's been adequately tested.

Maybe we are getting too many gear ratios.

The diesel F-150 would be better with a 6spd manual and the 3.78 rearend like I stated.

Other than that the aluminium F-150's interior looks as if Rubber Maid did the work.

Robert Ryan,
It sounds as if Ford screwed this one up. The V6 Lion diesel is a good engine ........... or the author produced an article that lacks sincerity.

@Big Al

Did you really question the sincerity of another person at PUTC? Considering all of the bogus crap you post on this site, fake ID, teasing and hijacking other's names

Wow this is the first realistic review I have seen from this site. About time. Job well done

"...Ford expects just 5 percent of F-150 sales to be the 3.0-liter Power Stroke"

that's a revealing statement. Diesel has only caught on with buyers in the HD product realm. I hardly EVER see Chevy's or GMC midsizers with the diesel badging around my patch.

With gasoline still well under $3 bucks in most of the country, cubic inches is still a popular way to address bigger loads or trailers.

papajim,
I thought I heard you .................. but it was the toilet flushing.

Reviewers towed trailers of 50-75% of the max rated capacity for this engine- with little love. I would expect a full 11k load to be abysmal. They are really not making a strong case.

You have the emotional maturity of a nine year-old. Toilet? We're all really impressed Al.

Peugeot engine !!!

PSA engine,used in Land Rover among many other vehicles..Its a Peugeot,Citreon engine !!

@ Chingon,

150,000 miles isnt the belt change its the lifespan of the engine !!

Remember its a Peugeot -Citreon Engine thats used in Land Rover now Ford and many others....Its made to be a European Taxi engine nothing more,not a truck engine..

Well all the young bucks driving heavy duty diesel around Colorado and rolling coal are not towing anything but their big tow and ego around . So really the tow rating doesn’t mattter . The f- 150 is just a all around nice smooth truck to drive around and can get some small jobs done . The guys who really need their truck to do heavy work need the heavy duty Rudi . And for the 150k timing belt , well at my 10 k miles a year that gives me 15 years then they probably wont let me drive anymore .

And for the 150k timing belt , well at my 10 k miles a year that gives me 15 years ...Posted by: Joe | May 3, 2018

@JOE

AGREE! I'm not at all annoyed with a rubber belt as long as it lasts and can accurately keep the rotating parts in sync.

I can swap a rubber belt in about 30 minutes if a change is needed. Try swapping out a timing CHAIN in 30 minutes!

There were some reviewers who went to the event that figured out that the F150 PowerStroke really changed it's demeanor once shifting into sport mode. I wonder if that was tried in this truck by this reviewer, as some of them experienced the same disappointment but changed their minds after finding "sport".

Something "in general" though with respect to 1/2-ton diesels we should all understand that affects the limits of costly compression ignition engines applied to this segment. First of all, we shold all must admit that expectations in this product segment are very, very high. In a half-ton truck, we most all expect a pretty massive, heavy, tall, pickup with lots of luxury appointments that produces a lot of power and great fuel economy and will last forever with no needed service; and a lot of us want a lot of muscle (drag racing ability) to go along with it; we expect to accelerate up 7% grades with an 8,000 trailer in tow; we want 20" wheels/tires; and with all of that, we expect great mpg.

Large displacement, naturally-aspired engines can give us all of that except for mpg. Those big engines get poor mpg all the time and even worse when under heavy loads. The answer so far has been one or two power train strategies that go beyond optimizing gearing and aerodynamics and weight. Ford has introduced the concept of downsizing and turbo charging engines in the half-ton segment. This gives customers a whole lot of what they want except that any mpg advantage of a downsized gas engine goes away once turbos kick in to give that wanted power and torque to do work or for sport. Alternatively, GM is going to the next-generation cylinder deactivation which will make a big engine be as efficient as a small engine when power and torque or sport is not needed. But that strategy has the same limitation (if not more) than downsizing and turbo charging. In other words, any gas-engine solution is only a low engine load solution. Electrification has more limitations for high utility vehicles, but will be tried in the near future. But again, I wouldn't expect much when high utility or sport is needed for saving fuel. Your either going to kill payload and towing with lots of battery weight, or your going to have only a little battery weight and then that electrification part of the hybrid will have little benefit during high engine load cycles. So what does that leave us. It leaves the diesel engine. The diesel can save us fuel and money both in light and heavy engine load, but when I say save money, I just mean fuel money; beyond that, there are many extra costs and there are other constraints; mainly cost by the extra weight of even a small diesel.

Three point zero displacement is going to be just about the practical cap for a diesel in a vehicle that can have no more than 8500 GVWR, and in a practical-package sense, much less than that. The new PowerStroke weighs, according to what's been reported, about 388 pounds heavier than the 3.5L Ecoboost. The 3.5L Ecoboost was the heaviest of the four gas engines by far. So this means that the PowerStroke must certainly weigh around 500 pounds more than the base power train and 400 pounds more than the 2.7L Ecoboost and the 5.0L V8; the latter weigh nearly the same. So even a small diesel causes a huge logistical limitation on what can be offered, especially as it relates to a decent payload number. Ford will have the most advantage in this regard, because they cut up to 700 pounds from their previous truck, whereas Ram cut only up to 225; and GM up to 450. This is why the current Ram 1500 Ecodiesel has such a pitiful max payload number. The new Ram can't do a whole lot better, because they chose not to make all the hinged panels out of aluminum and cut such little weight from the old design to the new.

We also should realize that, even if GM brings the performance numbers up from the current 250 and 440 (hp, torque, respectively), at today's level of technology and our desire for durability and reliability and simplicity in our wanted luxury work truck, anything much higher than that 250 horsepower number in that size of a diesel engine is likely going to be overstressed for a pickup truck. You can just stick a BMW-like, advanced diesel that garners $40K for a compact luxury car and put that kind of high-performing, expensive race engine diesel into a 1/2-ton pickup truck and sell it for a profit and have it last.

So GM will have many advantages. They will have the chance to produce the latest and greatest that 2018 technology can produce in a 3 liter diesel engine. Most of those advantages I would guess would be related to cost reductions, and it is cost reduction that is the most needed advancement for any kind of real diesel solution for a half ton truck. But as long as we have SCR for NOx reduction and we have particulate filters and other elaborate exhaust treatment systems to make these diesels compliant to our emissions standards, combined with the fact that diesel engines are nearly twice the weight as gas engines of equal size, it's going to be a tough sell for a diesel in a half-ton pickup.

So a 1/2-ton diesel pickup is a doable thing, but for the cost. Until the cost of building and certifying diesels in North America goes way down, this isn't a good choice for most people. The high cost forces the manufacturers to try and oversell these as heavy haulers and heavy towers so as to try and convince us they have value at the price that they are selling them.

The correct place for a 3.0 liter diesel in a half-ton pickup is right where the 2.7L Ecoboost is. A second tier engine that gives a tad more performance and capability at a slightly premium price. The 2.7L is available in all the lower trims and configurations of the F150. It costs an extra grand. It gives amazing refinement with 400 ft-lb torque at only 2750 RPM, and when taking it easy with an empty bed, commuting and running around, it gives good mpg; maybe even higher than the base engine without having to deal with an unrefined NA V6 that has to scream to get performance. A 3.0L PowerStroke can do the same thing even better, because the diesel applied in these smaller, less appointed, less massive pickups would give us that great low end torque; albeit less horsepower, but better mpg in all driving situations. However, if Ford or anyone else tries to market such a diesel in these lower trims and configurations, then they must recoup the cost and not lose margin. And to do that, they'd likely have to charge at least $7,500 to do so, and so then that defeats the whole purpose of offering a diesel if the starting price wipes out any savings anyone might get in the future.

@Greg F

You devoted a lot of words to a topic that's already been covered extensively, but I've done the same thing a time or two.

In reality, our current fuel prices are still a DOLLAR per gallon cheaper in my patch than they were just 5 years ago. I don't lose much sleep over fuel mileage.

I'm more impressed by the remarkable achievements that the Big 3 made with general endurance and reliability in pickups during the last 30 years. Today I talk to guys all the time who have over 200k on their trucks. Original drivetrain and chassis. Auto batteries are another major improvement. Motor oils are another. Engines that go over 100k miles without leaks or smoke. Spark plugs that survive the original owner. Better tires and brakes.

Mileage improvements are fine, but I've gotten bored hearing about it. Same for diesel.

Now hybrid, that's another matter. Cannot wait to see how RAM's new trucks perform in daily driving with the E Torque



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