Road Test Review: 2011 Ford F-150 FX2 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, Part 2

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Unloaded Efficiency (download full details in Adobe Acrobat formatAcrobat)

In contrast to the truck and trailer combo, the unloaded truck amazed us with its fuel economy. Dropping back from 70 mph to 60-65 mph raised its gas mileage from 18 mpg to the low 20s without even trying, even when we were high in the Rockies where the air is thin.


During a 300-mile stretch of highway — where we refueled just outside Vail, Colo., and headed east across the Rockies to Dillon, Colo., and then traveled back west to the Utah border — there were moments when the truck’s trip computer told us we were averaging over 25 mpg. We finished that segment averaging a manually calculated 23.2 mpg – the best fuel economy we can recall over such a long distance in a full-size gas pickup truck.

It’s important to point out that we didn’t “hypermile” either truck to boost efficiency. We drove them like we normally would, and for long stretches we kept the trucks at one speed using cruise control. We also filled up only with regular octane gasoline, which ranged from 85 RON to 87 RON.

Our fuel economy chart (download full details in Adobe Acrobat formatAcrobat) summarizes our gas mileage throughout the trip, according to both the trucks’ trip computers and manually calculated mileage. It also includes our range estimates for highway speeds, weather conditions and altitude. We’ve also identified (in red) where we performed acceleration tests. Fuel economy with and without those tests is provided.

Other Mileage Experience

Driving in Los Angeles’ urban traffic, before and after the touring and trailering portion of our test, we easily averaged 15 mpg to 17 mpg depending on surface street traffic and stop-and-go conditions. For an unloaded truck, were we impressed with this fuel economy. The thirsty 6.2-liter V-8 in the F-150 Raptor returned only about 12 mpg in similar conditions.


The last data point about fuel economy we’ll provide is how the EcoBoost performed pulling the 9,000-pound trailer up the steep 17-mile grade on Highway 163 due west of Laughlin, Nev. Averaging 55 mph to 60 mph at low altitude, the rig burned 3 gallons of fuel and averaged 5 mpg to climb the mountain. The unloaded truck burned 0.9 gallons of gas and averaged 15 mpg, according to the trip computer.

Overall, both trucks used 356 gallons of fuel to travel a combined 4,186 miles.

Boosted Performance

During our EcoBoost odyssey, we also worked the trucks hard to measure their wide open throttle performance at some of the highest and lowest altitudes you’ll find in the country.

On I-70 in Colorado, on the same route we did our Rumble in the Rockies, we also ran the F-150 pulling the 9,000-pound trailer. We were stunned by how well it pulled at such high elevation on the 7 percent grade to the Eisenhower Tunnel. It was so strong that we had to start testing at 10,000 feet to ensure the rig didn’t climb the hill at an unsafe speed at wide open throttle. The EcoBoost F-150 ran the quarter-mile in 27.83 seconds at 50.83 mph – more than enough to keep up with or pass traffic. That’s a performance we don’t think could be easily matched by a non-turbo gas engine, even a large-displacement V-8.

Now, compare that time to how the truck-and-trailer pair performed on Davis Dam’s shallower 5 percent grade at only 2,000 feet of elevation, where it’s easier to gulp oxygen to feed the engine. Here, it ran the quarter-mile in 24.56 seconds at 58.47 mph – not much slower than it did in the Rockies.


The EcoBoost’s Davis Dam time is also faster than what we measured in the 5.0-liter V-8 F-150 with a different 9,000-pound trailer (25.06 seconds at 55.46 mph).

On level ground, the EcoBoost F-150 and trailer covered the quarter-mile in 21.02 seconds at 67.21 mph and did zero to 60 mph in only 16.36 seconds (compared with 16.85 seconds for the 5.0-liter V-8).

But it wasn’t all perfect performance with EcoBoost and the trailer. The sudden delivery of torque to the rear wheels with the trailer hooked up often caused the tires to lose traction and cause pounding bouts of axle tramp until we reduced throttle or until the traction control system reduced power on its own. Wide open throttle isn’t just for testing purposes. If you’re stuck on the side of a highway with a trailer and need to quickly merge back into traffic, you’re going to need as much power as your truck can provide. It needs to do so without reducing driver confidence or control.

The unloaded F-150 was a screamer, too, but it didn’t suffer from wheel hop like the trailer-towing EcoBoost F-150 did. It went from zero to 60 mph up Davis Dam in only 7.29 seconds and took only 6.79 seconds on flat pavement – right in line with times we measured in other EcoBoost F-150s over the past year.

With the non-towing F-150, we noticed something that felt like turbo lag during wide open throttle runs. It took almost a second from the time the accelerator hit the floor until the turbos fully responded to the request, but once they did, we were shoved back in our seats. Awesome. We also noticed a hint of turbo whine but nothing that we considered fatiguing or annoying.


Overall, both trucks exhibited the traits we’ve come to benchmark other half-ton pickup trucks against. Both F-150s provided great rides, unloaded and towing. It was reasonably easy to hop from one truck to another without needing a lengthy amount of time to get used to the handling differences. The F-150’s new electric steering also seemed to help better maintain control of the loaded truck on the highway during windy conditions crossing the desert. Even the unloaded truck and its large crew-cab profile seemed to benefit from similar steering assist.

Other Items

We also discovered a cool feature for the backup camera that was displayed in the rearview mirror. Using the productivity screen, we could change the zoom setting to pan out to a fisheye lens view or zoom in for a close-up look at the hitch while hooking up the trailer. Very nice.

As you might imagine, one improvement we’d like to see for the truck as soon as possible is the availability of a 36-gallon fuel tank, which is in the 5.0-liter V-8 F-150 we tested. The extra-large reservoir isn’t available for any EcoBoost truck, including those optioned with the Max Trailer Tow Package. The extra 10 gallons would have saved us from having to carry extra gasoline with us.

We’d also like to see the addition of a turbo boost gauge, which we think could be easily provided as a new truck app in the productivity screen. We’d also like the gear-select indicator to remain displayed in the screen after the truck is turned off and back on, as it does in the Ford F-Series Super Duty.



Each of the four engines offered in the 2011 F-150 has a unique application and personality. It’s like Ford is giving you four different tools to accomplish similar tasks. You need the right tool for the job. If you wondering if the EcoBoost is right for you, then you’ll need to carefully consider how and where you’re going to use your truck.

Balancing fuel economy and performance, the EcoBoost is the best choice for people who spend most of their time hauling cargo in the bed or driving empty on rural roads where speeds are limited to no more than 60 mph. In this case, you’ll get the best mileage for a reasonable price with the power to tow a heavy trailer occasionally without too much of a hit to your wallet. EcoBoost also works well if you’re going to regularly tow a heavy trailer at high altitude because its performance is only matched by today’s heavy-duty diesels in that environment.

If you’re going to tow a trailer regularly around geography like the Midwest, we’d suggest the 5.0-liter as a better choice. From our experience, the 5.0 gets better fuel economy in that scenario -- we'll be putting this to a side-by-side test in the future. For the heaviest trailers, the 6.2 is a good choice, or consider moving into a diesel Super Duty. Light contracting work at a reasonable entry price can be accomplished with the naturally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6.

We have high hopes for EcoBoost engines in the future but we want to see if Ford’s powertrain engineers can do more about the stressed fuel economy figures we saw when towing so they better complement the stellar unloaded gas mileage we observed. Or perhaps we’re faced with the fact that some physical laws can’t be repealed no matter how much slick technology is thrown at them. Big towing needs big cubic inches and trying to deliver that same capability with twin turbos may always force truck guys to pay a low-mpg price when there’s a trailer behind the truck.

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Special thanks to K&N Engineering and American Horse Trailer Rentals


Good read. Pretty much what I expected: Good unloaded mileage, but nothing special while towing heavy loads. Sounds reasonably. If your not towing, it gets good mileage. While towing, not so much, but I doubt the 6.2 would have done much better (and wouldnt have done nearly as good unloaded).

Still, if I were in the market for a new truck, Id go 5.0, if only for how it would sound after I had duals put on it!

Make sure you download the detailed fuel economy and route chart! It's too big to fit as a picture.

i was right on the money for fuel economy, 7 towing n 18 empty had u not adj for better mpg by driving slower n just drove it like u would.

Great article! Mike, give us an idea about what the load was in the "unloaded" truck. Were there 4 guys and luggage? One person and a small dog? This would be nice to know!

Thanks again, love the site!

Excellent charts and details. There's plenty of data to digest and anyone should be able to translate this into how a slightly different configuration would perform.
I'm impressed with the performance. It will exceed the requirements of 98% of truck owners. Personally, my hauling will never be through the mountains, and most of my highway speed limits are 55. It will excel in these conditions.

@Darren: Only one person in each for most driving. Two in a truck for testing. The unloaded truck had about 40 pounds of luggage, computer and test gear and Trail Mix. Way too much Trail Mix.

There's deffinately enough here to piece together whether a 5.0/3.5 is for you. Ecoboost is a great performing engine but I'd still go with a 5.0.

Which is the better option for the weekend warrior/home owner that uses a full size pickup to commute back and forth to work ? 5.0 vs Ecoboost ? This has truely been a tough choice for me.

So this test confirms what the Ecoboost forums are saying for 16-17 mpg hwy for the 4x4's. Considering you guys got 18 with a 2wd @70. If we could all keep our speeds down to 60 mph, this thing would be the bomb!!! Overall not a bad review but not quite what the Ford PR guys try to hype. Thanks Mike for all your hard work... take the weekend off!!!

@Jason: In that case, I think I'd choose EcoBoost.

Thanks for the reply Mike--again, love the site.

Great test--just wish it had been a 4x4 for more comparability to what I own or would buy in the future.

I currently have an NA engined V8 pickup; I live at 6500' and do all of my driving between 5500'-10,000' and only buy V8 or turbocharged cars and trucks because of it.

I think the EcoBoost would be best for me too. I tow very rarely, but when I do I really want the capability, plus the turbocharged engine sounds like it will probably be nicer to drive over the mountain passes.

Thanks Mike, great write up!

just common knowledge that a force induction gasser sucks gas quick when under a load. mpg's right on par for a cc induction charged.

It's no different from my 5.4, or even the 5.3 I had before though. I had well under 5,000 lbs on both of those and was getting around 10 mpg

Mike, thank you for the write ups. I've been following these articles closely as I'm trying to decide between the 5.0 & EB. My use case probably falls in the minority, but I'm interested in your opinion. For someone who plans to lift the vehicle (4"-6" at most and run 35" tires), what to you think the better engine would be? I should add that I would occasionally tow (Summer months only) a 6K lb ski boat (wet) over relatively flat terrain with only occasional low altitude climbs.

Back to the lift, your review seems to confirm what I've suspected from my test drives, and that is the EB is an efficient engine so long as the turbos aren't spooled up too often. I'm wondering if the EB will ultimately work harder to keep a lifted truck moving along than the 5.0. I understand that a lift is going to impact MPGs regardless, just wondering if it's reasonable to assume it will impact the EB more significantly than the 5.0.

Thank you....

Gas is going to $5 a gallon and Ford is pushing this gigantor gas guzzling F150 ? I would say Ford is out of touch with reality .

Taylor, people aren't going to give up their trucks. Why should they. The oil situation is an artificial one. Unless you're driving 50,000 miles a year, the fuel cost change isn't worth giving my truck up for. The day I have to consider driving around a Pious, I'll use the cash instead to buy a nice shovel to dig a hole to crawl into because every thing I hold dear will have failed and gone away.

Ford's bending to our desires for the best product for what we want. Last I checked, the F-150 is the BEST SELLING VEHICLE IN THE WORLD!

Thanks for the article and hard work Mike. I now know the EB is for me and that will help when I go for my test drive next week. Gas is selling between $5.25 and $5.70 a gallon around here so every drop we save is a bonus...!!

So, looking at the mileage chart, it got 21mpg unloaded and 8.5mpg loaded, both on regular gas. Basically, slightly better than the 5.0L unloaded and similar to the 5.0L with a trailer. The one deal breaker for me though, is the lack of a larger tank with the ecoboost. 160-190 miles before needing to stop and refill is just too short for me.

Still, I can't help but wonder how that 4.4L diesel would have performed. I mean, pulling a 10,000lb trailer Ford's SRW F250 4x4 got nearly 14mpg with the 6.7L diesel. That's ~5mpg better than the ecoboost and that engine is significantly larger and more powerful. A smaller and slightly less powerful diesel in an F150 should easily be able to beat that number. We would be talking at least a 75% improvement in laden fuel economy, which is nothing to scoff at.

@Taylor Welcome to! a website full of guys who use and love gigantor F-150's, silverados, rams, and tundras alike. Our reality is trucks, and Ford (among others) are in touch with us.

The 5.0 and EB were towed with different kinds of trailers, They were towed on different roads. And different lengths. It wasa different test. So don't draw too many conclusions between the two until they are both tested the exact same way, time and place.

Actually the Toyota Corrolla is the best selling vehicle in the world.

@paul810: I came thisclose to talking about the 4.4-liter diesel in the story. I think towing fuel economy would have been over 10 mpg with that engine.

@Taylor: Unloaded, this F-150 got better fuel economy around town and on the highway than my 2002 Tacoma D-Cab PreRunner ever did. I'm very impressed with empty MPGs.

Mike, thank you for the thoughtful and thorough review.

In your estimation how significantly would a Max Tow equipped EcoBoost have impacted your assessment of the loaded and unloaded vehicles in terms of trailer handling (loaded vehicle only), fuel economy (both vehicles) and power (both vehicles)? In your final analysis, based upon the wide variety of applications you report, is it worth the $750.00 premium?

A shout out to my fellow V8 lovers. We may may resist it, but this engine sure sounds impressive and offers an owner a very wide band of use options for her/his vehicle (unloaded mpg, excellent power, strong towing performance with very heavy loads at high altitude).

@Vegas: I don't think it would impact mileage much beyond what we saw here but I'm stumped that they can sell the Max Tow package without a 36 gallon fuel tank. If you're going to tow with the GTDI engine, you need that tank.

Well done Mike and thanks.
I would like to point out that if any engine uses it's extra power advantage to pull harder or go faster than another it will use more fuel to make that energy. Physics.

I would like to see a test of a 5.0 and Ecoboost pulling identical loads and speeds being equal. (eg two trucks shadowing each other)
Just because your rig CAN go faster doesn't mean you should, will, or do drive faster.
I would also like to see if premium fuel did something for your suspected rich fuel under heavy load conditions.

@JW: I'm not sure what a lift would do to EcoBoost. I suspect it would have almost as much an impact as towing. If you lift a GTDI truck, please let me know. I'd love to follow fuel economy on that F-150.

@Mike Levine, have you considered doing a story on the 4.4L V8 diesel by testing the Range Rover Vogue 4.4 TDV8 (in a country where it is available)?

@Alex: No. I'm saving my budget to test the overseas Ranger and Colorado. :-)

No big surprise abut the towing fuel economy- while the part-load advantages of the EBV6 are clear, they disappear when the engine is tasked with much more load- almost 3 times the weight and terrible drag. If you're using gasoline, it will just take so much- I don't care if its with a Vortec, a Coyote, EcoBoost, Hemi, or even I-Force. there is no magic bullet there. Diesel is a different story, but I think the V8's that everyone developed are the wrong answer. A 3literish diesel V6 w/ 400lb-ft of twist would really get the job done, except for the part where everyone expects their truck to be a rocket ship as well. Chrysler will again offer a GC with a diesel, this time from VM. Integration is done, it just begs the question what it will cost. How do you scale in that cost- Vs. the Pentastar 6 or the Hemi???

@MikeLevine any news on what running premium does to output? performance? mpgs?


@Mr Knowitall

I agree wholeheartedly. That 3.0L diesel in the Grand Cherokee makes 237hp and 406ft-lbs tq while getting city fuel economy numbers that are similar to what an ecoboost gets on the highway. It wouldn't be a rocketship obviously, but it's still plenty of power for a half-ton (in the GC it will tow over 7,500lbs), the engine option cost would be low (especially since the same engine could be used in cars, vans, suvs, small trucks, ect), and....most should get great fuel economy.

Ok so I am looking for a replacement to my 99 dodge v10 2500. Duty would be daily drive at 65 to 70 fwy. The once a month towing a 24ft 8.5 wide car trailer at 8000 lbs to race tracks in the south west.

My v10 tows great, but I can't live with empty fuel mileage so I am considering ecoboost to get me solid empty mpg and can still tow a big trailer once a month. So 5.0 or eb or diesel. Btw I probably put 1500lbs in the bed when towing too.

So other than limited range of 26 gal tank this 2wd truck looks solid. Howver are the standard tow mirrors ok or do I need the extended ones?

@Joe P: Get the big mirrors. This trailer was a bit too wide for the standard ones.

@ken: I'd think that premium would improve both marginally. We didn't use premium because EcoBoost is power rated using regular gas.

Excellent work Mike, you've got the best job in the world. Also, the mileage-chart is excellent, well done sir!

The EB seems to fit the needs of 90% of 1/2 ton truck owners and is really suited for those who use them as a daily commuter of 20+ miles each way. Face it, most owners rarely tow big loads, so the few times a year they need it, the lower fuel econ is well offset by the empty running. Also, those towing heavy loads regularly are going to buy a 3/4+ ton diesel.

It's performance at altitude is stunning, Mike do you any data similar to the diesel shootout that you did over Eisenhower? I'll have to go back in the archives to see the speed vs. time test of the diesels, but I bet the EB would dust them. Granted, the diesels were double the weight, but all the trucks are near their max GVW.

@Mike Levine. Great then we can get your opinions of both vehicles (Ranger, Colorado) and compare them with local Australian testers.
Ford Australia dropped the turbocharged 365hp, 410lbs ft of torque at 2000 rpm engine for the 4,700lb Territory CUV, because buyers were not buying due to fuel consumption issues. They have since put the older LandRover 2.7 diesel in the new Territory.

@JoeP- one thing to keep in mind- if you need a crew cab, that much weight will push the F150 to the limit, as the 8200GVW package can only be had on trucks with the 8ft box.
Would be really swell if Ford backed up their high tow ratings with the option of higher rear axle capacity.

How many posters/commenters are actually going to buy a V6 F150? That's what I like to know and I guess I'll have to wait until the first-year full-year sales figures are in because I just can't see the rationale in substituting a V6 for a V8 in a half-ton truck. I understand that fewer cylinders are supposed to give you better mileage, but if you keep your foot to the floor with a 4-cylinder engine you can drive down the mileage to that of a V8 just loafing along. If I wanted a V6 I would have bought a Ranger. When people buy a Tundra 5.7 they want something better than the also-ran V8s of the domestic trucks. It wasn't until the 6.2 that Ford came even close to Tundra 5.7 power. I just can't imagine any serious pickup truck owner trading off their V8 pickup for one of these new fangled V6 trucks. That was already done some time ago when the Silverado came out with that 4.3 V6, and sales were a bust. But when GM put that 4.3 in the S-10, sales of the S-10 skyrocketed. Even with all the hype and BS Ford puts out about their V6, it's still not a V8. I'm surprised if they sell enough of them to break even on the R&D.

You know in a way I think people are missing the point. Its not that the Ecoboost will get great mileage when never was advertised to do that. Its about the fact that if I want to I can rip the pavement off, or I can actually tow a huge load without problems, or I can easily accletrate onto the interstate in traffic, or I can cruise in near silence at 70 mph and get great mileage, or I can cruise around town and get pretty decent mileage. I CAN CHOOSE. And it doesn't stink to high heaven, it doesn't matter if I work in 20 below weather, and doesn't cost an additional 8K$.

When you look at it that way I think 750$ (which is usually made up for in good negotiations or rebates or excellent credit scores and thus great interest rates) I just don't think the 5.0 offers anything but sound, and the diesel is simply for a completely different application...or at least it should be.

My Hemi '03 got 15 up hill down hill and sideways. And towing wasn't that much better than the Eco if at all. And we won't talk about around town. But it did rip pavement:)

For all you EcoBoost fans: GM offered blown engines in some of their cars over the past forty years and the end results were disastrous. That's why they don't offer them any longer. There was Buick Park Avenue with plenty of smooth blown power, and the Pontiac Bonneville SSE with an eager blown power plant, but bearing failure, oil breakdown, sludging, blown head gaskets, etc, put an end to that dream. For awhile GM honored the Supercharger failures but that run ended rather quickly because of the sheer number of failures. In this case Caveat Emptor really applies.

@ DeBinder

What does this have to do with Ecoboost? Comparatively, vehicles were probablamatic and cheap compared to what's being built now.

What about the Grand National, Typhoon etc.?

I'm not buying an Ecoboost but what GM did years ago with forcecd induction has nothing to do with this engine.

@ Mike Levine

Your tests are a lot better then typical road tests and would be great to see on video!

Any future plans for producing these tests on video???

@Mike Levine This article is crazy good, just like the 5.0L test. I'm always blown away by how good, thorough, and real world your testing is. Based upon this article, I'm comfortable with the performance of the 5 or the 3.5, and cost will be a huge factor (plus test drives). Thanks again man.

@Debinder, GM is going back to forced induction. The old Supercharged 3.8 V6 was nothing special, as the 3.6 beats it in naturally aspirated form. It kind of tip-toed the technology with the 2.8L turbo V6 in the SRX, but I think we will see some real effort from GM in the near future.

I was surprised by the fuel consumption. It was lower than what I expected (loaded). But, as someone else stated - those are the laws of physics. You can make a 6 cylinder engine pull like a V8 with turbo`s and DI but it takes fuel to produce the same kind of energy.
This engine will be great for guys who occasionally pull heavy and for the rest of the time run empty or with light loads. 21 mpg average fuel economy for an empty truck is great. That probably mean 19 mpg average for a 4x4. Best was 23 mpg = 21 mpg 4x4.
I am impressed with this engine, but I am drawn to the 5.0. Maybe it is heritage, old school V8 preference, or the sound of a V8.
In some respects, I am happy I already have a new truck. Chosing between the 5.0 and EB3.5 would be a tough one for me.
We'll have to brace ourselves for the inevitable barrage of BS flowing from the naysayers.

Forty thousand dollars for a V6 2 wheel drive half ton truck. Ford is dreaming!!!!!! I just can not see the value here.

Things to keep in mind: 5.0 is not direct injected YET. Coming soon. I have read that Ford can easily get 400hp out of the 3.5L ecoboost, but a direct injected 5.0 would produce around 425 hp. I look for an 8spd tranny to come soon to help with the mpg's of the ecoboost and 5.0.
Lastly, if it wasn't for the chicken tax the VW Amarok diesel would sell like hot cakes in the US even at $40,000. Ford, GM, and Ram are counting there lucky stars that the Amarok isn't in the US.

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