Why feed eight hungry cylinders when six will do?
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I was surprised to find six cylinders beneath the giant bonnet of my F-150 Platinum SuperCrew 4x4 tester rather than the expected eight. Sure, I knew all about Ford’s outstanding EcoBoost 3.5-litre V6; I even knew that it was powering many new F-150s. Still, the thought that I’d be delivered an EcoBoost-powered F-150 never crossed my mind.
|Depending on trim level, the EcoBoost is one of four new F-150 engines available for 2011. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
As is often the case with the Y-chromosome curse, I bounded ahead without reading the associated literature to determine the specs of the truck I was about to review, but that turned out to be a benefit from a testing perspective, as it prevented preconceived expectations.
Given the response beneath my right foot, I incorrectly assumed that V8 iron was doing the propelling; the performance was that good thanks in part to 420 pound-feet of torque at just 2,500 rpm. The secret behind Ford’s EcoBoost technology, which delivers V8 oomph with alleged V6 economy, is twin-turbocharging and high-pressure direct fuel injection.
Can it really challenge V8 mettle?
V6 engines have been popular in mid-size sedans for a few decades now. They often felt the sting of criticism as underpowered replacements for V8 powerplants, and justifiably so. There are few V6 engines that impress me; however, that was pre-EcoBoost.
Ford has produced a sophisticated V6 engine that produces 365 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm to accompany its massive torque output. Linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission, the little mill with a big attitude is capable of launching the F-150 SuperCrew with startling authority.
As the mighty tuck pushes forth with unrelenting vigor, its EcoBoost mill produces a mannered growl along with the typical turbocharger whine. It’s all very nice, but not quite the rumble and roar of a V8 engine.
|Ford has produced a sophisticated V6 engine that produces 365 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm to accompany its massive torque output. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
While the classic V8 burble may be missing, the power isn’t, and Ford proved that with their head-to-head tow challenge against the 5.7-litre HEMI V8-powered Ram 1500 and 5.3-litre Vortec V8-powered Chevy Silverado. In the uphill sprint, each truck was saddled with a 9,000-lb trailer. It’s pretty evident that the EcoBoost dominated the V8s in this exercise, thanks to its wealth of torque.
That grunt allows Ford to brag about the 11,300-lb tow rating of my EcoBoost tester. Who would have thought that a V6 engine running on regular petrol could perform such heroics while potentially ingesting less fuel than a typical V8?
Fuel efficiency of a V6?
In addition to beating the V8s in pulling performance, the EcoBoost should run circles around them when it comes to fuel economy, right? Yet that’s still open for debate. The EcoBoost-powered F-150 4x4 is rated at 14.0 L/100 km and 9.5 L/100 km city and highway driving, respectively—and that’s good.
According to my tester’s on-board computer, I was averaging in the range of 16 L/100 km during my traipsing about town, which isn’t as attractive as the posted rating. As such, I’m satisfied that the EcoBoost V6 delivers greater fuel economy than a V8 powerplant of similar output, but it doesn’t seem to be nearly the gain hoped for.
|Massive expanses of inner real estate combine with soft leather, attractive materials and a vast array of equipment to impart a sense of near hedonism. (Photo: Rob Rothwell/Auto123.com)|
Regardless of engine size, the reality is that it takes a lot of fuel to mobilize these opulent behemoth trucks, period.
Big but so very comfortable
The F-150 Platinum SuperCrew edition is pretty well the epitome of luxury and comfort in truck form. Massive expanses of inner real estate combine with soft leather, attractive materials and a vast array of equipment to impart a sense of near hedonism.
Of course, this level of bliss doesn’t arrive on the cheap. My tester tallied $64,000 and change, and that’s not what a typical F-150 buyer may have in mind. There are, however, numerous trim levels and configurations leading to a broad spectrum in pricing to meet most budgets.
Wrapping-up the big truck with a small engine
I’m still somewhat amazed that a V6 engine can so admirably propel a large truck. Ford has accomplished something quite noteworthy, and frankly counter-intuitive to all we know about trucks, towing ability and engines.
I’m no longer a skeptic in regard to the potency of V6 engines in burdensome vehicles. I suspect that Ford will continue to perfect the EcoBoost mill, and in doing so enhance its fuel economy. If such could be taken a few notches higher in the hefty F-150 SuperCrew 4x4, the EcoBoost will radically alter all we’ve come to know about small engines and big trucks.