There was a time, not all that long ago, that having a six cylinder in your half ton pickup was a non issue. Everyone who made full sized half ton pickups had a quality six cylinder in their lineup that, while it may have been the base engine, got the job done.
We had some experience with the Ford 300 straight six back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The fuel injected straight six had a ton of torque and unless you were trying to tow 7,000 pounds didn’t sweat the work load.
Sometime in the late 90’s the culture determined that unless you had a V8 under the hood of your half ton, (insert Arnold Schwarzenegger voice over), “you, were a girly man!” It was said you need a big V8, even if all you ever towed was a small Bass boat, or a couple of jet ski’s and the most you ever brought home from the home improvement store were three 4x8 sheets of plywood. In the era when gas was $2/gallon, that was fine, but now when gas is $3.50 or more a gallon, things change.
Ford along with everyone else got caught out when in 2008 fuel prices spiked from $2.75 a gallon to $4.25 a gallon in two months, and sales of full size trucks fell off a cliff. Not wanting to get caught out again Ford put together a program where they would revamp their entire engine line for the F150 pickup so they could retain their crown of the “best selling vehicle in the U.S.” and with it, keep money flowing into the company, since pickups and SUV’s are where a majority of the profits come from.
We had the opportunity to drive the two new V6 powered F150’s in back to back weeks. We started out with the base 302 horsepower 3.7 liter V6, then the week after we had the 365 horsepower 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6. The question to be answered is, by going with a V6 are you missing anything by not having a V8.
The first F150 we had was was a 4x2 Supercrew in XLT trim. Perhaps it’s our perception, but the Ford F150 seems to have gotten much wider in the last couple iterations. The F150 now feels as large as the F250. These truck are extremely wide inside, and outside as well. The truck is every bit of seven feet wide, so you will be taking up most of the lane driving down the road, and if you live in an older neighborhood, it’s tight going down the street if cars are parked on both sides of the road.
In the Supercrew, the back seat leg room is huge. There may be more leg room for back seat passengers then on a BMW 750iL sedan! Seating in the back is comfortable too. You can put three large people in the back and not have any complaints even if you have a drive of several hours. For the driver and passenger, the captains chairs were comfortable and had plenty of adjustment for us to find the ideal spot.
The cloth that we had in our XLT model is quite good. It had good heft and thickness and felt like it would hold up for a long time, even under hard use. We would like to have seen the USB and AUX jacks that are are at the bottom of the center stack, moved into the center console which is absolutely huge. This is not necessary for aesthetic reasons, more ones of security. Even though the F150 sits up so high, you can still see wires connecting to devices in the cab, that just invites problems.
The F-150’s now have the 4.3” information screen that debuted in the SuperDuties a couple years ago in between the the speedometer and the tach. This multi function display is laid out well and provides good information to the driver in an easy to navigate menus. It has more information then you will probably need, but always nice to have. There are sub menus that are relevant for off roading and for towing along with the usual trip/distance measurements, diagnostics and the clever average and instant fuel economy gages which are blended into one.
Once you are accustomed to the size of the truck, it drives quite well. While we didn’t have a chance to hook up anything to tow while we had the 3.7 V6 it did make a few trips to Lowes for supplies. No, a 4x8 sheet of plywood will not lay flat in the bed, however, when propped up to fit, it didn’t protrude much past the upright tailgate. We would recommend getting the step that makes getting into the bed of the truck easier. Unless you have a 36”+ inseam, it’s a big step to climb up into the bed of the truck.
We would also recommend the back up camera option as well. Living in an older neighborhood, one built in the nineteen teens and twenty’s backing out of the driveway was a bit of an adventure a few times. On one occasion we had to get out of the truck to see just how much further we could back up without hitting the car parked on the other side of the street as it could not be seen in the rearview or sideview mirrors.
Now the big question is, does the 3.7 V6 have enough power? The answer is yes. While one could always use more power, the base V6 felt fine. Again we didn’t load it up with a ton of weight in the bed, or tow anything heavy, but for driving around and hauling a few things it was fine. The only thing that struck us as odd, is that under full throttle, this engine shifts at 7,000 rpm’s. It’s very un-truck like and it takes a little getting used to having the power is up higher in the rev range then most traditional truck buyers are used to. The question remains though is how people who will tow with the base engine will feel when they don’t have the majority of their torque right off idle.
Fuel economy for the base V6 in two wheel drive is rated at 17 city and 23 highway and 19 combined. We saw 18 combined and 22 on the highway, so the readings are about spot on. The base sticker on our XLT was $31,810, then with options came to $34,880. It seems a bit high priced, however, go and option out a pickup from ANY manufacturer these days and they get expensive in a hurry. Long gone are the days you could get a full sized half ton for low to mid $20,000’s. Then again, the interior of trucks today are as nice as some near luxury cars!
Next up we had the EcoBoost V6 F150, again a Supercrew but this time it was a 4x4 and in Lariat trim. The move to the EcoBoost V6 is an attempt by Ford to offer the power of the larger V8’s in this case the 6.2 V8, yet retain better fuel economy. While the EcoBoost is down on horsepower to the 6.2, 365 vs. 411, they are near equal on torque.
No matter how much advertising is thrown at you about “we have more horespower then insert brand here” in a truck intended for work, TORQUE is the most important thing. You want as much as you can get, as low in the rpm range as you can get it. With the EcoBoost, Ford is not only able to match torque numbers of the 6.2 V8, but through the use of careful computer tuning they can create a near flat torque curve so that 80-90 percent of torque is available from 2,000 rpm’s on. The EcoBoost is rated to tow 11,000 and while we wanted to try that out, the person we know with the 32’ race car trailer was out of town, so we were again unable to hook up anything meaningful to really test this engine.
While testing by sites like PickupTrucks.com has shown that when towing at near max capacity the advantage in fuel economy between the EcoBoost and the 6.2 V8 is negligible, it’s when driving around in “normal conditions” that the EcoBoost really shines. We had some experience with the 6.2 in the Raptor that we tested some time back, and while that is a bit unique due to the 35” tires and it’s elevated stance, the best highway fuel economy we got in the Raptor as 14 mpg and we had to be very light footed to achieve that, 12-13 mpg was more the norm. With this 4x4 Supercrew we pulled down 20 mpg on a 550 mile trip to Indiana and back.
Power with the EcoBoost is very good, in fact it didn’t take very much throttle to begin to feel the traction control coming in. Put your foot down with the traction control turned off, and in two wheel drive, it would smoke the tires with easy. Get the EcoBoost and the F-150 is an entertaining truck to drive.
The interior of the Lariat package was nice, but the level of materials in a few spots left something to be desired. The leather material on the dash is paper thin, and didn’t have a real quality feel to it. The wood grain for some of the interior trim looked nice, but the veneer appeared to be about 2 millimeters thick. There was also quite a bit of hard plastic to be found as well, and while this IS a press vehicle with 8,000 miles on the clock, the fit and finish is not what we have come to expect from Ford of late.
We bring these issues up because the out the door price on this very well equipped truck as $49,115. Now, I don’t care who you are, when you are paying just shy of fifty large for a new vehicle there are some expectations that come with it, and we have to say, that the interior of this F-150 didn’t live up to it. The rest of the truck was great. It rode very well for a 4x4, it was very quiet in the cabin, the Sync and Nav systems worked well, but that price tag gives you cause to make that Jeremy Clarkson sucking air between his teeth sound that he’s not best pleased.
We could knock $4,000 of the price pretty easy by ditching the $2,495 Sony Navigation Radio package and $1,450 for the Lariat Chrome package, and maybe another $995 for the sunroof, but we are still talking about a mid $40,000 truck at that point! Again we know the cost of pickup trucks has gone up dramatically in the past decade, it’s just that we still have a hard time wrapping our head around those figures, and we know we aren’t the only ones.
Overall we do have to say, if you plan to tow frequently and with bigger loads you should feel very comfortable getting the EcoBoost V6. Ford has spent quite a bit of time and money making sure it will hold up as good as any V8, and we think you will like the results.
In the end we like these F150’s, the base V6 does a fantastic job and will suit most people who don’t have need to tow very heavy loads. Most contractors could get away with this V6 and be happy with it. If we were to buy a new F150 we have to seriously consider this 3.7 V6 because the most we would be towing is 5,000 pounds and that would be maybe six or eight times a year to go to the race track, though that weight is at the top end of it’s tow rating.
To get the EcoBoost isn’t an expensive option up front, but to try and get one out the door for under $40,000 takes a lot of doing. That said over 50% of the F-150’s coming off dealer lots right now are equipped with the V6’s and dealers are having a hard time keeping EcoBoost’s in stock, so no matter what some may think, consumers are voting with their wallet, and Ford appears to have hit it out of the park with these two engines.
The F-150 continues to be the best selling vehicle in the U.S. year after year, even when gas has become much more expensive, F Series trucks continue to sell at around 50,000 units a month and for October 2011 specifically 40% of those were EcoBoost models, it will be interesting to see if GM, Dodge, Toyota and Nissan follow Ford down this path, or come up with something of their own. We should find out very soon.
Have a look at all of our photos of these two trucks below.