First Drive: 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost V6
Major updates to the F-150, already the bestseller in one of the largest market segments, represent a serious gamble for Ford. Pickup-truck buyers, after all, notoriously favor the tried-and-true. With high-tech features like twin turbochargers and direct injection, the 2011 F-150's EcoBoost V-6 might as well be a hood-mounted tofu dispenser.
Changing the Game
That means those who want the strongest available mill in a regular Ford truck will have to forsake the V-8 rumble that has defined cab-and-a-box workhorses for decades. Ford understands that traditionalists will take some convincing, and it doesn't help matters that the EcoBoost will command $1750 more than the 3.7-liter V-6 and $750 more than the 5.0-liter V-8. Regardless of output figures, V-6s don't make the same chicken-fried music as V-8s.
If you overlook its rather flat exhaust note, it would be easy to mistake the EcoBoost V-6 for a burly V-8. We drove several F-150 models — as well as competitive trucks — both unladen and towing trailers weighing up to 6700 pounds, and the EcoBoost felt noticeably strong and never seemed to run out of breath. Ford says 90 percent of the engine's torque is on tap from 1700 rpm to 5000. We observed that the new turbos spool up quickly and emit only a slight whistle under load.
Acceleration is almost diesel-like in its relentlessness, and the truck has more than enough in reserve for passing maneuvers, even with a trailer behind. Capable of tugging 11,300 pounds or carrying 3060 in the bed — both best in the segment — the F-150 EcoBoost managed Ford's trailers with ease, chugging along smoothly in top gear on uphill highway sections.
Little Else New
The 2011 truck's interior is much the same as the 2010's; the biggest update is the addition of an available 4.2-inch information screen in the revised gauge cluster. First seen on the 2011 F-series Super Duty, the new readout features multiple displays for the trip computer and various functions, such as fuel economy, vehicle settings, and trailer-towing details. An off-road setting tracks the truck's vertical and lateral movements. Like learning a new smartphone, it's rather overwhelming at first but intuitive and informative once you master the system.
In general, MSRPs increase by about two grand from 2010's, although exact figures get confusing given the numerous configurations of the six trims available with the EcoBoost. The least expensive EcoBoost variant is a $25,440 regular-cab XL with rear-wheel drive and an eight-foot bed; the priciest is a four-wheel-drive Platinum SuperCrew with a 6.5-foot bed, which starts at $48,770. As with all pickups, options can swell the bottom line considerably.
Although the turbocharged V-6 has the potential to deliver better mileage than a V-8, we've noticed in other EcoBoost Fords that their much-touted efficiency increase pretty much disappears when driving with any sort of haste. But that's less important here than in other segments, since, in truth, most pickup owners accept crappy fuel economy as a part of the deal. Given that, and having now experienced the power and performance of the EcoBoost F-150, we think most potential customers will feel right at home in the driver's seat.
FUEL ECONOMY (C/D EST):