2016 Ford F-150 EPA Fuel Economy Ratings Exposed
As of writing (mid-October 2015), Ford’s EPA fuel economy ratings for the ’16 F-150 just came out. You may well need a spreadsheet to sort them properly, but kudos to Ford for taking this step. Maybe it’s a makeup for holding out on J2807 so long or optimistic curb weights. Ford’s EPA ratings now vary by whether or not a truck has a heavier payload package. On a 2.7L EcoBoost F-150, the option adds, among other things, a heavier rear axle and mechanical parking brake, while the 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L V-8 tucks that already have the larger rear axle get different springs and a higher-capacity ATF cooler, and both of them get 3.73:1 ratios. As you might expect with more weight and shorter gears, the fuel economy estimates drop for payload package-equipped models, identified for now by higher GVWR. The drop is always 1 or 2 mpg from a standard-duty truck, the lone exception being a four-wheel-drive 2.7L. That model lives up to my assertion—and counter to car-shopping-site experts—that a shorter axle ratio doesn’t necessarily reduce fuel consumption because the city rating remains the same. On all others, city ratings never drop by more than one, and in most cases, that 1-2 mpg translates to a 5-7 percent consumption increase, though the range covers nil for that 2.7L 4WD to more than 11 percent. That’s easy enough to see at the pump.
This will be a boon for any pickup buyer that doesn’t get basic math or physics, doesn’t research anything beyond price and color, or doesn’t see that little asterisk “your mileage may vary.” And it will likely complicate the car-shopping process and drive salesmen nuts trying to explain why a truck that looks the same and has the same engine gets better or worse mileage than the one next to it. Just to be sure, I checked the ’16 data and engine output and transmission ratios haven’t changed.
Ford’s approach is laudable, but I’d be even happier if it represents just a first step. Some manufacturers don’t have a “payload” or “max trailer” pack to list multiple numbers, and others have it built in. A four-wheel-drive 381hp, 401–lb-ft 5.7L Tundra that comes standard with a hitch, integrated brake controller, and 4.30:1 rearend is rated 13/17/15 mpg, which doesn’t seem quite so thirsty when compared to a four-wheel-drive 385hp, 387–lb-ft 5.0L F-150 “packed” rated at 14/19/16.
And then there’s everything else that concerns mileage. For the sake of argument, I’ll suggest the 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion accounts for a significant part of the consumption increase, especially highway mileage compared to a 3.15:1, but the other Detroit brands offer similar spreads around 20 percent. While tire sizes and transmission ratios prohibit making brand-to-brand comparisons, only a buzz-cut marketer in pressed khakis will argue a 20 percent change in axle ratio has no effect on mileage.
Tires have a big effect as well, but that doesn’t show up in ratings. If you go from a 41-pound tire that’s 31.6 inches tall turning 653 revolutions per mile to one that weighs 56 pounds (remember this is rotating mass), is 32.8 inches tall, and revolves around 625 times/mile, it’s likely going to take more fuel to turn. Larger sizes usually mean more aggressive treads when compared to low-rolling-resistance tire, meaning yet more fuel.
You’d think weight has something to do with fuel economy too, especially given Ford’s switch to aluminum to save truck weight. However, EPA numbers for pickups don’t call out cab or bed lengths, and those differences can be greater than the extra weight of four-wheel-drive (don’t forget parasitic losses) or what Ford saved in aluminum bodywork. You can get a two-wheel-drive Ram 1500 Hemi with a base weight of 4,570 to 5,210 pounds, a 640-pound difference if you don’t count any options tacked on, and there are F-150s with the same engine that vary by more than 500 pounds. Yet since the EPA ratings are set for the lightest version available with the tallest gears, they really apply with any accuracy to less than 10 percent of the 1/2-ton pickups sold.
At some point we may get fuel consumption figures dominated by an easier-to-compare amount-used per 100 miles. If we’re lucky, there will be an asterisk for which axle ratio and tires the values are for or separate values by axle ratio. If we get really lucky, trucks—which are, after all, designed to carry or tow things—will be rated at GVWR with water tanks duplicating passenger weight in the seatbelts and lead bars in the bed (so it doesn’t give an aero advantage to cargo stacked smooth and evenly bed-rail high). That would really make life interesting for all those cute-utes that got labeled “truck” by the EPA.
A disclaimer that “your mileage WILL vary” is already decades overdue.