It wasn't long ago that the all-new 2009 Ford F-150 took Motor Trend Truck of the Year honors. When it won, the F-150 received praise for its best-in-class towing capacity, rigid frame, and broad spectrum of models-everything from the basic work truck to the upscale Platinum-with a choice of three cabs. So it may seem surprising that, just two model years later, the 2011 Ford F-150 lineup has undergone a significant update, with several key improvements to an already stout truck.

As of the 2011 model year, those who loved the 4.6- and 5.4-liter V-8s will either have to consider an Expedition or adapt: In the F-150, they're gone. And given what's coming, that's no great loss. Prospective F-150 buyers will have the choice of four new engines, and for the first time in three years, there are V-6s available, and two at that. Ford's six-speed TorqShift is the only transmission available in any F-150, and Ford is the only half-ton builder to make a six-speed automatic standard.

Of the four new engines, two fight for topline status. The highest-horsepower engine, the 6.2-liter, 411-horse, 434-pound-foot V-8, was first introduced in the Super Duty, and then in the Raptor. It's now the only engine for the SVT truck, whether SuperCab or SuperCrew. The V-8 has a terrific, deep rumble and gets the truck moving in a hurry. Ford sees it as a small-volume seller and will make it available only in the Harley-Davidson Edition and Raptor (standard) and the Lariat and Platinum (optional). The maker expects 10 percent of buyers will opt for this engine.

The real king here, at least as Ford sees it, is the F-150's EcoBoost engine, a version of Ford's twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 365 horses and 420 pound-feet. The EcoBoost features a diesel-like 2500-rpm torque peak (2000 rpm less than the 6.2-liter) and, like the 6.2-liter, can tow an impressive 11,300 pounds. Oh, and it runs on regular unleaded. The EcoBoost six also features direct injection and twin-independent variable cam timing (Ti-VCT).

Acceleration from a stop is seemingly instant, with no noticeable turbo lag and with generous power throughout the rpm range. It's not just that there is comparable power to a V-8, either; this engine makes theF-150 really fast. That stays consistent when towing. When we tried the EcoBoost with a 6700-pound trailer hooked up, the engine didn't struggle in the least and felt as capable as a traditional V-8. Towing with the EcoBoost was effortless. If you drive it gently, fuel economy is impressive. We used the productivity screen, a feature inherited from the Super Duty, to gauge mpg on a stretch of the drive. There were grades and stops, and some traffic, but the EcoBoost we tested, with the 3.15:1 rear axle, got 22.8 mpg (official EPA numbers haven't been released), and that was without hypermiling or turning off the air conditioning-we weren't about to go without A/C, as this was in Texas in the heat. While we were driving the preproduction engine, there was a noticeable whiny whistle, presumably from the turbochargers. It wasn't overly loud, but we have a feeling it may be quieted by the time the engine goes on sale.

Even though this is new technology, the EcoBoost will be competitively priced. The EcoBoost is said to cost only $750 over the price of the 5.0-liter V-8. The lowest price for any 2011 F-150 is $23,390. From what we gleaned from the complex price sheets, the least expensive F-150 with the EcoBoost is $27,785, XL with HD package. However, we know it's very easy for a truck to become expensive. Two of the EcoBoosts we drove had price sheets with estimates inside. One was an XLT SuperCrew, as tested at an estimated $37,960, the other a fully loaded Platinum model with an eye-watering $51,450 sticker. The EcoBoost will be available in XL, XLT, FX2/FX4, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trims.

While people might worry about durability, Ford has done extensive testing with this engine. It's promoting the EcoBoost's strength with webisodes showing the same engine undergoing the equivalent of 150,000 miles of testing, then being installed in an F-150 on the production line and sent to work at an Oregon logging company. By the time you read this, the same engine will have been put in a race truck and run in the Baja 1000. Even with all that, it's going to take time before truck buyers can accept a V-6 as being as capable or reliable as a V-8 doing the same amount of work, and we're not sure the engine will bereceived with open arms by hard-core truck people. Gradually, though, they should warm to it.

For EcoBoost skeptics, Ford's all-aluminum 5.0-liter V-8 with 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet-a version of which made its debut in the 2011 Mustang-should do nicely. The 5.0-liter has 50 more horses than the departing 5.4-liter V-8, and it also has Ti-VCT. Throttle response feels much quicker than in the outgoing V-8s, and while not quite as fast as the EcoBoost or the 6.2, it has plenty of power for towing up to 10,000 pounds or hauling as much as 3060 pounds of payload. The 5.0-liter is available in the XL, STX, XLT, FX2/FX4, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum.

The new base engine for the F-150 line, which comes standard in the XL, STX, and XLT, is Ford's normally aspirated 3.7-liter V-6 with Ti-VCT. It makes 302 horses, 54 more than the outgoing two-valve 4.6-liter V-8, although its peak horsepower comes at a significantly higher rpm (6500 as opposed to 4750) and its 278 pound-feet of torque falls 16 pound-feet shy of the 4.6's output. The 3.7-liter isn't phenomenally fast, but it is a surprisingly good base engine. That it comes with a six-speed automatic helps. At Ford's event, we had the chance to drive the 3.7 back to back against the Chevrolet Silverado with GM's 4.3-liter V-6, an engine that's been around forever and is more in need of a replacement than anything that was in the F-150. The 3.7-equipped F-150 felt quicker, and the transmission's shifts were better timed to respond to changing conditions, whether on a grade, accelerating, or slowing down. It also did a fine job of holding gears going uphill, with no significant hunting, which would've been a problem if this were a too-small engine in a too-big vehicle. But it can take some throttle-mashing to get the 3.7-liter to that magic 6500 rpm and 302 horsepower, and towing is limited to 6100 pounds.

One of Ford's main goals was to improve fuel economy across the 2011 F-150 line. Weight reduction measures, including a switch to electric power-assisted steering (with all engines except the 6.2) and all-aluminum engines, certainly don't hurt the mpg cause. Ford anticipates a 20-percent improvement in fuel economy overall. In addition, theupdated electric steering setup makes it easier to maneuver at low speeds, say, through a parking lot, and it's quick to respond on the highway without feeling twitchy.

There are plenty of other changes to the F-150 for 2011, many of which were inherited from the Super Duty range. The new TorqShift transmission has manual mode and Progressive Range Select-you can choose what the top gear is, which can be helpful when towing-and tow/haul mode is now standard. The gauge clusters are new, and flank the Super Duty's cool productivity screen, which shows fuel economy, off-road data, and more, based on what you choose to toggle through for the display. New features include a 110-volt outlet, telescoping steering, and HD Radio. The brakes were upgraded for the 2010 model year and stay the same for 2011; pedal response is quick and feels grabby compared with the F-150's competitors.

The 2011 Ford F-150 lineup has a lot to offer, namely more power, capability, and better fuel economy. For the most part, the EcoBoost does what Ford claims: When doing hard work, the V-6 has the power of a big V-8. Driving around town and cruising on the highway, it has the fuel economy of a V-6. But buyers will have to decide what axle ratio to buy, which will define whether the truck is more biased toward fuel economy or capability. If Ford can convince truck guys that these V-6s have the capability and the durability to be a better option than the V-8s they replace, the EcoBoost should be a success.



The 302-horse, 3.7-liter V-6 outpowers the 4.6-liter, but at a higher engine speed and with lower peak torque. It comes standard with a six-speed automatic.


2011 Ford F-150
POWERTRAIN
Drivetrain Layout Front engine, RWD/4WD
Engine 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads
Bore x stroke 3.76 x 3.45 in
Displacement 227 ci/3.7L
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 302 hp @ 6500 rpm
SAE torque 278 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission type 6R-80E 6-speed automatic
1st 4.17:1
2nd 2.34:1
3rd 1.52:1
4th 1.14:1
5th 0.86:1
6th 0.69:1
Reverse 3.40:1
Axle ratios 3.55:1, 3.73:1
Final drive ratios 2.45:1, 2.57:1
Opt engine 90-deg V-8, alum block/heads
Bore x stroke 3.63 x 3.65 in
Displacement 302 ci/5.0L
Compression ratio 10.5:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 360 hp @ 5500 rpm
SAE torque 380 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm
Axle ratios 3.31:1, 3.55:1, 3.73:1
Final drive ratios 2.28:1, 2.45:1, 2.57:1
Opt engine 90-deg V-8, iron block/alum heads
Bore x stroke 4.02 x 3.74 in
Displacement 379 ci/6.2L
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 411 hp @ 5500 rpm
SAE torque 434 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Axle ratios 3.73:1, 4.10:1
Final drive ratios 2.57:1, 2.83:1
Opt engine 60-deg twin-turbo V-6, alum block/heads
Bore x stroke 3.64 x 3.45 in
Displacement 213 ci/3.5L
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
SAE horsepower 365 hp @ 5000 rpm
SAE torque 420 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Axle ratios 3.15:1, 3.31:1, 3.55:1, 3.73:1
Final drive ratios* 1.92:1, 2.02:1, 2.17:1, 2.28:1
Transfer-case models Borg Warner 44-19 ESOF, 44-18 MSOF, 44-17 TOD
Low-range ratio 2.64:1
Crawl ratio (1st x axle gears xlow range) 34.7:1-45.1:1
DIMENSIONS/CAPACITIES
Wheelbase 125.9-163.1 in
Length x width x height 213.2-250.4 x 79.2 x 74.8-76.7 in
Track, f/r 67.0/67.0 in
Turning circle 41.7-52.3 ft
Approach/departure angle 22.4-25.5/22.8-26.0 deg
Ground clearance 7.9-9.3 in
Curb weight 4700-5900 lb
Max payload capacity 3060 lb (w/heavy-duty package)
GVWR 8200 lb (w/heavy-duty package)
Max towing capacity 5500-11,300 lb
Seating capacity 6-Mar
Headroom, f/r 41.0/39.7-40.3 in
Legroom, f/r 41.4/33.4-43.5 in
Shoulder room, f/r 65.9-66.6/65.5-65.7 in
Bed LxWxH 67.0-97.4 x 79.2 x 22.4 in
Width bet wheelhouses 50.0 in
CHASSIS
Construction Ladder frame
Suspension, f/r Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar/live axle,leaf springs
Steering type Rack-and-pinion, electric power assist; hydraulic assist (6.2L only)
Ratio 17.0:1, 20.0:1 (depending on wheelbase)
Brakes, f/r 13.8-in vented disc/13.7-in vented disc, ABS
Wheels 17-, 18-, 20-in steel or cast aluminum
Tires 245/75R17, 255/65R17, 275/65R18, 275/55R20
Acceleration, 0-60 6.2-8.9 sec (TT est)
CONSUMER INFO
Base price range $23,390-$52,115
Airbags Front, front side, side curtain
Fuel capacity 26.0, 36.0 gal
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy Not yet rated
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
*6th gear ratio is 0.61 for EcoBoost only
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