3.5-liter EcoBoost Twin-Turbo Lariat SuperCrew
This is the first time in a long time that a V-6 has been the engine at the top of a half-ton's lineup. The EcoBoost doesn't come standard on any F-150, but pricing is aggressive: The upgrade from the 5.0-liter can cost a mere $750, depending on trim level. For that money, you add only 5 horsepower (which peaks at a lower rpm). Big deal, right? The true benefit is with torque, where the gain is 40 pound-feet (420 versus the 5.0's 380), and peak torque is at 2500 rpm as opposed to the 5.0's 4250. The EcoBoost engine doesn't sound like a V-8, but it certainly pulls like one. The twin-turbo's power delivery is much smoother than expected, with no noticeable turbo lag, and much quieter. You can hear the diverter valves, which give it a slight turbodiesel-like sound.
At 17.2 mpg, our fuel economy was within the EPA estimates at 16 mpg city/22 highway, and best of the test. Febbo feels "this is the perfect truck engine. A torque curve you can lay a ruler on and decent mileage--why do we even mess around with V-8s anymore?"
When we first set up this story, the idea was to see whether it makes more sense for buyers to get the twin-turbo V-6 or the 5.0-liter V-8. From the results at the dyno and the track, the EcoBoost's performance data makes it a better rival for the 6.2. The EcoBoost F-150 was the fastest of the test, reaching 60 mph in 6.2 seconds and finishing the quarter mile in 14.8 seconds at 95.0 mph. The last time we tested a 5.4-liter-powered F-150 (not a Raptor) was in 2009, when the four-wheel-drive Lariat took 8.1 seconds to hit 60. And we can only imagine what a regular-cab EcoBoost would feel like. That combination is available -- and would be like a modern-day Lightning.
Things got a little more complicated at the dyno, where the guys at K&N said that this was the most finicky turbocharged vehicle they had ever tested. For dyno testing, the rear wheel speed sensors had to be disconnected. The traction control would not allow operation with the front wheels stationary. But K&N completed four successful runs. Febbo explains: "In early testing, it was clear the EcoBoost would use a less aggressive timing map if a proper amount of cooldown was not given. These runs were thrown out as nonrepresentative. We'd also be curious to see if higher-octane fuel would make a considerable difference in performance on the forced-induction engine."
The dyno showed 316 rear-wheel horsepower at a peak of 5000 rpm, with 347 pound-feet of torque at 4395. The torque peaked at a much higher rpm than predicted, but if you look at the curve at 3000 rpm, the torque there is very close to what Ford's numbers show when factoring in driveline losses. There, it makes 344 pound-feet of torque on this dyno -- the curve is so flat, you'd think this was a diesel. The runs showed that the turbos don't produce full boost until above 2000 rpm. Febbo tested this further at the track with a G-Tech performance meter, and got a real boost signal. However, the torque converter doesn't lock up until 2000 rpm, and after doing several experiments holding it in gear, etc., he couldn't get it to actually accelerate under 2000 rpm. But while driving around with the windows down, he heard the turbos start to spool at about 1800. The results: The 5.0- and 6.2-liter V-8s showed an average of 22-percent driveline loss in power and torque. If that number were to be believed, you could estimate that the EcoBoost engine is actually making closer to 385 horsepower instead of the Ford-rated 365. These are best-guess theoretical numbers and should not be considered fact.