In families with multiple siblings, there is inevitably one standout that gets more attention and recognition than the rest of them. In the Ford F-150 family, for the past two years, that sibling has been the EcoBoost V-6. There are plenty of reasons to love the EcoBoost, its generous torque and competitive fuel economy (in certain conditions) among them. But there is another part to Ford's half-ton V-6 revolution, with six cylinder models now comprising the majority of F-150s sold.

As part of the comprehensive 2011 powertrain overhaul for the F-150, the 3.7-liter 24-valve DOHC V-6 joined the lineup as the base engine. On-paper, the new engine looked promising, delivering 302 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, but reality doesn't always live up to the promise. Thankfully, after having spent a week with a V-6-powered F-150 in various conditions, including some light payload hauling, we can attest that the engine gets the job done.

Our tester's 0-60 time of 7.6 seconds is within a few tenths of the original naturally aspirated F-150 Lightning, and the V-6 spins happily toward its 7000-rpm redline, emitting a sports-car-like growl along the way. Even with a 1000-lb payload, the truck didn't seem overly taxed, although the transmission downshifted frequently to keep the engine in its somewhat peaky powerband.

With observed fuel economy just under 19 mpg during our test, this F-150's appetite is not outrageously poor, but it's no longer on top. A 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 we had around the same time consistently averaged 2 mpg more under almost all driving conditions, which we attribute to the shrewd calibration of its TorqueFlite 8 eight-speed automatic transmission.

The cabin of our mid-level XLT model was appropriate for its price point -- neither overly sumptuous nor disappointingly spare -- but we fell short of falling in love with it. Though our tester was equipped with the new-for-2013 4-inch center display, it's not a touchscreen and it took us a bit to figure out the controls, with the menu select buttons situated below the climate controls. The system did include Sync, but phone pairing was less than intuitive, and the system displayed some of the latency we noticed in the past in some older Sync systems. As seems to be the case with many multimedia interface systems now, verbal directions through Google maps were fed through the sound system speakers, although each time a voice prompt came up, the system curiously said "incoming call" and "call ended" at the end of the prompt.

Equipped with 18-inch wheels and all-season tires, the XLT exhibited the typical pickup bounciness over expansion joints with the bed unloaded. With 1000 lb of gravel in the bed, the ride got smoother, but we wouldn't describe it as supple. Handling was acceptable, with an average lateral acceleration of 0.74 g, but in all conditions, the F-150 seemed more nervous and jittery than the Ram we had on hand, which rode noticeably smoother.

Overall, the base V-6-powered F-150 does everything expected of it competently and won't disappoint buyers loyal to the Blue Oval. Buyers without brand loyalty may be swayed by the Ram for now, but with an all-new F-150 expected in about a year, it could be a whole new game in short order.


2013 Ford F-150 XLT
BASE PRICE $31,275
PRICE AS TESTED $35,725
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 3.7L/302-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5156 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 144.5 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 231.9 x 79.2 x 75.2 in
0-60 MPH 7.6 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.9 sec @ 87.3 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 119 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.74 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.9 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17/23 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS 1.01 lb/mile