While my invitation to the media burnout fest musta been lost in the mail, I attended a regional ride/drive event to cover the four new engines in the 2011 Ford F-150 as compared to some of its domestic competition. The afternoon included a fairly-lame autocross, a (short) drag strip and real world tests, unladen and towing. The product specialist made a point to ask everyone to tell their friends about this event. Luckily for Ford, I got a lot of people to tell.
Chevy Silverado Z71 (5.3L, 6AT): The Z71 Chevy used to be a serious 4WD off-road package, but now it can be a knobby tired, softly sprung PreRunner rig. Which shows the Blue Oval Boys stacking the cards in their favor, earning a wag of my finger. The Z71 was terrible on the autocross, but I brake torqued my way (3.73 gears?) to a dead heat with an EcoBoost at the drag strip. Irrelevant, as the drag strip was short and sweet, though I preferred the throttle tip in of the Chevy from a standstill in our mini-road course. Lose the Z71, add a little more Z06 under the hood and FoMoCo could be in trouble.
Dodge Ram 1500 (5.7L, 5AT): The “Big Horn” edition Ram was perfectly respectable in every performance metric, with more midrange V8 lust than the 5.3L Chevy and feeling similar to the 5.0L Ford. But I suspect, in the real world, the impressive horsepower isn’t up to par when stuck with Dodge’s 5-speed automatic. It’s still a nice truck, but here’s proof that continuous improvement isn’t just for cars.
Ford F-150 V6 (3.7L, 6AT): this six-banger is the reincarnation of the powerful, efficient and legendary Ford straight-six. I noticed the rumbly exhaust at first, then the 7000rpm tach with no redline markings. The new motor’s lusty midrange was expected with variable valve timing, but the tach ran through its full range of motion. That’s right, an $18,000-ish truck can rev to 7000rpm and bring a smile to one’s face. The lightweight cammer Ford was (obviously) soft on the bottom end, has the lowest tow ratings, but is far and away the most exciting truck I’ve experienced in years. Maybe its because Paul and I both love I-6 Fords (his small-six from 1966, my 1994 big-six), but the vast majority of TTAC readers want this mill in their rig.
F-150 5.0L (6AT): the last 5.0 was a joke compared to it’s faster/stronger/cheaper 4.9L straight-six brother, but this is a respectable mid-range motor, more grunt than the 3.7L with a great sound for not much extra coin. And compared to the outgoing 4.6L trucks, Dearborn gave us a reason to believe that multi-cam V8s have a place in big trucks: depending on the EPA’s final judgment, the HEMI and 5.3L Chevy have their work cut out for them. Safe!
F-150 6.2L (6AT): Though a top option with BOSS 429-esque valve covers, a macho engine note and impressive grunt that sounds like da bomb, an overweight (iron) 6.2L big block motor has no business in a nimble, streetwise F-150. Crotch-rocket aficionados say the same about Harley Davidson’s V-twin in modern bikes, which explains why this motor is standard in the Harley-fettled F-150. That said, I adore this BOSS-wannabe, and eagerly await my first test in a workhorse F-250: the Powerstroke diesel’s premium might be in trouble. But the F-150? Not so much.
F-150 EcoBoost (3.5L, 6AT): The “Eco-Brick” certainly appeals to urban cowboys and status seekers in the flyover states. Gutsy move, but the numbers don’t lie: there’s plenty of low end grunt with a gentle turbo whistle, taking much needed weight off the nose for the best autocross performance of the bunch. And while our mini-drag race test wasn’t a slam-dunk win, the EcoBoost mill would destroy the competition if it ran through more than one gear.
But truck users whose actions create America’s collective pickup forklore might be unimpressed: over load/under maintain the beast and I see a well worn, multiple owner, Eco-Brick F-150 eating turbos in less than 200,000 miles. Respectable for the sludge-factories from VW and Audi, but that might as well be pickup brand management suicide.
Conclusions: I’d buy Ford’s base V6, XLT trimmings, start praying for a MidBox option and research how to use a sawzall/welder to lower the bed rails to a usable height. Then again, there’s no good “bed” on the market, so I doubt I’d even consider a comparable Chevy or Dodge.
And while a ride and drive is no substitute for real seat time, Ford eclipsed the competition with upscale interiors stocked with full color gauge displays and great ICE systems, decent suspensions, 6-speed transmissions across the board for respectable fuel economy (or so they promise) and a blizzard of configurations.
More to the point, this is a slam-dunk of a mid-cycle refresh. If only we could peer into the future, checking out Texas’ Craigslist ads from the year 2025: if a fully depreciated Ford sells for more than a Chevy counterpart, the circle shall be complete.