By on April 18, 2011

Bringing out a V6 version of a full-size truck like the F-150 is a good way to get truck guys suspicious, especially if you try to assuage their fears by talking about the engine’s direct-injection, turbocharging and other high-tech frippery. Ford’s solution: emphasize the “power of a V8, efficiency of a V6” simplification, and hope the market catches on as gas prices rise. But does Ford’s marketing concept actually hold true in real life? Does an Ecoboost F-150 get the mileage of a six cylinder even when doing tough truck-guy work? Thanks to some great work by Pickuptrucks.com, you can decide for yourself using the data from a fantastic infographic used to illustrate their test of a loaded and unloaded Ecoboost F-150.

As the chart portion above shows, the Ecoboost’s solid unloaded mileage (the green line) takes a serious beating when it has to haul a 9,000-lb trailer (the blue line), a fact that’s hardly surprising in itself. Because the test didn’t include non-Ecoboost trucks, Pickuptrucks.com’s results don’t tell us conclusively whether Ford’s 5.0 V8 would return comparable mileage hauling the same load, but the Ecoboost’s disappointing loaded mileage was cause for at least one major car blog to deem it a “failure.” That seems harsh, as even if the V8 does match the Ecoboost’s towing efficiency, the V6 should still offer considerably better mileage under nearly all other conditions. Besides, most people buy trucks in order to have towing capability, not because they need to tow on a daily basis… for those buyers, the Ecoboost’s improved non-towing mileage would be welcome, even if towing itself isn’t especially efficient.

Still, Ford’s made something of a gamble by bringing a turbocharged V6 into the world of full-sized trucks, and yet another by marketing it as a considerably more efficient replacement for a V8. And ultimately, whether the Ecoboost V6 makes a worthwhile truck engine is something that each truck buyer will have to decide for themselves. Luckily, even if you think the Ecoboost isn’t worth its downsides, at least Ford gives you plenty of options.

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46 Comments on “Chart Of The Day: Does The EcoBoost F-150 “Fail” At Fuel Economy?...”


  • avatar
    indi500fan

    That pushrod Chevy LS is pretty tough to beat on FE and torque.  Wish they would have had a 5.3 Silverado along on the ride.

    • 0 avatar
      dieselone

      A GM 5.3 would be absolutely spanked during this comparison. No doubt it would return similar fuel economy, but it gives up a significant amount of HP and more importantly torque.  

      As for the FE findings of this test, it looks decent to me.  I tow a camper and a boat on regular occasions with a 5.4/6speed Expedition.  I towed them with a 5.3 powered Suburban prior to buying the Expedition.  Towing gas mileage is similar.  12-13mpg towing a 4,500 boat and 8-9 mpg towing a 6k camper.   I will tell you Ford’s 3v 5.4 flat out spanks the 5.3 when it comes to towing power.  Both the Expe and Suburban had 3.73 gears.  Yes the Expe has a 6 speed which is an advantage.  But the difference was in the hills where the 5.3 needed 4k+ rpm to maintain speed vs the 5.4 needing 3k rpm.  The 5.4’s torque advantage is very noticeable when towing a heavy trailer.
      Considering that my 5.3 Suburban and my 5.4 Expedition rarely break 17 mpg on the hwy, the FE of the Ecoboost looks decent to me.  To match the 420 ft-lbs of torque the EB produces, you need to compare it a 6.2 Ford or Chevy.  I seriously doubt either of those two will get 20+ on the highway, unless your going 45 mpg.

      • 0 avatar
        aspade

        But the difference was in the hills where the 5.3 needed 4k+ rpm to maintain speed vs the 5.4 needing 3k rpm.

        The 5.4 is a bit stronger down low but it sure isn’t 35% stronger.  You needed 2nd and huge revs on hills because of the gaping chasm to 3rd in the 4 speed transmission.
         

  • avatar
    PaulieWalnut

    Breaking news:
     
    Towing 9,000lbs up and down a mountain has an adverse affect on fuel economy.
     
    Why didn’t they bring a regular v6 F-150 out so we could draw a comparison?

  • avatar

    I honestly don’t know what these people were expecting (Or how familiar they are, if at all, with this class of vehicle) if they’d deem 20+ MPG average in a 350HP full size pickup as “fail” 

    I mean, the EPA rates these things at 18MPG combined, and most of these people are topping those numbers. In fact, they’re also beating the average of the 3.7L V6 (Which I hear is a lot more thirsty than advertised to be)

    How, exactly is that “fail”? The Ecoboost does what it was advertised to do, only an idiot or someone who has never actually owned a truck would expect miracles.

  • avatar
    SecretAznMan

    I think the fellas from Top Gear could have come up with a more scientifically sound test than these guys.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      Sure they could.  When they wanted to see what the appeal of the American pickup was, they picked up a Ford Lightning, and then thought it’s ride and practicality were insufficient.  D’oh!

  • avatar
    mazder3

    This test is bull-tickey! To compare apples to apples there has to be more than one apple. With no other truck to compare against in this specific test, this test means nothing.

    • 0 avatar

      Pickup Trucks.com did not draw any conclusions as far as a test. They reported the results of the unloaded vs loaded EcoBoost, they didn’t say oh the other engines or other trucks are better they only used the data they had.
      Sure now people would like to have every truck combination under the sun tested under the exact same conditions but the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is slim to none at best.
      What they do say which I agree with is for MOST truck owners who daily drive their trucks and drive them mostly empty 90% of the time the ecoboost will improve their fuel economy
      In fact most 1/2 tons are rarely used for towing I’d say once people start doing a lot of towing they upsize anyway. For me the ecoboost would have been perfect most the time the truck was transportation, and then wanting to haul dirt bikes and surfboards. The fact you can get an F-150 and its beating a Tacoma v6 on mileage still speaks progress to me

    • 0 avatar
      Domestic Hearse

      +1! At least one, as Mazder3 says, a comparison of one against itself is not a comparison.

  • avatar
    segfault

    I imagine you would get similar results with other vehicles.  E.g., a four-cylinder Highlander will get better mileage than the V6 with only a driver on board, but if you add a full load of people and a luggage carrier on the roof, the MPG difference between the four-cylinder and the V6 narrows if it’s not eliminated completely.

    Edit: I originally picked a Sienna instead of a Highlander for my example. Bad example, since the highway mileage on the FWD Sienna is the same for both engines.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    A failure, no. Anyone who buys the V6 is probably not the type who has the intention of towing 9,000 lbs in the first place. Anyone knowing they have that kinda load to lug, especially through the hills, will opt for the V8 at the Ford store.
     
    No, the 6er is for the air hauler. Guy who wants a Home Depot mulch and flowers fetcher on weekends, but for the most part, rides around empty. All truck, no cargo.

  • avatar
    Adamatari

    Considering most people buy trucks to use them to commute, or at best to use as utility vehicles only on weekends, then just getting better mileage unloaded should be considered a major good thing. Now if we can only convince the weekend warriors that a turbo V6 is really as good as V8 for them…
     
    For the people who use trucks as they are intended – as work vehicles – the loaded mileage and towing mileage are important. It would be nice to see a real life comparison between this and a V8, to see which is better for continuous loaded use. For business use this sort of thing is important. However, without the comparison we’re left just knowing that the V6 predictably uses a lot of gas when towing a heavy trailer.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Considering that most of these see commuter duty, the V6 makes sense, provided it can tow on occasion.  This hardly strikes me a fail, at least on paper.  However, the biggest load to overcome is “truck mentality”.  Most who buy these as posuers, as opposed to those who really use them, still want bragging rights and specs to crow about.  Truck folks will always feel that bigger is better, heavier is better, and they are not likely to change their mind.  So we may have a technological winner but a market failure (again)

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      Anyone “doing tough truck-guy work” on a regular basis probably prefers a diesel engine.

      I suspect most F-150 owners are well-served by a trade-off favoring low-load fuel economy, but Ford is definitely taking a gamble on whether that’s a net-positive sales impact. At some point, higher gas prices will push people away from trucks, rather than toward more-efficient ones.

  • avatar
    reclusive_in_nature

    The only fail to this engine is that it’s not in a Fusion, or better yet, a Focus too.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    There are people that use their trucks to tow, and to tow for long distances. Those of us who do are very aware of the mileage achieved during heavy highway towing of most popular drivetrains. The unloaded number is impressive, but the laden number is comparable to the Nissan Titan’s, a truck that serious towers got rid of at the earliest opportunity. I’m no GM fan, but the 5300 Vortec is better with a loaded car hauler. So are both generations of V8 Toyotas. Diesels are better too, but much more capital intensive. I suppose this Ecoboost drivetrain would be good for lifestyle pickup buyers, at least until the inevitable Ford durability issues surface. Good luck to anyone driving a truck that doesn’t need one now that we’re getting a glimpse of the realization of the progressive dream that is energy as a luxury good.

    • 0 avatar
      asapuntz

      > the progressive dream that is energy as a luxury good

      Or perhaps the progressives suspect that over 2 billion Chinese and Indian citizens are bound to push demand and prices up, so a bit of planning might make the results easier to bear.

      But getting gob-smacked by an “unexpected” increase/shortage is also an option, for those who feel that collateral damage from the demise of poor planners isn’t an issue.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I had the chance to drive the EcoBoost F-150 back to back to back against a Toyota Tundra with the iForce 5.7 and a Chevy Silverado with the 5.3 at a ride and drive event Ford hosted before the launch of the 2011 trucks.
       
      The Toyota had a lot of power unloaded, but with a (roughly 5,500 lbs) trailer attached, suffered from a lot of body lean.  Of the three trucks I drove, I felt the trailer the most in the Toyota.  The GM did a good job of actually controlling the trailer motions, but felt very sluggish on acceleration.  To be fair, the Silverado we had to test didn’t have the max trailer package, and had a fairly tall rear axle, so that probably had something to do with it.  The EcoBoost was easily the best of the three – to the point where if you couldn’t see the trailer in the rear view mirrors, you wouldn’t have known it was there.
       
      The Tundra has the worst fuel economy rating unladen of the three (with the big engine) and from speaking with those who have been trading them in, fuel economy always seems to be a reason.  I would be very surprised if it somehow beat the EB 3.5 when loaded with a similar load over a similar route.
       
      As far as durability goes, the F-150 is the industry standard.  There are more F-150s on the road with over 100,000 miles on the odo than any other truck on the market.  The 5.4 admittedly had some issues with spark plugs when they weren’t replaced by someone who knew what they were doing, and was familiar with the particular design quirks of the plugs in that engine, but other than that there is a reason the F-150 is still the overwhelming choice of truck for those who depend on their vehicle for work as well as transportation.
       
       

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        My friend and I tow his track car to far off race tracks with a c.2003 Toyota Sequoia 2WD 4.7 V8. Towing very close the the Toyota’s rated limit of 6,500 lbs, we get low double digit fuel mileage, which would probably be even better except California gas has very low energy content relative to that sold in most states, as I’m bitterly reminded every time I cross state lines and my car goes from getting 27 to 31 mpg. The Ford EB3.5 test was probably also with CA RFG, so people to our east might be pleasantly surprised.

    • 0 avatar

      “Good luck to anyone driving a truck that doesn’t need one now that we’re getting a glimpse of the realization of the progressive dream that is energy as a luxury good.”
       
      The Beck crazy train derailed buddy, you should have gotten off on the last stop.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Even if the Turbo V6 has the same mileage loaded as the V8, it is still a major advantage for the V6. Even the guy who uses it continuously for work will have about 50% of his trips unloaded.

    As everyone else has said, you can’t call it a fail unless you compare it to the V8 uner the same conditions.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    So basically… the hardcore trucks guys will hate it cause it’s not trucky enough, but it will be a good choice for the majority of trucks that might as well be El Caminos for 99.9% of their duty cycles.
     
    I’ve see this dynamic everywhere.  The ecoboost will probably do really well, much to the chagrin of the elite truck users who will use the engine to feel superior to those posers who buy trucks that suit their actual needs, and not on the fantasy that they will constantly be towing bulldozers up the mountain to the logging camp.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    While a few old timers have been wary about a turbo V6 in their truck, I’ve been surprised about how open many buyers have been about taking the EcoBoost route.  If anything, the 6.2 liter V8, with its less than stellar fuel economy ratings (though to be fair, no worse than any other similar displacement and power rated truck engine) has been the hard sell.
     
    The Pickuptrucks.com report seems to confirm that the EB can hit or exceed its advertised fuel economy figures, even under some very strenuous driving conditions (considering most of the country is fairly flat, most drivers will never see the mountainous conditions in this test).
     
    The loaded economy figures make sense – any gas pickup is going to drop in economy when you suddenly triple its curb weight with a huge trailer.  For most drivers I think the EB will still make a lot of sense, as most people don’t tow loads that heavy for most of the time, and if they do, they’re looking at a diesel truck anyway.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    This is a complete failure of Ford marketing…
     
    The TwinForce V6 has NEVER gotten good fuel economy…all it is, is a high-strung V6 tuned within an inch of it’s life and the end result is a V6 that drinks fuel like a V8.
     
    In the Taurus SHOW/Lincoln Taurus SHOW it drinks fuel like a V8.
    In the Flex/Lincoln Flex it drinks fuel like a V8.
    In the F-150, it drinks fuel like a V8.
     
    I bet you ANY amount of money you want to wager that:
     
    A.  A 5.0 F-150 with the same 3.15 gears as the TwinForce version would return equal fuel economy to the TwinForce figures.
    B.  Ford has a lower tow rating with the 5.0 to “protect” the TwinForce engine.
    C.  Ford’s tallest gear offered with the 5.0 (3.31) is to protect the TwinForce engine.
     
    Ford realizes that this engine…that costs more to purchase/maintain/and repair is no more efficient than a proper V8…and as a result, they purposely make the 5.0 look like a weaker package.  “Ecoboost” has been a complete joke since day 1.  It has not lived up to the “pipe dream” claims that Ford has said it would.  Ford should be ashamed of this joke of an engine.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The 5.0 is available with rear axles from 3.31 to 3.73, the 3.5 EB is available from 3.15 to 4.10, the 3.17 from 3.55 to 3.73.  The EB 3.5 is available with the 3.15 both because of fuel efficiency, and because due to the diesel-like torque curve it can actually do real pickup work with that axle (which is why the 3.7 liter V6 doesn’t come with that engine option – the low end torque isn’t there to make it worthwhile).
       
      The Taurus, Flex, MKT, and MKS with the EcoBoost engines all get better fuel economy compared to similar vehicles with V8s and AWD (for an apples to apples comparison).  The EB F-150 gets better fuel economy than any gas V8 pickup as well as making far more power and torque than any engine that comes close in fuel economy.
       
      Purchase price is higher yes, as makes sense given the EcoBoost engines are a premium option, maintenance costs are identical – no special services or different service procedures are requires, and repair costs should be the same as well, there have thus far been no reliability concerns regarding the EcoBoost engines.  (Well, after googling, there is one page listing a possible issue regarding engine deposits… hosted by a company that sells a product to clean engine deposits… hmmm).

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        1.  Fuel economy figures for the TwinForce boat anchor were acheived with 3.15 gears.  Fuel economy figures for the 5.0 were acheived with 3.31 gears.  I guarntee you that the 3.15 gears are NOT offered with the 5.0 because you would see that the mileage of the 5.0 would be equal to the TwinForce.
         
        2.  Audi A8.  4.2 V8, AWD, gets FAR better mileage than the mediocre Taurus/Lincoln Taurus.  And NONE of those vehicles get anywhere NEAR the 20% better economy that Ford claimed it would.
         
        Again…Ford missed the boat big time with the “eco”boost experiment.  They went for a grand slam and instead struck out.
         
        But, it’s what everyone has come to expect from Ford…way too much hype…and it then under delivers.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      The EB 3.5L isn’t high strung at all, it’s just incredibly unengaging; like every other application of the Duratec 35.
       
      Heck, I sort of wish the 3.5L EB was more of a screamer because it might make the SHO less of a SNOOZE.

    • 0 avatar
      dieselone

      3.73 gears are available with the 5.0 with 2wd or 4wd.  I’d say 420 ft-lbs of torque at 2,500rpm is a stronger package than 380ft-lbs at 4,250 rpm.  Unless Ford is fudging the power numbers, they pretty much speak for themselves.  The EB nearly develops as much torque as Ford’s 6.2 and certainly returns better FE than that engine.  So the idea the EB is a joke is just ridiculous. If the EB is not reliable then it will be a failure.

      IMO, anyone expecting a gas engine with 420 ft-lbs of torque to achieve 25 mpg in a 6k pound vehicle is dreaming at this point. 

      As far as FE, I don’t know where you get your info, but from what I’ve read, the EB gets basically the same FE as a N/A 3.5 or 3.7.  Sure, if you use the extra power it offers, it will get burn more fuel.  

      Is the EB worth the money over the 5.0?  That’s a good question that I don’t have enough info to answer at this point.

      According to the EPA tests, the EB offers nearly 80 ft-lbs of torque at a much lower rpm vs GM’s 5.3, plus has nearly 50 more HP, and gets the same FE in a heavier truck.  That’s pretty impressive to me.  And for the Chevy to get 21mpg it’s using a 3.08 gear which Ford doesn’t offer with a 4×4.  A 3.31 is the low (or highest depending how you look at it) ratio Ford offers in a 4×4 EB.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Luckily, the folks over at pickuptrucks.com dyno tested the 3.5EB against the 5.0L:
         
        3.5L versus 5.0L in F150.
        ______
         
        If you’re interested, here is a dyno of the 6.2L V8.  It’s from the same dyno, but the test was done on a different day, and the scale is a little different:
         
        Raptor 6.2L stock dyno test

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I’d say this “test” is a fail. Any vehicle that you hook up a trailer that weighs considerably more than the vehicle in question will have a significant drop in fuel economy. For example when I hook up a trailer near (or over) the max recommended trailer weight on my V8 Mountaineer it’s hwy fuel economy drops to about 50% of what it does when there is nothing on the hitch.

  • avatar
    don1967

    So an exhaustive comparison of a turbo 6 engine to itself proves what now?   Where’s the V8?

    Seems like a lost opportunity to prove what many of us suspect; that much of today’s fuel-saving technology is designed to sell cars and trucks more than actually improve their real-world efficiency.

  • avatar

    It seems like you all missed the part where PickupTrucks.com reported an unladen fuel economy of 25 MPG (according to the trucks computer.) In a fullsize truck with 400+ ft-lbs of torque? That’s nothing short of amazing.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    I’m 100% Chevy when comes to trucks.  All this test shows to me is that a 3.5 turbo, 1/2 ton truck was able to pull an 8,000 lb trailer from California to near Denver, Colorado.  I would limit my trailer weight to 4,000 lbs. in this particular truck.
     
    The truck as configured is the wrong tool for this job. If you want to tow an 8,000 lb trailer through the Sierras and the Rockies get a proper 3/4 ton HD with a 6.0 V8.  It will be safer for everyone on the road.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I thought the whole point of small displacement, turbocharged engines was that they were more efficient than a larger, normally-aspirated engine of similar output when running at part load.
    I think the meaningful comparison would have been between an unloaded turbo v-6 and an unloaded v-8 driving the same route.
    To take another, different, example, the 240 hp turbo’ed 4 cylinder in the Acura RDX SUV gets a disappointing 23 mpg EPA highway.  Of course, its pushing a 4,000 lb. vehicle that is not particularly aerodynamic.  So, one really shouldn’t expect much better mileage than a 240 hp 3.5 liter V-6.  Supposedly, the reason put the 4 in the RDX was that there wasn’t room for Honda’s 3.5 liter V-6, not because they thought it would save gas.  By contrast,  the 250 hp 2.2 liter 4 in my Saab 9-5 wagon gets an EPA rated 30 mpg highway.  Of course, the Saab is more aerodynamic, presents less frontal area and weighs about 400 lbs. less.  And the 244 hp Honda V-6 in my Pilot is EPA rated at 20 mpg highway . . . and the Pilot weighs about 500 lbs more and has even more frontal area and is less aerodynamic.
    So, it seems to me that the ideal circumstance where a small turbo engine is going to outperform a larger normally aspirated engine of the same hp is where the turbo’ed engine is operating off-boost and will be more efficient at light loads than the larger engine.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    So, it seems to me that the ideal circumstance where a small turbo engine is going to outperform a larger normally aspirated engine of the same hp is where the turbo’ed engine is operating off-boost and will be more efficient at light loads than the larger engine.

    Yup.  Forced induction is basically displacement on demand, except that you’re not hauling around half an engine block as you would be in Chrysler’s MDS or Honda’s VCM.

    The problem is that manufacturers are going to use this to game the EPA cycle by providing a powertrain that stays off-boost on the EPA cycle, but that customers could dip into during regular driving and/or have driveability issues.  Which is fair, as this happens with naturally-aspirated powertrains for years now (recall how many modern automatics go for the high gears and lock up at the nearest opportunity?)

    The other, more serious problem is the auto writers and blogosphere commenters will write the same, tired “But how could a four-cylinder get such bad mileage!?” cliché.  We really ought to get over the cylinder count thing and just deal with power and economy.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      Well said.  The increased volumetric efficiency provided by the boost and horsepower are not free with regards to fuel consumption.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Also remember that the EPA cycle that counts for CAFE is the bicycle speed original from the mid 1970s.  So setting the car up to stay off boost for the entire test is no trick whatsoever.

  • avatar

    I don’t know anyone who owns a truck intended for daily towing who doesn’t have a Diesel. And those people are few in number.

    Here in Texas, every other vehicle is a pickup, and 99% of them are towing nothing. Maybe there’s some junk in the back, but by and large they’re just cars with the capability to haul. I’d say in summation, the EcoBoost F150 is a godsend for those people.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      2 more mpg is better than not but it’s a bit melodramatic to call it a godsend.  Accepting the premise that it’s a toy, you already impractically gave up 10 mpg to have a truck at all so giving up the sweet V8 noises to get two of them back isn’t that the no brainer it would appear to be.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Too much gadgetry under the hood. All the extra hoses, actuators, vacuum/oil lines, means more things to fail. I mean vs. the 5.0 which is a $1000 option vs. the Ecoboost’s $1750 price tag. I have no evidence that the 5.0 will get better towing MPG, reliability, engine life or resale but hey, it’s comes with V8 rumble, included.

  • avatar

    until they modify the vehicle’s weight, coefficient of drag and frontal area it doesn’t really matter WHAT engine they put in there – its still going to get shit fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Mikemannn

    I can’t wait for the followup where they test and prove the *gasp* the 30MPG Ford Mustang V6 gets much worse mileage around the Streets of Willow when driven at 10/10ths.

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    “efficiency of a V6”
    Hmm. You mean they’re selling a V6 and claiming it has the efficiency of a V6? I just don’t believe them. How can that possibly be true?

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