Despite Technology Boost, Ford F-150's New Base Engine Still Guzzles More Gas Than the Upgrade

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Think of the Ford F-150 pickup and one’s mind immediately turns to an excellent pair of EcoBoost V6 engines with 2.7 and 3.5 liters of displacement. And why wouldn’t you? Together, Ford’s twin-turbocharged V6 twins make up three-quarters of the model’s engine share. These beauties are the last word in full-size pickup torque, though the 2.7-liter is a wanderer that finds deserving homes in such models as the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX, and Ford Fusion Sport.

For 2018, both EcoBoost engines see some refinements, but buyers of F-150 XL and XLT pickups won’t see either if they leave those option boxes unchecked. In a bid to increase fuel efficiency across the lineup, 2018 sees the introduction of a naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V6 in low-rung trims, replacing the previous 3.5-liter unit.

There’s no shortage of technology at work with the new 3.3, but it can’t match the fuel economy of the closest available engine upgrade.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, a two-wheel-drive 3.3-liter F-150 sips gasoline to the tune of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 21 mpg. Adding four-wheel traction sees those numbers slip by 1 mpg combined, and 2 mpg on the highway.

Respectable numbers, especially given the engine’s healthy output. The 3.3-liter makes 290 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, assisted in its power and fuel economy goals by dual port- and direct-injection, plus twin independent variable cam timing. Last year’s 3.5-liter made less power and delivered 20 combined/18 city/24 highway in 2WD guise.

Still, there’s a reason automakers are flinging turbochargers at practically every model. Upgrading to the 2.7-liter EcoBoost, now with 325 hp and 400 lb-ft, means less pain at the pumps — at least on paper. The EPA rates that engine (in a 2WD F-150) at 20 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined. Going 4WD takes those figures to 21 combined/19 city/24 highway. More power, and still more fuel economy, it seems. (Keep in mind that the 3.3-liter still uses Ford’s six-speed automatic, while the 2.7 receives the new 10-speed.)

While the EPA claims the 3.3-liter can’t quite match the fuel consumption of the 2.7-liter, your mileage may very well vary. A recent test of an F-150 King Ranch, equipped with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 10-speed auto, saw the week’s observed fuel economy fall well below the EPA rating. The driver (yours truly) was not hoofing it, just to make that clear.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
2 of 43 comments
  • Nrd515 Nrd515 on Oct 29, 2017

    I wouldn't touch an EB F150 with a 10 foot pole. I have 2 friends with them and they have both had engine issues that Ford has refused to cover. The one truck is an early one, and it's had a bunch of turbo issues, along with sensors and a front end issue. The engine issues started well before the first year and continue. He is saving up to buy a new truck and it's going to be a V8 F150. With all the problems he's had with Ford products over the 30 years I've known him, I don't understand his loyalty to the brand at all. I would be looking at GM or Ram, but it's F150 or nothing with him. The other friend's truck is still under warranty, and it has an intermittent turbo issue where it loses boost at random times, along with blown head gaskets. The dealer seems to understand his frustration and has tried to get Ford to replace the engine, but they aren't budging. He's looking to bail on the thing as soon as it's paid off. He's making double and triple payments to get rid of it before the warranty is gone. Looks like it's going to be a Silverado for him with the 5.3.

  • Hermann2012 Hermann2012 on Oct 04, 2018

    As an owner of a 2018 2wd regular cab with the 3.3 na V6 the hate thrown at it is unwarranted. My ave MPG is 21.2 in mixed driving. It has decent low speed grunt (not overwhelming) so I don't have to rev the krap out of it. When you really get on it, it goes like vehicle with 290 HP that weighs 4100 lb. Like Holy Direct Injection Batman. It is an absolute blast to drive in Sport mode. You get to 70 mph in 3 Mississippi's. Don't slam this engine, it has its place for people who drive a truck as a daily driver. Others can have their V-8 burble, or the plumbing intensive EcoBoosts. I am happy. I chose this over an identical truck that had a 2.7 EB. YMMV

  • IBx1 Never got the appeal of these; it looks like there was a Soviet mandate to create a car with two doors and a roof that could be configured in different ways.
  • CAMeyer Considering how many voters will be voting for Trump because they remember that gas prices were low in 2020–never mind the pandemic—this seems like a wise move.
  • The Oracle Been out on the boat on Lake James (NC) and cooking up some hella good food here with friends at the lake place.
  • ToolGuy Also on to-do list: Read the latest Steve S. fiction work on TTAC (May 20 Junkyard Find)
  • 1995 SC I'm likely in the minority, but I really liked the last Eldorado best. That and the STS.