Test Drive: 2011 Ford F 150 SuperCrew EcoBoost trucks car test drives reviews ford
2011 Ford F-150 SuperCrew EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

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Ford Motor Company of Canada

Review and photos by Chris Chase

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2011 Ford F-150

Torque is a work truck’s best friend. This measurement, which indicates the amount of twisting force an engine generates, tells the truest tale of how much power the motor possesses. It’s also the number you need to concern yourself with if you plan to regularly tow or haul heavy things with your truck. Big horsepower numbers ensure quick acceleration and high top speeds, but torque does the grunt work.

Typically, torque has been the domain of the V8 engine, with six-cylinder engines being the base engine in most full-size trucks for many years. Ford is taking a new tack with the 2011 F-150, offering a turbocharged six-cylinder engine as an alternative to (though not at the exclusion of) V8 power.

It’s part of the company’s EcoBoost engine program, which will see smaller-displacement turbocharged engines offered alongside more traditional engine options in a variety of vehicle types. Among the first Fords to get EcoBoost action were the Taurus SHO and Flex, and the Lincoln MKT, all of which use the same turbocharged, 3.5-litre V6 engine found in the F-150 pickup I tested recently.

In the F-150, the EcoBoost motor makes 365 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque, more of both than the 5.0-litre V8 (360 hp/380 lb.-ft.) that’s also available. For drivers after as much power as they can get, but happy to gloat that their more-potent motor is also more efficient, maybe this motor should be called EgoBoost. Whatever the name, it’s presumably a boost to Ford’s bottom line, as the company’s strategy is to market its turbocharged engines as an upgrade from a similarly-potent non-turbo engine. Hence, this turbo six is a $1,000 option compared to the 5.0-litre V8.

Test Drive: 2011 Ford F 150 SuperCrew EcoBoost trucks car test drives reviews ford
2011 Ford F-150 SuperCrew EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

On paper, $1,000 for five horsepower and 40 lb.-ft. of torque sounds like a raw deal, but in practice, at least from a performance perspective, it seems like money well-spent. The EcoBoost’s higher torque output comes at a lower engine speed – 2,500 r.p.m., versus 4,250 for the 5.0-litre’s 380 lb.-ft. – and the result is a truck that is very responsive from a stop. The available low-end grunt is such that, when using the transmission’s manual shift mode, the engine pulls strongly even without shifting down from top gear at near-highway speeds.

That transmission is a six-speed automatic, the only one offered in any F-150. It works well in normal driving, but the first-to-second upshift gets harsh when creeping along at gridlock speeds. My suspicion is that this transmission was designed for heavy hauling, not the 9-5 commute, and so silky-smooth performance in such conditions wasn’t a priority.

Test Drive: 2011 Ford F 150 SuperCrew EcoBoost trucks car test drives reviews ford
Test Drive: 2011 Ford F 150 SuperCrew EcoBoost trucks car test drives reviews ford
2011 Ford F-150 SuperCrew EcoBoost. Click image to enlarge

With power and torque figures not far off those of the 5.0-litre V8, Ford says the EcoBoost’s main benefit is in fuel consumption; the idea is that a smaller engine with a power-adder like a turbocharger should use less fuel than a V8 with similar power numbers. The F-150 EcoBoost’s government fuel consumption ratings are 13.9/9.4 L/100 km with four-wheel drive; by comparison, the less-powerful 5.0-litre 4×4 is rated 15.0/10.5.

My EcoBoost tester averaged 15.5 L/100 km in a mix of city and highway driving. I think that’s a good result for a truck like my massive SuperCrew tester, and while you could expect that the 5.0-litre would have been thirstier in the same circumstances, don’t get your hopes up that the EcoBoost mill will turn this truck into a Prius at the pumps.

The last F-150 I tested was a 2009 with the old 5.4-litre V8, a truck that averaged 21 L/100 km in winter driving. A 2011 F-350 Super Duty with the latest Powerstroke diesel V8 managed an average in the high 16s last summer.

The only flaw in this engine’s performance is a pretty superficial one: it lacks the auditory attitude of a V8, or even the snarkier-sounding 3.7-litre base V6. Aside from some turbo whistle at wider throttle openings, the turbocharged F-150 sounds more like a Taurus than a truck.

The F-150′s four-wheel drive system is an electronic setup controlled by a rotary dashboard knob; options are two-wheel drive, and low and high ranges in 4WD mode.