Mr. Truck 11-29-10 |

Mr. Truck 11-29-10

Kent Sundling Denver, Colo.

It’s amazing to me how important fuel mileage has become with trucks. I never used to watch crude oil prices but now I track it to see if I should fill up my aftermarket 60-gallon tank on my truck, this week or next week.

It’s all about the gas with the new 2011 Ford F150 – with 20 percent fuel improvement, four new sophisticated engines, two V-6s, two V-8s with power and fuel economy.

These new gas engines have oil coolers and piston cooling jets like diesel engines. The all aluminum 5.0L V-8, from the Mustang, built heavy duty for the trucks, has the Mustang sound and is quick off the line. The base 3.7L V-6 roars and has surprising power. But the most talked about engine is the 3.5L V-6 intercooled EcoBoost which will push you back in your seat, one of the fastest and quietest trucks I’ve driven. This got me excited as this twin turbo direct injection has some great numbers with 365 horsepower and 420 torque. Ford rates the EcoBoost to tow 11,300 pounds. This is were the confusion starts. We towed 6,700-pound trailers near Dallas, Texas, with the Ford 3.5L EcoBoost, Dodge 5.7 V-8 Hemi, Toyota 5.6L V-8 and GM 6.0L V-8 almost similar axle ratios, 3.73 Ford, 3.92 Dodge, Toyota 4.30 and 3.73 GM. The EcoBoost just didn’t seem to hang as well with the V-8s when towing as the HP and torque numbers would have suggested.

Ford is determined to pull the best fuel economy improvements from its new engines, but they could loosen the reins a bit when towing is involved. The torque curve on the EcoBoost is better than most diesels with 90 percent of torque coming on at just 1700 rpm’s. This all makes sense when driving the truck empty – it’s a hot rod! I did get to tow the same trailer with a 6.2 V-8 that’s available with just the Raptor, Platinum, Harley-Davidson and Lariat Limited F150. The 6.2L is the same one in the Ford Super Duty and has the right numbers, 411 horsepower, 434 torque and feels it with a trailer. This is the engine you want for towing and is rated the same as the EcoBoost to tow 11,300 pounds of trailer. The 6.2L is in the F150 Raptor, this year with CrewCab. Drive one if you get the chance.

All the new engines are matched to the 6R-80 six-speed automatic. Low first gear, 4.17 ratio with a well-spaced stack and double overdrives are very manageable with manual mode or the transmission does know what to do on its own. In auto, you can toggle the manual switch up and the middle dash read out shows you which gear you are in, which is nice on grades. The new SelectShift lets you stay in a gear as long as you want like a manual transmission with brains. So if you still feed hay bales out the tailgate or like controlling your trailer coming down the fast side of the mountain, SelectShift Auto will make you smile.

A large 4.2-inch LCD Productivity screen is the best out there for info on your truck and it’s in the middle next to the all new gauge cluster where you can see all the gauges at once without moving your steering wheel.

Driving the EcoBoost, I was in the mpg contest with other journalists and got fourth with 29.1 mpg. As a premium engine, I was glad to see the EcoBoost priced at only $750 over the 5.0L V8. The power ratings of the EcoBoost makes it look like genius compared to the $7,000 premium for a diesel engine and 30 cents a gallon cheaper gas. Though diesels have gone to the back burner for half-ton trucks, EcoBoost is as close as we can get for now. If Ford shuts off the fuel economy gremlins that live in the engine controls computer, when towing, I’ll try an 11,300-pound trailer in the mountains.

V-6 engines are back in the spotlight as fuel economy stays an important factor with high gas prices that don’t drop much. If you have work crews that need a full-size truck to carry tools and fuel to the field, Fords new V-6 lineup gives you choices for mpg and payload. Equipped right with heavy-duty package, a regular cab 4-by-2 EcoBoost V-6 can have a payload of 3,060 pounds, yes a ton and half in a half ton. Tell that to grandpa.

New electric rack and pinion steering. Still all mechanical linkage, just the pump and hoses went away. An electric motor drives a belt to the rack. This is tight steering with computers measuring road surface to give you the kind of feed back that makes it easy to center your lane with light steering effort. Also new for 2011 is telescoping steering wheel, one of my favorite options.

Ford first introduced Trailer Sway Control in the F150 in 2009. A big deal for trailer safety, working with the integrated trailer brake controller, if your trailer would go into a severe sway, Fords computer will brake the trailer separate from the truck to avoid the pendulum action to increase. New for 2011 on the Ford F150 with the integrated trailer brake controller, the truck can start the sway as with a fast lane change. Once the Ford computer senses trailer sway, the trailer brake activates and the truck ABS controls the trucks brake as it reacts to the trailer sway. It’s incredible to feel it happen, the trailers brakes kick in and the truck straights itself without you doing anything. For 2011, the F150 has a larger rearview camera display, nice for backing up to a trailer.


Kent Sundling (alias “Mr. Truck”) spent 20 years wearing out pickup trucks as only a farmer could. With over 1 million miles pulling trailers, Mr. Truck has a unique collection of truck and farm stories that will educate and entertain. Mr.Truck gave up his bib overalls and John Deeres in his quest to save the farm and moved to the big city to sell trucks. After selling trucks for 10 years, this farmer now writes for eight magazines and owns over two dozen Web sites, helping folks find the “Right Truck.” If you have a question for Mr. Truck, you may contact him at his Web site,

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