DEXTER, MI – Following on the heels of last year’s upgrades to its 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 engine in the F-150, the remaining engines in Ford’s pickups are all-new or substantially upgraded for the ’18 model year.
At the top of the heap is the next-generation 5.0L Coyote V-8 featuring the Dearborn automaker’s first large-scale commercial application of a spray-in cylinder liner. The process, Plasma Transferred Wire Arc or PTWA, was first employed in-house by Ford in the small-batch 5.2L Voodoo V-8 installed in the ’16 Shelby GT350 Mustang.
Peter Dowding, chief engineer-Ford Global Powertrain, estimates PTWA cuts engine block weight about 8 lbs. (3.6 kg) by eliminating the need for thick steel liners in the aluminum block.
“We were chasing after getting a lighter engine,” Dowding explains. “If we can take weight out, we can offer better payload. Everybody is helping everybody else.”
Employing spray-in cylinder liners means the block sees a modest increase in true displacement, from 4.95L to 5.04L, with the bore increasing to 93 mm (from 92.2 mm) while stroke stays the same at 92.7 mm. Compression ratio increases to 12:1, up from 10.5:1.
The 5.0L also gets direct fuel injection working in concert with its existing port-injection system, giving the engine better fuel efficiency depending on engine temperature, load and power demand. Port injection operates at low speeds with direct injection joining in at higher speeds, under heavy loads and during wide-open throttle acceleration.
The revamped engine features an all-new aluminum block and heads, bigger intake valves, new throttle body, wiring harness, larger pistons, more robust connecting rods and rod and main bearings, a lighter weight oil pan made of composite material and a revised composite intake manifold.
The result is an engine that produces 395 hp and 400 lb.-ft. (542 Nm) of torque, up 10 hp and 13 lb.-ft. (18 Nm) compared with the previous engine, while gaining an EPA-estimated 1 mpg (.43 km/L) in fuel efficiency across all applications and regardless of the driving situation.
Good news for enthusiasts: The same redesigned 5.0L V-8 also makes its way into the ’18 Mustang GT, giving the pony car 460 hp and 420 lb.-ft. (569 Nm) of torque, up from 435 hp and 400 lb.-ft.
At the opposite end of the naturally aspirated spectrum is a redesigned 3.3L V-6, down from 3.5L but gaining 8 hp and 12 lb.-ft. (16 Nm) of torque at 290 hp and 265 lb.-ft. (359 Nm). Improvements in the base engine include added direct injection and a higher compression ratio.
Finally, in keeping with improvements to the 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 last year, Ford adds port injection and a high-pressure exhaust-gas-recirculation valve to the 2.7L EcoBoost V-6, netting an extra 25 lb.-ft. (34 Nm) of torque to 400 lb.-ft. to go along with 325 hp.
The carryover 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 produces 375 hp and 470 lb.-ft. (637 Nm) in standard F-150 applications and 450 hp and 510 lb.-ft. (691 Nm) in the high-output Raptor version. A 3.0L V-6 diesel is still planned for introduction next spring.
All the revamped F-150 engines are mated to 10-speed automatic transmissions except the 3.3L which continues with the carryover 6-speed automatic, and all F-150 engines now feature stop/start technology. Ford says all of the powertrains see at least a 1 mpg improvement in fuel economy regardless of configuration or driving situation, with the highest efficiency coming from the 2.7L turbo at 20/26/22 mpg (11.8/9.0/10.7 L/100 km) city/highway/combined.
Maximum towing capacity is 13,200 lbs. (5,987 kg), up 100 lbs. (45 kg), behind the 3.5L turbo, while payload tops out at 3,270 lbs. (1,483 kg) with the V-8, both of which Ford says are best in class.
The all-aluminum body introduced on the ’15 truck sees a front and rear facelift giving the light-duty truck the same C-clamp front and rear lighting effect and horizontal-bar grille treatment as its Super Duty siblings.
Technology upgrades for ’18 include full-range adaptive cruise control with different braking and following-distance algorithms depending on whether the truck is in regular use or towing and hauling. The camera- and radar-based system, an improvement over the Super Duty which shuts down below 12 mph (19 km/h), is a first in the segment, Ford says.
The truck also gets pre-collision assistance with pedestrian detection, 4G LTE Wi-Fi capability enabling up to 10 connected devices and B&O Play premium audio.
Driving the F-150 brings no surprises – handling remains surprisingly agile for such a big, top-heavy vehicle, with a suspension that eliminates all but the largest road craters. We sample the all-new engines, finding in each a good mix of power to price.
The budget-minded 3.3L provides ample pull without any special effects, keeping pricing sub-$30,000 for a regular cab work truck. Jumping up to the 2.7L turbo adds $995 to the base price and the 5.0L tacks on $1,995. The most expensive option is the carryover 3.5L turbo which adds $2,895.
We like the 5.0L V-8 for its distinct truck-like character, providing strong low-end torque and good power at all speeds. The new powerplant is quiet, efficient and highly refined, with just enough engine and exhaust report to let you know you’re piloting a V-8.
But the wild card is the 2.7L V-6 – who would’ve thought a sub-3.0L V-6 could be a worthwhile fullsize truck engine? Don’t discount the 2.7L, however. Though it’s not the most powerful setup from launch, the engine is punchy anywhere above 3,000 rpm, capable of quick downshifts and head-snapping responsiveness.
And that’s before selecting Sport mode (a simple push-button option along with Eco, Normal and Tow/Haul on all F-150s) which turns the pickup into spirited performance car with a truck bed, downshifting on throttle lift, holding gears and joyfully revving to redline.
Some 75% of F-150 buyers are opting for V-6 power, Ford says, and that take rate is expected to continue in the coming model year with 10% opting for the 3.3L, 35% choosing the 2.7L turbo and 30% picking the 3.5L turbo.
The ’18 F-150 is on sale now, with base prices starting at $28,675 for the XL trim Regular Cab 4x2 model and running up to $61,815 for a Limited SuperCrew 4x2. The bread-and-butter Lariat starts at $42,480. All prices include $1,295 freight and handling charge.
Ford sold 536,504 light-duty F-150 pickups in 2016 (820,799 for all F-Series), according to WardsAuto data, giving it the crown as the best-selling pickup for 40 years running and best-selling light vehicle for 35 years.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger