The future of diesel engines has been in question since Volkswagen engineers devised an underhanded scheme some years ago to cheat on emissions tests.
As a result, regulatory hurdles for diesels have been hoisted higher, forcing automakers to take a “why bother?” view when considering new powertrain offerings.
For instance, Hyundai had planned to launch a 4-cyl. diesel in the Santa Fe CUV in the U.S., but the automaker announced in December those plans are scratched.
Against this backdrop, Ford pushes onward into the diesel breach and delivers the right powertrain at the right time: a 3.0L diesel V-6 ideally suited for light-duty fullsize pickup trucks, which are buttering Detroit’s bread these days.
The smooth, quiet 3.0L PowerStroke V-6 available since June in the Ford F-150 earns a 2019 Wards 10 Best Engines trophy for its workman-like disposition, eager to do a good job, without complaint.
Known as the “Lion” engine within Ford Powertrain, this 60-degree DOHC V-6 launched in Ford Australia in 2005 and most recently has been used by Jaguar Land Rover models.
But it’s been updated for its latest duty under the hood of the F-150. This engine gets the same 29,000-psi (2,000-bar) common-rail direct-injection fueling system that Bosch supplies to Ford’s heavy-duty 6.7L PowerStroke diesel. With incredible speed, the piezo-based injectors pump up to five spurts of ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel into the chamber for each combustion event.
Also adapted from the larger 6.7L engine is the selective catalytic reduction system designed to limit nitrogen-oxide emissions. The 5-gallon (19-L) urea tank will need to be refilled about every 7,500 miles (12,069 km).
With a stout 440 lb.-ft. (597 Nm) of torque at only 1,750 rpm, the new PowerStroke can tow 11,400 lbs. (5,171 kg) and haul 2,020 lbs. (916 kg) of payload.
Built in Dagenham, U.K., the new PowerStroke has a compacted graphite iron block, high-pressure cooled EGR and high-efficiency variable-geometry turbocharger.
Also on board: a tuned elastomeric damper to reduce engine vibrations; forged steel crankshaft; aluminum pistons; and a die-cast structural oil pan for better noise control.
What clinches it for the Wards judges is the 26 mpg (9.0 L/100 km) we observed while logging about 800 miles (1,287 km) in an F-150 SuperCrew 4x2. That’s the best fuel economy we’ve ever seen in a fullsize pickup.
Admittedly, the 3.0L diesel is not cheap – option priced at $4,995. But U.S. truck buyers have demonstrated a voracious appetite for well-equipped fullsize pickups stickering over $50,000. Extra dough for a remarkably fuel-efficient engine shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
“This is the best mainstream V-6 diesel I’ve ever driven,” editor Drew Winter writes on his scoresheet. “Smoother and quieter than anything we’ve tested in a luxury car such as a Mercedes, Audi, BMW or Jaguar, or a comparable pickup. Credit sophisticated combustion engineering and a 10-speed transmission.”
Expect the diesel battle to heat up in the coming months as General Motors and FCA plan to launch light-duty diesel engines in their new fullsize pickups.