For generations, customers shopping for pickup trucks bandied about terms such as “dependable,” “payload,” “rugged” and “maximum towing.” This year, Ford adds “specific output” to the list of attributes consumers may find intriguing and helpful when selecting their next truck.
Dividing an engine’s horsepower by its displacement reveals its specific output, and that measure has been climbing at an amazing rate among newer turbocharged passenger cars – approaching 200 hp per liter.
But pickup trucks have largely steered clear of forced induction in mainstream applications, relying instead on big V-8s – lots of displacement – to get the job done. The best-selling F-150, with its redesigned and excellent 395-hp 5.0L naturally aspirated V-8, has a specific output of only 78 hp/L.
Take a step down Ford’s product hierarchy, and it’s the F-150 with the heavily revised 2.7L twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 that now makes specific output a relevant spec among pickups. It weighs in at 121 hp/L, the sort of power density heretofore unseen in mainstream fullsize trucks.
Yes, 325 hp is a good number, but its 400 lb.-ft. (542 Nm) of torque is equally mind-blowing. That number matches the grunt of Ford’s new 5.0L V-8, although the smaller 2.7L V-6 reaches peak torque at a much lower engine speed – 2,750 rpm vs. 4,500 rpm with the V-8.
And torque is what pickup drivers really value, when towing boats or campers or hauling a bed full of gravel. By the way, Ford’s new 2.7L EcoBoost produces more torque than General Motors’ venerable 5.3L V-8 – an engine nearly twice the size – in the Chevrolet Silverado.
It’s not just the numbers that leave us smitten with the 2.7L EcoBoost. Our staff was slack-jawed by its vibration-free idle and its nearly imperceptible stop/start system. At running speed, the cabin is tomb-like quiet – perhaps one of the engineering benefits of placing a small V-6 in a massive engine compartment. We’ve been in luxury cars that aren’t as quiet.
This second-generation EcoBoost is technically advanced, too, using a compacted-graphite iron block (high strength but lightweight) and employing both direct and port fuel injection.
A new lightweight cam and dual-chain cam drive design saves weight and reduces parasitic friction loss, while a new electrically actuated wastegate provides more accurate turbo boost control.
Also new is high-pressure exhaust gas recirculation, as well as a variable-displacement oil pump that is electronically controlled to modulate oil flow based on need to further reduce parasitic losses.
Finishing off the advancements is Ford’s segment-exclusive SelectShift 10-speed automatic transmission, whose frequent shifting, barely noticed, keeps the twin-turbo V-6 constantly in its happy place.
The WardsAuto staff evaluated the ’18 4x2 F-150 SuperCrew in late November and logged about 500 miles (805 km). Never once did this head-snapping 2.7L EcoBoost feel outmatched by the heft of the F-150. Along the way, some of our staff topped 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km) – outstanding for a pickup.
This engine “plays much bigger than it is,” editor Bob Gritzinger writes on his scoresheet.
Although a growing number of customers pay unflinchingly for premium pickup trucks costing more than $60,000, it’s comforting to see the sticker for this well-equipped F-150 under $45,000.
No wonder the 2.7L is now the most popular engine in America’s most popular pickup truck.