BROOMFIELD, CO – Towing a 6,500-lb. (2,948-kg) wakeboarding boat and trailer up and down long inclines here in the Colorado foothills forces Ford’s diesel-equipped F-150 light-duty pickup to strain a bit. But with a 10,100-lb. (4,581-kg) tow rating, there’s still a lot of pulling capacity available.
During another test, a 685-lb. (311-kg) pair of dirt bikes strapped into the bed is a barely perceptible load for a truck with a 1,269-lb. (576-kg) payload capacity.
Our test drives of the ’18 F-150 Power Stroke 3.0L V-6 reveal a highly capable option for truck buyers seeking ample towing and hauling capability combined with good fuel economy. The diesel engine adds a sixth option to the F-150 portfolio in North America (it won’t be sold globally), with the seventh coming as a hybrid in 2020.
The engine is a variant of the 3.0L turbodiesel sold in Jaguar and Land Rover models and is built at Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant in the U.K. Significant changes, some related to using existing F-150 gas-engine plumbing, include relocating the turbocharger and intake and exhaust manifolds, says Pete Lyon, powertrain calibration manager.
Engineers also revised the compacted-graphite iron block, the Bosch-supplied common-rail fuel-injection system, the Honeywell turbo, the cooled exhaust-gas recirculation and the SCR system.
Unlike its Super Duty siblings equipped with louder and raspier 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 diesels, the F-150’s powertrain is smooth and silent most of the time thanks to engine calibration and extra insulation in the firewall and sound blockers in the A-pillars. From the driver’s seat, there’s little difference between the diesel and any of Ford’s gasoline-engine F-150s in terms of interior noise or vibration through the steering wheel, shifter, pedals or seat.
The engine’s standard stop/start function is slightly more noticeable than the whisper-quiet version in the 2.7L twin-turbo V-6 – a 2018 Wards 10 Best Engines winner – due to the extra effort needed to restart a compression-ignition engine, says Jerry Farrell, F-150 chief engineer. When stopped, steering input restarts the engine, a feature that will be added to all F-150s with stop/start, he says.
There’s a brief lag off the line as the stop/start engages and turbo boost builds, but the engine’s full 440 lb.-ft. (597 Nm) of torque comes on strong at 1,750 rpm. Most of the work is done between 3,000 rpm and 3,500 rpm as the 10-speed automatic transmission runs through the gears. Fuel cutoff comes at 4,000 rpm, short of the 4,600-rpm redline allowed for transmission braking.
Diesel Fuel Economy Key
Whether towing a trailer or driving empty, this is the smoothest combination of engine and the 10-speed transmission in Ford’s truck lineup, operating nearly unnoticeably as it shifts up and down the range. We noted some abruptness in shifts, but only in lower gears under wide-open throttle.
Towing a heavy trailer in tow-haul mode tends to keep the gearbox from shifting into 10th gear while further smoothing shifts to avoid unsettling a trailer or load. Towing taxes acceleration as expected, but there’s no sign of undue stress or engine noise while pulling the trailer.
Unladen, the engine quietly runs through the ratios, holding at 1,400 rpm at 55 mph (89 km/h) and just 1,750 rpm at 70 mph (113 km/h). Throttle response isn’t gas-turbo quick, but there’s little lag or large downshifts in the key acceleration ranges needed for passing or entering a freeway. In mixed driving in a well-equipped Platinum trim 4x4 we noted 22 mpg (10.7 L/100 km).
Fuel economy is a huge selling factor, with Ford claiming best-in-class 30 mpg (7.8 L/100 km) highway for its 4x2 truck, along with 22 mpg city and 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) combined, also tops for a fullsize truck.
Ford’s only competitor, the 2-wheel-drive ’18 Ram 1500 equipped with a 3.0L V-6 EcoDiesel and an 8-speed automatic transmission, is rated at 20/27/23 mpg (11.7-8.7-10.2 L/100 km). The EcoDiesel produces 240 hp and 420 lb.-ft. (569 Nm) of torque vs. 250 hp and 440 lb.-ft. for the Power Stroke.
In more-popular 4x4 models, however, the F-150 Power Stroke posts 25 mpg (9.4 L/100 km) highway, lagging the current Ram’s 27 mpg (8.7 L/100 km).
The difference in highway fuel economy between the 2- and 4-wheel drive models relates to weight due to premium content, larger wheels and tires, less-efficient torque-on-demand 4-wheel-drive and rear-axle ratio, says Mimi Le, fuel economy and performance attributes engineer.
Some 70% of F-150 buyers choose all-wheel drive and diesel buyers likely will push that percentage higher, says Brian Bell, F-150 marketing manager.
Bell expects about 5% of F-150 buyers will opt for the diesel, a smaller percentage than Ram diesel’s 10%-15%. Bell notes the F-150 estimate is based on a larger number of buyers with a wider range of engine options.
Ford’s closest in-house competitor is the 2-wheel-drive F-150 equipped with a turbocharged 2.7L gasoline V-6 and a 10-speed automatic transmission rated at 20/26/22 mpg (11.7-9.0-10.7 L/100 km).
The Power Stroke adds $2,400 to $4,000 depending on model, with the increase from the 2.7L at the high end, compared with the Ram EcoDiesel upcharge of $4,270 to $4,495. Retail customers can opt for the diesel in upper-trim Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models only. The Lariat is the least expensive retail F-150 Power Stroke with a base price of about $45,000. The engine will be available in lower-trim XL and XLT models sold to fleet customers only.
The F-150 Power Stroke begins shipping to dealers in May. New competition arrives this fall when General Motors introduces a 3.0L inline 6-cyl. Duramax diesel in the Silverado pickup, followed in 2019 with an EcoDiesel joining the powertrain offerings in the all-new Ram introduced this year.
[email protected] @bobgritzinger
'18 Ford F-150 Power Stroke Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew Specifications
|Engine||3.0L compacted-graphite-iron block, aluminum heads, DOHC turbodiesel V-6|
|Power (SAE net)||250 hp @ 3,250 rpm|
|Torque||440 lb.-ft. (597 Nm) @ 1,750 rpm|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||84.0 x 89.9|
|Base price||$57,910 (not including $1,395 destination charge)|
|Fuel economy||20/25/22 mpg (11.8/9.4/10.7 L/100 km) city/highway/combined|