Ford sells four F Series trucks every minute in its home market. Four. A minute. It shifted 85,211 in December last year alone. Given the F-150 is the most popular of the lot, one can assume that Americans sure aren’t shying away from the new aluminium-bodied truck. Suffice to say, the Blue Oval makes a fat profit on it; tampering with the golden goose would be a no-no. One wrong move and there’d be a pretty big dent on the coffers. It’s surprising then that Ford tweaked it as much as it has lately; the first big change was the use of the lighter and stronger material, and the other? The addition of a blown V6.
Your immediate thought would be that the 3.5-litre Ecoboost motor must be a little anaemic compared to the mighty 5.0-litre V8. Well, get this little fact around your head; this turbocharged motor has the same 385bhp output as the big dog. It’s not a weakling then, in fact, if it wasn’t for the Ecoboost badge on the hulking exterior, I’d have thought I was in the V8 because it even sounds like it has the extra cylinders. That’s because Ford engineers filtered in some of the engine note via the 10-speaker Sony audio system to heighten the experience of driving this more fuel-efficient model. And it works better than BMW, Volkswagen or Renault’s attempt. You can’t use that engine-downsizing complaint of a V6 not sounding macho enough anymore; under hard acceleration, the speakers play a V8 soundtrack over what little you hear of the turbo whine — and you don’t hear too much of that anyway because of the sound deadening all around the luxurious and ever-so roomy cabin, covered in leather. But there are some hard plastics in there such as the door panels, which take some of the shine off what is a very comfortable and well-appointed interior, which packs dual-zone automatic climate control, an 8.0in gauge cluster information display, ventilated front seats, and keyless ignition and entry. Fit and finish is better than that of the competition and it has oceans of room in the back, too. Our Race Red tester’s blacked-out grille had a more menacing, workman-like look, which works well with the Tonka Truck theme, while around the back, the new damped tailgate design means it doesn’t slam down on you anymore. Also, the benefit of the aluminium construction makes itself known as it’s easier to close the tailgate because it’s lighter.
The aluminium diet has paid off as the V6 feels peppy, and you often forget you’re piloting a massive truck. The 3.5-litre Ecoboost mated to a six-speed auto can play hard, too; with the electronic-locking rear axle engaged, all four wheels dig in for grip and not once is the blown motor left flustered. It allows up to 5,533kg of towing while fuel economy stands at a claimed 14.3 litres per 100km. I bet it’d handle better than the Silverado and Ram — that said, there’s still a lot of body roll and the chubby tyres scream when you take corners at just 60kph. It bounces along just like you’d expect a truck to do, and shakes and shimmies over potholes and such but it never stops being fun. The rack-and-pinion electric power steering is light and quick, which aids manoeuverability, and the coil-on-shock independent front suspension and solid axle riding on leaf springs and outboard shocks at the back make for a very smooth ride on the highway.
This Ecoboost V6 is a very capable engine, has the same bhp as the 5.0-litre and makes more torque. As an added bonus, it sounds like the V8 too. Playing around with the truck might have been seen as a risk by some and those year-on-year profits could’ve taken a hit. But Ford deserves credit for taking these brave steps on its bestseller. They’ll no doubt pay greater dividends.