Car Reviews First Tests

2017 Ford F-150 3.5 EcoBoost First Test: Gazing Head On Into Peak Pickup

Testing the 375-HP, 10-Speed-Auto F-150

Testing the 375-HP, 10-Speed-Auto F-150

We shouldn’t feign awe and disbelief when the inevitable “peak pickup” sales taper off hits, but trucks such as the Ford F-150 are constant reminders of how much OEMs value their high-visibility, high-profit products. Some might say it’s the best time to be shopping for a new pickup.

The F-150 plays the critical numbers game. That’s for sure. The big update for the 2017 model year is the rise of the second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. It’s the same unit that initially gained fame as the chosen reciprocating one (albeit juiced up) in the new 450-horsepower Raptor. With 375 horsepower in the regular F-150, it has 10 horsepower more than before (penciling out to a 3 percent leap) alongside a torque peak 50 lb-ft higher. The torque increase locks in a 10-lb-ft advantage over GM’s L86 6.2-liter V-8, which lead to best-in-class torque claims, although that Ford torque peak has shifted north from the first-gen V-6’s 2,500 to 3,500 rpm.

That engine continues to be positioned as the truck line’s most premium set of rods and pistons, and it does a masterful job of pitching the EcoBoost lifestyle. It’s not a trim elitist, either; the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 can be had from entry-grade XL all the way up to the 22-inch-wheel-wearing Limited, where it’s standard. As road test editor Chris Walton calls out on the F-150, “It’s such a solid, easy-to-drive truck with way more power than most people will need, which is probably what Ford needed to do considering it’s not powered by a V-8.”

Read more on the Ford F-150 from 2017 Truck of the Year testing HERE.

2017 Ford F 150 Platinum 4x4 EcoBoost front three quarter in motion 04

There’s plenty of non-V-8 muscle to flex. Instrumented testing ascertained a 0–60 time of 6.1 seconds and quarter mile of 14.7 seconds at 95 mph (152.9 km/h), 0.3 second fleeter and 2.5 mph (4 km/h) rapider than a 2015 F-150 Platinum FX4 with the retro, cool 3.5-liter EcoBoost and six-speed automatic we ran when aluminum-body trucks were still an infrequent sight. The P552-platform F-150 is more common now, but the 10-speed automatic transmission backing this Platinum 4×4 EcoBoost is rare … for the time being.

With a 7,000-pound trailer affixed, the additional grunt and gearing assistance is more noticeable. Our “half-ton typical weight” trailer has been tethered to more than a few full-size trucks over the past couple years, and the F-150 hardly broke a sweat. Its 13.0-second 0–60-mph and 19.3-second quarter-mile times outmaneuver an L86-motivated GMC Sierra Denali tested last year pulling the identical weight (13.3 and 19.5 for the Sierra, respectively).

That same weight stress on the rear bumper had strained the 2015 Platinum FX4 even more, to the tune of 14.7 seconds to 60 mph and 20.2 seconds in the quarter mile. A 1.7- and 0.9-second improvement from old Ford to new Ford in the 0–60 and quarter mile effusively shows off the new excess capability on tap. The transmission shifts about as undetectably and at the driver’s will as one could hope for, but it seemed to be more sensitive after a cold start as it stuttered along in the lower gears. Once warmed up, all was well.

The new V-6, which comes with more gears and features both port and direct fuel injection and a remarkably nonintrusive auto start/stop system, gets real-world Real MPG benefits. Our latest Real MPG test (trailer not attached) earned 17.1/21.1/18.7 mpg (13.8/11.2/12.6 L/100km) city/highway/combined, an 11 percent combined upgrade over the 2015 Platinum FX4’s 14.8/19.9/16.8. If history hadn’t already conditioned us to expect something better to be lurking around the corner, we might actually have to start believing that this is it. Surely, the bottom of the gasoline-efficiency barrel has been scraped. That’s why spy photos of a diesel F-150 exist, we imagine.

Being ruthlessly efficient at turning gas into momentum has never been an EcoBoost inadequacy, especially not in the F-150. As before, the F-150’s sense of highway-rolling invincibility is reinforced by the easy speed and quiet cabin. It’s a quietness that’s interrupted by the pleasing thrum of the V-6 upon rolling on the throttle.

This is an engine that’s prepared to oblige its operator. “Ford has this turbo engine dialed now,” associate editor Scott Evans said. “No more big delay while boost builds to get moving with a trailer. This truck has demonstrated that the future of trucks is turbocharging.” We were pleased with the 2017 model’s heavier revised steering, which helped settle the truck and vanquish the sensation of nervousness that startled us in years past. Equipped with 275/55R20 Hankook Dynapro AT-M tires, it’s also worth noting that the braking distance from 60 to 0 shortens up by 5 feet (from 126 to 121) and the figure-eight lap time drops from 28.1 to 27.8 seconds when comparing the 2017 vehicle to the 2015 example.

Some might say it’s the worst time to be going after a new truck, too. List prices remain heroic. Our Platinum 4×4 test truck starts at $58,455 USD with the EcoBoost V-6 and 10-speed automatic. (It’s $57,455 USD, or $1,000 USD less, for a Platinum 4×4 with the trim’s stock 5.0-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic.) As equipped, we’re looking at $63,610 USD, an amount we’ve become numb to for the segment. The top-shelf F-150 Limited 4×4 opens the bidding at $64,220 USD.

If we’ve reached peak pricing and powertrain performance, things can’t get any better, right? That’d be untrue, As with the 2015 F-150s we met, the interior design and ergonomics are polarizing. “I like the chamfered-square design theme,” Walton said. But executive editor Mark Rechtin dinged the shifter. “The gear shifter knob is ridiculously oversized, like the size of the World Cup trophy,” he said. “I get it. It’s so you can work the controls while wearing work gloves, but it’s almost cartoonish.” The truck rode smoothly on well-kept and level surfaces but was jumpy and stiff everywhere else. Amusingly (or should it be bemusedly) the truck had a tendency to self-aim toward the roadside shoulder when crossing our drive loop’s cattle guards at brisk but not outrageous speeds.

From their hauling and towing abilities to trailer-attaching in-truck electronic guidance to the quality of materials lining the cab’s innards to the sticker prices slapped on the driver-side window, pickups have never been more impressive. Which means the eager, post-peak secondhand pickup shoppers have a lot of F-150 to look forward to.

2017 Ford F-150 Platinum 4×4 EcoBoost
BASE PRICE $58,455
PRICE AS TESTED $63,610
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
ENGINE 3.5L/375-hp/470-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 5,521 lb (57/43%)
WHEELBASE 145.0 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 231.9 x 79.9 x 77.2 in
0-60 MPH* 6.1; 13.0 sec
QUARTER MILE* 14.7 sec @ 95.0 mph; 19.3 sec @ 72.8 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 121 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.77 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.8 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 17/23/20 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 198/147 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.01 lb/mile
*Unladen; towing 7,000-lb trailer