Test Drive: Ford F-150 EcoBoost

? ? ? ? ? ? We are not normally fans of full-size pickups; however, it?s hard not to appreciate the smooth quiet ride, plush comfortable interiors and brute power of many luxurious new truck models.? The trade-off for us is poor fuel economy, massive size and they don?t handle as well as we?d like, especially on the curvy mountain roads in our area.

The new Ford F-150 EcoBoost has gone a long way to changing our minds about large pickups.? Traditionally full-size truck buyers flock to the big V-8s like Ford?s 360-hp 5.0-liter V-8 and 411-hp, 6.2-liter V-8.? When Ford introduced the twin turbo 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost in the F-150, there was much head shaking.? It was a gamble in a market dominated by large V-8s, but it has paid off big time with the EcoBoost and the naturally aspired 302-hp, 3.7-liter V-6 ending up in more than 50 percent of the Ford trucks sold the last few months.

Rated at 365-hp, the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost produces 420-lb.ft. of torque and it shows up in the acceleration numbers making the run from 0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds.? That?s better than either the 5.0-liter and 6.2-liter V-8s which take 6.7- and 6.3-seconds respectively.

The turbos are responsive, too, with virtually no turbo lag.? The EcoBoost is smooth and sounds good, but not as good as the V-8s.? The main advantage is fuel economy, which is 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway ? that?s about 1 to 4 mpg better than the V-8s, and one mpg on the highway less than the naturally aspirated V-6.? We actually averaged 18.9 mpg according to the trip computer, and we are sure Barbara would easily push that number to 21 mpg or beyond if she did all the driving. The 2012 model with the EcoBoost engine comes with a standard 36-gallon fuel tank, which theoretically will take an owner 756 miles on one fill up of regular gasoline.

???????? This is the first application of the turbocharged V-6 engine in a rear-wheel drive vehicle.? Previous applications have been in vehicles like the Ford Flex and the Taurus, which are both front-wheel drive models, but use an all-wheel drive system to handle the extra power of this engine.

The EcoBoost engine is available in all but three specialty F-150 models, in all three cab sizes and in both rear and front-wheel drive models. ?The transmission is a heavy-duty electronically controlled six-speed with a manual shifting mode.

Other than amazing power, the big appeal of the Ford pickup for us was the attractive, comfortable interior and a near luxury sedan like ride on paved roads.? Like all trucks, the cabin is a bit of a climb for older and shorter passengers, so a good running board is a necessity.

Ford F-150 trucks come in 10 models:? XL, STX, XLT, FX2, Lariat, FX4, King Ranch, SVT Raptor, Platinum and Harley Davidson with base prices ranging from $22,990 to $48,720.

Our test vehicle was the Lariat 4×4 SuperCrew with a 148-inch wheelbase and the EcoBoost engine.? The interior of the four-door Lariat SuperCrew 4×4 is spacious with plenty of room for five adults and includes an impressive list of standard features including Ford?s voice activatedSYNC, power adjustable pedals, Sirius Satellite Radio, heated front seats, and many other convenience and safety features for the $40,590 base price.? Nearly $10,000 in optional equipment made it even more opulent adding things like Sony Navigation, a Lariat chrome package and Plus Package (remote start, rear view camera, rear sensing system and garage door opener).? There were also optional 20-inch chrome wheels, leather seating, moonroof and a few other option packages.

Fifty thousand dollars for a truck seems like a lot, but it actually takes the place of several vehicles and is a totally premium product.

The Lariat is more than just a pretty face with fast acceleration it also can tow up to 11,300 pounds, which means a good size boat or travel trailer.

With the exception of having to climb up into and drop down out of the cabin and carefully fitting into our garage, the F-150 is as nice of truck as we?ve ever driven.? We especially enjoyed the responsive power of the EcoBoost, plush interior, comfortable and quiet ride.? This is a truck we could live with, and that?s a first for us.

By Bill & Barbara Schaffer

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