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Inside Look: 2011 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Testing with Mike Rowe

 

By Mark Williams at TruckTrend.com

It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it

It’s not going to be easy to convince truck buyers that they can have all the power, performance, and durability of a V-8 with just six cylinders, but that’s the task in front of Ford with its new 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine for the new F-150. Maybe you’ve seen the first installment of Ford‘s torture test campaign, rolled out as a multipart Internet short-form documentary with the “Dirty Jobs” guy, Mike Rowe, highlighting all the tests Ford put the new engine through in six months. Ford completely revamped the F-150 powertrain lineup by offering four new engines, including a new all-aluminum 3.7-liter DOHC V-6, an all-aluminum 5.0-liter DOHC V-8, an all-new all-aluminum 3.5-liter EcoBoost direct-injection twin turbo DOHC V-6, and the 6.2-liter SOHC V-8 we’ve already seen in the Raptor and new Super Dutys. This new EcoBoost engine (also used in the SHO Taurus) is Ford‘s first application of the technology in a pickup truck, offering considerably better fuel economy numbers while holding onto maximum payload and towing numbers for the F-150 frame. It won’t be an easy sell for loyal V-8 customers who are accustomed to the strength and durability of their favorite small-block half-tons. To counter their skepticism, Ford marketing gurus (no doubt after consulting with several engineers) have devised a multi-stage torture test worthy of the Marquis de Sade.

The plan goes something like this: Pull an 3.5L EcoBoost off the line at random; run it on a shock-test dyno for the equivalent of 150,000 miles; drop that engine into a 2011 Red Candy Metallic SuperCrew XLT 4×4; send it deep into the Oregon forests to do heavy-duty log pulling; then have it do some more 24-hour torture testing pulling a heavy load at a famous raceway; then take the vehicle back to Davis Dam for some more towing with a few competitors; then finally yank the engine out of the F-150 and put into a competitive desert racetruck to run the Baja 1000. And then engineers will tear it down to see what kind of wear they find. So far, the engine has performed flawlessly, without a single hiccup, but the torture is far from over. In fact, it’s quite easy to identify this exact engine’s ID number along the way. It’s prominently displayed at the front of the right cylinder head as #448AA.

This kind of testing and documentation takes plenty of time and money, and coordinating all this is no doubt a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Thankfully, Ford has no-nonsense truck guy Mike Rowe keeping Erick Kuehn, chief engineer for the F-150, and Marc Lapine, the Ford Truck marketing manager, in line. We were at some of the testing and the filming of a head-to-head torque race where the Ford guys took on their two main rivals. Although we can’t give anything away, we can say Ford did everything possible to keep it a fair fight, even though on the face of it, a V-8 vs. V-6 contest doesn’t look fair.

 That particular episode won’t debut for several weeks, but the next installment will happen pretty quickly. Specifically, the Red EcoBoost F-150 was called into duty at the Nygaard Logging Company, used as a skidder to haul harvested timber to a large logging truck. Each log can weight up to four tons and is much too large to be carried. The logs are wrapped with specially designed chains, attached to the F-150 hitch, and dragged more than a mile to the loading areas. In total, the F-150 hauled almost 200,000 pounds of fresh-cut wood for Nygaard before calling it a day.

Our guess is Ford will be pushing these messages in a lot of places to convince half-ton truck guys this engine is a viable choice. And if early indications continue to pan out, that might not be such a hard sell. It would also make sense to plant the EcoBoost engine in the medium and large SUVs, like the Expeditions and Navigators, in order to spread development costs for the engine. It may be a dirty job to try to sell smaller engines to a V-8-loving truck segment, but with more fuel economy regulations on the horizon, somebody’s got to do it.


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