- Strong, fuel-efficient new engines
- Responsive steering feel
- Towing and hauling capability
- Quiet, refined cabin
- Very comfortable front seats
- Bland styling
- Jiggly ride on most models
- Can look cartoonishly macho in the city
- Engine noise with V-8s could be a bit much
All-new engines across the 2011 Ford F-150 model line finally give these full-size trucks strong (yet efficient) performance to match their macho looks.
2011 is certainly not an uneventful model year for the Ford F-150 pickup lineup—it marks the most extensive overhaul of the big pickup's powertrains in almost 62 years of production.
The 2011 Ford F-150 gets four new powertrains this year, including a base V-6 and a pair of newly developed V-8 engines. The fourth option: Ford's 3.5-liter, twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, an unlikely but completely common-sense alternative to V-8 thirst and thin V-6 torque. Once upon a time, a Ford with a turbo V-6 would have been laughed out of any serious truck owner's stall; but thanks to modern electronic engine controls and some innovation on the engineering side at Ford, that's all changed. Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 feels just as stout as a V-8 and is just as formidable for towing and hauling, while sipping regular unleaded at V-6 rates.
Of all the engines, the new base 3.7-liter V-6 may sound the least appealing. Who buys a full-size truck with a V-6 except governments and utilites? But this V-6 likely will change some minds. In entry-level spec, an F-150 with this engine gets 302 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque to work with. A standard six-speed automatic has a few optional rear axles (3.55 and 3.73) to give it more rugged capability.
And four-wheel drive is of course, an option in any body style you choose—Regular Cab, with either 6.5-foot or 8-foot bed; SuperCab, with the same bed choices, and the SuperCrew four-door, with short- and long-bed options. Gone entirely are the old four-speed automatic transmissions; it's six-speed automatics all the way, with the new 6R80 that's included in most of the lineup offering both a manual mode as well as a tow/haul mode.
Serious, traditional truck buyers will be very happy with the new 5.0-liter 'Coyote' V-8, which has been adapted from the Mustang GT; it has a throbbing exhaust that sounds more muscle-car-like, and here pulls out 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. Ford's engineers attribute the less lofty power numbers to a retuning of the torque curve, giving it a more trucklike low-end grunt. This version rips off squares of pavement at launch if you want it to, and spins pretty freely up through the rev range. The 6.2-liter V-8 is even more of a monster, with an output of 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque.
The new EcoBoost V-6 is rated for towing up to 11,300 pounds—the same as the mammoth 6.2-liter V-8. Base V-6 models can tow up to 6,100 pounds, and the 5.0-liter models will tow close to 10,000 pounds.
Along with the new powertrains, the F-150 lineup adopts electric power steering that's tuned well, and also calls car-like responses to mind with its light, quick responses. There's no way you're going to confuse the ride and handling of the 2010 Ford F-150 with that of a sports coupe—or even that of a sedan—but the F-150 handles relatively well for a pickup. Steering has been improved over previous versions, and the seats afford a good forward view along with good long-distance comfort.
Otherwise, there are no radical changes to the body or equipment. The Ford F-150 was completely redesigned for 2009, with a broad-shouldered, more macho look on the outside—which editors think is cartoonishly macho, if you're not in truck country—combined with a more upright yet refined instrument panel, punctuated with round climate-control vents. Steering and powertrain aside, very little has changed since then, but Ford has been trying to lure shoppers back to a struggling pickup segment with specialty models, like last year's F-150 Raptor off-road supertruck and the new 2011 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson, which sports a new 6.2-liter V-8 engine and plenty of technology upgrades, including a 4.2 inch LCD providing info for fuel economy and towing performance.
Despite all the new horses, we think there are few work-truck buyers who can recognize an acceleration difference. The new F-150 V-6 likely is good for a repeatable 0-60 mph time of under 10 seconds in an unladen truck, with a single passenger aboard. And for the contractors, entrepreneurs and weekend cowboys who might move up from a Ranger or a Dakota into an F-Series, the difference in speed-gathering seems negligible.
As with the other full-size trucks from Ford, Chevy, GMC, and even Toyota, just trying to figuring out which of the many 2010 F-150 cab, bed, powertrain, and suspension variations is right for you can be an ordeal. There are three cab configurations with multiple wheelbases and box lengths each, providing choices to satisfy just about any trucker's need with the F-150. Worth pointing out is that four-door Super Crew models get a wheelbase that's six-inches longer, with nearly all of the extra room going to the rear seating area (keep this in mind if you're worrying about parking space, though). Ford made some significant packaging improvements with the last redesign; the floor of the rear seating area is now completely flat, and when the rear seats fold up (they nest effortlessly into a compact package against the rear cab wall), a huge parcel can be accommodated behind the front seats.
In any of its trims, the 2010 Ford F-150 now offers a complete safety package, front side airbags, full-length side-curtain bags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control all standard. Trailer sway control, a very useful safety feature for those who frequently tow on the highway, is also standard. The F-150 gets top five-star ratings from the federal government in all test categories except rollover likelihood (three stars), and top 'good' ratings from the IIHS in front, side, and rear categories.
The 2011 Ford F-150 is now offered in ten different trims, ranging from the basic, very affordable XL all the way up to swanky Platinum, King Ranch, and Harley Davidson editions. Since the F-150's size is a challenge to some, it's inherited a number of features that were previously only offered on the Super Duty trucks, including an integrated tailgate ladder and box side step. Premium Sony sound systems are available, as are SNYC (Ford's voice-activated media and phone interface) and Sirius Travel Link (that provides navigation plus real-time traffic, weather, and fuel prices among other features). A MyKey programmable vehicle key system, which is standard on all models but the XL, and top King Ranch and Platinum models get even more standard equipment, including second-row heated seats, a power-sliding window with defrost, and the Sony system, including a CD changer.