2011 Ford F-150 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
October 18, 2010

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.

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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.

8

2011 Ford F-150

Styling

While the imposing exterior of the 2011 Ford F-150 might be a little much for some, its purposeful yet upscale interior has universal appeal.

In recent years, there's been an escalation of macho, when it comes to trucks. In a movement that started back in the '90s with the Dodge Ram's highly successful 'big-rig' look, it seems as if every truckmaker continues to try to out-macho their rivals, with each generation becoming more high-shouldered and aggressive-looking.

The 2011 Ford F-150 is no exception. With the F-150's last full redesign, for 2009, Ford left any signs of understatement by the wayside and gave its big pickup a more imposing, tall-shouldered stance and a tall, nearly vertical (and very chrome-adorned, in most trims) look. And with last year's introduction of the edgy new Ford F-150 SVT Raptor high-performance off-road edition, the truck lineup is more pronounced than ever.

Inside, the 2011 F-150 shows no signs of the somewhat carlike, drab plastic interiors of just a few years ago; with that 2009 redesign came a more businesslike and upright dash that also brought much-upgraded interiors. Inside, well-coordinated materials and trims carry a boxy look, punctuated with round, high-set vents.

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9

2011 Ford F-150

Performance

New powertrains give the 2011 Ford F-150 the performance potential its macho appearance has hinted at since its 2009 redesign; if you can leap the psychological hurdle of picking a V-6 full-size truck instead of being stuck with one, the EcoBoost won't leave you lagging behind.

It's second nature in trucks, like the first beer of football season. You order a full-size pickup—you order a V-8 engine, unless you're buying for Uncle Sam or someone equally tightfisted. Ford knows the allure of the V-8 better than just about anybody in the truck business, and this year it's introducing two new V-8s—a new 5.0-liter, along with a big-displacement, 6.2-liter V-8 cousin that matches GM's biggest eights in marketing numerology and outpaces them on power, if only by a scant few horsepower.

But there's more to the story. In the interest of better fuel economy, Ford is introducing its new 3.5-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 new to this year's F-150. It's the star of the lineup, and will provide a full 11,300-pound tow rating. Versus the car-duty EcoBoost V-6 that's featured in a number of vehicles including the Ford Taurus SHO and Lincoln MKT, the truck-duty EcoBoost is different; Ford points to a different fuel system, completely different airflow, and various durability improvements—such as to the pistons—in the truck. And its 420 pound-feet of torque is higher than 2010's top engine, a 5.4-liter V-8 with only 310 horsepower. Twinned with the new standard six-speed automatic, the EcoBoost's power is essentially V-8-like down low, where it counts. There's some low-frequency booming that doesn't sound at all like a V-8, but in reality, the basic V-6 block and heads share some family with Ford's new 5.0-liter and 6.2-liter V-8.

The big V-8, producing 411 hp and 434 lb-ft, has two valves per cylinder, but they provide as much flow as four according to engineers, and the roller-rocker valvetrain and overhead-cam design helps allow huge valves that aren't shrouded by the bore. A fuel economy rating of 12/17 mpg accompanies this engine.

If you're not ready for the notion of a V-6 engine in a full-size pickup truck, you're probably even less prepared for the thought of a twin-turbo V-6 challenging some of the best V-8s in the business for truck performance. For the classic V-8, we're nearly as enamored. All of the new F-150 engines get a little more carlike character, along with a higher-revving feel, and with the standard six-speed automatic and electric power steering, they provide the most car-like driving experience you can find in a full-size pickup.

The base engine on the 2011 Ford F-150 will be a version of the new 3.7-liter V-6 that's also used in the 2011 Ford Mustang, among other models. Here, it makes 302 hp and 278 lb-ft, effectively replacing last year's base V-8 for some customers, and will get 16 mpg city, 23 highway mated to a six-speed automatic transmission (Ford is the only automaker to equip all of its full-size trucks with six-speed transmissions). Ford has installed a higher-capacity, deep-sump oil pan in the truck application to allow effective lubrication even under severe towing situations—and to extend oil changes to 10,000 miles under normal use. This engine is also smooth and responsive, though not as torquey in character as last year's most affordable 4.6-liter V-8.

When it comes to towing and straight-line acceleration, there's no doubt the EcoBoost is the equal of the V-8s that nudge its performance aside by a small margin. The turbos are staged to deliver a groundswell of torque at low engine speeds (90 percent of it comes as low as 1750 rpm), and Ford's making some fast rear-axle ratios available to maximize the grunt for EcoBoost buyers doing medium- to heavy-duty chores. The 5.0-liter V-8 is good for up to 10,000 pounds with a regular-cab, long-bed, 4x2 F-150 and a special heavy-duty package. The 6.2-liter or EcoBoost engines can tow up to 11,300 pounds on SuperCrew short-bed 4x2 editions.

The one distinction between these powertrains outside of the magnitude of force available underfoot, is in steering feel. The smaller-displacement V-8 has the swell-feeling electronic power steering found in all other versions except the 6.2-liter F-150, which soldiers on with hydraulically-assisted steering. EPS, as it's acronymmed, helps fuel economy numbers—and with 411 hp, fuel economy just isn't as much, or as relevant, a concern.

In either case, behind the wheel of the F-150, there's no forgetting you're in a large truck; though the ride quality is decent and the steering is light and quite precise—especially with the EPS—you won't find yourself pushing hard around corners or darting into gaps in traffic just for the sheer enjoyment of it. However braking performance is impressive for such a large vehicle, and Ford has finally mastered a more confident, firm brake pedal feel with this latest version.

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7

2011 Ford F-150

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Ford F-150 is exceptionally refined inside, with excellent materials and good seating comfort.

Beginning several years ago, Ford made a major investment in its interiors, and the results have been impressive. The taller, more upright instrument panel that was introduced for 2009 is at once more functional, more upscale, and more befitting of the F-150's macho exterior. Trims and materials have been upgraded significantly.

The 2011 Ford F-150 has ample room for four occupants in every cab configuration, and you could, theoretically, squeeze six in tight if you get one of the SuperCrew models. Front seats are both amply proportioned and supportive, while the back seats in the F-150 don't have the too-upright position that's common in other models.

As a pickup truck, versatility and utility is the F-150's primary reason for being, and the Ford F-150 doesn't disappoint in the cargo category. Likewise, inside some F-150 trims come with a lockable center console good for large items like laptops or small briefcases—or even file folders—while there are plenty of smaller storage cubbies, for notebooks, smartphones, sunglasses, tools, and the like.

Ford has made huge strides in terms of interior quality, and although the materials aren't free of imperfections they are well ahead of what consumers are used to from Ford. Otherwise, however, build quality is tight.

The F-150's cabin is superbly quiet and refined, although in some models—especially those with the new V-8s—engine noise can be a bit much, depending on your expectations. Ride quality, as is typical, can be quite firm and jittery in some models.

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8

2011 Ford F-150

Safety

Although the 2011 Ford F-150 lacks a full set of up-to-date crash-test scores, plenty of standard safety equipment and good test results in the past make it promising.

The 2011 Ford F-150 provides no reason for deter those concerned about safety. Top 'good' results in frontal and side impact tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicate good occupant protection, although the F-150 hasn't yet been tested in the new IIHS roof crush (rollover) category.

The F-150 has earned perfect five-star ratings from the NHTSA in every impact category and in all of its varied body configurations last year, but for 2011 the ratings—along with the side test—have been revised to be tougher and no results are yet available.

Overall, the F-150 lineup is bristling with protective technology, and the list of safety features rivals that of any other pickup on the road—including side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control with Roll Stability Control. There's also Trailer Sway Control, which can take control of both braking effort and engine speed to help stay stable, while the F-150 SVT Raptor also gets Ford's first-ever Hill Descent Control, for safe descents down slippery slopes.

One of the problems with driving large trucks is poor visibility, but Ford has taken steps to improve sightlines from the driver's seat of the F-150. Some reviewers have pointed to the huge rear pillars, especially in Regular Cab models, as an issue.

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2011 Ford F-150

Features

The 2011 Ford F-150 has a lot of versatility and can be equipped as a basic work truck, off-road sand-crawler, or a vehicle luxurious enough for a CEO with a horse ranch.

With ten trim levels on tap, the 2011 Ford F-150 is bound to offer a standard features list that appeals to you. Sticker prices for some of the F-150 models may seem a bit high, but the value is undeniable thanks to Ford's recent improvements in its features loadouts.

As with each year, the vast range of F-150 body styles, powertrains, bed lengths, drivetrains and features makes ordering one as distinctive an experience as any vehicle you can buy today--except maybe for Porsche 911 owners, who can specify dozens of custom leather, paint and trim options. For big pickups, the different versions are aligned not with fashion, but with different needs and missions in mind. Want a sport truck that's good for light off-roading as well as line dancing? Or a luxury truck that can haul adults, a fifth-wheel trailer and all the race weekend coolers?

They're all here in F-150 trim packages.

Ford's most basic F-150s are the ones you'll often see in fleets and utility use, but that doesn't mean they come stripped. The basic XL, STX, XLT, and Lariat F-150s have standard six-speed automatic transmissions and a 3.7-liter V-6 with 302 horsepower. Each comes with a choice of regular, extended and crew-cabs—and all of them can be fitted with four-wheel drive. As they move up the pricing scale, each adds some bundled equipment and interior features that may make it simpler to move up a trim level.

The 2011 Ford F-150 XL, the lowest trim level available, is designed as a fleet work vehicle, and accordingly comes equipped with little besides a radio and air-conditioning. The 2010 Ford F-150 STX is very similar, but it gets a CD player in addition to the radio tuner. Moving up to the Ford F-150 XLT, where most consumers will start shopping, brings a significant features increase, with items like cruise control and full power accessories. Higher trims add even more features, like Ford's superb Sync connectivity system. The Lariat features everything included in the XLT F-150 along with an LCD screen to adjust vehicle features and settings; steering-wheel controls; power-adjustable pedals; leather seats; Sirius satellite radio; SYNC; chrome trim; 18-inch wheels; towing package; and an optional off-road package with a locking rear differential, skid plates and new shocks

The Lariat model is really the first step up the luxury ladder, the Lariat appeals to truck shoppers who want the latest Ford technology features, like the Bluetooth-driven SYNC controller, so they can stay in touch with their assistant and their work crew. It includes everything included in the XLT F-150 along with an LCD screen to adjust vehicle features and settings; steering-wheel controls; power-adjustable pedals; leather seats; Sirius satellite radio; SYNC; chrome trim; 18-inch wheels; towing package; and an optional off-road package with a locking rear differential, skid plates and new shocks. Lariat Limited and Platinum models add even more, like remote starting, larger wheels, and heated rear seats.

FX2/FX4 models and the F-150 Raptor get that macho, energy-drink-and-creatine look, with exaggerated fenders and blacked-out trim, along with strong off-road purpose, while the Raptor goes especially hardcore with a 6.2-liter, 411-hp V-8, skid plates, and even more jacked-up look.

New this year—and not necessarily just for Bike Week refugees—is the 2011 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson, which includes a power moonroof, rear view camera, second-row heated seats, ambient lighting and a remote start system. The exterior, meanwhile, features a unique six-bar billet style grille and boasts specialized forged aluminum and Harley-Davidson chrome badging. The truck also has a lowered appearance due to a fully integrated deployable running board. Also standard are 22 inch Euroflange forged wheels with a polished center wheel cap and low-profile performance tires. The paint selection is classic Harley-Davidson—Tuxedo Black and Ingot Silver.

In all, there's quite the palette of possibilities. It's just a matter of how much you're willing to spend.

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7

2011 Ford F-150

Fuel Economy

While impressive for such a large vehicle capable of hauling and towing such heavy loads, much of the F-150 lineup sits at the low end of the fuel-economy scale for 2011.

The 2011 Ford F-150 has improved fuel economy throughout its lineup, thanks to a new standard V-6, newly offered EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6, and a new V-8 that's both more powerful and more fuel-efficient.

The Dearborn automaker said that it found in a poll of F-150 owners that 70 percent wanted improved fuel economy, and it hopes to conquest more current owners of full-size trucks from the other brands with these higher-mpg offerings.

Ford claims that both the V-6 and V-8 provide best-in-class fuel economy, but the key phrase here is "in the respective segments." However, their claim might be disputed; the figure ties with the highway mileage of the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid and 2011 GMC Sierra Hybrid—models that achieve 20 mpg city, 23 highway, for a better EPA combined figure than the F-150. To its defense, Ford assumes—probably correctly—that shoppers looking at the V-6 aren't going to consider the Hybrids; for the V-8, we're not as sure that's true.

With the new 5.0-liter 'Coyote' V-8, the F-150 comes with EPA ratings of 15 mpg city, 21 highway, and the EcoBoost V-6 is expected to do considerably better than that. With the 6.2-liter, it's 12/17.

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April 20, 2017
2011 Ford F-150 4WD SuperCrew 157" Platinum

F150 Platinum is versatile and satisfies

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I love my 2011 Platinum 6.0 liter red devil. It is comfortable short or long drives, it hauls and pulls whatever I need to do, it looks and sounds great, and runs fast when I press the accelerator? The 12mpg... + More »
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May 15, 2016
2011 Ford F-150 4WD SuperCrew 157" Platinum

Disappointed in gas mileage of the Eco Boost

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Disappointed in the poor gas mileage of the Eco Boost,love the power!!
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April 20, 2015
For 2011 Ford F-150

F150 Super Crew Lariat with EcoBoost

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6 passenger daily driver with power to tow the 35' Avion when needed. 2 Wheel Drive gives a lower and softer ride and maximum towing with the EcoBoost. If you can keep the speed below 55 you can get in the... + More »
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April 20, 2015
For 2011 Ford F-150

I love this truck

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The only problem with my XLT is that it does not have air vents in the back seat. Otherwise, it's perfect. I could have paid more for heated seats, leather interior and power mirrors, but it wasn't in the... + More »
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March 2, 2015
For 2011 Ford F-150

Wow... whod of thunk a truck could be so sweer

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5.0 Coyotee engine is something else. Accelerates smoothly and quickly. You know you have something special w the way she movrs and sounds.
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