FORD’S NEW POWER TRUCK
2013 F-150 XLT a stealthy little performer for a V6-powered
by Bruce W. Smith
EcoBoost. The name sounds like an energy drink.
But in the automotive world the name evokes a sense of power in a new breed of Fords hitting the streets.
EcoBoost-powered Fords are the new muscle, and one of those Blue Ovals sporting the hot turbo’d engine being the world’s best-selling pickup, the F-150.
With a choice of 10 trim levels and five axle ratios, the 2013 F-150 EcoBoost allows any pickup buyer to fine-tune their purchase to fit just about any work or lifestyle transportation need.
One can go from the bare-bones two-door XL work truck to the ultra high-brow four-door Limited with the price range spanning $25,000 – $55,000.
It’s also the model I found myself driving for a two-week stretch earlier this year here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
My seat time included a four-day, 600-mile round-trip on interstates and another 200 miles spent in a mix of local city and country driving, hitting the local malls, making grocery store runs, and other errands typical of everyday life.
Ford’s hottest-selling F-150 didn’t disappoint for the most part: The level of interior comfort and road manners in the XLT are among the very best of any mid-priced pickup currently on the road.
Credit that to how the design engineers have tuned the suspension, the switch to electric power steering, and the general layout of the XLTs interior.
If you are wear big-boy work clothes, this truck has an abundance of leg, hip, head and shoulder room front and rear. If you have kids, the split bench-style backseat can take all the abuse they can dish out while keeping them safe and sound.
Combine that front spaciousness with the 6-way power driver’s seat and adjustable pedals that are part of the Equipment Group 302A option package ($4,080), and one feels at ease right away.
That same option package includes power-sliding rear window, rear-view camera, Sat radio, and Ford’s 4-inch LCD screen in the center of the dash.
Convenience items such as defroster and power windows/locks, along with the trailer brake controller and select-shift 6-speed automatic, are also included.
The cloth bucket front seats and all those extras makes it easy to get – and stay — comfortable behind the wheel be it for a short trip or one that puts you on the road for half-a-day or more.
One outside otption that I’d highly recommend is the $375 tailgate step. Like found on the F-150’s big brothers, the step is hidden inside the top of the tailgate so it’s easy to pull out and deploy when the gate is open.
It’s a “must-have” for anyone working out of their pickup or hauling items in the bed.
LOVE THOSE TURBOS
Then there’s the best option of all: the 3.5L EcoBoost V-6. You couldn’t get a better engine upgrade for the $1,095 Ford charges for the 365hp twin-turbo powerhouse.
Start it up and the EcoBoost has that quiet patter of a truck V-6. It’s smooth and unassuming.
The V-6’s tiny little turbos, one tucked tight on each side of the block, can instantly turn uphill grades into flats – and flats into a downhill rushes. All it takes is a heavy right foot. Power on demand.
I took the truck to Gulfport Dragway for a half-dozen romps down the ¼-mile dragstrip.
The EcoBoost isn’t as fast as the F-150 Lightning or Raptor. But the drivers of those two muscletrucks better be on their “A”-game or the results of an impromtu stoplight challenge with the EcoBoost could be a little embarrassing.
The 5,600-pound EcoBoost Super Crew hits 60 in 6.9 seconds and exits the ¼-mile in 15.4 seconds at a shade over 90mph. That’s movin’ for a four-wheel-drive pickup with all-terrain tires.
Its four-wheel disc brakes are every bit as strong as its acceeration, bringing it to a halt from 60mph in an impressive 129 feet.
The EcoBoost is just as impressive showing its muscle while towing. I had a chance to drive several F-150s with different engine options last year while towing 8,000-pound box trailers.
Each truck was equipped with a weight-distributing hitch per Ford’s towing requirements. And each was driven over the same stretch of Texas hill country in back-to-back runs.
In the end it was clear the 3.5L EcoBoost will easily out-pull 5.0L F-150s and make a run at the 6.2Ls until the big V-8s show why it’s torque that wins towing wars.
So if you are worried a V-6 can’t handle towing a boat or small trailer compared to a V-8, be assured the power is there.
But there’s a price to pay for that power when it’s used: fuel economy.
Ford boasts a lot about the F-150 EcoBoost’s 15/21 city/hwy EPA numbers. They can be achieved. But you better be driving very conservatively.
What I saw over 600 miles of interstate driving is the 4×4 SuperCrew XLT gets 18mpg cruising at 70mph. Drop to 65mph and it stays around 19mpg.
That 21mpg EPA number only showed up when I had the truck cruising at 55mph on I-10 under ideal conditions.
The F-150 EcoBoost’s mpg numbers are very sensitive to speed – and the heaviness of one’s right foot.
Drive with an egg under your right foot and you’ll see the 25-percent better fuel economy one would expect by lopping off two cylinders of a V-8.
But most of us don’t drive that way out on the open road; we like to stay with the flow of the faster traffic, and bring those turbos into boost-mode once in a while. When you do, it’ll get similar fuel economy to the 5.0L V-8.
Now, driving around Long Beach, Gulfport and Biloxi the fuel economy stayed pretty close to the EPA 15mpg listed on the window sticker—as long as I resisted toying with mustangs and those with hot-sounding pickups.
Even with fuel economy numbers that were a little disappinting, I think the 2013 F-150 EcoBoost XLT Super Crew is a strong contender for being the best ½-ton of the year.
It provides a comfortable, well-designed and appointed pickup that can deliver excellent fuel numbers and power – just not a the same time.—Bruce Smith
2013 F-150 EcoBoost
MODEL: 4×4 Super Crew XLT
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,300 (base price: $37,965)
ENGINE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6
- Displacement: 214 cid (3510 cc)
- Power: 365hp @ 5,000rpm
- Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 2,500rpm
AXLE RATIO: 3.55 w/ limited-slip
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
- Wheelbase: 144.5 in
- Length: 231.9 in Width: 79.2 in
- Height: 76.7 in
- Curb weight: 5,615 lb
- Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs conventional; 9,600 lbs w/W-D hitch
Truck Test Digest Numbers:
- Zero to 60 mph: 6.9 sec
- Standing ¼-mile: 15.4 sec @ 91 mph
- Top speed (governor limited): 101 mph
- Braking, 60–0 mph: 129 ft
- EPA city/highway driving: 15/21 mpg
- Truck Test Digest observed: 15/18 mpg (Hwy @70mph)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce W. Smith is a 30-year veteran automotive/boating, writer/editor/author who lives in Long Beach, MS. Smith owns TruckTestDigest.com and is currently the editor of ProPickup magazine (www.propickupmag.com) based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He can be reached at email@example.com.