WEEKEND WHEELS

May 1, 2011

The 2011 Ford F150  features more horsepower than previous models

The 2011 Ford F150 features more horsepower than previous models

Between all of the recent industry events and trade shows, we managed to sneak in some time at less than 30,000 feet to test drive Ford’s newest iteration of the popular F-150 pickup. While much of the 2011 F-150 is carried over from 2010, the big story for 2011 is under the hood.

Ford touts the horsepower makeover for 2011 as “The most extensive powertrain overhaul in the 62-year history of (the) Ford F-Series.” The new engine menu offers four options: a 3.7-liter V6, 5.0-liter and 6.2-liter V8s and a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter “EcoBoost” V6. All of the engines route their power through a standard six-speed automatic transmission. Ford expects the 2100 F-150 models to be up to 20% more efficient than their 2010 models.

While available time precluded traveling any great distance or hooking up a trailer to seriously load down our 5.0L-equipped, 4X4 SuperCrew test vehicle, the truck did reasonably well getting in and around our local city/suburb traffic, thanks in part to an Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system.

The EPAS system does away with the conventional hydraulic assist system, eliminating the continuous load that a hydraulic power steering system places on the engine. In addition to eliminating the parasitic power load on the engine, the EPAS system also provides better steering feel.

Having owned and driven several Ford trucks over the years, it’s clear that the company has made serious progress in two key areas, ride control and seating.

Spending a few extra dollars in the suspension department has taken the Ford truck ride from stagecoach to luxury sedan in just a little more than a decade. While we couldn’t exactly do a “Baja” test on our truck, it did manage to make some fairly severe speed bumps feel more like expansion joints on a decently-paved road.

Same goes for the truck’s seating. As the largest single point of contact between the truck and the person writing the monthly payment check, a truck seat has the chance to make or break a truck’s entire reputation. While Ford had been behind the curve on seating comfort in the late Nineties, the cloth “captain’s chair” seating in our 2011 model proves that the company clearly “gets it” in regard to 21st-century truck seating.

About the only complaint that stood out in our test of the 2011 F-150 was the positioning of the seats. This reporter will never be accused of being petite, at 6’2” with 54” shoulders, yet even when leaning outward slightly, both the outboard armrest and window sill were out of comfortable reach for resting an elbow. While this probably does improve injury prevention performance in the most severe side-impact crashes, it comes at the daily cost of comfort and useable storage space.
Taken as a whole, however, the newest F-150 does well matching comfort with capability.