This review will attempt to be a comprehensive review of the F150 as it relates to our recent 3,300 towing trip. It IS a glowing review and, as such, might be of most interest to those who are open to the Ford brand.
Truck: F150 FX4, Ecoboost, Max Tow, 3.73s
Trailer: Surveyor SV235RKS; approximately 5,500 pounds loaded
The Tow: Mostly 60 to 62 mph except for 2-lane 55 mph roads. 3,300 miles from St. Paul, MN to Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and back. Five “big towing” days of 8 hours. Four of those days were into nasty headwinds and crosswinds. One day with some assist from the wind. Significant and numerous grades in NW Arkansas. Lots of big “rollers” through Missouri and Iowa. Easy flat tows in Louisiana.
One Word Summary: Wow!
Five Word Summary: Set it and forget it
Much of forum F150 towing discussion recently has centered around the Ecoboost engine. While it is impressive in use, there is so much more to the F150 that I will try to give my impressions on additional aspects of the truck. Overall, what really is impressive, is how many aspects of the truck are so thoroughly thought out, programmed, and so well integrated. The F150 is a complete package. It really is a “set it and forget it” vehicle. Get to your cruising speed, set the speed control, and the truck does a marvelous job of managing itself with little to no intervention required. It will do anything a sane person asks of it. The only real consideration is speed; safety and fuel use repercussions. So, here we go . .
Ecoboost: Let’s get this out of the way. Tremendous torque curve. Most of the trip was in 6th at 1,600 RPM. It was amazing the hills it would take at this low RPM; staying in 6th with lockup. 5th was 2,000 RPM when needed. Saw 4th gear maybe 3 or 4 times. Overall fuel mileage for the trip was 11.5 mpg. A high of 12.2 and a low of 10.3. I was impressed given the wind we had to contend with; and the hills. IMO, the Ecoboost is about 10% more fuel efficient than my ’05 5.4L FX4; under the same conditions and “expectations” of performance; pulling the same trailer. This IS a powerful engine and, if you use that power, it will take fuel. The engine still has the factory oil in it; 6,700 miles on it; oil is still at the top of the “hatch marks” on the stick; estimate perhaps ½ pint of oil has been consumed at most.
6 Speed Select Shift: Nice; especially compared to my previous 4 speed. Tow/Haul worked nicely. Always torque converter lock in 5th and 6th. Seamless shifts. Descent/braking downshifting worked surprisingly well; rarely fooled. Trans temp managed nicely by the truck; always 195 to 197. 193 is normal for unloaded. Transmission programming is nicely attuned to the Ecoboost torque curve.
Cruise Control: Worked SO nicely with the 6 speed and the Ecoboost. Road speed rarely varied by more than 1 mph; even in the hills. It responded quickly to load; providing downshift appropriately when needed; didn’t over accelerate at the crest of the hill like my previous truck. Just stayed right where I set it. Nice. No driver shifting intervention required. My ’05 drove me crazy by waiting too long to downshift; losing speed, and then over-reacting; so I wound up driving it like a manu-matic. So, this was a lot less tiring. With this better programming, I was a lot happier when DW was the driver.
Suspension/Tires: This truck rides amazingly better than our ’05 did. A LOT less bouncing. I figure that this better ride is due to some combination of the following; the 2,000 payload vs previous 1,600; and the LT tires vs the previous P Metrics; less sidewall flex. There could be other factors of which I am unaware; but the ride was much smoother. Very nice on a long haul like we just did. A lot less tiring.
Integrated Brake Controller: Works very smoothly; a big difference from the Prodigy I used before. I anticipate in my driving so am a “light” user of brakes. I never felt the Prodigy, being inertial, gave me much braking assist from the trailer under light braking. The IBC did a much better job at this. No lockups, no jerking; nice trailer assist.
Electric Steering: Ford’s electric steering compensates for crown of the road, crosswind etc. It took a little getting used to. You know how the vehicle “moves around” a little in heavier crosswinds. But before I could put in a steering input, the truck took care of a lot of it itself. It honestly was a little unnerving for me at first. But after awhile, I realized how relaxing it was to drive and how little corrective steering input was required from me. I’ve grown to like it; but it is different. Makes for a very nice drive. A lot less tiring.
Sync System: There IS a learning curve. Once you get it, it is a marvelous system. I loaded ALL of my music on a 20Gig SanDisk in MP3 form. It would respond to verbal commands for artist etc. My iPhone was linked in by Bluetooth. Any calls were handled verbally. Love this technology.
Odds and Ends:
Loved the 36 gallon gas tank. Drove all the way from just North of Kansas City to St. Paul on one tank! (The tailwind day) No worries when fueling stations were few and far between. On shorter haul days, we could go 2 to 3 days without a fill; and there were more opportunities to fill when the trailer wasn’t attached.
The transmission would sometimes “hang” in 4th gear for awhile when accelerating from a stop; always after slowing and crawling through a town. After about a ½ mile, it would decide to use 5th and 6th again. An oddity that I saw on several occasions. Not sure why this happened but I could have done without it.
I miss the grab handle that they have omitted from the driver side front pillar. What’s up with that?
55mph limits resulted in 1,500 RPM in 6th; not a lot. So in combination with rollers, I would lock out 6th just to keep shifting to a minimum; or I would not use cruise and manipulate the throttle to hold 6th. The faster your towing speed, the better it held 6th.
While the tow/haul provided appropriate engine downshifting, the Ecoboost provides only modest amounts of compression braking. I’ll be taking extra note of this when we do our trip to the Rockies in July. I’m expecting to have to use more brake than I did with the 5.4. Not real happy about that idea.
The Ecoboost is very quiet under normal circumstances. But when pulling a trailer, it is working harder and you know it is a V-6 by the exhaust note. Not unpleasant; just doesn't sounds like a V-8.
IMO, the longer your trips, the lower percentage of your total towing capacity you are going to want to be using. We were at 50%. Very comfortable for a 3,300 mile trip; no struggles.
The Bottom Line: This truck requires very little of you other than to be observant of road conditions and other vehicles. It is a very relaxing, easy, and pleasurable drive. The truck takes care of itself and handles anthing you can sanely/safely throw at it. A lot less tiring!
I hope this was helpful or illuminating to someone!
Bob & Wendy; Spanky & Piper the Fox Terriers
2012 Race Red FX4 Ecoboost, Max Tow, Luxury Pkg
Reese Dual Cam
Ford research says that everyone asked wanted the power and high torque of a diesel, quiet engine like a gas engine, and ability to start at 0F without needing a block heater and put it in drive and go with minimal warm up time, like a gas engine. The Ecoboost has met all these requirements, and more, so they have a home run with that engine.
Ford is looking to produce more than 1,000,000 Ecoboost engines in 2012, and over 2 million starting in 2013. Many will be much smaller than yours, the 1L, 1.6L and 2 liter inline engines will make up most of them. The 3.5L ecoboost will also be in Police Cruisers soon! They are getting fantastic mileage compared to the Crown Vic and other competing cars.
Thanks for the report. What do you mean by locking out 6th?
you can manually lock out any of the top gears by having it in T/H mode and using the +/- on the shifter to lock out gears. In hilly terrain its nice to be able to lock out 6th or even 5th so it doesn't try to upshift constantly. Nice feature for use in the maritimes where we have lots of rolling hills.
Regarding the missing assist handle: I asked an interior guy at Ford about this and their studies showed that most people used the steering wheel to pull themselves in. He said they left it on the Super Duty since those trucks are usually higher off the ground and drivers need more help getting in. I still miss it.
2013 Sunset Trail 29SS,
2006 Ford F350 SRW Diesel
Very nice report and it sounds like the truck is working well for you. As for the "hanging in 4th gear" turn off the tow/haul and that problem will likely go away. Using tow/haul it tends to hang onto gears longer and you were not driving fast so that would be expected. I noticed the same thing about the Ecoboost, that it doesn't have the displacement to provide the same amount of engine braking as the big v-8s. My strategy to overcome this is to SELDOM use tow/haul going up OR down and use the manual mode to select the correct gear and engine braking when descending those long steep grades in the Rockies.
I can only DREAM of getting the fuel economy you were getting but guess the extra weight has a big effect. traveling at over 10,000 lb. I could average only a tad over 10.
Good luck / Skip
2011 F-150 HD Ecoboost 3.5 V6. 2550 payload, 17,100 GCVWR - 2004 F-150 HD (Traded after 80,000 towing miles) 2007 Rockwood 8314SS 34' travel trailer
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