ince Ford’s EcoBoost V-6s first came onto the scene back in 2009, we’ve slowly come to love these versatile powertrains for the F-150 and Explorer. While they might not be the most efficient engines on the market, there is no arguing their versatility as a great everyday powerplant for a full-size 4WD. Nearly half of all F-150s are sold with the EcoBoost option. However, we think the EcoBoost could be a little better.
While Ford advertises a highway fuel efficiency rating of 9.8L/100km on the first generation 3.5L EcoBoost, the best we could ever manage in testing was a decent, but not impressive, 12.4L/100km at regular speeds, 11.5L/100km on the flat below 80 kmh. The good news is Ford is also thinking this isn’t good enough, and as such have upgraded the 3.5L EcoBoost for the 2017 F-150.
The redesigned 3.5L EcoBoost features new turbochargers capable of delivering more boost thanks to a lighter turbine wheel made from high-temperature Mar-M-247 alloy to improve responsiveness. The new turbos also get Ford-first electrically activated wastegates, enhancing operating efficiency.
Ford was able to slash another 2 kg out of the engine internals thanks to the hollowing out of camshafts and the allnew roller-finger follower valvetrain. The valvetrain also features more durable intake and exhaust valves, and hydraulic valve-lash adjusters that optimize engine durability over the life of the truck.
Other enhancements include Ford-first dual-direct and port fuel-injection system. If that sounds a little confusing, that means the EcoBoost makes use of two injectors per cylinder – one mounted in the intake port and one positioned inside the cylinder – working together to improve power output, efficiency, and emissions.
So, what does this all mean? Well, the improvements have yielded an increase of 30 lb-ft to give the second generation 3.5L EcoBoost 450 lb-ft. Ford has yet to comment how much horsepower or efficiency increases will come from these upgrades.
However, they did say that the new EcoBoost will be mated to an allnew in-house built 10-speed automatic transmission that Ford claim will deliver improved acceleration and performance compared with previous six-speed automatic transmissions. The new 10-speed will make use of optimized wide-span gear spacing coupled with drag-reduction actions. Three overdrive gears and a wider span will enable lower-numerical rear-axle ratios to help improve fuel efficiency at highway speeds while still maintaining towing performance.
We’ve driven 8-speeds and even 9-speeds in performance cars before, and they are nearly as annoying as a CVT transmission, constantly going into fits over which gear they’re supposed to be in. However, as we learned several years ago when Ram implemented an 8-speed transmission into the 1500, truck owners don’t drive their vehicles like performance car owners… for the most part. We were quite skeptical about the Ram’s 8-speeds’ ability to hold up to the torque of the EcoDiesel and its functionality with the HEMI. As it turned out, the 8-speed was by far our favourite drivetrain option in the FCA lineup, and continues to be.
Will 10 cogs be one cog too far? Will the new engine be capable of reaching below the ideal 10L/100km highway fuel efficiency with the aid of the 10-speed? We’re not sure, but we’ll be the first to let you know when we jump behind the wheel of the upgraded 2017 F-150.