DRIV­ING THE NEW POWER STROKE 3.0L FOR F-150

4WDrive - - Contents -

Iwas fol­low­ing the GPS in the hope of reach­ing El­do­rado Canyon State Park for some epic scenic photo ops. The pave­ment had ended and the F-150 with the new Power Stroke 3.0L Diesel was bounc­ing along the wind­ing, nar­row, pot­holed dirt road tow­ing a horse trailer.

I missed the right turn on to a very nar­row, old wooden bridge, and had to back the trailer up 30 me­tres. Not es­pe­cially chal­leng­ing un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, but the deep pot­holes, run­ning chil­dren, and nar­row road added to the ex­cite­ment. As I pulled for­ward and be­gan cross­ing the bridge a small wooden sign caught my eye. ‘Your GPS is wrong. This is a pri­vate road.’ I got some more prac­tice back­ing up.

We were in Broom­field, Colorado for the first ever driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of the highly an­tic­i­pated Power Stroke 3.0L Turbo Diesel in the F-150. In­ter­na­tional ini­tially de­vel­oped Ford’s diesel en­gines in 1994 with the in­tro­duc­tion of the 7.3L in the Ford Su­per Duty. Ford even­tu­ally brought pro­duc­tion of the Power Stroke in house, and af­ter sev­eral it­er­a­tions through the years we have the 6.7L that is in the Su­per Duty to­day.

The orig­i­nal 7.3L in 1994 pro­duced 210 hp @ 3,000 rpm and gen­er­ated 425 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm. The new 3.0L for F-150 pro­duces 250 horse­power at 3,250 RPM and 440 lb-ft of torque at 1,750 RPM. More horse­power and more torque from an engine with half the dis­place­ment. To­day’s diesel en­gines are not the black smoke emit­ting, in­jec­tor chat­ter­ing oil burn­ers of year's past.

When­ever a brand new engine en­ters the mar­ket­place I stand back and wait for oth­ers to lay down their cash and wait to see if it lives up to ex­pec­ta­tions in per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity in the real world. The dif­fer­ence here is Ford’s ex­pe­ri­ence and great track record with the 6.7L Power Stroke in the Su­per Duty. And al­though this engine is new to the F-150 it is not new to world. There have been some mod­i­fi­ca­tions but it is es­sen­tially the same tech­nol­ogy as the diesel en­gines Ford de­vel­oped for Citroen, Jaguar and Land Rover. As with the Ford Ranger, Ford en­gi­neers used the rest of the world as the prov­ing ground for the tech­nol­ogy that we are go­ing to get here in North Amer­ica.

Ac­cord­ing to Ford the de­sign life of the engine is 240,000 km (150,000 mi). Pow­er­train war­ranty from Ford is typ­i­cally 5 years and 100,000 kilo­me­tres but be­cause this is a Power Stroke, you get a 5-year and 160,000 kilo­me­tre engine war­ranty.

Still, the ques­tion re­mains, is the new 3.0L Power Stroke good enough? Is it worth spend­ing thou­sands of dol­lars more? Why would any­one choose this engine over the four other choices in Ford’s line-up for the F-150?

There are two parts to this an­swer, fuel econ­omy and torque.

Part of our driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence was a fuel econ­omy chal­lenge. Testers all used the same 2-door, 4x2, short box F-150. It is the same model that was used in the EPA rat­ing which achieved the 8.0L/100km (30 mpg) high­way bench­mark. The goal in this chal­lenge was to see who could achieve the best fuel econ­omy num­ber, us­ing the stock dash in­di­ca­tor, and driv­ing the same route. Driv­ing in a com­pletely non-real world man­ner (less than the speed limit, mir­rors pulled in to re­duce drag, never us­ing the brake un­less it was an emer­gency, only whis­per­ing to the gas pedal, and say­ing prayers for green traf­fic lights and benev­o­lent tail winds), some chal­lengers achieved over 6 L/100km (40 mpg). A ridicu­lously fuel ef­fi­cient num­ber re­gard­less of the fan­ci­ful meth­ods em­ployed.

Not my style of driv­ing. I chose the 4-door, 4x4, with a 2950 kg (6,550 lb) Tigé Z1 boat and trailer, and drove the way I usu­ally do with a trailer, which is

lib­eral pres­sure ap­plied to the skinny pedal merg­ing into traf­fic and up hills, and brak­ing when nec­es­sary. Tow­ing a tour­na­ment boat and sub­se­quently a box trailer of roughly the same weight, through the rolling hills out­side Broom­field, Colorado, I av­er­aged 20 L/100km (11.8 mpg). To some folks, this might not seem a stag­ger­ing num­ber, but my 2004 Ram 1500 with the hemi V-8, achieved the same fuel econ­omy on high­way driv­ing with no load.

Where you land with your fuel econ­omy de­pends en­tirely on your driv­ing habits, what you will be tow­ing, and where, for in­stance the prairies of Saskatchewan or the moun­tains of Bri­tish Columbia.

If fuel econ­omy is part one of choos­ing the new Power Stroke over other choices in the F-150, the sec­ond part is torque. This diesel engine ef­fort­lessly gen­er­ates a ton of low-end torque at low rpm. If you work at a job like land­scap­ing and you’re pulling a 3000 kg (6,600 lb) trailer around to job sites in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment and by that I mean stop/go/stop/go - this engine is a God­send. At low ur­ban speeds, up and down hills, it will pull your trailer with­out com­plaint. And if you need to wind your way along steeper moun­tain­ous drives it will do that too.

Is this the per­fect engine/truck com­bi­na­tion for every­one? If all engine op­tions were priced iden­ti­cally, should this be the engine every­one buys? No. First of all it’s a diesel, which means there are some ad­di­tional main­te­nance is­sues over gas. Ac­tive re­gen­er­a­tion has to oc­cur, a light will ap­pear in your clus­ter when it hap­pens and you’ll lose some per­for­mance. Ac­tive re­gen su­per heats the diesel par­tic­u­late fil­ter to burn off par­tic­u­lar mat­ter. You have to keep an eye on your urea level (used to re­duce ni­trous ox­ide emis­sions), which lasts from oil change to oil change.

If you re­ally want to be green, gas will still pro­duce fewer emis­sions. You’ll have to wait un­til 2021 to get the hy­brid ver­sion - but they’re not say­ing what form the hy­brid will take - yet.

Se­condly, this doesn’t have the ac­cel­er­a­tion and pep of the 2.7L Ecoboost.

The 3.0L Power Stroke is just not as much fun to drive, in even in Sport mode. I drove the FX4 un­loaded in sport mode, and if you were driv­ing 100 kph (60 mph) and needed to quickly speed up to pass, well, you just wouldn’t. Ac­cel­er­a­tion at high­way speeds is com­pletely unin­spir­ing.

Thirdly, it’s not priced the same. The diesel is the most ex­pen­sive op­tion and more im­por­tantly it’s only avail­able in Lariat and above trim lines - so you can’t buy it in the more af­ford­able XL or XLT. UN­LESS you are a fleet cus­tomer, or you are will­ing to wait, as Ford says the diesel could be in­tro­duced into the XLT if the engine proves pop­u­lar enough.

They ex­pect a 5% up­take in the diesel tak­ing sales mostly from the 3.5L Ecoboost and the 5.0L V-8, as these two en­gines are the buyer’s choice for tow­ing in a half-ton. The diesel op­tion will cost you $5650 CAD over the 5.0L V-8. Nat­u­rally, they ex­pect it to also take sales from the Ram 1500 with the EcoDiesel, since Ford has im­proved on Ram’s specs by just enough to call them­selves #1 in horse­power, torque and fuel econ­omy.

So who is best suited to this engine? It’s the guy or gal who tows up to 3600 kg (8,000 lb) on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, or tows on long hauls. It may have a 5170 kg (11,400 lb) max tow­ing ca­pac­ity but I wouldn’t rec­om­mend a half-ton pick-up for this on a daily ba­sis - up­grade to the Su­per Duty. But let’s say you have a land­scape com­pany and need to tow up to a 3600 kg (8000 lb) trailer ev­ery­day with a lot of stops and starts, or need to tow your toys a good dis­tance ev­ery week­end, or you need a pick-up but have long com­mutes - this is your truck.

If you hadn’t been told you were driv­ing a diesel you wouldn’t know it. The engine runs smooth and quiet. The tell­tale diesel clat­ter is only barely au­di­ble if you lis­ten closely un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion or if you stick your head in the engine com­part­ment. The oc­ca­sion­ally hiss­ing sound of the turbo spool­ing up is also barely au­di­ble.

The quiet run­ning is a re­sult of the way they cal­i­brate the in­jec­tors in the diesel engine, spe­cial foam cov­ers to en­cap­su­late the in­jec­tors and the high pres­sure fuel pump, a bet­ter in­su­lated engine cover, ex­tra

stuff­ing in­serted into the A-pil­lars, and thicker foam in the dash panel (also known as a fire­wall, but I was re­minded they don’t use that term any­more).

Many of us have been won­der­ing why it took Ford so long to place this engine in the F-150 as a sim­i­lar engine has been kick­ing around in Ford’s in­ter­na­tional ve­hi­cles for roughly a decade. Ford say they first needed the foun­da­tion and ar­chi­tec­ture of 2015 F-150, es­sen­tially the 700 lb weight sav­ings, to de­velop the pow­er­train tech­nol­ogy so they could hit the power, torque and fuel econ­omy in the 3855 kg (8500 lb) truck cat­e­gory.

Gas is still where it is at for the bulk of pick-up truck buy­ers, which is why we saw the four gas en­gines get re­vamped in last years mid-cy­cle refresh. With that out of the way, the diesel has ar­rived. The weight sav­ing in the new plat­form was crit­i­cal to the diesels suc­cess be­cause the 3.0L Power Stroke is 176 kg (388 lb heav­ier than a com­pa­ra­bly equipped 3.5L Ecoboost.

In ad­di­tion to tow­ing, low-end torque has another ap­pli­ca­tion - driv­ing off-road. The Ford team con­structed an off-road course de­signed to demon­strate the lowend torque of the new diesel. Clouds the day be­fore our drive un­leashed a mix of rain and snow on the course, which the F-150’s churned into a slushy field of mud.

But our day dawned with cloud­less blue skies, dry­ing the mud to a per­fect con­sis­tency. The log and rock course was chal­leng­ing enough to test the bash plates on ev­ery pass and we made good use of the locking rear dif­fer­en­tial. The largest up­hill test was roughly a 25-de­gree in­cline and 20 me­tres in height, and the im­me­di­ate right at the top let you see the ad­van­tage of the front fac­ing cam­era. The sub­se­quent 30° de­cline made ex­cel­lent use of the hill de­scent con­trol. Sev­eral off-cam­ber gooey mud ob­sta­cles pro­vided some en­ter­tain­ment and once again made good use of the locking rear diff.

Ar­ti­fi­cially cre­ated tight wind­ing paths be­tween rocks and logs al­lowed us to take ad­van­tage of the 360-de­gree cam­eras - as long as we hadn’t caked them in mud af­ter crash­ing through the two wa­ter ob­sta­cles.

The truck per­formed well. I was sur­prised how well. The ap­proach an­gle was good and we tested it ag­gres­sively enough to get grass in the tow hooks. The torque was ter­rific at mak­ing solid steep climbs, and the locking rear dif­fer­en­tial pro­vided trac­tion where it was un­likely a reg­u­lar 4x4 would make it.

There are two things I would change. In off-road mode I would pre­fer to have a lit­tle less throttle from a dead stop to make climbing ob­sta­cles eas­ier, and 2.5 - 5 cm (1-2 in) lift would go a long way to im­prov­ing the breakover an­gle. Yes, I picked a line test­ing the breakover an­gle on an off-cam­ber ob­sta­cle and man­aged to get cen­tre high on the driv­ers side. I have no ex­cuse other than the truck was do­ing so well I for­got I wasn’t in my lifted Jeep - and that says a lot about the F-150 diesel in a pos­i­tive way.

Check our video anal­y­sis and sys­tems en­gi­neer in­ter­view on YouTube; https://youtu.be/pu2WQUNRqbw https://youtu.be/q4I7pAseDdE

Vol­ume 20/4

The 3.0L Diesel Ford team gets to­gether for a group photo.

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