DRIVING THE NEW POWER STROKE 3.0L FOR F-150
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
The 3.0L Diesel Ford team gets together for a group photo.