First Drive

Do 10 speeds and two turbos add up in 2017 Ford F-150?

New powertrain combination poses interesting decision for F-150 buyers

2017 Ford F-150

ESTEREL, QC – Ford’s latest addition to the list of powertrain packages for its perennially best-selling F-150 pickup creates an interesting choice for truck buyers: Will they accept a new twin-turbo V-6 engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission as the lineup’s ultimate power package?

For 2017, customers have the choice of four engine packages:

> a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V-6 that generates 282 horsepower and 253 lb-ft of torque;

> a twin-turbocharged 2.7L EcoBoost V-6 rated at 325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque;

> a naturally aspirated, 385 horsepower 5.0L V-8 producing 387 lb-ft of torque; or,

> the new, all-aluminum 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 with twin turbos and an intercooler, plus both direct and port fuel injection. It cranks out 375 horsepower and a best-in-class torque output of 470 lb-ft at just 2,500 rpm.

The advanced technologies applied to the new 3.5L V-6 have resulted in gains of 10 horsepower and an impressive 50 lb-ft of torque compared to the first-generation 3.5L EcoBoost V-6.

In addition to its dual injection systems – direct and port – the turbochargers have been fitted with a new electronic wastegate and ultra-lightweight turbine wheels that save weight and also spool up faster. A new intake manifold directs air to the cylinders through a redesigned valvetrain that’s lighter and stronger. There’s also a new variable-displacement oil pump and a new lighter, stronger crankshaft.

10-speed automatic

The first three engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the second-generation EcoBoost V-6 gets a 10-speed SelectShift automatic, with progressive range select plus tow/haul and Sport modes, that’s available for both two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive models. It’s designed to take maximum advantage of the engine’s power and torque ranges.

The basic engineering of the new tranny – the industry’s first volume-production 10-speed, rear-wheel drive, planetary transmission – was co-developed with General Motors, although the software and some internal parts are exclusive to Ford.

It’s made with high-strength steel, aluminum alloys and composite materials and features a wide span of gear ratios and optimized gear spacing, including three overdrive gears to improve the truck’s fuel efficiency while also delivering optimum performance.

The tow/haul and Sport modes have been improved, while an electronic control system with real-time adaptive shift-scheduling algorithms select the appropriate gear at the right time. It’s even capable of initiating skipped shifts and direct downshifts when necessary. Simply put, this new transmission shifts quicker and more accurately than any other automatic.

Its other features include an integrated e-pump that complements the 3.5L engine’s standard automatic stop/start feature, enhanced kinematics for minimal internal friction losses, adaptive learning for improved shift modulation, a high-efficiency filtration system that extends transmission fluid life and a unique high-speed, one-way clutch that allows for non-sequential shifting. This impressive package of transmission technologies is packed into a case that’s just 25 millimetres longer than Ford’s six-speed tranny.

How does it drive?

I had the opportunity to drive a 2017 F-150 4X4 with the new powertrain package for several hours during two-day winter event in the Laurentians north of Montreal. The engine was quite impressive, with plenty of acceleration when the accelerator was pushed hard for launching, passing and highway merging.

The power was available immediately, coming on smoothly with no lag. Granted, other than a fellow journalist in the passenger seat and our bags in the spacious section of our SuperCrew, we weren’t hauling any load. However, the listed capabilities of this engine/transmission package – payload: up to 1,470 kg (3,632 lb); towing, properly equipped: up to 5,443 kg (12,000 lb) suggest it won’t shy away from being worked hard.  

Undoubtedly, the 10-speed tranny helped make the most of the engine’s output. The initial gearing let the V-6 wind up without stress. In fact, on hard acceleration the truck reached its peak revs in what seemed just an instant, then the engine seamlessly started the climb again in second. Of course, all that torque it was generating didn’t hurt the cause, either.

Indeed, the engine/tranny combo worked extremely well together. The transmission never felt like it was searching through its repertoire for the appropriate gear – its gear selection and shifts were bang on, solid and snappy.

While many truckers have traditionally opted for a big V-8 engine, they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the capabilities of this new package from the Blue Oval crew. It delivers the grunt they expect, yet it’s more fuel efficient. It’s tough to argue with that combination.

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