The aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 is getting sportier, thanks to an on-demand Sport mode borrowed from the Mustang.
The performance enhancement is available through the six-speed automatic transmission that is standard across the F-150 lineup, and works with all drivetrains (rear-wheel or four-wheel). Ford engineers expanded the feature from Mustang primarily because the two vehicles were developed along the same timelines and share automatic transmission technology.
“Our team realized how well the new F-150 handled and responded to acceleration due to its reduced weight,” said Karl Jungbluth, Ford transmission calibration engineer. “So we decided we could adapt the sport mode capabilities of the six-speed automatic transmission from Mustang to F-150 to enhance the overall driving experience for truck customers.”
Engaging Sport mode on the F-150 is a little different, though, with the driver having to push the tow/haul mode button twice. An S will appear in the tachometer to designate Sport mode is active.
Sport mode works in a manner similar to the tow/haul mode in that it keeps the transmission from shifting gears in transitions such as cresting a hill (so the truck can accelerate to get the weight over the top, and keep it from coasting away engine braking while going down the slope).
What Sport mode does is change the frequency of shifts to hold the engine in optimum rev range to take advantage of available torque. It also holds onto lower gears longer on twisty or hilly roads to keep shift shock to a minimum and again allow for better use of the torque band. The truck feels more responsive to right-pedal input simply because the driver is using less pedal travel (i.e., not having to step on it harder in order to get more power coming out of corners or transitioning from a downhill to an uphill).
The other thing the six-speed automatic does is rev match on downshifts, again to stay in the optimum torque range, but it also adds that racing sound blip for a sportier driving experience.
“Sport mode keeps the engine operating in the desired power and torque ranges, or what we like to call the ‘sweet’ spot,” explained Jungbluth. “It makes Mustang come alive, and we feel it does the same thing in F-150.”