Pickup truck drivers are notoriously conservative, and would probably still be driving trucks with cast-iron flathead engines given their druthers.
The Obama administration and global realities say that it is time for pick 'em ups to start pulling their own weight when it comes to reducing fuel consumption. So while you will have to pry some truck owners' V8s out of their cold, dead hands, Ford is hoping to convince many truck buyers that its twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 is a better solution.
To do that, the company is launching an online campaign to demonstrate the toughness and capability of the new EcoBoost engine by demonstrating it in a torture test. Ford contends that the optional EcoBoost engine available in the 2011 F-150 offers both superior power and fuel economy to the V8 alternative. It hopes to sway curmudgeonly customers who may be reluctant to buy an EcoBoost until the trucks have been out for a while and anecdotal evidence accrues to support the argument.
The abuse Ford plans to heap on its engines to prove its case verges on cartoonish. The first test involves running an EcoBoost engine on a stationary dynamometer for the equivalent of 150,000 miles of driving, including added punishment such as rapid swings in temperature from 20 degrees to 235 degrees.
Only after finishing that test, will the same engine be installed in a truck and dispatched to an Oregon logging company where it will drag logs that weigh thousands of pounds each up steep hills.
Once the timber is tamed, the EcoBoost engine will retire to a life of leisure in sunny south Florida. Or that is probably what the Ford engineers are telling the engine anyway. Instead of relaxing with a game of shuffleboard among retirees though, the EcoBoost is headed to Homestead Miami Speedway, where it will be installed in a truck that will tow an 11,300-pound trailer containing two NASCAR Sprint Cup cars around the track. At full throttle. For 24 hours.
In the infamous words of Ginsu knife commercials, "but wait, there's more." After the track test the EcoBoost engine will be installed into an off-road desert race truck for a shot at the Baja 1000 race, an event that 40 percent of entrants failed to finish last year.
Once the race is done, Ford engineers will tear down the engine and examine the internal parts for wear, and every step of the way the company will document the engine's progress in a series of web videos narrated by Ford pitchman and Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe.
The series starts with coverage of the engine's assembly and its performance on the dyno run, and next month Ford will post the segment showing the logging work. You can watch the first video above, then go to ford.com/2011F150 for new installments.
The idea is to show that the EcoBoost can withstand a beating the likes of which no dyed-in-the-nomex truck nut would ever administer to his pickup. And if the unthinkable happens and the engine fails under the strain? "If it does, we'll talk about what happened," said F-150 marketing manager Mark Grueber. "Then we'll make improvements."