Large pickups have large engines. The Dodge Ram is known for its powerful Hemi V8. Toyota touts its Tundra's i-Force V8. The Chevrolet Silverado offers a Vortex V8. It's the done thing. But for 2011, Ford's F-150 (one of the top sellers in the market) will drop its standard V8, bucking the trend by competing with a V6 engine.
A V8 option will still be on the table – almost certainly the 5.0-liter unit also found in the Mustang GT – but the standard engine will likely be a 3.7-liter V6, intended to provide buyers with a choice to help maximize fuel economy. According to Automotive News, the 3.7 (which also sees duty in the Mustang, making 305 horsepower) will produce more muscle than the outgoing 4.6-liter V8 (rated at 248 hp/294 lb-ft of torque).
That's not the only anticipated change for the F-150. Ford has announced that its well-received EcoBoost V6, which features turbocharging and direct fuel injection, will also be available (the engine's first application in a truck-based, rear-drive vehicle). Both V6 engines will be mated to a six-speed automatic transmission for maximum smoothness and efficiency.
While Ford's 3.7 is a strong engine, the hard part will be convincing buyers, especially since competitors offer low-cost V8 options. Chevrolet, Dodge and Toyota make V6 versions of their large trucks, but these find little favor among consumers. They are often relegated to fleet use.
Ford last had a V6-powered F-150 in 2008, before a heavy refresh for 2009. Since then, the company has invested considerably in the development of its six-cylinder engines, attempting to improve power output and fuel economy simultaneously. In the Mustang, for instance, the 3.7 propels the coupe from zero to 60 mph in under six seconds – on a par with the prior model's 4.6-liter V8.
Although Ford will face a challenge in convincing consumers to switch to a V6, it's doing so with the best possible engine. It doesn't have the cachet of a Hemi or an i-Force, but the Blue Oval's smooth, new V6 will get the job done with a new level of efficiency.