2017 Ford F-150 Lariat Supercrew
Ford’s best seller has buffed up in the engine room and sports a new transmission
Words by: Adam Allen
What’s this? Another F-150 in the Carpages Garage?
Affirmative. We decided to come back to Earth both literally and figuratively after driving Ford’s gravity defying Raptor, a truck so incredibly sorted that it’s just as comfortable contending sanctioned off-road races as it is heading to the store for some milk. F-150 buyers will glance longingly at that mighty machine while in the showroom, but in many cases reality will dictate that they end up with something a little less extreme. They’ll have no trouble finding an F-150 that’s just right for them- with a myriad of possible build combinations, saying they are spoiled for choice is quite the understatement. Armed with the keys to an F-150 Lariat that will find a vast legion of buyers for the real world we wanted to see how big of an impact Ford’s brand new 3.5 litre Ecoboost V6 and 10-speed transmission will make.
A 10-Speed transmission, huh? Does a truck need as many gears as a mountain bike?
When will come the time where we reach peak gears in a transmission? Do we really need that many cogs to choose from? While transmission questions beget further transmission questions we can tell you that the 10-speed automatic hitched to all 3.5 litre V6 Ecoboost engines works quite well. Co-developed with General Motors, the two companies put aside their crosstown rivalries in the name of better fuel economy, a more favourable ratio spread and sharper acceleration. It also keeps the engine turning in at an optimal engine speed, attempting to optimally balance fuel frugality with on-demand power when called upon. In fact, the new ‘box weighs less than the 6-speed still used in the F-150 lineup and it isn’t any bigger, either. Ford includes a small digital readout inside the tachometer so you can follow along as the truck ascends through its ten gears. Sometimes it skips a gear, sometimes not, depending on what your right foot is doing. On the highway, it holds onto 10th gear for most situations while the engine lazily turns over at a few ticks above idle. We enjoyed planting the throttle and watching it kick down five, sometimes six gears as the truck stormed towards the horizon. We can see how the plethora of ratios adds zest to passing and makes sprints from rest shorter, but we weren’t able to see any fuel economy benefit materialize. We suspect that’s because of where and how we drove it- mostly in the city with generous use of the Ecoboost’s prodigious power-but as the saying goes, your mileage will vary. Overall, we deem the 10-speed gearbox a success.
There’s more power going through that gearbox too.
This is the second generation for the venerable twin-turbo six which made its debut in F-150 engine bays back in 2011. This time around, it features port injection when under partial loads and while direct injection takes over in high stress scenarios like towing or hard acceleration. That last part is particularly impressive and showcases the 3.5 V6’s newfound grunt- horsepower is up by ten to 375 and torque jumps a meaty 50lbs/ft. for a total of 470. These numbers imbue the F-150 with serious get-up-and-go, making it fast not just for a truck, but fast, period. It doesn’t have the racy cadence of the Raptor (which uses a similar high-output unit with the boost cranked up) but it sounds pretty good and happily, no effort has been made to silence its whistling turbos. The extra muscle adds up to a seriously capable towing capacity of 5,400 kilograms from the Gen-two Ecoboost.
What might go wrong?
Not much, considering that North American sales easily topped the 966,000 mark last year and have enjoyed modest increases for many years prior. The F-150 continues to be a huge seller for Ford and its dominance shows no signs of abating (Fun fact: If Ford abandoned selling every single model it makes except for the F-150, it would still be a Fortune 500 company.) There are a few items we found that need to be addressed, and we’ll begin with the price. While $75,869 does buy you a lot of truck, that’s a tad steep for a pickup. There are even richer F-150 trim levels to be had, terminating at the Limited model which stickers for $73,149 before any options or taxes are factored in. (base models will set you back $28,249 for reference.) The other issue we noticed using our F-150 solely for errands and commuting duties is that it’s thirsty, and despite the ‘Eco’ in Ecoboost and the plethora of ratios in the gearbox all we could muster was 18L/100km. With a 136-litre fuel tank, expect fill up intervals to be wider but expensive, although you can feed your F-150 a diet of regular gas. While we’re mentioning the transmission, perhaps Ford engineers could sort out its low speed shifting slightly. There were times where we caught the tranny off guard which caused surging or stumbling, depending on the situation. We admit that the only times we experienced this was when we were deliberately trying to catch the transmission snoozing, like stabbing the throttle suddenly while cruising along at leisurely speeds. Most F-150 owners shouldn’t encounter this, and it’s not unusual to experience teething problems with new technology.
Should I buy an F-150?
In the hyper competitive truck segment, the answer to the question of which truck is best can best be described as a moving target. The never-ending battle of one-upmanship yields some pretty great trucks for all kinds of applications. At this moment in time, we think the F-150 deserves to wear the crown. As General Motors gets ready to launch its next generation of trucks with Ram following suit not far behind, the F-150’s perch at the top of the heap is by no means safe or guaranteed. With the addition of the 10-speed transmission and second generation of Ecoboost engines on F-150 order sheets, Ford sure isn’t making it easy for the other guys to close the gap.
2017 Ford F-150 Lariat Supercrew- Specifications
- Price as tested: $75,869
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger truck
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
- Transmission: 10-speed automatic
- Engine: 3.5 litre twin turbocharged V6, 24 valves, DOHC
- Horsepower: 375 @ 5,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 470 @ 3,500 rpm
- Curb weight: 2,145 kg (4,728 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 18L/100km (13 mpg)