Ford F-150 V8 versus Ford F-150 EcoBoost V6

FORD’S EcoBoost badge doesn’t exactly conjure up flattering commentary from Aussie punters. For some it was the abominable (yet quite effective) four-cylinder engine that was slotted between the guards of the now defunct Falcon. For others it’s a povvo powerplant option for the current-model Mustang.

So when Ford decided to launch a range of EcoBoost engines for its US- dominant F-150, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the company was on a hiding to nothing. For six decades the Effie has had a tradition of bent-eight propulsion, and on top of this the F-150 has been the highest-selling vehicle in the US for nearly four decades.

Following its US launch the V6 EcoBoost was nearly a flop, until Ford found a way of piping a V8 burble into the cab via the Bose sound system. Interestingly this worked, and the V6 engine has become the most popular option in the States for the all-aluminium-bodied F-truck.

So I grabbed the key fob to a couple of the latest petrol-fuelled examples of the F-150 4x4: one powered by the five-litre Coyote V8; the other the 3.5-litre twin-turbo EcoBoost V6. The 2016 models featured here both use Ford’s 6R80 automatic transmission – from 2017, EcoBoost-powered trucks will also get a 10-speed auto.

Both of these trucks arrived via Harrison F-Trucks and sport right-hand-drive conversions by Melbourne-based VDC. Harrisons and VDC only deal with Ford product, and VDC has Ford-approved modification status.

FORD F-150 KING RANCH V8

EIGHT-IRON SOUNDTRACK

NOTHING makes me grin as much as the rumble of the Coyote under the bonnet of the V8 King Ranch Effie. The naturally aspirated burble drifting from the exhaust-pipe tips quickly builds to a satisfying crescendo when the hoof is buried. It’s an addictive soundtrack.

Ford F-150 V8
The King Ranch badge gets you an entire cow herd of leather, a massive sunroof, and a raft of driver-assist aids including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, trailer sway assist and hill-start assist.

A 360-degree camera displays a bird’s eye view of the truck’s surroundings when parking or squeezing into tight spaces – the display is made up of data picked by cameras dotted around the truck. Given the dimensions of the F-Truck, it’s a very handy feature both in town and out in the bush.

CHEATING IN REVERSE

FOR those who aren’t real flash at reversing a trailer there’s a neat Pro Trailer Back Up Assist function that lets you program where your trailer needs to be slotted in. The pick-up will then automatically steer it into place, much like an auto-park function (also included).

The V8’s 288kW five-litre does its best work with the tacho above 3500rpm, where it not only sounds hilarious, it hauls. Peak power from the eight-iron is at 5750rpm and peak torque (525Nm) is at 3850rpm. Kick the go pedal under load and the five-litre emits a howl that sounds like Chewbacca being kicked in the goolies.

Compared to its bigger Super Duty siblings the F-150 is a whole lot more nimble on the open road – the IFS front end and leaf sprung-rear are still quite civilised when the truck is empty.

PLUSH YET BALLSY

CONSIDERING this is more than a $150K vehicle, it’s every bit as cosseting as you expect for a truck. Payload is a fairly modest 850kg, especially considering the not-so-slight proportions of the Ford. But braked towing capacity with a 70mm ball is 4000kg. And while these 4x4 pick-ups are pretty capable off-road, towing is what these trucks are about.

We hooked a pretty hefty tri-axle trailer and a load of wood behind the F-150 and the result was predictable. With 2500kg on its back the rear end barely noticed the load, with the V8 still needing to be revving to get its boogie on. The six-speed auto transmission is an intuitive unit and will downshift under brakes. The Ford also comes with electric trailer brakes as standard.

Ford F-150 V8 towing
Off-road, the 150’s shift-on-the-fly 4x4 system is easy to use and intuitive, and there are a few surprises with Hill Descent Control, Traction Control and a rear diff-lock as standard kit. As a bush basher the Effie is a little wide if you want to keep the shiny bits unscratched, but in open country and on the beach the V8 Ford is quite a capable performer; although I doubt the aluminium body panels would take much punishment from sticks, branches and rocks.

FORD F-150 KING RANCH ECOBOOST V6

DOWNSIZING

AFTER the petrol-headed hoonery of the V8 I was somewhat dubious about the EcoBoost Effie. My green steed was almost identical in spec to the maroon V8 machine save the smaller engine – the automatic sidesteps remained a novelty that dropped from the body of the truck when the doors were opened.

The fake engine rumble inside the V6 is nearly convincing, but the engine note outside the Ford is more angry taxi than howling muscle car. Performance wise, though, there’s certainly nothing to complain about. The V6 makes slightly less power than the V8 (272kW versus 288kW), but it makes more torque and delivers it much lower in the rev range. The 570Nm of twisty force is on tap from 2500rpm courtesy of its twin low-inertia turbos. That’s more than 1000rpm lower than the eight-iron.

FORD F-150 KING RANCH ECOBOOST V6 towing
The result is a much more flexible engine both off-road and when towing. The V8 needs a bootful of revs to get cracking and can quickly bury itself in sand and muck with its abrupt, peaky power delivery. The EcoBoost, however, calmly unfurls power and torque with much more manageable finesse. In fact, the only time I got stuck on the beach at Bribie was the photographer’s fault –but then everything is always the photographer’s fault.

Under a gross tow load of just over 2500kg the tacho needle rarely exceeded 3000rpm, with the Effie’s outboard rear shocks reducing any squirm under load. It was effortless, where the V8 was entertaining.

BIG FOOTPRINT

THE King Ranch’s 20-inch alloy wheels aren’t the most practical items off-road, but romping along the beach still proved a walk in the park for the six-pack-equipped F-150, with its big footprint helping it float over ruts with ease. Even in summer’s soft-sand conditions the flexible power delivery of the EcoBoost made it very easy to live with.

Ford’s competition has had quite a bit of fun demonstrating how easy it can be to bang up the aluminium tub. In Australian terms, however, nobody is likely to be dropping bucket loads of bricks into the back of an expensive truck like this – a tub liner wouldn’t go astray.

The only steel parts of an F-150 these days are the chassis, firewall and driveline components. It may look like a heavy blunt object, but it’s deceptively nimble in operation. This year the Effie is also set to get a diesel option for the first time. And the aluminium construction is also now extending into the Super Duty range.

RESULT

THE SENSIBLE DECISION

There’s no doubt that the smart money is on the V6 F-150 as a tow engine, as it’s torque output and power delivery makes it an effortless hauler. It’s easy to see why the EcoBoost powerplant has become so popular in the US. It also uses less juice and is the easiest engine to live with off-road.

The trouble is I just can’t pass up the Coyote. This is probably why I should never be allowed to make purchasing decisions like this. The Raptor, Ford’s off-road 4x4 hottie, has also dropped the five-litre in favour of the EcoBoost V6, and it’s the engine of choice for Ford’s carbon-fibre GT Le Mans car.

Buying a new converted Effie may be a wallet-melting exercise, but consider nothing else on the Aussie market, aside from a 70 Series Cruiser or a light truck, has the GCM to tow and haul at the same time.

If you want to haul big weight big distances and do it in luxury you’re limited to the 200 Series Land Cruiser or a Land Rover Discovery, though Nissan’s petrol-powered Y62 Patrol should also rate a mention. A big yank pick-up gives you the best of both worlds.

FUEL DUEL

A COMBINATION of on-road, off-road and towing had us assessing the fuel economy of both engines. The V8 returned a very respectable 15.3L/100km and the V6 returned an excellent 13.4L/100km. It’s also worth noting that according to Ford’s performance figures the V6 is faster to 100km/h than the V8, 5.8 seconds versus 6.3.

SPECS

FORD F-150 KING RANCH V8

Engine: DOHC, five-litre V8
Fuel: Unleaded
Power: 288kW (385hp)
Torque: 525Nm @ 3850rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drive: part-time 4x4, two-speed transfer case.
Payload: 850kg
Towing: 4000kg (braked)
Warranty: Four years/130,000km
Price as tested: $150,000 (plus on-roads)*
*Exchange rate dependent

FORD F-150 KING RANCH ECOBOOST V6

Engine: DOHC twin-turbo V6
Fuel: Unleaded
Power: 272kW (365hp)
Torque: 570Nm @ 2500rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Drive: part-time 4x4, two-speed transfer case
Payload: 850kg
Towing: 4000kg (braked)
Warranty: Four years/130,000km
Price as tested: $153,000 (plus on-roads)*
*Exchange Rate Dependent

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