Sometimes the most intense rivalries are those that occur between brothers. The occurrence of these “mini-wars” within families is often times most intense when same said siblings are both very talented each in their own very unique ways. This is definitely the case when it comes to the very popular Ford F-150 family and the fraternal sibling rivalry between the 360 horsepower/420 lb. feet of torque 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and the burly 360 horsepower/380 lb. feet of torque 5.0-liter V-8 engines which were both all new for the 2011 model year.
So in honor of the fact that Ford has two such spectacular engines available now with the 2012 Ford F-150, we scheduled back to back tests of two identically specified 4x4 Supercab models to test out each new F-150 engine.
Big, blocky, square jawed and macho are the best ways to describe this generation of F-150 and while it may be a bit conservatively styled, we must say that we appreciate how much more toned down it looks when compared to the rather over the top Dodge Ram and chrome-tastic Toyota Tundra. Full size pickup trucks are sold to very loyal and rather conservative buyers so Ford has always been wise not to alienate its customers with bizarre styling cues for its bread and butter model.
Of course, there are ways to “pimp” out your F-150 so everyone will notice you with trim lines like the Harley Davidson Edition, King Ranch and Raptor models. Our favorite F-150 trim lines are definitely the Platinum and Lariat editions which expertly blend the F-150’s inimitable blend of style and luxury without being garish. But those models can get pricey so Ford should be applauded for making the interiors of even the more basic XLT, FX2/FX4 and STX models feel just as solidly built and nearly as stylish. Hey, Ford is in business to make money so it makes sense that you should have to spend a little more on your F-150 to get a little more pizazz and flash.
There are also other choices to be made when picking out your new F-150 including bed length and how many doors you want. Our two test trucks came equipped with the SuperCab configuration which includes a mini half door behind the full size front door. While that door was handy for entry and exit to our 70-pound canine co-road tester, humans might find getting in the back seat a little harder. If you want full size adult comfort and ease of entry go for the four door SuperCrew model as it also gives you lots more rear seat legroom and interior storage space.
Interior, Pricing and Specification
Quite simply, the 2012 Ford F-150 has the best interior in its class with a dashboard that is positively architectural in its design and enough optional extras, gadgets and gizmos to shame any luxury car. Our testers were both FX4 models and both came equipped with the $2950 Luxury Package which added power adjustable pedals, power rear window, automatic climate control, a premium 6-disc audio system, remote start, an essential back-up camera and well as powered/heated front seats. This came in addition to standard features like Sync, full leather seats, a trailer tow package, an electronic rear differential, Sirius satellite radio, shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, a six-speed automatic, skid plates and even a built-in tailgate “man step” that helps the less agile gracefully climb into the pickup truck bed.
Base pricing for the EcoBoost and 5.0-liter V-8 FX4 models came to $36,625 but the EcoBoost’s finally tally was slightly higher than that of the V-8 model due to the $795 premium charged for the smaller, turbocharged engine. While that may seem like an odd move on Ford’s part, their sales success with the EcoBoost F-150 proves there is a market for this model. With destination and delivery the EcoBoost F-150 came to $41,300 and the 5.0-liter V-8 variant came to a still rather substantial $40,550. No one ever said full size pickup trucks were cheap.
One way many people could save a bit on their new F-150 would be to skip ordering a 4x4 model unless you plan on actually using it for some off-road, heavy duty work. That way you could blow that savings on options that might pay off come resale time like an in-dash navigation system or one of Ford’s excellent Sony audio systems. Hey, just because you drive a pickup truck doesn’t mean you have to suffer without any toys.
Thanks to Ford’s all new line-up of four new engines that they introduced in 2011, this full size pick-up just dominates this entire market segment. Although we haven’t driven the base 3.7-liter V-6 or 6.2-liter V-8, they exist simply as proof that there is an F-150 to fit anyone’s needs. No other brand offers such a high quality interior, depth and breadth of options or all around capability of the Ford F-150.
Sure, the RAM 1500 may still have the most impressive ride in its class and the Toyota Tundra’s 5.7-liter V-8 is still a peach of a motor but as overall packages they offer too few choices for full size pickup truck buyers. GM does offer a number of engine and body style configurations for its full size GMC/Chevy truck models but their interiors and powertrains are in need of an update. Compared to the F-150, those GM trucks feel like they have been around since the Eisenhower administration. In case you don’t know, Eisenhower was the president a long time ago. We think right before Bill Clinton but what do we know? We just review cars and trucks. One more thing. These two trucks both come with 11,300 lb. tow ratings (with tow package) and payload ratings of 3,120 pounds. Both are best in class.
Driving Experience and Fuel Economy
Now, as these two F-150 “brothers” were so similar in so many ways we haven’t been able to help prospective buyers make what amounts to “Sophie’s Choice” for full size pickup truck buyers. So which truck is better?
First off, let’s talk real world fuel economy. Both of these trucks came with 26.5 gallon fuel tanks and run on regular unleaded gasoline and have similar EPA fuel economy numbers which were nowhere near what we got in the real world. But then, we weren’t exactly easy on the throttle with these hot rods. In our testing, the V-8 returned 12.4 miles per gallon over seven days (EPA estimate 14 city/19 highway) and the EcoBoost V-6 returned 10.8 miles per gallon (EPA estimate 15 city/21 highway). So if you are expecting “Eco” from the 3.5-liter V-6 try to avoid using the “Boost.”
The level of forward thrust afforded by the EcoBoost engine, however, is truly addictive and can be felt by the driver quicker than in the more linear-feeling V-8. That isn’t to say that the V-8 feels slow because it most definitely doesn’t, especially thanks to the deliciously throaty growl it emits as you rev it out to redline. The EcoBoost V-6 isn’t as characterful sounding but you might not notice considering how fast it makes this truck feel.
Otherwise, the driving experience is something that should be familiar to any F-150 driver. The steering is nicely linear and has a meaty heft to it which makes maneuvering these large pickup trucks very easy to do. At cruising speeds, both of these motors are nearly silent with only a little tire roar heard within the cabin should you not have the radio on. Truly, the F-150 is the Lexus of the pickup truck world when it comes to interior serenity.
Now, you must remember that these are full size pick-up trucks and while they are more fun to drive than most any crossover or SUV, they are not sports cars. Muscle cars might be a more accurate label as their forte is accelerating quickly in a straight line but should the need arise they are more than adept at handling a windy road. Just remember, that isn’t what they were built for. That still doesn’t mean you can smoke an unsuspecting boy racer at a red light with either of these pickups.
In Michael Jackson’s seminal hit song “Black or White” he claimed it didn’t matter if his baby was “black or white.” In the case of our two test F-150s, to us it doesn’t really matter if our choice in truck was a “V-8 or V-6” because with the 5.0-liter or the 3.5-liter EcoBoost, you come out a winner either way. It all comes down to a matter of personal preference and your love of the F-150 family will be undiminished no matter which way you go when picking out a powertrain.
But if we had a gun put to our head, we would take the 2 mpg hit of the V-8 in order to enjoy the throaty, traditional burble that it affords the buyer. It’s just more traditional and a bit more macho. But Considering the fact that Ford has already sold 100,000 Ecoboost engines in the new F-150, if you are thinking of being a brother of the F-150 family it doesn’t really matter if it’s “Black or White.” Either way, you come out a winner. Perhaps not at the gas pumps, but that isn’t really the point with a full size pickup.