2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Introduction
Aside from the occasional horsepower or towing capacity battles, there often isn't a lot of new news to write about in the pickup truck segment. Enter the Ford F-150. With a completely new line-up of engines in 2011, the Ford F-150 gained a lot of attention, but it was the turbocharged EcoBoost engine that was the most interesting. As a matter of fact, this engine made such an impact on the truck market that the Ford F-150 EcoBoost was named the Autobytel 2012 Truck of the Year. Following this announcement, we had the chance to the put some serious miles on a 2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost over a two-week period to see how the truck measured up in terms of everyday driveability, comfort, towing and hauling and, of course, fuel economy.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Pricing and Trim Levels
Our test vehicle was built at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich., but the 2012 Ford F-150 is also built at the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo. With four engines, 10 trim levels, three bed lengths, three cab configurations and the option of two- or four-wheel drive, the 2012 Ford F-150 can be tailored to meet just about any demand. Although the 2012 F-150 has a starting price of $22,990, the truck used for this review was a Lariat SuperCrew 4x2 with EcoBoost which raised the starting price up $39,475. After tallying up all of the options, this F-150 had an as-tested price of $47,350 which surprisingly isn't that high of a price for a light-duty truck these days. With all of the luxury and technology added into this truck, we're sure truck buyers - and Ford alike - aren't really missing the slow-selling Lincoln pickups.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Competition
When it comes to full-size pickup trucks, the 2012 Ford F-150 goes up against the usual suspects that include the RAM 1500, Chevrolet Silverado, Nissan Titan, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra. Like some of these trucks, the F-150 comes with a V-6 engine in base form, but the optional EcoBoost engine gives the Ford an edge over its competition with a mix of strength and efficiency - a unique blend that is sure to resonate with those putting their trucks to work. It is innovations like the EcoBoost engine that has made the Ford F-Series so popular, and with a model range that includes the F-150 and the F-250, F-350 and F-450 Super Duty models, the F-Series pickup sold 584,917 units in 2011 (an increase of 10.7 percent over 2010) making it the best-selling vehicle for 30th straight year and the best-selling truck for the last 35 years.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Exterior
From a design standpoint, all modern full-size trucks are much more styling than the trucks from just 10 years ago, but the 2012 Ford F-150 is about the middle of the pack with the Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra being two of the better lookers. Still, what the F-150 lacks in flashiness, it more than makes up for with a muscular stance thanks to a squared-off front end, bulging wheel arches and the massive vertical grille. Speaking of the grille, each of the F-150's 10 trim levels is distinguishable by a different grille design or finish with the Lariat model getting a large mix of chrome and mesh for its centerpiece. Our particular truck came in a $495 White Platinum Metallic Tri-Coat exterior color and added a $250 two-tone paint scheme featuring a Pale Adobe (beige) accent surrounding the lower edges of the body, and the truck's upscale look was finished off with the $1,495 Lariat Chrome Package option which added a set of 18-inch, seven-spoke chrome wheels and chrome side steps. This truck also came with the shorter 5.5-foot cargo bed, which cost an extra $300 more than a standard 6-foot bed, and inside the bed was a $250 two-piece bed extender to finish off the exterior add-ons.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Interior
Even without the best-in-class EcoBoost engine, the 2012 Ford F-150 still has plenty to write home about including an interior that dominates the competition. This SuperCrew Lariat had a luxurious interior fitted with optional leather seats and accented with light wood trim, but the best place to be was actually the back seat where this truck felt more like a Lincoln Town Car than a tough and rugged pickup; to put it into context, the F-150 SuperCrew has almost as much rear legroom than an extended-wheelbase Town Car! The split rear seat folds (and locks) up out of the way creating a wide, flat load surface that can hold large, bulky cargo you wouldn't want rattling around in the bed of the truck like a flat-screen television. To add even more luxury to our test vehicle, this F-150 also had the five-passenger seating configuration which replaced the front bench seat with bucket seats and a wide center console. This layout offers a deep, lockable center storage area and replaces the truck-like column-mounted shifter with a center console shifter. One of the best features inside the F-150 Lariat is the 4.5-inch LCD message center located in the gauge cluster. This screen can display various information such as trip, fuel economy and distance to empty, but some of the more innovate screens include steering wheel angle, towing information and an inclinometer showing vehicle angle (front to back and side to side). Like most current Ford products, this F-150 was equipped with Sync for phone and audio connectivity and even turn-by-turn directions at the push of a button.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Interior Packages and Options
The Lariat trim level of the 2012 Ford F-150 has plenty of luxury, but our test truck still added a bunch of optional features and packages to make the F-150 comfortable in all situations whether it is being driven on a long-distance road trip or heading over to the job site. This truck came with a $995 power moonroof, $975 leather bucket seats with heated and cooled front buckets and the $950 Lariat Plus Package adding remote start, reverse sensing system and a backup camera; the biggest option was the $2,495 Sony navigation radio package. With the large navigation display screen and the backup camera, the F-150 also offers a unique zoom feature for the rear camera allowing the driver to get a close-up look of what's behind the truck primarily to aid those who trailer frequently. This camera is so useful that it should make hooking up to a trailer a simple task even for rookies.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Ford says that by 2013, 90 percent of its global vehicles will offer an EcoBoost engine, and the V-6 version of this engine can be equipped in seven of the 10 2012 Ford F-150 models (with the STX, SVT Raptor and Harley-Davidson trim level excluded). On all other models, this 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged, direct-injected EcoBoost V-6 is offered as an option with prices ranging from $895 up to almost $6,000 depending on the specific configuration. Although the 3.5-liter EcoBoost is shared with the Ford Flex and Ford Taurus SHO (to name a couple), this version is tuned to maximize towing abilities with 365 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque with 90 percent of that torque being available between 1,700 rpm and 5,000 rpm. With that much torque available at such a low rpm, the F-150 EcoBoost makes easy work out of hauling just about anything with its best-in-class 11,300-pound towing capacity. Better yet, it can do all this without giving up fuel economy with the EPA giving it estimates of 16 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway and a rating of 18 mpg in combined driving. All models use a six-speed automatic transmission, but this Lariat comes with the SelectShift transmission that not only offers a manual shift mode but the driver can also set a max top gear (meaning that the six-speed can drop down to a two-speed) which really helps in some towing conditions.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Driving Impressions
During our time with the 2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost, we were able to put about 1,500 miles on the truck, and while trucks are no longer a smart buy for those that don't really need a pickup, those with hauling and towing needs will be very impressed. Unloaded, the F-150 felt very smooth on the road with a noticeable lack of bounce over rough roads or freeway expansion joints, but throw some weight in the cargo bed, and this truck feels even smoother. Add in the electric power assist steering (EPAS) that is standard on all non-6.2L models, and this 5,287-pound truck - measuring in at just under 20 feet long - feels like a much smaller car when it comes to tight maneuvering whether that be parallel parking or backing up a trailer. Speaking of parallel parking, of all the EPAS-equipped Ford vehicles running around with Active Park Assist, adding this innovative feature to the F-150 would have been a great way to stand out.
While we managed to get about average fuel economy for a pickup truck during our interstate drive, one area of note for prospective F-150 EcoBoost is that if you don't need the large tow mirrors, try to avoid the Max Trailer Tow Package. This $565 option does add the integrated trailer brake controller, but the large mirrors also reduce fuel economy substantially. For most of the drive, we averaged just under 19 mpg (which is far below the EPA-rated 22 mpg), but during a 60-mile test run with the mirrors folded in, the F-150 was hitting right at 22 mpg even at speeds over 70 miles per hour.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Safety
The 2012 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x2 received a four-star overall crash rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which includes a three-star frontal rating, five-star side-impact rating and a four-star rollover rating. Likewise, this same body style of the F-150 was also named a 2012 Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for its top crash ratings. standard safety features in all 2012 Ford F-150 models include six airbags, four-wheel anti-lock disc brake system, traction control, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control (RSC), trailer sway control and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Final Thoughts
It's hard to go wrong with any of the engine options available in the 2012 Ford F-150, but if you're looking to maximize towing abilities without sacrificing fuel economy, than the EcoBoost model is definitely the way to go. Even as rising gasoline prices have pushed some of the more casual truck buyers out of the market, the F-150 EcoBoost is still able to meet the more demanding needs of those who will use it as a work truck while keeping it a smooth and comfortable everyday vehicle. In addition to this powerful engine, the 2012 Ford F-150 also offers plenty of innovative features that make truck ownership even easier such as the integrated tailgate step and the Ford Work Solutions system. For buyers wanting a loud V-8 rumble to emanate from the back of the F-150, there are two proven V-8s from which to choose, but the addition of the EcoBoost engine brings the F-150 into the 21st Century where fuel economy reigns supreme without giving up any of the required brute force.
2012 Ford F-150 EcoBoost Review: Pros and Cons
- V-8 power and towing with V-6 fuel economy
- spacious and luxurious amenities on Lariat SuperCrew model
- plenty of innovative technologies make the F-150 the best pickup on the market
- optional tow mirrors hinder fuel economy
- exterior styling trails Ram and Toyota
- with so many build configurations, potential owners might be overwhelmed
Ford provided the vehicle for this review
Photos by Jeffrey N. Ross