Earlier this month (April 6th) I was fortunate enough to be invited to Ford’s “Built Ford Tough” campaign. Before I go any further, let me say that the only thing I was offered as a participant was a light breakfast and a day of fun with some trucks. It was the Ultimate test drive in my opinion. We got to test trucks from different manufacturers in real world conditions, we also got to drive the trucks back to back. This in turn allowed me to form real world educated opinions on different brands at similar price points.
After meeting up with other people from the media we were given a 30 minute presentation of all the new Ford Engines. While I love driving vehicles I normally don’t have much interest about the things like the engines and how much horse power it can produce. All those numbers are just numbers to me. One thing this session allowed me realized is how something so small can make a huge difference in measurable performance.
The biggest news was Ford’s new twin-turbocharged with 365 hp, 420 lb-ft torque, and 11,300 lbs. towing capacity. Ford is touting it as a V6 which delivers the power of a V8. The beauty of the EcoBoost system is that it takes relatively few changes to go from a standard 3.5-liter V6 to a fire-breathing, twin-turbo monster developing peak torque at 1500 RPM.
The two main upgrades that give this engine an edge over other similar engines is the combination of “direct injection” and “turbo boost”. Those two main updates drive the smaller, but smartly executed, changes around them. Other interesting facts are:
- The Ecoboost engine was modeled after a Diesel engine
- EcoBoost engines have more torque at lower revs then a V8 Hemi engine
- F-150 returned as high as 32 mpg in “hypermiling” techniques
I was pleasantly surprised that the “Sales” pitch time was kept to a minimum. It’s nice to hear about all this power but I wanted to actually FEEL it. Ford was so confident that we would like their products better they put their money were their mouth was. We were given a side-by-side comparison between four different trucks. These weren’t just Ford trucks. They brought in the best trucks from Ford, Dodge, and Chevy. We were paired up into teams and test drove each truck on the highway. We spent 10-15 minutes in each truck. We did things people would typically do like pass vehicles on the highway. The one thing that wasn’t typical about the drive was that each truck had a large fully loaded trailer attached. All trailers were the same size and weight.
The sway control on the Ford was fantastic and anyone who needs to pull a trailer will appreciate it. What is really impressive about ford is that that the sway control is standard on even the lowest entry F-150. The other trucks can be ordered with sway control but there is a large additional fee that goes along with it. I never once felt the trailer behind me in the Ford Ecoboost truck. With the new turbo charged engine passing vehicles was almost too easy. The interior of the ford trucks were very ergonomically constructed and positioned. I had a ton of room all around me and the ergonomic chair seemed to hug me like no other. It was possibly the most comfortable chair I’ve ever had the fortunate chance to sit in. Being tall and having a bad back I really welcomed this comfort. All the settings were very easy to reach. I never once felt like I had to take my eyes off the road in order to change something. As most companies are putting more and more options into vehicles it was nice to see how Ford cares about our safety by making the designs work for us.
After the first 12 or so minutes I got to head over to the Dodge truck. While it was very comfortable I found the seats weren’t nearly as nice and there wasn’t nearly as much room in the cab. I found my head constantly hitting the roof because it was a bit lower then the Ford’s interior. I was able to change the position of the seat but it didn’t help much. As for power and performance the truck handled great, but I could definitely feel the trailer behind me. Passing with the Dodge truck was good but I could sure tell I was missing that extra zip from the turbo chargers in the Ford truck. I’m sure if I had not driven the Ford before this truck I might have thought it had a lot of power. The interior of the truck was nice but not great. If I had to change a setting I needed to look for it.
I am going to say up front how terrible the next ride was. We got to drive the Chevy truck last. I know this might seem like a huge exaggeration but I am sure my Corolla would have done a better job at pulling the trailer. Ok Ok I exaggerated a bit! Honestly, the Chevy wasn’t even close to being in the same league as the other two companies. There was no zip, features were sparse and interior looked like it came from a the year 2000.
After completing the hauling component we took a break and met up at the drag race area. We were given the opportunity to pick what ever truck that was available and drag race them. This honestly was my favorite part of the day. The Ford reps encouraged us to step on the gas as hard as we possibly could. A person controlling a computer system would measure measure our speed and reaction time. After the drag race section they setup an obstacle course that allowed us to see just how well the trucks could maneuver. Doing the obstacle course also served as a way to give the attendant a bit extra time to print off your race particulars.
Very similar to the earlier tests the Ford trucks consistently felt more powerful and handled better than the competition. The V8 Titanium truck was a riot. While it didn’t have the turbo charged engine, the truck could hit high speeds really fast. I was lucky enough to drive it twice on the track. Much like other test the Dodge speed and handling was good but failed to give me the same rush that I felt driving the Fords. It was pretty apparent how badly the Chevy trucks performed when comparing the trucks side-by-side.