ProPickup Road Test: 2013 F-150 EcoBoost
ROAD TRIPPING IN ECOBOOST
Ford’s 3.5L V-6 F-150 a stealthy little performer; strong on power and comfort
by Bruce W. Smith
EcoBoost. It’s a name that sounds more like an energy drink than a pickup that would be a good addition to the stable of work trucks in any contracting, construction or landscaping business.
But that’s exactly what Ford’s F-150 EcoBoost stacks up to be: a really good business owner’s truck.
With a choice of 10 trim levels and five axle ratios, the 2013 F-150 EcoBoost truly allows for the small business owner in the building trades to fine-tune this particular Blue Oval offering to fit the need.
One can go from the bare-bones two-door XL work truck to the maxxed-out four-door Limited with the price range spanning $25,000 – $55,000.
The choices are a bit mind-boggling if you actually think about it.
Somewhere in the middle of all those makes and models sits the SuperCrew XLT 4X4. It’s the meat-and-spuds F-150; a pickup well-suited for the contractor who wants just enough luxury to balance daily work needs with weekend family needs.
It’s also the model I found myself driving for a two-week stretch earlier this year: a test drive that included a four-day, 500-mile interstate jaunt between the Mississippi Gulf Coast and our corporate offices in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Another 200 miles behind the wheel of Ford’s newest F-150 iteration were spent in a mix of city and country driving, stopping at road paving, site prep and heavy construction jobsites along the way.
Typical miles for what I’d expect a contractor or company owner to be doing.
Ford’s hottest-selling F-150 didn’t disappoint for the most part: The level of interior comfort and road manners in the XLT are among the very best of any pickup currently on the road.
I credit that to how the design engineers have tuned the suspension, the switch to electric power steering in the F-150, and the general layout of the XLTs interior.
If you are wear big-boy work clothes, this truck has an abundance of leg, hip, head and shoulder room front and rear.
Combine that spaciousness with the 6-way power driver’s seat and adjustable pedals that are part of the Equipment Group 302A option package ($4,080), and one has a nice mobile office.
That same option package includes power-sliding rear window, rear-view camera, Sat radio, and Ford’s 4-inch LCD screen in the center of the dash.
Convenience items such as defroster and power windows/locks, along with the trailer brake controller and select-shift 6-speed automatic, are also included.
The cloth bucket front seats and all those extras makes it easy to get – and stay — comfortable behind the wheel be it for a short trip or one that puts you on the road for half-a-day or more.
One option I’m glad my test truck didn’t come with are running boards.
The F-150’s step-in height is moderate. But running boards would make it cumbersome because you’d need to duck your head getting in the cab.
On the other hand, the optional tailgate step is cool.
Like the F-150’s big brothers, the $375 step is hidden inside the top of the tailgate so it’s easy to pull out and deploy when the gate is open. A must-have option for anyone working out of their pickup.
LOVE THOSE TURBOS
Then there’s the best option of all: the 3.5L EcoBoost V-6.
You couldn’t get a better engine upgrade for the $1,095 Ford charges for the 365hp twin-turbo powerhouse.
Start it up and the EcoBoost has that quiet patter of a truck V-6. Nothing special. It’s smooth and unassuming, which is just the opposite of the F-150 Raptor’s 6.2L V-8 and throaty exhaust.
The EcoBoost’s exhaust note is even quiet when you roll deeply into the throttle and feel those twin turbos come to life.
Those tiny little turbos, one tucked tight on each side of the block, can instantly turn uphill grades into flats – and flats into a downhill rushes.
All it takes is a heavy right foot.
I took the truck to Gulfport Dragway for a half-dozen romps down the ¼-mile strip.
The EcoBoost isn’t as fast as the F-150 Lightning or Raptor.
But the drivers of those two muscletrucks better be on their “A”-game or the results of an impromptu stoplight challenge with the EcoBoost will be embarrassing.
The 5,600-pound EcoBoost Super Crew hits 60 in 6.9 seconds and runs the traps in 15.4 seconds at a shade over 90mph.
That’s cookin’ for a four-wheel-drive pickup on all-terrain tires.
Its four-wheel disc brakes are every bit as strong as those under the Raptor, bringing it to a halt from 60mph in an impressive 129 feet.
The EcoBoost is just as impressive showing its muscle with a trailer in-tow. I had a chance to drive several F-150s with different engine options last year while towing 8,000-pound box trailers.
Each truck was equipped with a weight-distributing hitch per Ford’s towing requirements. And each was driven over the same stretch of Texas hill country in back-to-back runs.
In the end it was clear the 3.5L EcoBoost will easily out-pull the 5.0L F-150s and make a run at the 6.2Ls until the big V-8’s show why it’s torque that wins towing wars.
So if you are worried a V-6 can’t handle the towing work load compared to a V-8, don’t be; the 3.5L EcoBoost has the muscle when it’s needed.
A shout-out to the automatic trans guys, too.
Ford’s 6-speed automatic is sweet, with quick, butter smooth shifts under normal driving, and quick shifts in the manual “select shift” mode that really help when towing in hilly or mountainous terrain.
But there’s a price to pay for that V-6 muscle: fuel economy.
The EPA numbers say 15/21 city/hwy. But what I saw over 600 miles of interstate driving is the 4×4 SuperCrew XLT gets 18mpg cruising at 70mph. Drop to 65mph and it stays around 19mpg.
That 21mpg EPA number only showed up when I had the truck cruising at 55mph on flat interstate under ideal conditions.
What I noted is the F-150 EcoBoost’s mpg numbers are very sensitive to speed – and the heaviness of one’s right foot. Drive conservatively and it gets the 25-percent better fuel economy one would expect by lopping off two cylinders of a V-8.
Stay with the flow of the faster traffic, or bring those turbos into boost-mode, and it’ll suck up fuel faster than dry sweep absorbs oil.
Around town the fuel economy of the XLT I was driving stayed pretty close to the EPA 15mpg listed on the window sticker.
But, again, if you are aggressive from stoplights, or have a heavier foot, that number will fall quickly to low-13s.
Even with the less-than-stellar fuel economy numbers, I think the 2013 F-150 EcoBoost XLT Super Crew is a strong contender for being the best ½-ton of the year.
It provides a comfortable, well-designed and appointed pickup that can deliver excellent fuel numbers and power – just not a the same time.—Pro
2013 F-150 EcoBoost Specifications
MODEL: 4×4 SuperCrew XLT
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,300 (base price: $37,965)
ENGINE: twin-turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 24-valve V-6
- Displacement: 214 cid (3510 cc)
- Power: 365hp @ 5,000rpm
- Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 2,500rpm
AXLE RATIO: 3.55 w/ limited-slip
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
- Wheelbase: 144.5 in
- Length: 231.9 in Width: 79.2 in
- Height: 76.7 in
- Curb weight: 5,615 lb
- Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs conventional; 9,600 lbs w/W-D hitch
- Zero to 60 mph: 6.9 sec
- Standing ¼-mile: 15.4 sec @ 91 mph
- Top speed (governor limited): 101 mph
- Braking, 60–0 mph: 129 ft
- EPA city/highway driving: 15/21 mpg
- ProPickup observed: 15/18 mpg (Hwy @70mph)