SIX&OUT

CAN THE NEW-AGE ECOBOOST V6 ENGINE IN THE F-150 HOLD ITS OWN AGAINST THE OLDSCHOOL V8? WE LINE THEM UP TO FIND OUT.

WORDS MATT WOOD PHOTOS NATHAN DUFF AND MATT WOOD

FORDíS EcoBoost badge doesnít exactly conjure up flattering commentary from Australian punters. For some it was the Ecoboost four-cylinder engine that was slotted between the íguards of the now defunct Falcon. For others itís an option in the current-model Mustang.

So when Ford decided to launch a range of EcoBoost engines for its US-dominant F-150, youíd be forgiven for thinking 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.

We grabbed the key fobs 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 Fordís 6R80 automatic transmission, but from 2017 EcoBoost-powered trucks will get a 10-speed automatic.

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 ECOBOOST V6

DOWNSIZING

AFTER the petrol-headed hoonery of the V8 we were somewhat dubious about the EcoBoost Effie. The green steed was almost identical in spec to the maroon V8 machine save the smaller engine Ė 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, thereís 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 twisting force is on tap from 2500rpm courtesy of its twin, low-inertia turbos. Thatís more than 1000rpm lower than the eight-iron.

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.

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

BIG FOOTPRINT

THE King Ranchís 20-inch alloy wheels arenít 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 summerís soft-sand conditions the flexible power delivery of the EcoBoost made it very easy to live with.

Fordís 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; still, a tub liner wouldnít 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 itís deceptively nimble in operation. This year the Effie is also set to get a diesel option for the first time, and the aluminium construction will extend to the bigger Super Duty range of F-Trucks.

SPECS

ENGINE FUEL POWER TORQUE TRANSMISSION DRIVE PAYLOAD TOWING WARRANTY PRICE AS TESTED *Exchange rate dependent

FORD F-150 KING RANCH ECOBOOST V6

DOHC twin-turbo V6 Unleaded 272kW (365hp) 570Nm @ 2500rpm six-speed automatic Part-time 4x4, two-speed transfer case 850kg 4000kg (braked) Four years/130,000km $153,000 (plus on-roads)*

FORD F-150 KING RANCH V8

DOHC five-litre V8 Unleaded 288kW (385hp) 525Nm @ 3850rpm six-speed automatic Part-time 4x4, two-speed transfer case 850kg 4000kg (braked) Four years/130,000km $150,000 (plus on-roads)*

RESULT

THE SENSIBLE DECISION

THEREíS no doubt the smart money is on the V6 F-150 as a tow engine, as itís torque output and power delivery makes it an effortless hauler. Itís easy to see why the EcoBoost powerplant has become so popular in the US, as it uses less juice and is the easiest engine to live with off-road. The trouble is, we just canít pass up on the Coyote.

The Raptor, Fordís off-road 4x4 hottie, has also dropped the V8 in favour of the EcoBoost V6 (read about it on page 92), and itís the engine of choice for Fordís 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 youíre limited to the 200 Series Land Cruiser or a Land Rover Discovery, though Nissanís petrol-powered Y62 should also rate a mention. American pick-ups gives you the best of both worlds.