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Ford Rolls out New F-150

Ford's investment in pickup tech for the new F-150 includes the EcoBoost engine and a new take on power steering.

A new pickup truck, even a light-duty F-150-class machine, can be quite interesting. Often the newest technology shows up in that higher-volume mass consumer truck before it makes its way into the heavier duty machines. That may be what prospective pickup buyers may be thinking as Ford rolls out the new 2011 F-150.

Ford, which has had its share of successful new product launches after its own near-death experience in 2008, is pushing ahead with a no-government money approach to new product investing that's down-right exiting. One key product feature you'll be hearing more about is the EcoBoost engine.

Ford plows into 2011 with the new F-150, with more engine choices and a first-ever across-the-line use of a six-speed transmission.

The first Eco-Boost engine went into the reshaped Ford Taurus SHO and offers head-snapping acceleration in a heavy, full-size car. That same V-6 engine, with some tweaks, is one of four engine choices for you pickup buyers. I'll run down the specs on the new EcoBoost first, then give you the particulars on the other three. And I'll close with a look at a unique steering system Ford's gone to with the new rig.

The 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine delivers 365 horsepower and a heavy pulling 420 pounds-feet of torque. And the company is saying the engine will deliver those numbers and offer better fuel economy. In the Taurus that engine pushes 365 hp, but the ford engineers have found another 70 lb.-ft. of torque for the truck version. In the Taurus, the EcoBoost also gets 25 mpg on the highway, not sure the F-150 will be quite that good.

The key of the EcoBoost idea is to get V8 power without that thirsty V8 performance, and the new engine has been well-received in the auto press. With the EcoBoost engine the F-150 can pull up to 11,300 pounds, which is an easy pull of a fully loaded three-horse trailer or a 30-foot boat.

The new F-150 keeps some of the convenience features including the tailgate step.

Key to that engine's performance is the use of twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection. The company claims the engine delivers that high torque number from 1,700 rpm through 5,000 rpm. The engine also features twin independent variable camshaft timing so intake and exhaust valves are actually independent of each other. That gives the engine control computer plenty of leeway in boosting engine performance.

This is an all-new engine for the F-150, but the company claims 1.5 million hours of analytical time; 13,000 hours of dynamometer testing and 100,000 hours of vehicle test time. They're working to prove the EcoBoost is truly "Ford Tough."

That EcoBoost joins a big family of engine choices for the F-150 including a 3.7-liter V6, a 5.0 liter V8 and a 6.2-liter V8.

The car-like interior, pioneered by Ford as far back as the last 1960s, continues. This one gets the popular SYNC system offering voice command and Bluetooth accessibility for your cell phone.

Each engine is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, and Ford is the first to equip its entire full-size pickup line with the 6-speed auto. This does boost fuel economy even for that big-bore V8. That EcoBoost engine will be available in early 2011.

Smooth Steering

For the 2011 Ford F-150, you'll find a new kind of "tunable" steering called electric power assisted steering - or EPAS - which Ford says can be tuned for optimum feel for on-road and parking efforts.

You'll get the on-road feel you'll need, but an easy-turning truck with parking time comes, according to Ford. EPAS-type steering systems are becoming more popular because they also help with fuel economy too.

Ford says the new F-150s will offer 20% better fuel economy than their 2010 predecessors. These new trucks should be arriving in dealerships soon.

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