Ford Hoping New F-150 Will Take the Lead As Most Fuel Efficient Pickup

Ford Motor Co. is taking steps for the Ford F-150 to beat the Ram EcoDiesel in fuel economy, but it’s still too early to tell whether changes in store will be enough.

The redesigned 2015 F-150 received aluminum body panels instead of steel. For 2017, two models will get a new powertrain as Ford sets its sight on its goal of improving its conventional powertrain to beat the present leader.

The 2016 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel earned a class-leading EPA rating of 29 mpg highway. The top F-150 is 3 mpg behind at 26 mpg highway.

Ford also unveiled a 10-speed automatic transmission and the second generation of its 3.5-liter twin turbo V6 engine. The new transmission and engine will be available starting this fall in the F-150 Raptor, a high-performance off-road truck, and regular F-150s ordered with the 3.5-liter engine.

Both the new transmission and V6 engine are lighter than the components they replace. Both feature less internal friction, which saps power and reduces fuel economy.

The transmission was designed as part of a joint venture with General Motors. It has an integrated torque converter turbine clutch, an internal pump that keeps the transmission pressurized when the standard start-system is operational.

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The new Ford 3.5-liter engine, rated at 365 horsepower and 450 pounds-feet of torque, has two fuel injection systems – port and direct. The dual systems help lower emissions, especially during cold starts. The port system works when the engine is cold and at lower rpms, said Jim Mazuchowski, Ford’s new V6 engine programs manager.

Ford wouldn’t comment on expected fuel economy gains with the new transmission and engine. The current F-150 with the 3.5-liter turbo engine is EPA rated at 17 mpg city and 24 on the highway. Ford’s highest rated F-150 has an EPA rating of 19 mpg city/26 highway.

Even if the refreshed F-150 can’t beat the Ram EcoDiesel in fuel economy, it probably won’t affect U.S. sales, said IHS Automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley. The F-150 is currently selling twice as many units as the Ram, she said.

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