It’s not one of those grunting, rattling 935-pound-feet torque monsters that can tow a house before breakfast without even working up a sweat. Ford already has that box checked, thank you very much, in the honkin’, optional 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 stuffed under the massive hood of the Super Duty F-250 pickup.
No, what we have here is the kind of oil-burner that you can take home to meet your mother, maybe even pull into a sleepy cul-de-sac without scaring the children and causing every dog in the neighborhood to start barking. It’s as quiet in operation as any modern gasoline V8, so hushed in fact that you may have to read the fender script just to make sure there’s a compression-ignition engine at work in there.
Except it’s no V8. Available for the first time ever in the “light duty” Ford F-150 pickup is a Power Stroke turbodiesel V6, bringing the option of diesel power to America’s best-selling vehicle, car or truck, notoriety Ford’s evergreen pickup has enjoyed for nearly four decades.
The turbodiesel Lion King
The new 3.0-liter Power Stroke has its origins in the Lion V6 diesel family originally developed for Land Rover and Jaguar products back when Ford owned those brands in the early 2000s. A version of that engine powers today’s Range Rover and Range Rover Sport models.
A Range Rover diesel in a near three-ton Ford pickup, you say? How could that possibly be enough engine for a workhorse pickup?
For F-150 duty, Ford updated the free-breathing DOHC four-valve-per-cylinder Lion family diesel with, among other things, a variable-geometry turbocharger, bolstered the bottom end with a tougher forged-steel crankshaft, upgraded the main and connecting-rod bearings, and hot-weather-proofed it with a higher-capacity cooling system.
Still, with “just” 250 horsepower on tap, the new 3.0-liter V6 Power Stroke turbodiesel would seem to be outgunned by every gas engine in the F-150 lineup, from the base 290-hp 3.3-liter V6 to the newly enhanced 450-hp 3.5-liter High Output EcoBoost V6. Even in terms of torque, the V6 Power Stroke diesel’s 440 pound-feet can’t match the 510 pound-feet of the F-150’s optional 3.5-liter High Output gas V6.
But that would be missing the point of why diesels are so popular for doing traditional truck tasks such as hauling and towing. At 11,400 and 1,940 pounds, respectively, depending on cab/bed/drive configuration, the V6 Power Stroke’s towing and payload numbers are very respectable.
The Power Stroke V6 diesel shines because, as with other diesels, its peak torque comes in early at just 1,750 rpm, way sooner than in any gas V6 or V8, and stays strong in the midrange. So acceleration from rest is effortless and a very light part-throttle tip-in from the driver keeps the turbocharger on boil for tackling most uphill grades with minimum effort and little or no downshifting required. As a result, the Power Stroke V6 barely works up a sweat, even when it’s moving the extra poundage of a load or trailer, and fuel economy benefits as a result.
The 2019 Ford F-150 Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel is available with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive (2WD or 4WD). In 2WD guise, the EPA fuel economy estimates are a segment-leading 22/30/25 miles per gallon (city/highway/combined), which tops those of the 2018 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V6 by nearly 10 percent. That translates to a bladder-busting, 690-mile cruising range with the standard 23-gallon fuel tank (a 36-gallon tank is optional on some models, too.) The 4WD F-150 V6 turbodiesel models are certified with more aggressive tires and a shorter final drive ratio and net EPA estimates of 20/25/22 miles per gallon. I saw an indicated 21.4 miles per gallon over a week of mostly urban/suburban driving.
A big enabler to making the new Power Stroke V6 work as well as it does is Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. Developed in cooperation with General Motors, the new 10-speed is standard with the V6 turbodiesel. The first six cogs are shorter and help get the near three-ton rig up and moving, seventh is direct drive, and the top-three gears keep revs low for efficient highway and interstate cruising.
The new 10-speed is now running in everything from Ford Expeditions and Mustangs to GMC Sierra Denalis and Camaros. It’s an especially important add in the case of the F-150 Power Stroke because diesels love low revs. Smaller steps between the gears of the new 10-speed mean the diesel can spend more time in the sweet part of the torque curve, which in this case is 1,750 to 2,250 rpm.
The transmission shift quality is exemplary, and it can swap multiple cogs – say on a 6-2 downshift – without hesitation or visiting every gear on the way there. The neat thing is the driver can actually see which of the many gears on offer the truck is actually in by checking the dash display.
Luxury, American style
To be sure, $60,000 is a lot of money to spend on a truck, even if it does have many of the luxury touches and tech content that can be found in premium-brand cars and SUVs. But that’s where we are now. The F-150 SuperCrew 4WD test truck seen in these photos with Platinum trim, the Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel, and a few options stickered at $67,315 including the $1,495 destination and delivery charge.
That said, upper trim levels of the F-150 such as the Platinum and Limited come fairly close to rivaling European and Asian sedan and SUV offerings in terms of luxury fitments. Aside from the expected leather and other upgraded trim, such niceties as massaging seats, a 360-degree camera display, adaptive cruise control (even when pulling a trailer), and a surround-sound Bang & Olufsen high-end sound system are available. Optional automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and a Pro Trailer Backup Assist that once and for all takes the guesswork out of backing up a trailer are on offer as well.
Off and running
Herculean payload and towing bragging rights are not the F-150 Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel’s forte. In its optimal configuration, the Power Stroke V6 can tow up to 11,400 pounds. It can handle a payload just shy of 2,000 pounds as well. Both of those numbers easily top that of the 2018 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. But what the numbers don’t convey is just how effortless the Power Stroke V6 is while achieving those bogies. The U.K.-built Power Stroke V6 has almost no diesel clatter.
The Volkswagen Group’s diesel emissions-cheating scandal may have peed in the pool water of diesel sedan and SUV sales, but here in the States demand for compression-ignition pickups is as strong as ever.
So, the stage is now set for a light-duty diesel pickup renaissance. Ram introduced its Italian-made EcoDiesel V6 in 2014 and set the bar for light-duty truck fuel economy. General Motors is introducing its own six-cylinder turbodiesel for 1500-series Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra models in 2019 as well. With the F-150 Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel in the mix, the top three selling vehicles in the U.S. will be offering light-duty diesels.
Ford expects about 5 percent of F-150 buyers will opt for the Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel, which doesn’t sound like much until you consider just how many of its full-size pickup the automaker sells each year. If nothing else, that means that America’s cul-de-sacs will be getting a whole lot quieter moving forward.