Ford has already proven with its aluminum body that it is willing to take big risks with its best-selling F-150 pickup, and for 2017, the brand is introducing new technology that could ruin the way its best-seller drives.
Engine: 3.5-liter turbocharged V6
Output: 370 hp, 460 lb-ft
Transmission: 10-speed auto
US Fuel Economy (MPG): 17 city, 21 hwy (4x4)
CAN Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 13.6 city, 10.3 hwy (4x4)
US Price: Starts at $26,025. As tested $46,700.
CAN Price: Starts at $30,049. As tested $53,000.
You need only see how Jeep’s launch of the jerky, unrefined nine-speed automatic in the Cherokee went over to understand how adding more gears to a transmission can complicate matters while bringing few benefits to the table. Luckily, it looks like Ford was watching its competitors, and the American brand doesn’t seem to be repeating others’ mistakes.
For 2017 Ford is using a new 10-speed automatic transmission connected to the top-dog 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, which has also been heavily revised, enough so that Ford calls this the second-generation of this engine, and rightfully so. There is a new twin port and direct injection fuel delivery system, the turbos have been redesigned and electronic wastegates have been added, a new variable-displacement oil pump is now in use among many other tweaks and revisions.
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What this all actually means for the consumer is that the truck has more power and it will burn less fuel.
Output is rated at 370 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, more torque than can be found in any other half-ton pickup at the moment and a 10 hp and 50 lb-ft boost compared to the previous 3.5-liter EcoBoost.
As mentioned there is a boost in fuel economy, but it certainly isn’t major, and actually seems lackluster considering the four extra forward gear ratios that have been added. But still, it is more power for less fuel burned, and it’s hard to complain about that.
Fuel economy for the rear-wheel-drive 2016 F-150 3.5-liter EcoBoost is pegged at 16 mpg city, 22 on the highway and 18 mpg combined, while all of the additions to the 2017 model add up to a 1-mpg gain in the city with the highway number staying the same, bringing the 2017 truck up to 19 mpg combined.
Four-wheel-drive models jump up from 15 to 17 mpg in the city and 20 on the highway to 21, bringing the average mpg of the 2017 truck up to 19 mpg, an improvement of 2 mpg combined.
In Canada, the 2016 3.5-liter EcoBoost F-150 is pegged at 13.5 L/100 km in the city and 9.8 on the highway, while the 2017 model gets boosted up to 12.7 L/100 km in the city and 9.5 on the highway when equipped with rear-wheel drive.
For 4×4 models, fuel economy in Canada for the 2017 is rated at 13.8 L/100 km in the city and 10.3 L/100 km on the highway, also a slight improvement over the 2016 model.
Approaching the revised 2017 F-150, you wouldn’t know that anything has changed, unless you notice some of the new graphics that are available for this model year. That story is essentially the same when you drive the truck, and that is certainly not a bad thing.
The new power is noticeable immediately when you pour on the throttle, blasting this truck to highway speeds. Tip-in power is immediate, and the small bit of lag that came along with the last-generaton 3.5-liter EcoBoost seems to be completely gone, mainly because of the new lower starting gear ratios helping power get to the ground.
SEE MORE: 2017 Ford Super Duty Review
Ford offers a small graphic in the info cluster, showing you which gear the truck is in at all times, and it allows you to watch the 10-speed’s busy dance, jumping between ratios often and quickly to find exactly where the power is. If you were to only watch this readout, you might think that this transmission doesn’t know what it wants, but that’s not the story the truck tells.
Each shift is smooth and well calculated, keeping the truck in the power when necessary and upshifting often to save fuel. What is truly special about this transmission is a unique one-way clutch that allows for non-sequential shifting. This allows for huge jumps around the ratios. While cruising at 60 mph (97 km/h), push the throttle to the floor and the truck pops down into fifth quickly and seamlessly, wasting no time at all in delivering what you need as a driver.
Our time spent with the 2017 F-150 didn’t include any trailer towing, but this truck will almost assuredly be an even more stout workhorse thanks again to those new lower gears, helping to put low-end torque to the wheels to get weight moving. A redesigned tow/haul mode should also help with moving big weight around, as will Ford’s gear selection tool, a set of small buttons that allows you to limit the number of gears the truck can use. So if you want to limit it to just six gears and have the transmission operate as a six-speed you can do that.
Overall, the driving dynamics of the F-150 remain, and that is also a good thing. This truck drives the lightest of the half-ton bunch, with the ability to tuck into a corner and feel nimble, at least as trucks go. The medium weighting of the steering wheel provides a decent feeling in your hands, although the wheel itself is mostly lifeless and insulated from the road below it.
The only weak point of the truck after a full day of driving was fuel economy. Even with the ratings boost, the truck didn’t perform all that great in the real world, and our day with truck ended at a 15.6-mpg average (15.1 L/100 km). While some of that time was spent filming our video review, which requires lots of starting and stopping, much of that time was spent cruising on the open highway, where this truck, with its three overdrive gears at the top end, should be its most efficient.
In the U.S., a basic F-150 sells for $26,025, while our Lariat-trim tester equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost sells for about $46,700. In comparison, the Chevy Silverado leaves dealer lots for a base price of $29,080, while for about $47,000, you can get a Silverado with a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 and comparable equipment.
In Canada, the 2017 F-150 begins at $30,049, including destination charges, while the Lariat 4×4 model that we tested with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost sells for about $53,000. At the very top end, the F-150 Limited with a few options adds up to $75,969.
The Verdict: 2017 Ford F-150 Review
Ford has taken what was already a powerful, clever pickup truck and made it even better with some new clever engineering. And the brand isn’t slowing down. In 2018, Ford will introduce a new diesel engine along with revisions to its entire F-150 engine lineup, which include this 10-speed mating to nearly all of the truck’s engine options.
If the transmission operates as well in those applications as it does with the 3.5-liter, it looks like Ford’s latest bet on future technology in its pickups is another big winner.