An EcoBoost that really hauls

Ford's F-150 Lariat is more than just a pickup truck. It’s a palace on wheels that gets better than 30 mpg.

Ford is claiming best in class performance, fuel economy and payload with the F-150 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine as fitted in this Lariat 4X4 Platinum.

Ford is claiming best in class performance, fuel economy and payload with the F-150 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine as fitted in this Lariat 4X4 Platinum.

This is more than just a pickup truck.

It’s a palace on wheels that gets better than 30 mpg.

Tested here is the Ford F-150 Lariat, the topline model, with the bonus of the ultra-lux Platinum trim package.

It’s big no matter how you look at it.

Coming back from the recent Detroit Auto Show in a Ford Focus, changing to the F-150 was like moving from a townhouse into a castle.

It took me a while to get used to the length. I found myself parking with the tailgate sticking out into oncoming shopping mall traffic more than once.

But once I got familiar with the location of the four corners I came to realize why people love their trucks.

There is so much cabin space, legroom, hiproom, you name it that it’s like the first class cabin on Air Canada.

Tested here is the SuperCrew version with the largest backseat volume Ford offers. It’s big for sure with generous seating for three, very big adults.

Saying fuel-efficient and pickup truck in the same sentence was just not possibe— until now.

Tested here is the 2012 Lariat with 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 engine. FYI, it was a 2011 but prices remain the same for 2012 so you can technically call my tester a 2012. I checked with Ford and they agreed.

The engine produces 365 hp and 420 lb/ft of torque and can haul up to 5,126 kg or 11,300 pounds (enough to tow a fully loaded three-horse trailer or 30-foot boat) and on regular gas. Ford claims its payload rating of 3,060 lb (1,388 kg) is the best in its class.

EcoBoost is a family of direct fuel-injected, turbocharged four- and six-cylinder gasoline engines that are designed to produce horsepower and torque equivalent to six- and eight-cylinder engines respectively. At the same time, they achieve about 20 per cent fuel savings and reduce greenhouse gases by about 15 per cent.

The 3.5-litre EcoBoost is one of four engines available for this year’s F-150, the others being a base 3.7-litre DOHC V6, a 5.0-litre DOHC V8 as also found in the Mustang and a 6.2-litre OHV V8.

Before the EcoBoost 3.5-litre was released in 2010, Ford engineers put on 2,575,000 km (1.6 million miles) of the harshest-use customer testing it could.

Up to 90 per cent of the EcoBoost truck engine’s peak torque is available from 1,700 rpm to 5,500 rpm. A typical comparable V8 competitor reaches peak torque at higher engine speeds (around 4,000 rpm) and holds it for a much smaller range.

Ford has made a six-speed automatic transmission standard across the model range. There is no manual available.

Optionally available, and fitted to my tester, was the SelectShift version of the automatic. It allows customers to select any desired gear manually.

The transmission also features progressive range select, which allows the customer to lock out the available gears while in Drive.

Also enabled is tow/haul mode, which provides better control when hauling a heavy load or towing a trailer, especially when descending grades. The improved system uses an array of sophisticated electronic sensors to better predict the driver’s need for a downshift to provide engine braking and enhanced control.

A factory-installed option is the Trailer Brake Controller that integrates braking inputs, speed and ABS sensors to balance braking. Aiding towing is also Trailer Sway Control that used a yaw sensor that automatically uses selective wheel braking while reducing torque to get truck and trailer on a straight path.

Last year I did some testing of the system with a 9,800 lb load of water strapped to a flatbed trailer and the 3.5-litre pulled as advertised.

Ford decided to go to electric instead of hydraulic power steering.

Along with improved fuel economy, another key benefit of the electric system is that the steering gear can be more precisely tuned for optimum feel for on-road and parking efforts.

The tuning is software-based, so the steering can be programmed and essentially customized to each model based on wheelbase, powertrain and other factors.

Suspension is coil over shock reacting to long-spindle double wishbones at the front.

At the rear, Ford decided to stay with a solid rear axle instead of going to an independent setup. Ford still believes a live axle and leaf springs is the way to go.

The interior is a splendid mix of function and luxury. But it is different from a premium sedan in that this is aimed more at people who have work to do than those who want to be pampered.

There are tons of options but how about power running boards that deploy when any door is opened. There is also a stowable bed extender ($350) that stows neatly into the bed walls.

Price for the Lariat 4X4 Platinum starts at $60,499 and the EcoBoost engine adds another $1,000. Also fitted was the $1,000 maximum trailer towing package.

Bottom line with $2,800 in options was $64,749 that included a $1,450 shipping fee.

And that leads to the $64,000 question. Is any pickup truck worth this kind of money?

Folks, Ford wouldn’t be building these trucks if people weren’t buying them. The last I heard was 58 per cent of all F-150s told in the U.S. are now EcoBoost equipped.

You can buy a $60,000 luxury car on almost any lot.

But will it haul almost six tons, 1.5 tons in the trunk and five adults all at the same time?

And that’s why consumers buy trucks like the Ford F-150 Lariat Platinum.

Ford F-150 Lariat

4X4 Platinum 2012

Body Style: Light duty pickup.

Drive Method: front-engine, rear-/all-wheel-drive.

Engine: EcoBoost 3.5-litre DOHC, direct engine turbo V6 (365 hp, 420 lb/ft).

Fuel Economy: 12.9/9.0L/100 km (22/31 mph) city/highway; as tested with SelectShift automatic, 13.0/9.1L/100 km (22/31 mpg) city/highway

Tow Rating: up to 11,300 lb (5,126 kg); payload, up to 3,060 lb (1,388 kg)

Price: Base, $60,499; as tested, $64,749 including $1,450 shipping fee

Web: www.ford.ca

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