Ford has shaped its heavy-duty-truck legacy on the brute strength of its Power Stroke diesel V-8s, but the automaker has never made a serious effort to extend that reputation to its best-selling F-150 half-ton pickup. Whether because of disappointing market research, financial and engineering concerns, limited manufacturing capacity, or possibly lingering memories of General Motors’ misunderstood diesel 6.2-liter V-8 from the early 1980s, it has taken until now for the light-duty F-series to bask in the Blue Oval’s compression-ignition glory.
The Waiting Is the Hardest Part
After announcing the diesel F-150 last year at the 2017 Detroit auto show, Ford certainly took its time filling in the blanks. We speculated that the engine would be a version of the Lion turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6 jointly developed with PSA Peugeot Citroën years ago and currently used in some Land Rover products, and, as it turns out, we weren’t far off the mark. But the EcoBoost-branded version headed for the F-150 has undergone some pretty significant upgrades thanks to the same Ford engineering team that brought us the 6.7-liter Power Stroke.
To ensure that the engine has the grit to stand up to the abuse of domestic-pickup-truck owners, Ford began the overhaul at the bottom by fitting the 3.0-liter V-6 with a forged crankshaft borrowed from the 2.7-liter EcoBoost gasoline engine, complemented by purpose-designed main and rod bearings. A variable-geometry turbocharger takes care of boost, and common-rail injection running up to 29,000 psi handles the fuel supply, while dual fuel filters keep the supply clean. Aluminum cylinder heads sit atop a compacted-graphite iron block, and a two-stage oil pump keeps the 6.5-quart oil supply circulating with an eye toward efficiency by reducing parasitic loss. Ford is calling for 150,000-mile service intervals on the timing belt, and the 5.4-gallon exhaust aftertreatment fluid supply should be good for 10,000 miles per fill. Although official numbers haven’t been released, Ford said the turbo-diesel 3.0-liter weighs approximately 620 pounds, which is about 150 pounds heavier than the 3.5-liter EcoBoost. It will be produced in Ford’s Dagenham Engine Plant in the U.K. alongside the Land Rover engine.
Fully fortified, the engine’s output is pegged at 250 horsepower and a maximum of 440 lb-ft of torque arriving at a usable 1750 rpm. Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission is calibrated to make the most of the diesel torque curve, as is a diesel-specific differential gear ratio. If those numbers look vaguely familiar, it’s likely because they are nearly identical to the 254 horses and 443 lb-ft posted by the Range Rover Td6 diesel, which shares the same basic engine minus the F-150–specific upgrades.
It’s difficult to talk half-ton diesels without at least a brief glance across the street to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. The first such player to arrive in the half-ton segment in many years, it has a turbo 3.0-liter V-6 diesel currently rated to pump out 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque. One-upmanship in the truck game is, well, the game, so you can bet those numbers were tattooed as targets on the brains of Ford engineers at the start of the program.
Rated to tow up to 11,400 pounds and to haul a maximum payload of 2020 pounds, the diesel F-150 lands right in the meat of the half-ton segment. The target Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is rated for a maximum of 9290 pounds of towing and a 1640-pound load. While Ford leapfrogs both metrics, these ratings are in an almost constant state of flux, and you can bet Ram is already working to up the ante. As for sibling rivalry, the diesel F-150’s ratings are equal to or better than those of most of the gasoline-fueled F-series lineup. Only a handful of 3.5-liter EcoBoost-equipped F-150s with specific axle ratios and tow packages are capable of tugging more, up to 12,200 pounds. Ford said it has already subjected the 3.0 Power Stroke to the tortuous Davis Dam test, where it ascended a 13-mile route with a 6 percent grade in temperatures cresting 100 degrees without any loss of power, so it’s seemingly up to most tasks that you’d tackle with a half-ton truck.
The other side of the diesel story is fuel economy, and Ford is hoping to hit the 30-mpg mark in the EPA highway cycle. Auto stop/start will be standard, and the 10-speed automatic transmission will do its part to keep the engine in the most efficient part of the powerband. A mechanical engine-driven fan with viscous coupling is employed to move lots of air when needed, and the viscous coupling dials down the fan load under more moderate conditions for improved efficiency.
As for the rate of payback on the diesel investment, it’s a moving target. The first pricing estimates we have from Ford peg the cost of a diesel as a $4000 upcharge over the 2.7-liter EcoBoost, a $2400 premium over the cost of a 3.5-liter EcoBoost, and $3000 more than a 5.0-liter V-8. (All figures are subject to change as official pricing is concluded.) Generally speaking, people who tow on a regular basis will see a quicker return on the investment, as diesels engines’ fuel economy tends to diminish less when towing. The twin-turbocharged elephant in the room is Ford’s own 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which trumps the new diesel in raw output, coming in at 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. When equipped to beat the diesel’s tow rating, though, it’s likely to prove much thirstier while doing so.
Available for both rear- and four-wheel-drive F-150 pickups, the 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel will be offered in the 2018 Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trims, with SuperCrew trucks able to be ordered with either the 5.5- or 6.5-foot bed and SuperCab trucks with the 6.5-foot bed. Fleet customers can select the 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel on any trim level of SuperCrew with either bed length and SuperCab trucks with the long bed only.
The order books open in mid-January, and deliveries will begin in the spring.