Ford gambles on a half-ton diesel pickup and scores big for RVers with the 2019 F-150 Platinum SuperCrew 4×4
It was probably about 10 years ago at a media event when we asked one of the big-three marketing types about the viability of a half-ton diesel truck. “It just makes sense,” we protested. “We can’t understand why no one has done it yet.” Our man smiled wryly. “It may be coming sooner than you think.”
We left with high hopes for a full-size truck with V-8 power and V-6 mileage — but year after year, it didn’t materialize. As it turns out, consumers really weren’t as interested as we thought in an alternative powerplant, and bringing a diesel engine to a new market can open a can of worms, something Fiat Chrysler America (FCA) found out shortly after introducing the EcoDiesel-powered Ram 1500 in 2014. Seems that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) raised questions about “alleged excess diesel emissions and undeclared emissions software,” according to a July 6, 2017, story in Automotive News. FCA resumed production of the beleaguered engine that same year, awaiting certification that would allow it to sell EcoDiesel-equipped trucks again. As of this writing, a diesel option currently isn’t available on Ram 1500 trucks.
It’s safe to assume that the EPA, as well as other environmental agencies, were on heightened alert after Volkswagen’s “Dieselgate” drama made global headlines. We are not going to even suggest that there was any wrongdoing on the part of FCA, but one thing is certain: The whole debacle made its competitors stand back and watch before introducing similar trucks of their own.
Ford made its move in the middle of 2018, introducing its segment-leading F-150 with a 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6 engine and new 10-speed automatic transmission. We were eager to get hold of one to drive, of course, but also learn more about this powertrain and how it can benefit RVers.
UNDER THE HOOD
The 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6 uses one glow plug per cylinder between the intake valves for immediate starts in normal weather, and minimal waiting in temperatures as low as 20 degrees. Interestingly, the engine also employs a mechanical fan with an electronically operated viscous clutch (similar to the one used for Super Duty truck engines), instead of an electric fan, which would seem to go against the quietness objective. “It’s one of the things that lead to excellent towing performance in hot weather, as opposed to our competition with electric fans. The mechanical fan delivers superior hot-weather towing performance,” said David Ives, Ford’s diesel technical leader.
There’s always a little trepidation on the part of consumers when a “new” engine is introduced, but strictly speaking, the 3.0-liter Power Stroke isn’t new. It is a derivative of an engine originally manufactured by Ford Motor Company for Jaguar/Land Rover SUVs and has been in use in that market for some 14 years now. Bringing it to the U.S. market in the F-150 was more of a natural progression than a dangerous leap. “Meeting emissions standards is always challenging, but we have a certification-planning team that sets up the project ahead of time to keep it on track, so we didn’t have to face some of the hurdles our competition did,” said David Ives, Ford’s diesel technical leader.
Given the engine’s origin in a luxury SUV application, it had to be strong, quiet and efficient. Built in Dagenham, England, the 3.0-liter Power Stroke employs a compacted graphite iron block with cross-bolted four-bolt mains, steel crank and rods, cast-aluminum pistons and aluminum heads with a double overhead cam layout and four valves per cylinder. A V-6 engine was chosen over an inline design, not just because it is easier to package, but because it’s quieter. “The advantage of a V-6 is that it’s closer to a cube or sphere, as opposed to an inline engine,” said Ives, “so for a given 3-liter volume, it doesn’t have as many noise-emitting surfaces.”
The engine employs a 29,000-psi common-rail fuel-injection system and a single, variable-
geometry ball-bearing turbo for efficiency and quiet operation. To further reduce Noise Vibration and Harshness (NVH), Ford’s research team in Aachen, Germany (the company’s European headquarters), focused on areas like the combustion chamber and piston-bowl designs, and spent a lot of time on the cam drive system to keep clicks and rattles at bay. A diecast, structural aluminum oil pan and specific turbocharger tuning/plumbing also contribute to the engine’s overall refinement.
The engine generates 250 horsepower at 3,250 rpm, and 440 lb-ft of torque at just 1,750 rpm. Combine that with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, and the drivetrain is ideally suited to effortless towing. “When you have more gears, especially when trailering, it helps keep the engine rpm right in a sweet spot where the customer can use it,” Ives explained. “The 10-speed is excellent for keeping the engine in the optimum rpm range and delivering the best throttle response possible.”
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Hitching up the 29-foot, 5-inch Lance 2465 travel trailer and pushing the accelerator for the first time, it felt like there might not be a trailer there at all. Low-speed tractability was superlative, and the engine pulls hard all the way to its shift point. We recorded 9.3-second zero-to-60-mph times driving solo, and 18.31 seconds with the 6,790-pound trailer in tow.
You might recall that in the September 2018 issue we presented an article headlined “Diesel Versus Gas” that underscored the costs and efficiencies of both engine types. Not surprisingly, we found that it makes financial sense to opt for a diesel only if you believe its greater initial cost will eventually be offset by better fuel economy. In the F-150 Power Stroke, this will theoretically happen more quickly than a comparable F-250/350 Super Duty diesel-versus-gas comparison, but there’s a caveat: Unlike Super Duty trucks, where the 6.7-liter Power Stroke can be had at even the base XL trim level, the 3.0-liter Power Stroke is available only when you opt for a Lariat trim level or higher, which can make for an expensive proposition.
The test truck, a 2019 F-150 4×4 SuperCrew in Platinum trim, rang in at $69,570, but even an F-150 Lariat with no options other than the 3.0-liter Power Stroke will cost just shy of $50,000. So, if you were thinking of purchasing an F-150 XLT, for example, you’d have to spend roughly $7,000 more for a Lariat to get to the $4,000 3.0-liter Power Stroke option. It’s worth mentioning that you can get a nicely equipped Super Duty F-250 Lariat, with a 6.7-liter Power Stroke, higher tow rating and more capability for $58,685.
Clearly, though, the Platinum trim F-150 Power Stroke is designed for a buyer who is used to premium automobiles or SUVs and wants his or her truck to behave like one. In that regard, this truck delivers. Even when you know it’s a diesel, you can’t detect any characteristic clatter, and on the highway, it’s as quiet as a tomb. The heated leather seats, part of the Platinum package, were soft and supportive, and the ride was good, whether towing or not. Some other nice features of the Platinum package include adjustable pedals with memory, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, Voice-Activated Navigation, Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), remote start and much more.
Functionally speaking, the test truck also came loaded with features that make towing a trailer an effortless proposition, even for the inexperienced. The rearview camera with Dynamic Hitch Assist lets anyone back straight to the hitch the first time, and once you’re hooked up, the Pro Trailer Backup Assist system lets you intuitively maneuver your trailer. To operate, turn the system on by pushing a button in the center of the dash-mounted knob, then simply take your hands off the steering wheel and turn the knob the direction you want the trailer to go. The vehicle’s rearview camera reads the position of a target sticker that the owner places on the A-frame, giving the system a reference point. As you turn the knob, the steering wheel turns on its own in relation to your inputs, and you’re backing like, well, a pro.
The optional 701A Equipment Group ($2,540) brings with it a 360-degree “bird’s-eye view” camera, Active Park Assist, adaptive cruise control and a tailgate step, while the Tow Package ($995) adds a four-/seven-pin wiring harness, auxiliary transmission cooler, Class IV hitch receiver, the aforementioned Pro Trailer Backup Assist system, upgraded front stabilizer bar and other features. Power folding/telescoping towing mirrors are a $250 option.
For a pickup that can tow up to 10,300 pounds (as equipped), the F-150 Platinum is a remarkably well-furnished and well-mannered truck that is as at home on the morning commute as it is on weekend RVing trips with the family. If you’ve been searching for one vehicle that can do it all, and the budget allows, the F-150 Power Stroke Platinum SuperCrew 4×4 is your truck.
Fuel Economy, Solo 25.64 mpg
Fuel Economy, Towing 14.77 mpg
Engine 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6
Horsepower 250 @ 3,250 rpm
Torque 440 lb-ft @ 1,750 rpm
Transmission (speeds, type) Electronically controlled 10-speed
Axle Ratio 3.31:1
Fuel Cap. 26 gal.
Suspension, Front Independent double-
wishbone with coil-over shocks
Suspension, Rear Leaf spring/solid axle with heavy-duty gas-pressurized shocks
Brakes Antilock vented disc
Tow Rating 10,300 lbs.
GVWR 7,100 lbs.
GCWR 16,100 lbs.
Length 20′ 3″
MSRP, Base $58,210
MSRP, As Tested $69,570
Warranty, Basic 3 years/36,000 miles
Warranty, Powertrain 5 years/60,000 miles
A frequent contributor to Trailer Life, Chris Hemer is the former technical editor of Trailer Life and MotorHome, and has been an RV and automotive journalist for more than 20 years. An outdoor enthusiast who now makes his home in Portland, Oregon, he enjoys camping, motorcycle riding, mountain biking and hiking.