The 2011 Ford F-150 line will go all-new underhood when it turns up in dealer showrooms this fall. No fewer than four new high-output/high-efficiency engines -- including the first V6s to be fitted since 2008 -- will power the automaker's perpetual best-selling model. Each will be backed by an equally new six-speed automatic transmission. Buyers will have to wait until next spring to get a new F-150 with an optional V6 fitted with the first truck-specific application of Ford's EcoBoost technology. However, when all four of the new powerplants do come online, Ford claims that the collective fuel efficiency of the entire F-150 clan will be at least 20 percent greater than the stats of the 2010s.

Exploiting the power of six

The new base engine for the 2011 Ford F-150 will be a specially tuned version of Ford's 3.7-liter Duratec V6. As it does in the 2011 Mustang, the engine is fitted with the performance-enhancing Ti-VCT (twin independent variable camshaft timing) system. However, the truck-specific iteration gets a number of internal structural enhancements to improve durability. Rated at an estimated 300 horsepower, 275 lb-ft of torque and E85 capable, Ford says this spirited six will be the most potent and fuel-efficient base engine in the class, and endow the base F-150 with a segment-topping 6,100-pound tow capacity.

Although its output and EPA numbers remain to be revealed, Ford has confirmed that the F-150's step-up six due in early 2011 will be a truck-tweaked version of its 3.5-liter Ti-VCT EcoBoost engine. Revamped camshaft profiles and head designs help bump lower-end torque on this twin-turbocharged V6 while cast-iron exhaust manifolds enhance its durability. As for economy, Ford indicates that it anticipates class leadership here as well, with numbers expected to be up to 20 percent better than the 5.4-liter V8 in the 2010 F-150.

A pair of V8 power players

For those with heavier-duty hauling demands, the 2011 Ford F-150 will offer a pair of new V8s, also designed to cope with the grueling demands of truck duty -- and also claiming class-leading power, economy and tow ratings. The base V8 is an offshoot of the all-aluminum 5.0-liter Ti-VCT engine introduced in the 2011 Mustang GT. Here rated at 360 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, this E85-capable eight benefits from a series of internal revisions aimed at bolstering its low-speed torque and towing capability -- which maxes out at 9,800 pounds. Key among the upgrades are a stronger block and heads, new forged steel crankshaft, revised camshaft profiles, modified compression ratio, cast-iron exhaust manifolds and oil-cooled pistons as well as a remote oil cooler.

Topping the F-150's engine range is the 6.2-liter V8 which appears in the SVT Raptor and is the standard engine in the 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty line. Cranking out 411 horses and 434 lb-ft of peak twist, the cast-iron 6.2L gives the F-150 a top tow mark of 11,300 pounds. The only overhead-valve configuration in the F-150 lineup, it uses two spark plugs per cylinder to help optimize its fuel efficiency -- although here, Ford merely calls that stat "competitive."

Backing all four of these new engines in the 2011 Ford F-150 is a new six-speed automatic transmission, a fitment that makes Ford the first and only manufacturer to serve one up as standard equipment across its entire full-size pickup line. This wide-ratio transmission offers both a SelectShift function that allows a driver to manually choose and hold a given gear as well as "progressive range select" feature. Engaged from Drive mode, progressive range select allows the effective lockout of gears at the upper end of the range to make the vehicle easier to manage when heavily laden or while towing on steep grades. Just how and when Chevrolet/GMC will respond to this latest Ford salvo remains to be seen. But even as things stand now, 2011 is shaping up to be a pretty good year for anyone in the market for a full-size pickup from either manufacturer.

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