I’ve been dealing with Ford corporate a lot lately. My 2018 F-150, equipped with the revised direct-injection 5.0L Coyote V8, has an incurable rattle coming from the variable camshaft timing solenoids. While Ford keeps switching up their story, my red Lariat has been in and out of the dealership service department. When I was told that it’d have to spend some significant time away from home, I was given a F-150 XLT 3.5L EcoBoost as its substitute.
The racing season is in full swing now, and I spent the entire month of March towing my BMW to various events using this loaner truck.
Ford wanted me to drive their F-150 XLT 3.5L EcoBoost so badly that they built it and sent it to Battlefield Ford, who immediately pressed it into service as a loaner vehicle for truck owners. It came to me with a bag of dried concrete in the bed from the first borrower.
What Is It?
This is a 2019 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCab with a 6.5′ bed. Compared to the last F-150 I had, this XLT was well-equipped. Ignoring the cab/bed configuration, it was built how most “average” buyers would probably want their F-150, with many useful options that don’t stray into extravagance.
My XLT came with the upgraded 302A package, which notably includes heated and powered front (cloth) seats, heated mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable pedals, remote start, and a ton of chrome on the nose. It also came with Sync 3, Ford’s large touchscreen infotainment, which supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Finally, this XLT had Ford’s optional 3.5L twin-turbo “EcoBoost” V6, paired to the new-last-year 10-speed automatic. The gearing was upgraded to 3.55:1 with an electronic rear locker (standard is an open 3.31 rear) and this truck was spec’d with 4×4. The 3.5L EcoBoost is a $2,600 option, but it’s worth every penny, if you have some to spare.
Let’s Talk Towing
I put 1,600 miles on this truck in 30 days, and 1,000 of those miles were with my trailer attached to the hitch.
My CargoPro aluminum enclosed trailer has a 20′ box, 4′ V-nose up front, and comes in around 27′ total length. With my BMW M3 and wheels, tools, parts inside, it weighs in around 6,500 pounds.
Ford has put a lot of effort into their towing technology with the current generation of F-150. The backup camera allows the driver to zoom in on the hitch as they get closer to the trailer tongue, for example. Their Pro Trailer Backup Assist sounds gimmicky, but does allow more inexperienced drivers to park a trailer with ease. That said, I left the assist disabled as my brain is wired for the “old school” method of parking a trailer by now.
The technology also delights while on the move. This F-150 XLT was equipped with the optional $590 blind spot monitoring, which Ford calls BLIS. It’s just like any other blind spot system, until you attach your trailer. The truck asks for a few bits of information, and then BLIS starts working to inform you of cars next to you – and your trailer. It works with a trailer up to 33′ total length.
On to the party piece – Ford’s 3.5L EcoBoost V6! Updated for 2018, the twin-turbo V6 makes less horsepower than my 5.0L (375 hp vs 400 hp) but another 70 ft-lb of torque (470 ft-lb vs 400 ft-lb). It is, for lack of a better term, really damn fast with a trailer attached. If you don’t care about rearranging your trailer’s contents, you can roll out to about 10 mph and apply full throttle away from a stoplight – you will beat the truck and trailer next to you, handily.
Not only does the EcoBoost make more torque, it makes peak torque far lower in the rev range compared to the naturally-aspirated V8. Hills required far less effort compared to my 5.0L, with the 10-speed dropping just a gear or two down to put the engine at its torque peak – that 470 ft-lb comes at just 2,500 rpm.
The downside of any turbocharged engine, of course, is that being in boost uses more fuel. Ford’s EcoBoost engines are a bit of a marketing misnomer, then, as you can have Eco or Boost, but not both at the same time. My loaner had the smaller 26 gallon fuel tank, and was happy to ask for a refill every 250 miles or so, if towing. My 5.0L V8, by comparison, can hold out a bit longer at the expense of so much power.
Is the Boost Worth the Squeeze?
As mentioned, the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 is a $2,600 upgrade from the XLT’s standard 3.3L (naturally-aspirated) V6. Ford also offers the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 and 5.0L V8 on XLTs.
While the other engine options would certainly work well, the hotshot 3.5L is absolutely worth having if towing often. It made hilly terrain a breeze, and the “go” part of stop-and-go that much more fun. Just be sure to leave a bit of cash set aside for the extra fuel bills.