DENVER, Colo. -- There are certain assumptions people often make about diesels. They’re dirty. They get good fuel economy. They’re loud.
The dirty part is no longer true thanks to stringent emissions standards in the United States. You can’t bring a diesel here that’s dirty, and if you cheat on your emissions testing, well, then you have Volkswagen.
The fuel economy part definitely rings true – even in a pickup truck like the Ford F-150, which is estimated to get 30 mpg on the highway in the 4X2 configuration.
And the loud part? That’s just a given. Right?
Apparently not so much. In fact, other than the smooth seamless power and the fun-in-the-mud off-road chops, that’s the thing that surprised me the most about the F-150 Power Stroke Diesel. It was quiet.
I’m not just talking about the stellar interior quietness of the F-150. Engine noise is absent when you step outside the vehicle as well.
Most diesels have a loud and recognizable knock. But the 3.0-liter Power Stroke V-6 does not. In fact, I would have sworn it sounded like a gasoline engine.
I’m still stunned. My drive partner, who is an avowed truck guy, says the fact it was so quiet could be a problem for people looking to buy a diesel.
Me? I’m all in on the whole quiet thing. It was impressive.
Outside of that, there were a lot of other impressive things about this engine, including the ease of towing something that weighs around 5,000 pounds.
Granted, I am a towing neophyte, and this is the first time I’ve ever driven on roads hauling anything. But switching the vehicle over into tow mode and remembering that you can’t be a speed racer with precious cargo, I was able to maintain speed up hill and I didn’t feel a lot of herky-jerky movements coming from the trailer.
Nor did I feel the trailer pushing at me while I was braking. To be clear, I felt the weight, but it was manageable.
The maximum towing capacity with the F-150 diesel is rated at 11,400 pounds, and the maximum payload is 2,020 pounds.
The Power Stroke diesel delivers 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. And outside of the towing, the on-road driving was also really nice. It wasn’t V-8 gasoline engine nice, but it did really well – especially if you tap it into Sport mode.
I noticed that in Normal mode, the acceleration was a little lackluster, and I was perplexed because the torque in diesel cars usually provides a peppier launch. But in a truck, torque is for towing.
So if you like a faster acceleration, Sport mode will totally be your thing. But don’t expect to reap those fuel economy benefits if you’re in anything other than Eco mode.
During the road tests, my partner and I were averaging around 20 mpg with hills, elevation and fast accelerations in combined city/highway driving. This was in a 4X4 Super Crew model, which has an estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway.
We also participated in a fuel economy challenge in in the 4X2 model, and both my partner and I were able to best the EPA highway estimate of 30 mpg in combined city/highway driving.
But I’ll issue a caveat here: We did employ a few advanced hypermiling techniques to get these numbers. I think we could have maintained numbers in the high-20-mpg range if we were careful, but certainly not if we were driving like normal – or at least like my normal.
Because the F-150 Power Stroke Diesel is meant to be a rough and tumble truck, with work-ready prowess, the assumption is that people who own this vehicle might find themselves in muddy, rocky situations.
So in addition to towing and fuel economy, Ford set up a little off-road course for us. The course, which was meant to showcase the vehicle’s off-road acumen in dry situations, was beset with mud and snow.
And boy was it fun. I went through the course twice – once as a passenger and once as a driver.
I’m used to the nimbleness of a Jeep Wrangler or the agility of anything Land Rover, but the off-road chops of the F-150 Power Stroke Diesel were impressive. We certainly traversed terrain most owners will never encounter. But they could tackle it if they had to.
I will say, I had one hill that provided some difficulty for me. It was a straight shot up at a 45-degree angle and full of mud and goo. It took me three tries and a few different lines before I managed to make it up, and my opinion is that the Power Stroke diesel didn’t have quite enough power to give me the momentum I needed to make it straight up the slippery slope.
But overall, this truck-and-engine combo did things I didn’t expect it to do.
Ford started taking orders of the F-150 Power Stroke a few months ago and deliveries are starting soon. The Power Stroke diesel engine will only be available in the Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trims, and the base price for the Power Stroke diesel in the Lariat will be $45,420. The engine will also be available on the entry-level XL and XLT trims for fleet only.
The Bottom Line
This is the first time Ford is bringing a diesel engine to the F-150 lineup. And it will have some stiff competition. Ram just launched its new 1500 with gasoline engines, revealing no specs of its upcoming diesel offering. And GM announced a diesel offering in its upcoming Silverado/Sierra pickup-truck duo, but the trucks aren’t on the market yet and specs haven’t been released about this engine either.
So, this timing could be really good for Ford – it comes to the market at time when the latest and greatest versions of its all-new competitors don’t have diesels. Or it could be bad – giving Ram and GM time to add more horsepower, more torque and more efficiency to their diesels.
Speaking to the Power Stroke, though, I’ll say I was impressed with the smooth power, easy towing capability and un-diesel-like quietness. Throw in some efficiency and all the nice amenities that come with being in the F-150 lineup, and you can get a truck ranging from work capable to luxurious for around $45K.