"Look," said the nice man who dropped off a 2019 F-150 powered by Ford's new, 3.0-liter, Power Stroke diesel, "815 miles to empty."
I was more than impressed.
My itinerary that week included a 500-mile round trip to Granbury, Texas. I was downright tickled at the thought of making the journey without jamming a debit card into a fuel pump. I think the nice man was taken aback when my beautiful, brown, bedroom eyes suddenly morphed into crass, green, flashing dollar signs.
Long story short, it didn't really work out. Between the speeds on Texas interstates—do 80 or pull off to the shoulder—and gale-force headwinds on the outbound leg, I had to buy 20 bucks worth of diesel to the truck's 36-gallon tank to finish the week, but I discovered that Ford has added a silky smooth and quiet diesel to its stable of six F-150 power plants.
This is the first diesel-powered, light-duty F-150, and if you're thinking it's just the bill for some heavy-duty towing, with a little improvement in fuel economy kicked in, you might want to heed the wisdom of Lou Holtz: "Not so fast, my friend."
Multiple reviewers are questioning the Ford diesel's towing capacity. It seems to stick at 55 mph hauling up a grade but they sing praises of its fuel economy ratings of 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. For the record, that bests the 27 mpg highway rating for the Ram Ecodiesel, which is available in the Classic editions, but not in the redesigned 2019 new Ram.
I got about 21 mpg on the way out, but better than 23 on the way back. For the week, the diesel Ford returned a little more than 21 mpg. That's nearly identical to the standard 2.7L Ecoboost. Ford levies a $4,000 upcharge for the diesel, and only makes it available on Lariat trims and above, so we're talking trucks in the $45,000 to $60,000 range.
Don't take these numbers as the last word on this by any means. Testers on highways with enforced 65 mph limits have, indeed, attained 30 mpg. If Ford later puts this engine in lighter work trucks, or in the new Ranger or Bronco, we could see some head-turning numbers.
The genesis of Ford's diesel is a power plant in jointly developed a number of years ago with PSA Peugeot Citron, the Lion turbodiesel. It is jointly produced in Ford's Dagenham Engine Plant in England alongside one now being impressively employed by Land Rover.
Ford's diesel engineering team added critical upgrades that should help ensure longevity. A forged crankshaft and purpose-designed main and rod bearings should help it attain EcoBoost-type reliability.
A variable-geometry turbocharger helps the engine accelerate as smoothly as many a large-bore naturally aspirated engine. Fuel is picked up through duel fuel filters and delivered via a common-rail, direct injector running at up to 29,000 psi.
The heads are aluminum and the block is compacted-graphite iron.
The manual calls for 150,000-mile service intervals on the timing belt. A 5.4-gallon exhaust aftertreatment fluid supply should be good for 10,000 miles.
The engine turns out 250 horses and up to 440 pound-feet of torque, which is almost identical to Range Rover's Td6 diesel.
Torque is what matters most in trucks because that's the force that gets pickup and payload moving forward. Channeled through Ford's brilliant 10-speed automatic transmission, the energy is delivered more smoothly than the skin of a perfect peach. Put in the optional 3.55 rear end, and it is tow-rated at up to 11,400 lbs.
On the other hand, horsepower does matter. The diesel-powered F-150 is slow off the line, zero to 60 comes just short of eight seconds, 60 to 80 comes in another six to seven seconds, and 80 to 100 takes another eight or nine seconds. Plan passing carefully.
It's a Ford
Other than noting that diesel clatter is nearly nonexistent, there is little else remarkable about the diesel-powered F-150.
It's been five years since Ford put the truck through a redesign, and it shows its age. The interior is nice, indeed plush, but not as well-designed and user-friendly as Ram's, but still nicer than Silverado and Sierra.
The ride is bouncy—we hear Ford may move to multi-link rear suspension like Ram in the next generation—but this is not news to Ford fans, who are tickled pink with a truck that rides and handles like a truck.
After all, the F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the land since Ronald Reagan was in office, and probably will be until he returns.
Bottom line: The diesel-powered F-150 is a good, but not great, truck. If its debut is an indicator, however, real greatness may lie in the engine.