It’s a testament to how fuel efficient V-8 engines have become that Ford didn’t offer a V-6 in the 2009 and 2010 model years. The F-150’s previous 4.2-liter V-6 was dropped because it had the same fuel economy as the old two-valve overhead-cam 4.6-liter V-8, which has been discontinued for 2011.
Ford’s standard V-6 occupies the opposite end of the F-150’s engine lineup from the premium 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. It’s a dual-overhead-cam 3.7-liter mill. The naturally aspirated Duratec 3.7-liter V-6 is the F-150's standard engine, rated at 302 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque. It features composite upper and lower intake manifolds to feed air to the engine and four valves per cylinder (two intake, two exhaust) that are combined with twin independent variable camshaft timing. Ti-VCT varies valve actuation throughout the power band so there’s improved torque at the low end, cleaner emissions and better fuel economy.
Another new feature in the 2011 F-150 is the first application of electric power steering in a half-ton truck. EPS replaces conventional hydraulic power steering and promises up to a 4 percent improvement in fuel economy because it's not pump driven. EPS also eliminates harmful hydraulic steering fluid.
The STX trim is one step up from the F-150’s base XL trim, but that step added almost $4,000 to the starting price, even though the truck still had cloth seats and a vinyl floor. On the outside are upgraded wheels and tires, exterior paint and trim. Inside, you get power windows and door locks, plus additional power ports and improved lighting. The price as tested was $28,565.
Our tester also had a few upscale features, including Sirius-XM Satellite Radio, a CD player and Ford’s Sync hands-free entertainment and mobile phone system. It’s also the only truck that included a USB port to plug in an MP3 player or recharge USB-equipped devices. We believe USB ports have become as important as conventional “cigarette lighter” power ports in trucks, and at least one port should be standard. While we had many options at our fingertips, there were too many buttons in the center stack. The steering wheel had radio volume and channel controls, cruise control and Sync-command buttons.
The gauge cluster was basic. The oil, coolant and transmission temperature gauges show a hot-cold temperature range but don’t provide numbers. The two-line driver information computer had a helpful fuel-efficiency gauge in addition to displaying fuel economy, the odometer and trip distances.
The F-150’s seating was a 40/20/40-split folding bench seat with adjustable headrests and a fold-down center armrest. There was no storage in the armrest.
While a welcome mix of textures visually breaks up the interior, nearly every plastic surface we touched was hard, and all of it was in a shade of dark gray.
Interior storage is critical in regular cab pickups. There was an excellent amount of room behind the rear seats, but there was only a raised surface to set stuff there. A cargo net or bin would have improved space management so that we wouldn’t have to worry about smaller objects rolling off the shelf and under the seats. Side-door storage could be improved by smoothing out the metal grates that covered the stereo speakers so that drivers wouldn’t scrape their knuckles reaching inside the cubbies.