When Ford announced that the 2017 F-150 would get a 10-speed automatic transmission, teamed with an upgraded 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6, the move was expected to benefit fuel economy. It turns out that all of those extra gears do improve efficiency, but only slightly.
The 2017 F-150 will get 21 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway) with rear-wheel drive, and 20 mpg combined (17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway) with four-wheel drive. Those represent 1-mpg improvements in nearly all categories compared to the 2016 F-150 with the previous-generation EcoBoost engine and six-speed automatic, plus a 2-mpg increase in the combined category for four-wheel drive models.
Things look a bit more impressive in the power department. The 2017 version of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That’s 10 hp and 50 lb-ft more than the 2016 model. To achieve that, Ford extensively overhauled the engine, adding a new fuel-injection system, new turbochargers, an electronic wastegate, and redesigned valve train components.
The 10-speed automatic was co-developed with General Motors, and is the first transmission of its kind in mass production. Having more gears should, in theory, provide ideal ratios for a wider range of situations. During a brief drive on Ford’s test track in Dearborn, Michigan, last month, the 10-speed behaved fairly well. It shifted smoothly, and didn’t display the indecisive behavior sometimes seen in transmissions with high numbers of gears.
So far, the F-150 is the only confirmed Ford model to get the new transmission. It will be offered in both standard versions and the Raptor off-road performance truck, which should go on sale soon. Ford may also deploy the 10-speed in the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs when those models are redesigned. GM’s first application of the 10-speed will be the 2017 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.
Ford’s next step for the F-150 may involve even more aggressive measures to improve fuel economy. The company is rumored to be working on both hybrid and diesel powertrains for the truck, which could show up sometime in the next few years.