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First Drive: 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke Diesel Arrives in Awesome Silence

First Drive: 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke Diesel Arrives in Awesome Silence

Somewhere south of Tucson nearly nine years ago, I informed the Ford Super Duty engineer riding shotgun that, though his new 6.7-liter diesel engine was commendably quiet, many Texans wouldn’t have it. “In Texas,” I explained, “the Super Duty is our Mustang. People will swap that tiny twin-tip exhaust for a big can they can hear. You should’ve put a massive chrome stack right smack in the center of the hood.”

The engineer dropped his guard and laughed. “Loudest in class, and damn proud of it!”

In the end, it was left to dealers to upfit customers’ dream trucks, with all the baked-in profit that aftermarket lift kits, rubber band tires and loud exhausts entail. Fresh off Ford’s Kentucky Truck line, however, the stock 6.7’s hushed idle always struck me as a reason to roll down the window and marvel at such quiet might.

Still, I wasn’t ready.

Ford brought a trio of 2018 Ford F-150 trucks equipped with the new 3-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel engine to Houston for evaluation, chaperoned by fuel system engineer Ken Pumford. As we walked up to a King Ranch, I wondered aloud if this truck inherited the Super Duty’s quietness. Pumford smiled. “I was on the 6.7 team. A lot of us were. The crankshaft engineer… ”

That was about the moment I noticed the truck was actually on. Idling. Barely audible above the hum of uptown traffic, just three feet from the hood.

To Pumford and his fellow engineers, the 3.0 makes sense for buyers who need either its 11,400-pound maximum towing capacity or its EPA-estimated 30 MPG highway fuel economy. To their point, fleet customers can equip any trim level with the engine, coupling the small-block diesel to an Oxford White XL if they so choose.

But this is Houston. As we pulled past tony restaurants surrounding the glitzy Galleria, I pointed out the pickups intermingled with Range Rovers and BMWs: in two blocks, I spotted a Raptor with custom plates that had obviously never left the pavement. Platinum and King Ranch Super Duties, sparkling clean, appeared by the end of the drive loop.

“You think we buy for capability — but really, we buy it because it’s cool.”

Retail buyers can only get the Power Stroke in Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch trims. Ford product planners understand: in many markets, diesel is a status symbol. Sure, practical benefits like fuel economy and range help customers justify the added cost — but in the end, for many in this customer set, the cool factor of owning a diesel pickup seals the deal.

True as that may be, diesel enthusiasts who hope to pull up with a rumble will instead arrive in awesome silence. Lay into the pedal, and the faintest hint of turbo whistle emerges — but only if you listen closely. Stop at a light, and the truck shuts off altogether. (Ford’s idle-stop system terminates the electronic power steering at a stop, restarting the engine if the wheel is tugged for sudden maneuvers. Ideally, Ford would retain power steering when idle-stop engages.)

Yet again, imperceptibility and smoothness were the goals — not raucous diesel sounds.

No matter. In six-lane traffic, the F-150 scooted with uncommon urgency — enough to bring a smile and raise interest in the throttle. The ten-speed automatic picks the best gear for the situation, then directly engages without stepping through each gear. Modulate the throttle with even minimal care, and the transmission holds its current gear, leaning into the turbo instead of kicking down. In those moments, a smooth surge of torque and unexpected acceleration without shifting gives the enthusiast set exactly what they need.

The F-150 is Ford’s flagship. Naturally, interior appointments are top-notch, with particular attention to detail in the King Ranch. Inside, a new Kingsville leather hue bathes the seats, shifter and center console in burnt sienna. Modern F-150 King Ranch leather swatches are better suited to automotive durability than the richer swatches of yore, which required specialized saddle soap and oil conditioner beyond a typical cleaning regimen. Today’s swatches are more hardy and easier to maintain, retaining the signature “Running W” ranch brand embroidery throughout.

Small boats, dirtbikes, open trailers and side-by-sides are well within the capability of the 3-liter. For shoppers who want the range, torque or street cred of owning a diesel pickup, the F-150 ticks the boxes without the added everyday size of a heavy-duty truck. On the road, the ride is naturally more comfortable, with minimal high-frequency vibrations and nearly no jarring medium-frequency vibrations detected on city streets. Though the cab was quiet, the engine’s silence was uncanny: I mused to Instagram Live viewers that it was easier to hear the modified Silverado two trucks ahead than the test truck’s own engine.

Lariat and King Ranch trims offer optional adaptive cruise control with stop-and-start functionality. Platinum buyers can opt for a forward collision warning system with automatic emergency braking, though the system elicited an obviously false alarm during the test. Interestingly, the optional blind spot detection system can factor in the length of a trailer in tow, covering both the trailer and the truck itself.

Most Power Stroke F-150s, however, will operate the majority of the time as in our short test: unladen and unhitched, exercised in traffic, where comfort and smoothness matter most. As an integrated synthesis, the F-150 Power Stroke clearly comes from the company that engineered the Ford GT: a high-tech powertrain and a well-crafted interior create a sense of presence.

In this case, without the sound.


About Adam Barrera

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