2021 Ford F-150 V-8 First Test: It’s Not Going Quietly

It doesn’t seem that long ago that buying a pickup truck without a V-8 engine was like omitting the bed or the cab. Oh, how times have changed: The all-new 2021 Ford F-150’s engine lineup consists almost exclusively of V-6 engines, with only a single V-8 on offer. Last month we strapped our test gear to the top-of-the-line F-150 PowerBoost hybrid, and now we have a full instrumented test of the 5.0-liter V-8—possibly the last V-8 to ever be offered in the F-150.

Like the rest of the 2021 F-150, the V-8 appears at first glance to be a carbon copy of the previous generation, but there are changes, subtle though they may be. Its 5,038cc displacement is unchanged (that’s 307 cubic inches, by the way, a figure that’s bound to amuse fans of classic Chevrolets), but horsepower rises by 5 to an even 400 at 6,000 rpm, while torque increases by 10 lb-ft to 410 at a lower 4,250 rpm. Oil and coolant capacity are down slightly (by 1.1 and 2.0 quarts respectively, if you must know), and the engine is once again backed by a ten-speed automatic transmission.

How does that translate to acceleration? Zero to 60 mph on our F-150 King Ranch 4×4 SuperCrew test truck came up in 6.2 seconds. That’s 0.9 second behind the twin-turbo hybrid PowerBoost V-6, but 0.1 second quicker than the last previous-generation F-150 V-8 (also a V-8 SuperCrew) we tested. The five-point-oh ran the quarter mile in 14.6 seconds at 96.3 mph, arriving 0.8 second later and 5.8 mph slower than the PowerBoost truck.

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Of course, there’s more to a launch than numbers, and our test team liked the way the F-150 got away. “This truck knows what’s up,” associate road test editor Erick Ayapana said. “Consistent launches, great engine note, and smooth, quick gearshifts. How is a pickup truck more fun to launch than a Lexus IS F-Sport?”

It’s worth lingering on the engine note, which is one of the best reasons to opt for the 5.0 liter V-8. Everyone who drove the F-150 had something positive to say about the soundtrack, which has more than a hint of Mustang in its deep, throaty voice. It’s a welcome change from the EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6, which technical director Frank Markus says “manages to moan like a five-cylinder diesel UPS truck.” (Apparently Markus is back to moonlighting.)

Price is another reason to opt for the V-8, as it’ll save you $600 over the EcoBoost 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, which should help pay for what extra fuel you use: The EPA rates the F-150 at 16/22/19 mpg city/highway/combined, while the 3.5-liter EcoBoost is rated only slightly higher at 18/23/20 (both with 4WD). The twin-turbo six, sans PowerBoost hybridization, delivers the same 400 hp, though it adds an extra 100 lb-ft of torque.

Handling? We don’t expect much from a pickup truck, and with our expectations set low the F-150 was bound to surprise us. Our V-8-powered F-150 managed 0.78 g of grip on the skidpad and looped the figure eight in 27.5 seconds at an average of 0.62 g.

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“This isn’t a good test for pickups,” road tested editor Chris Walton said, “but I gotta say, it performed quite well. Not a lot of tire-torturing wallow in this truck, and it really puts the power down well in Sport mode. Tires looked pretty good afterward. Quick-ratio steering (for a truck) means my hands weren’t too busy. It sounds great, too.”

Walton also noted the 2021 Ford F-150’s strong brakes, though Ayapana, who ran the 60-0 braking test, wasn’t quite as impressed. “Lots of dive as expected,” he wrote. “Distances got longer after the first run. Strong brake smells. In order: 123, 125, 128 feet.” Still, the F-150’s best braking run bettered the last 2020 Chevrolet Silverado we tested (RST 2.7, 124 feet) by a little and the last 2020 Ram 1500 (Rebel EcoDiesel, 129 feet) by quite a bit.

Is the V-8 engine an endangered species? The 5.0 is the only V-8 among the six powertrains offered in the 2021 F-150, but Ford expects that one in four buyers will opt for it, so clearly the V-8 is far from dead. Still, we like that Ford has made the 5.0-powered F-150 something special—it may not be the fastest 2021 F-150 you can buy, but it sure sounds that way. If the era of V-8s in Ford pickup trucks is coming to a close, at least it’s going out not with a whimper but with a roar.

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