Dearborn — Ford Motor Co. will introduce the industry’s first 10-speed transmission on a mainstream vehicle later this year as part of a powertrain overhaul for its F-150 pickup.
The Blue Oval’s best seller will get the transmission — developed jointly with rival General Motors Co. — along with a second-generation 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine when the 2017 model-year pickup goes on sale this fall. When combined, the new powertrain will deliver similar horsepower, more torque and better fuel economy than the outgoing model.
“It reflects the pace at which you have to innovate in this industry,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “This truck was all new a year-and-a-half ago and now they’re doing a fairly substantial drivetrain upgrade. You’ve got a lot of innovation going on in a rapid-fire cadence.”
Ford famously switched to an aluminum body for the F-150’s 2015 model year which helped it shed hundreds of pounds. Last year, the automaker added a trailer backup-assist feature, new Limited trim level and compressed natural gas/propane capabilities. This year’s improvements include the new powertrain and a Raptor performance truck.
“That’s an example of continuous improvement that a leader implements,” said Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager.
Ford introduced its 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine in 2009, and introduced it on the F-150 in 2011. The engine has been successful; 62 percent of F-150 sales in April had an EcoBoost engine, and the automaker will sell its one-millionth EcoBoost in an F-150 by July, Scott said.
The second-generation 3.5-liter will feature a number of firsts for Ford, including two fuel injection systems: direct injection and port fuel injection. It also includes new pistons, a new cylinder, new turbochargers and an electronically controlled wastegate.
“We really can optimize efficiency, emissions control, cold start-ability and output, and performance of the engine with two fuel systems,” Scott said.
Ford said the engine will be on par with the 365 horsepower generated by the current model, but will get 30 additional pound-feet of torque for up to 450. Scott said he expects a fuel economy improvement, but would not provide specifics because EPA certification has not been completed.
Automatic stop-start will be standard on the 2017 F-150.
The transmission has been in the works for years, since Ford and GM announced the joint project in 2013. The companies are jointly developing a 10-speed that will be used in trucks and other rear-wheel-drive vehicles, as well as a nine-speed that will be used mostly on front-wheel-drive vehicles.
The first GM car to get the 10-speed transmission will be the 2017 Camaro ZL1.
The F-150’s 10-speed will feature a wide ratio span and optimized gear spacing for improved acceleration and towing. It will be the first Ford transmission made without cast-iron components. Instead it uses steel, aluminum and composite alloys that help it save a few pounds.
“When you combine the (new engine and transmission), it creates a powertrain combination that’s truly an unbeatable combination in this segment,” said Kevin Norris, manager of the 10-speed transmission systems. “It’s not about efficiency or performance. It’s about efficiency and performance.”