EcoBoost Battles V8 in Fast Lane Truck‘s Ike Gauntlet

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Can Ford’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 out-haul the almighty 5.0-liter V8 in a grueling uphill and downhill towing contest?

Ever since Ford started putting its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 in the F-150, people have been comparing it to Ford’s V8. Both of them have their respective strong suits in terms of output, efficiency, and sound. Andre Smirnov, Kent Sundling, and Stephen Elmer at The Fast Lane Truck wanted to find out which engine makes for a better tow rig so they pitted them against each other in the Ike Gauntlet.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Ike Gauntlet, it’s an eight-mile-long challenge over a seven percent grade at 11,158 feet above sea level. The most recent form of it involves hooking a horse trailer filled with water ballast that brings the total weight of the trailer up to 8,900 pounds to the back of a pickup. Then someone from the channel puts the truck’s transmission in tow/haul mode, drives down the grade, and counts how many brake applications are necessary to keep the truck going 60 mph or lower on the way down. Going uphill, they try to maintain a speed of 60 mph and measure how long the truck takes to make the journey (under eight minutes is usually a good time) as well as its fuel economy.

ford-trucks.com The Fast Lane Truck Pits V8 Against EcoBoost in Towing Contest

This EcoBoost vs. Coyote match is a little uneven. Both F-150s have the SuperCrew cab, but totally different gearing and drivetrains. The red EcoBoost F-150 Lariat has four-wheel drive and 3.55 gears, which, along with the V6’s 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, give it a max towing capacity of 12,700 pounds.

ford-trucks.com The Fast Lane Truck Pits V8 Against EcoBoost in Towing Contest

The gray V8-powered XLT model has 395 horsepower, 400 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.15 rear end (which Sundling, aka Mr. Truck, calls “a very strange ratio”). It only has two-wheel drive, but that helps it weigh 700 pounds less than its competitor. Its towing abilities top out at 9,200 pounds.

ford-trucks.com The Fast Lane Truck Pits V8 Against EcoBoost in Towing Contest

Going downhill, the EcoBoost seems to prefer third gear and the 4,000 rpm spot on the tachometer. By the time the guys get to the bottom, the F-150 has racked up 11 brake applications. Smirnov says, “This is the same number as we got in previous years with an F-150 EcoBoost and it’s also the most brake applications we’ve recorded for the half-ton segment.” The less powerful V8 truck cruises in third gear and only requires nine jabs to the left pedal.

On the way up, the EcoBoost gets off to a wheel-spinning start. It finishes the run in 7:58.88 with an average fuel economy of 3.5 mpg. The V8 F-150 completes the journey with a time of 8:06.99, but gets a flat four mpg. That’s enough to make Sundling say, “We’re finding more reasons to buy this V8.”

The guys all agree on the final numbers. When it comes to picking the better engine, they’re divided two to one. Elmer chooses the EcoBoost for its power. Smirnov and Sundling give the nod to the 5.0 for its transmission and braking behavior, fuel economy, and, of course, sound – something the EcoBoost never seems to be able to beat.

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Derek Shiekhi's father raised him on cars. As a boy, Derek accompanied his dad as he bought classics such as post-WWII GM trucks and early Ford Mustang convertibles.

After loving cars for years and getting a bachelor's degree in Business Management, Derek decided to get an associate degree in journalism. His networking put him in contact with the editor of the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, who hired him to write freelance about automotive culture and events in Austin, Texas in 2013. One particular story led to him getting a certificate for learning the foundations of road racing.

While watching TV with his parents one fateful evening, he saw a commercial that changed his life. In it, Jeep touted the Wrangler as the Texas Auto Writers Association's "SUV of Texas." Derek knew he had to join the organization if he was going to advance as an automotive writer. He joined the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) in 2014 and was fortunate to meet several nice people who connected him to the representatives of several automakers and the people who could give him access to press vehicles (the first one he ever got the keys to was a Lexus LX 570). He's now a regular at TAWA's two main events: the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall.

Over the past several years, Derek has learned how to drive off-road in various four-wheel-drive SUVs (he even camped out for two nights in a Land Rover), and driven around various tracks in hot hatches, muscle cars, and exotics. Several of his pieces, including his article about the 2015 Ford F-150 being crowned TAWA's 2014 "Truck of Texas" and his review of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, have won awards in TAWA's annual Excellence in Craft Competition. Last year, his JK Forum profile of Wagonmaster, a business that restores Jeep Wagoneers, won prizes in TAWA’s signature writing contest and its pickup- and SUV-focused Texas Truck Invitational.

In addition to writing for a variety of Internet Brands sites, including JK Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Derek also contributes to other outlets. He started There Will Be Cars on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube to get even more automotive content out to fellow enthusiasts.

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