Ford says the upcoming diesel version of the F-150 will carry a highway rating of 30 mpg.
Don't believe it.
I'd look for the diesel-powered F-150 to get at least 32 mpg and possible 33 mpg on the highway when it goes on sale this spring.
Here's why I think the truck will get better than the 30 mpg Ford announced Monday: An automaker never makes a fuel economy announcement -- without an EPA certification -- if it isn't 1,000 percent sure that it can comfortably hit the target.
The last thing Ford wants to do this spring is have an EPA label number on the F-150 diesel that is under 30. And fresh in Ford's recent past are the restatement of fuel economy ratings on its hybrid vehicles. You can bet Ford's calculators will have fresh batteries and engineers will have extra-sharp pencils when they run the certification tests on the F-150 diesel.
And, frankly, any number under 30 for the F-150 diesel would be a shocking disappointment.
The 30 mpg "announcement" this week was all about PR and impressing investors who will hopefully continue moving Ford's stock price out of its slump.
The truck's lightweight aluminum body is ideally suited to a fuel-efficient powertrain. The diesel engine will also be mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, so highway fuel economy should be stellar. And the F-150 diesel will share the same Ford-built, 3.0-liter V-6 diesel as Land Rover's Range Rover Sport. Both vehicles are about the same size, but the Range Rover weighs around 300 pounds more than a four-door F-150. The Range Rover's EPA-rated fuel economy is 28 mpg and that is with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
It's not clear yet how Ford will tune the 3.0-liter V-6 differently from Land Rover. But it looks like the differences will be minor. Ford is listing the 2018 F-150's diesel engine at 250-hp and 440 pound-feet of torque. That same engine in the Range Rover checks in at 254-hp and 443 pound-feet of torque.
Ford won't be the first automaker to claim a 30 mpg rating with a truck, of course. General Motors checked that box in 2016 with the Colorado diesel, a midsize pickup. But Ford will be the first automaker to hit the magic 30 + mpg mark with a full-size truck.
Ram's 1500 diesel is still mired in EPA certification issues and is not yet certified for sale. The 2017 model had an EPA rating of 27 mpg on the highway. AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan says he doesn't see Ram getting 30 or more mpg on the highway with the 2018 or the redesigned 2019 model.
It's possible GM's redesigned 2019 Silverado could have an eye-popping EPA highway rating. After all, some versions of the Silverado will use the very same 10-speed automatic transmission as the F-150. But GM doesn't have a small diesel engine in its lineup -- at least that we know of. GM has not given any technical details of the Silverado yet. That's coming next week at the North American International Auto Show. I've heard from well-placed sources that GM will have some interesting technology under the hood of the Silverado. But without a diesel, it would be a moonshot to get an EPA rating of 30 or more. We'll have to wait and see.
A few more thoughts on the F-150 diesel. I've driven various Land Rovers with the 3.0-liter diesel engine, the Lion V-6, which was originally created in a joint venture with France's Peugeot. It's a terrific engine with massive amounts of low-end torque and a very pleasing sound. This double overhead-cam, twin-turbo engine is not used in any other vehicles, and so Land Rover has been instrumental in keeping the engine updated to meet emissions standards.
It is not unreasonable to assume that the F-150's diesel engine, particularly its North American emissions system, could have some of the same parts as the Range Rover Sport. Ford, always smart with its money, would want to use as many of the same components as Land Rover to reduce costs and development time.
Think about this irony: Ever since Ford sold the Jaguar and Land Rover brands to India's Tata Motors in 2008, it has – until recently -- been the main engine supplier to Jaguar Land Rover. The engines Ford builds for JLR and built to JLR’s specifications. (JLR now builds most of its engines in-house, but still sources V-6 and V-8 diesels from Ford).
It's very possible -- likely even probable -- that the F-150 diesel's engine has Land Rover engineers' fingerprints all over it.
And that's no bad thing.