Ford aimes to get best-in-class fuel economy with the addition of the F-150's first diesel.

There was a time when full-size pickups could barely manage to get into double-digits when it came to fuel economy. But with the addition of the new Power Stroke diesel, Ford is hoping to deliver the sort of numbers that, not all that, long ago, would have been impressive coming from a compact sedan.

While the 2018 F-150 Diesel’s EPA rating hasn’t been finalized, Ford anticipates the big truck will deliver as much as 30 mpg on the highway. It will also make a solid 440 pound-feet of torque and 240 horsepower, the sort of numbers that translate into solid towing and payload capacity.

“We see a lot of opportunities to conquest buyers” from competing truck brands, Todd Eckert, Ford’s Truck Group Marketing Manager, said during a background briefing on the 2018 F-150 Power Stroke Diesel, which will make its formal debut at the North American International Auto Show next week.

(Click Here to check out the 15 hottest new cars and trucks for 2015.)

Considering that Ford sold nearly 900,000 F-150s in 2017, about 300,000 more than the Chevrolet Silverado, its nearest competitor, that would be no small feat. But the addition of the new diesel option comes at a critical time. The Detroit Auto Show will see Chevy launch an all-new version of the Silverado, while Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will introduce an all-new version of the Ram 1500.

The F-150 with Power Stroke Diesel will be able to tow up to 11,400 pounds.

Diesels have long been a popular option with buyers of heavy-duty trucks, like the Ford Super Duty line. But they’ve been rare in the more mainstream half-ton models, such as the F-150. Until now, there were only two on the market, the Ram 1500 and the latest-generation Nissan Titan.

For its part, Ford had been focusing on turbocharged alternatives, such as the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that matched the towing capacity of its classic, naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8. In fact, the various EcoBoost  engines now account for about 60% of all F-150 sales. But turbos do have their drawbacks, notably a sharp drop in mileage under heavy loads – such as on steep hills, aggressive acceleration and extreme towing situations.

Those are the sort of conditions were diesels shine, noted David Filipe, Ford Vice President of Global Powertrain, whose team oversaw the development of the F-150’s new Power Stroke diesel. During that background session, Filipe noted that about 70% of F-150 buyers will use their trucks for towing, at least occasionally. “When we go to the diesel,” he added, “we know it will be closer to 85 percent.”

(Pickups, SUVs dominated 2017 sales charts. Click Here for more.)

Ford already boasts some of the best fuel economy numbers in the half-ton pickup segment, a critical payoff from its decision to switch from steel to an “aluminum intensive” body. That shaved as much as 700 pounds off the weight of prior-generation F-150 models.

With the addition of the 3.0-liter turbodiesel, F-150 buyers will now have six engine options, from the base 3.3-liter V-6 to the 3.5-liter EcoBoost used exclusively in the Raptor model that makes 450 horsepower and 510 lb-ft of torque.

The 3.0-liter turbodiesel will be paired with a specially tuned version of Ford's 10-speed automatic.

The Power Stroke package features a variable geometry turbo to minimize lag and maximize torque across its RPM ranger. It is paired with a 10-speed automatic that further enhances the truck’s fuel efficiency. There’s also fuel-saving Stop-Start, a feature that will now become standard on all F-150 models.

Despite an estimated EPA rating of 30 mpg on the highway, the truck will be able to handle a payload of up to 2,020 pounds and haul a trailer of up to 11,400 pounds.

Ford has yet to issue final pricing on the F-150 Power Stroke package but it expects the diesel will make up about 5% of total pickup demand once it comes to market. Ford dealers are already taking orders, with the first diesels set for delivery in early spring.

The Power Stroke isn’t the only news for the 2018 model-year. Ford has also made modest changes to the fascia, grille and interior of the F-150 family. There’s also new technology, including onboard WiFi and such high-tech safety features as active cruise control and forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and auto braking.

(Former VW exec sentenced for role in diesel scandal. Click Here for the latest.)

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