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Old 09-17-2010, 11:08 PM   #1
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Towing Report. 2011 F250, 6.2L gas, 6spd TorqShift

Hereís a (rather long) report our new tow vehicle. It is a 2011 F250 2WD with the new Ford engine/tranny combination: 6.2L gas engine coupled to the 6-speed TorqShift automatic. I admit to buying this truck after researching and shopping for a manual diesel but bought it on the spot primarily because of a really great deal. So, what Iíve learned about it has come mostly on this initial trip.




Iíve not had a late model truck in a while, so some of the power and features I think are novel on this truck, may be old news to some readers here. My previous heavy duty TV was a clunky Chevy diesel automatic and, the truck we mostly use to tow the Airstream is an 11 year old 4.2L F250 manual.

After a break in of about 500 miles, Iíve put another 3500 miles on it - about 2500 miles towing the 25í Safari. First part of the trip was on flat, east coast Interstate. The majority of the trip was returning through the Appalachians, a little interstate but mostly highways and back roads. The truck makes for an effortless tow that is stable and nimble in all conditions.

Power: My initial impression breaking in the truck was that it had a good, fairly flat torque curve that needs to wind up a bit. That was indeed the case towing. It accelerates well from a stop with a trailer. The 3.97 first gear gives it good usable power at low speeds. But the engine really kicks in at about 2000 rpm and it keeps pulling strong over 5000 rpm where it is time to shift. While towing, I had absolutely no problem accelerating to any speed needed in any situation: at high speeds, on flat roads, and in the mountains both interstate and steep backroad inclines. It is no 6.7L diesel, but the 6.2L provides more than enough usable power with the 25í Safari in tow. Mine has 3.73 gears. Iíd say 4.10 gears are not necessary, but probably a good option for a heavier trailer. I suspect the transmission and its tow/haul computer programming has a lot to do with my sense of the truckís towing power, so lots more on thatÖ..

Transmission: I far prefer a manual to an automatic for towing and left the dealer convinced the automatic was a compromise Iíd made to get a great deal on the truck. Iím now convinced otherwise.

First, a bit about the 6R140 shift modes. In addition to the usual Tow/Haul button at the tip of the column mounted shifter, there is also thumb operated up/down rocker switch.





Tap the rocker switch while in Drive, and a gear indicator pops up on the dash and puts the transmission in what I call NHT mode (No Higher Than). The first tap just turns on the numeric gear display. Below it is in Drive, 6th gear.



Once in NHT mode, pressing the rocker switch down (ď-ď) limits the top gear. In the picture below the truck is in first gear but will shift no higher than 4th.




Putting the shifter lever into Manual lets you use the +/- rocker switch to shift up and down through the gears like a manual. The torque converter locks up in each gear, so the truck feels like a true manual tranny.




I tried the NHT and Manual modes and they work very well. However for this trip with the Airstream, I simply kept it in Drive with Tow/Haul on. Iíd hit the rocker switch only to turn on the gear indicator (as in the first indicator picture) so I could see what gear the tranny was choosing.

I have agree that that Ford designed this automatic transmission and integrated it with the engine and transmission controller software, specifically for towing. The integrated brake controller works flawlessly. I set the gain at 9.0. The truck lets you save multiple settings in case you tow different trailers. First and reverse gears are a comfortably high ratio. Here are the 6R140 Gear Ratios (note two overdives):
First - 3.97:1
Second - 2.32:1
Third - 1.52:1
Fourth - 1.15:1
Fifth - 0.86:1
Sixth - 0.67:1
The 6 speeds are well spaced. Without a load it acts like most modern automatics although it does seem a bit eager to get into 6th - maybe for mileage/emissions reasons. It will however downshift to 5th or 4th smoothly when accelerating at highway speeds.

With the trailer plugged in and the tranny set for Tow/Haul mode, it is a whole different machine. In all situations, it found the same gear Iíd have slapped around for with a manual transmission, and usually sooner . Of course it cannot anticipate a hill or steep descent, but with the trailer plugged (and in tow/haul) the transmission reacts immediately to the amount of throttle or brake given. In tow/haul, it seems to adjust its downshift/upshift behavior based not just on speed, throttle position, and presence of a trailer, but also by sensing if the truck is pointed uphill or downhill. For example, hitting an incline at highway speed, just a small amount of throttle drops it quickly to 5th. A bit more throttle as the truck begins to slow and it drops without protest to 4th. And so on. It has no qualms about downshifting and revving upwards of 5k if that is what you right foot is telling it. I found no need to floor it to get a downshift Ė just give it the amount of throttle needed and it finds a good gear. Even when towing with the cruise control, if the truck slows rapidly, it downshifts and accelerates accordingly.

This was all most noticeable and useful in Tow/Haul mode during downhill mountain towing, where a manual transmission really comes in handy for engine braking. On the first downhill interstate mountain grade where the rig started accelerating at highway speed with no throttle or brake applied, the transmission stayed in 6th. With very light pressure on the brake, the transmission downshifted to 5th so no additional brake pressure was needed. On long grades where the rig kept accelerating, a bit more brake pressure resulted in another downshift to 4th. The engine braking was strong enough that Iíd have to say the torque converter stayed locked on the downshifts. Very little braking is needed. Because the rig seems to know when it is going downhill, the left pedal feels as much like a down shift control as it does a brake pedal. Hats off to the Ford engineers on this one. I have to admit, it downshifted on downhill grades pretty much as I would have with a stick shift, with no attention needed on my part. It gives maximum engine braking using nothing but the brake pedal. No worries about missing that one downshift and having to ride the brakes to get it back.

We found our way over to a short but steep 2 lane white knuckle descent. It has 6 or 7 hairpin switchbacks that get increasingly tighter on the way down. I used a lot of brake entering at the top in 6th, Drive, Tow/Haul set, at about 45mph. The truck immediately downshifted to 4th and I was able to ease off on the brakes. More brake pressure as the turns got tighter resulted in more downshifting. When we exited at the bottom, calm and collected, with just minimum brake pedal pressure, the transmission had found its way to first gear, the engine howling sweetly at about 5000 rpm. I was impressed. The engine/tranny/controller combination makes mountain towing a breeze.

During the entire trip with typical summer weather, I never saw the transmission temperature gauge budge. We spent some time on gravel mountain roads and found the electronic locking differential an improvement over the LSD. It disengages automatically if you forget to turn it off after hitting the pavement (so they tell me ).

Fuel Mileage: We set out on the trip right after break-in. I kept track of gas mileage most of the trip and for a few tanks since we got back, but did nothing to optimize mileage. I drive to keep up with traffic especially in the mountains, so folks may report better mileage than I got. There are 2 trip meters so I was able to check overall and individual runs. I used the trip meters and actual gallons of Regular gas pumped, usually around ĺ tank.. The on-board fuel mileage reading turned out not very accurate but I was not very careful about resetting it.

Best unloaded mileage during careful break-in was 16.2 mpg. Best since returning was 16.8 mostly highway. Best unloaded city/highway commuting was right at 14mpg, worst 11.2. The first run towing the 25í Safari was flat interstate at a steady 75mph which returned 10.8mpg. Another relatively flat interstate run at 60 mph was 12.2 mpg. Most of the trip was towing in the mountains, 50-60mph highway and 45mph rural roads. The motor was a pleasure to drive aggressively in these conditions and I got varied mileage between 10 and 12 mpg. These are reasonable towing numbers for a gas automatic, and are better than what my f150 4.2L manual gives, so I am not complaining.

Iíve run 4 or 5 tanks of E85 ethanol fuel and cannot say Iíve noticed any performance difference but the price makes me smile. Where we were camped in NY, E85 was $0.90 less than regular and $1.20 cheaper than diesel! My local station sells E85 at $0.45 less than regular and $0.75 less than diesel.

The new Super Duty is a nice towing machine and Ford has nailed the engine/tranny package. Iíve not had a chance to pull anything heavy with it yet but I suspect it will do quite well.
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Old 09-17-2010, 11:17 PM   #2
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Great in-depth report. Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to do this. It's reports like this that give us the "no sales pitch" real skinny on these new products.

This is why Airforums is such a great place.

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Old 09-18-2010, 12:19 AM   #3
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very nice report and post wayward.

thanks for the pix and confirming the particulars.

it looks like this is gonna be a very good gas mota,

all the other bits really are ON the sweet spot for towing.

it really is clear ford has targeted the 2/3/450 for towing without compromises are the need to purchase extra bits.

cheers
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Old 09-18-2010, 12:35 AM   #4
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Thanks Wayward for the report im waiting for the 2011 F150 5.0 360hp which can tow 9500# coming in Oct I am in line thanks again Luca
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Old 09-18-2010, 06:58 AM   #5
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np - glad you found it useful!

moose, I tried to keep it informative but am admitting to liking the way the tranny behaves

2air, yeah that makes sense - most people buying a HD truck are probably towing.

luca - I gotta believe they have the same software algorithms in the F150 engine/tranny controllers. Should be nice!
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Old 10-08-2010, 09:32 AM   #6
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Wayward

Thanks for the excellent writeup on your new truck. I had a similar experience when I got my Tundra 5.7L 2 years ago. The 6 speed tranny is wonderful. I got the bucket seats, so the shifter is on the floor. I am glad I did this as I think that it is easier to use here and I tend to use it a lot when descending the mountain roads. When I shift out of D into the shift mode (M), it drops to 4th gear. I then immediatly shift to 3rd then 2nd to drop my speed and save my brakes. I hardly ever use manual mode unless I am braking. My transmission downshifts automatically when I tap the brakes, but I feel more in control when I downshift manually and I believe I can do it quicker.

When I bought my Tundra in 08, it was a no brainer compared to the competition- it had the powerful 5.7L, 6 speed tranny, 18" wheels, etc.
For 2011, it looks like the competition has caught up with new powerful V8 motors, 6 speed trannys and larger 17 and 18" tires and wheels. If I were buying a new TV today to tow a heavy AS (over 25 ft), I would look at the all the big 3 3/4 ton trucks. That said I am extremely happy with my Tundra for towing my TW. If I need to tow a heavier AS, I will probably install some air bags to help the rear suspension.

I see that you bought a 2wd. I did also to save about 3k and improve reliability. I had to go to Charlotte to find a 2wd. The only Tundras locally in Lynchburg were all 4x4. I wish I had a real limited slip differential. Mine works through application of the brakes. I don't like it; I am not sure if it is working correctly also. My truck has not been back to the dealer yet, but I will certainly take it in to have this looked at before my warrenty runs out next July.

So how good of a deal did you get? Did you get the SuperCab and which model did you buy? Did you get the back up camera?' I hope that your TV continues to do well for you.

Dan
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Old 10-08-2010, 10:26 AM   #7
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Just a note on E85. Mileage drops between 15% - 20%, as Ethanol contains less BTUs than gasoline. It does have higher octane, though, which allows the Powrtrain Control Modue to advance timing for a smidge more power. (probably not noticable by most drivers though). So, the mileage bogey breaks even with E85 at a price of 20% less than gasoline. Some states have adjusted the tax rate to allow for this energy density differential and make cost conscious buyers more apt to buy. Of course, there are , arguably, environmental/geo-political reasons to use/not use also.
OH BOY....I am sure I have opened a Huge can of worms on this one! Perhaps a different thread???
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Old 10-08-2010, 09:39 PM   #8
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Very nicely done with the illustrative pics. Hope you'll add more info in the future. 30,000 miles on a tight gasoline engine is, IMO, the end of the break-in period. Scale it for us someday, too, please.
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Old 10-09-2010, 12:34 AM   #9
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Thanks for the nice write up. As owner of '99 F250 and 25' Safari, I read it all very carefully. I would be thrilled with a new gas pickup at 12 MPG going 60 MPH.
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Old 10-09-2010, 07:01 AM   #10
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Dan, your point about shifter location reminded me to mention to Ford: put the +/- manual rocker switch on right side of the steering wheel so it can thumb operated! Not that I use it that much, but it is exactly the sort of thing one would like to use with both hands on the wheel. The truck is a XLT (mid level trim package), Supercab, short bed. It came with a few options like the elect mirrors & seats, elect differential and backup sensor, but no rearview camera. I had no option choices actually (including color) because the dealer had just one at this price. I paid 27K (70% of the sticker).

dzn, I have noticed a fillup on E85 does not seem to go as far, but have not checked mileage on a few tanks of E85-only yet. I suspect you are right about it being break-even cost wise.

rednax, 6k on it now so I've a while to go

tpi - I was pleasantly surprised with the mileage. Mileage beats my 2000 F150 stick shift while towing (f150 mileage is better not towing). At this link 5 Star Tuning already has tunes for better mileage and performance for the 6.2 V8.
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Old 10-10-2010, 11:06 PM   #11
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27k for a 3/4 ton state of the art TV pickup with a fine gas 6.2L motor is definately a bargain. I hope that it continues to do well for you. I hope that your electronic LSD works better than mine does. That is my only complaint with my Tundra and the fact that it is HUGE. I figured that I would have to order my Tundra to get it equipped just the way I wanted it, but I found one on the lot (Charlotte, NC) already equipped the way I wanted it- 5.7L motor, double cab, 6.5' bed, bucket seats and console with floor shifter, SR-5 trim package, power towing mirrors, back-up camera, alloy wheels, bedliner, opening rear glass, towing package and fog lights.

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Old 10-10-2010, 11:19 PM   #12
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Wow! Thanks for the report, Wayward. You've given me a lot to think about as I plan for a new tow vehicle in a couple of years. It will be interesting to see what's available then!
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Old 01-17-2011, 10:30 PM   #13
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Smile Just bought a 2011 F-250 with the 6.2 gas engine

Thanks for the great post Wayward. I just bought the same truck as you in the XLT pkg and also got a great deal. I'm still in the break in period (750 miles) and will be towing my 06' 25' Classic. The Classic is similar to your rig so your post is very helpful to me while thinking of my time towing. I had the 06' 6.0 liter PSD and had a dismal experience and was ready to 'leave the diesel fold'. Thanks for such a non-biased and thoughtful review. While I do tow mostly in the Southern region of the US, I do get to the mountains when I can and up into rural NY to enjoy the cooler temps in the Summer. The information you provided on your E-85 experience is helpful as I had thought I wouldn't bother using it, now I will.
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Old 01-18-2011, 07:29 AM   #14
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congratulations on the new truck Dover. I am glad my report was useful.

I've not much to update as I've only made a few short trips and used it for some construction and short commutes. My right foot seems to be getting heavier however

Truck does fine in snow/ice and I like being able to lock the axle before it starts slipping. Locker did not help much in wet NC red clay (not much does) but the ole F150 was able to pull me out fine .

I did check the mileage on a few tanks of e85 using the truck's display values (not calculating it myself any more). Indeed I seem to get about 10-15% worse fuel mileage with e85. Since the gas prices have gone up, not only has the Ethanol gone up (go fig'r) but there is now only a 30 cents/gal price difference locally so it is pretty much break even. I am still using e85 though as there is a station close by. Now, if they would only make it e100, I could get a siphon hose and skip the trips to the ABC store!
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