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Tow Vehicle Shootout: V-8 or V-6
We put the F-150 4x4 SuperCrew EcoBoost XLT and F-150 4x4 SuperCrew SVT Raptor to the test by towing 7,500 pounds of fueled-up and geared-up Four Winns SL262 through some of California's heaviest freeway traffic and most difficult mountain roads.
We all know a V-8 tow vehicle can get the job done. But tow a 7,500-pound load with a V-6? Are we nuts?
Well, yes, we are. But in this case we might be onto something. Advancing engine technologies make possible small-block trucks with big-block performance, and potential benefits to both the environment and your wallet. To test the theory, we towed 7,500 pounds of fueled-up and geared-up Four Winns SL262 through some of California’s heaviest freeway traffic and most difficult mountain roads. Twice. First with Ford’s F-150 SuperCrew XLT powered by an ambitious little 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, and then with an F-150 SuperCrew SVT Raptor pushed by a more traditional 6.2-liter iron-block V-8. So can a V-6 tow like a V-8? Ride along as we seek the truth.
Power and Tow Capacity
Like a strong cup of coffee jump-starts you in the morning, torque is what gets that massive load of fiberglass, aluminum and steel rolling behind your truck. Previously the province of big-blocks and diesels, today respectable torque is also developed by both the 6.2-liter V-8 in the SVT Raptor (434 pound-feet at 4,500 rpm) and 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 (420 pound-feet at a low 2,500 rpm). The Raptor makes its power through eight cylinders and displacement, whereas the EcoBoost gets the job done with a twin-turbocharging system that force-feeds air to the engine under heavy throttle application. The EcoBoost also includes an aluminum block, dual overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and direct injection.
From Silver Seas Yachts in Newport Beach, California, we charted a route to the 405 Freeway and down to San Juan Capistrano. From there an easterly turn pitted us against the Ortega Highway, 28 miles of narrow, serpentine two-lane with a 2,565-foot elevation gain and then a 1,360-foot freefall to Lake Elsinore, the largest natural lake in SoCal. Each round trip covered more than 110 miles. First up was the F-150 EcoBoost V-6, rated at an impressive 11,200 pounds of tow capacity. Turning a relaxed 1,600 rpm at 60 mph on the freeway, the EcoBoost V-6 ran quietly and smoothly. It yanked the big Four Winns from 0 to 60 mph in an average of 15.27 seconds, a respectable hustle. And along winding Ortega Highway, this V-6 easily kept up with traffic.
By intent, the SVT Raptor is more of a Baja-bred hooligan — from the burly beat of its V-8 engine to its flared fenders and foot-wide, all-terrain tires. Yet, the Raptor didn’t annihilate the EcoBoost V-6 in acceleration. Averaging our three best runs, the 6.2-liter Raptor recorded a 0-to-60 mph time of 15.73 seconds — a fraction slower than the 3.5-liter V-6! The more powerful Raptor developed wheel-spin and axle-hop when accelerating from a standing start with the boat in tow. This slowed down the acceleration by activating the traction control. We consider this test a draw.