BANDERA, Tex. -- A strip of asphalt in the hills of Texas swings through chicanes cut into limestone embankments that lead to a narrow bridge across the Medina River.
Down this contorted course charges a super truck segmented out of the full-size F-150 pickup line from Ford Motor Company in tall stance with a bold face marked by a massive chrome grille.
It's a new treatment of the F-150 for 2011 packing a twin-turbo EcoBoost six-pack engine which earns the frugal fuel economy figures of a V6 but pumps up the power and torque of a mighty V8.
The aluminum twin-turbo engine with DOHC (dual overhead cams) and performance-enhancing Ti-VVT (twin independent variable camshaft timing) technology delivers 365 hp at 5000 rpm and best-in-class torque of 420 lb-ft at only 2500 rpm.
Ford's EcoBoost engine in the F-150 ties to a six-speed electronic automatic transmission with tow/haul mode and optional SelectShift manual control.
For the F-150 re-do of 2011 Ford actually offers four powertrain options, plus three cab styles and three lengths for the truck box in back.
Ford's concept for the pickup also provides class-topping towing ability, and there are refined passenger compartments dressed with six different trim designations and six special editions including the SVT Raptor, Harley-Davidson F-150 and over-the-top Lariat Limited.
Actually, there are so many different configurations for cab and box lengths, powertrain and trim, that you need a chart to sort it.
Cab designs conform to the labels of Regular Cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew.
Two-door Regular Cab is a conventional scheme offered with bench or bucket seats and the rear truck cargo box extending in length for 78.8 or 97.4 inches.
The SuperCab has four doors and two rows of seats.
Exterior cargo boxes for SuperCab include the two lengths used for Regular Cab.
Spacious SuperCrew comes with four doors and two rows of seats for a capacity of five or six plus vast legroom for the backseat. The rear bench flips and folds upright against the back of the cab to convert the area into a large interior cargo compartment.
Cargo box choices for SuperCrew are a brief box of 67 inches and the regular length of 78.8 inches.
Two-wheel-drive (2WD) orientation with a front-mounted engine sending torque to the rear wheels is standard configuration for the F-150 line but four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction is offered with electronic switching.
The rack and pinion steering system on most 2011 F-150 models receives electric power assistance, which eliminates a load of hydraulic equipment and contributes to the efficiency of the engine to improve fuel economy.
Brakes for all versions set a disc on every wheel plus anti-lock braking system (ABS), Ford's AdvanceTrac electronic stability control device with RSC (Roll Stability Control) and Trailer Sway Control (TSC).
For passive safety, the trucks stock dual stage frontal air bags and side-impact air bags plus side curtain-style air bags installed for every cabin size.
Each of the four new engines for F-150 links to a fuel-saving six-speed automatic transmission.
Standard plant for F-150 2WD trucks is a new dual-cam 3.7-liter V6 with Ti-VVT. It achieves 302 hp at 6500 rpm plus 278 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.
The 3.7-liter V6 burns regular unleaded 87-octane gasoline but it's also E85 compatible. Using the 87-octane gasoline, the plant with 2WD traction earns 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
Optional engine for all F-150 cab/bed combinations is a DOHC 5.0-liter V8 with Ti-VVT. This one makes 360 hp at 5500 rpm plus torque of 380 lb-ft at 4250 rpm and gets a 10000-pound tow rate.
Expect to score 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway using the 5.0-liter V8, which also drinks 87-octane regular unleaded gasoline as well as the E85.
Ford's most powerful engine option for F-150 SuperCrew comes off the F-350 Super Duty line.
The 6.2-liter V8 with SOHC (single overhead cam) and sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection produces 411 hp at 5500 rpm and a class-topper torque rating of 434 lb-ft at 4500 rpm.
High power and torque ratings for the big engine make this one the best choice for towing a trailer. Maximum towing capacity rises as high as 11300 pounds with an optional payload towing package.
For the 2011 F-150 line, Ford also offers an integrated trailer brake controller.
Trim tiers for the new F-150 rise from a base XL workhorse edition and sporty STX to a well-equipped XLT, the off-road FX4 with ELD (electronic locking differential), FX2 for 2WD action but the 4WD look, and deluxe Lariat.
Special editions include XLT Custom, Platinum SuperCrew, King Ranch, SVT Raptor and Harley-Davidson F-150, plus the Lariat Limited in only 3500 units.
The new XLT Custom package for the 3.7-liter V6 in 2WD configuration adds 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, a chrome exhaust tip, body-color running boards, front and rear fascias, and a unique grille with body-color surround.
FX2 and FX4 models share the same grille and wear body-color mirrors and door and tailgate handles, with black surround headlamps and taillamps plus 18-inch wheels or optional 20-inchers.
F-150 Lariat configures only as a four-door with V8 or turbo V6 powertrain. The body has monotone paint with chrome trim and bumpers, while the cabin stocks twin-zone climate controls, leather seat upholstery with heat and power controls, a leather-bound steering wheel, power adjustable pedals and Ford Sync with voice-activated control over in-car phones, media players and USB storage devices.
The Lariat Limited dresses in White Platinum tri-coat monotone paint with blacked-out headlamps and taillamps, chrome coating the grille and power running boards, plus 22-inch polished forged aluminum wheels. The cabin has premium two-tone leather seat inserts, brushed-metal scuff plates, chrome highlights and ambient lighting.
Ford structures the MSRP figures for 2011 F-150 trucks in a broad range from $22,420 for F-150 XL Regular Cab 2WD to $51,150 for F-150 Harley-Davidson SuperCrew 4WD.