The Ford F-150 XLT PowerBoost was the cheapest truck in our test, but it doesn’t work like it. Notably, the F-150 hybrid relies entirely on its turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine for propulsion when in Tow/Haul mode — normal hybrid functionality is unavailable. That helps explain why it had the largest efficiency deficit in this test compared to the EPA’s projections. Still, it manages to be more fuel-efficient than the Silverado, and once you pull out the trailer, the hybrid’s boost returns to deliver incredible fuel economy along with serious acceleration. If you want a champion of all for both tows and routine driving, the F-150 PowerBoost earned praise.
But the Ram 1500 seems to have been designed specifically for this test, and it did not disappoint. Its four-corner air suspension dampens almost all bumps and cracks along the road. The torque-rich turbodiesel engine requires minimal effort to pull a trailer up an incline, especially paired with the shorter 3.92 rear axle ratio, although the aggressive gearing doesn’t deliver fuel economy. The Ram averages 17.6 mpg, down from its unladen EPA estimate of 24 mpg for an efficiency shortfall of 26.7%, which ties the Lightning EV in the middle of the pack. By contrast, 17.6 mpg is the best figure among the three fossil fuel trucks. Yes, we were hoping to break the 20 mpg threshold on this trip, but the super-luxurious, brawny Ram still stood out as the best truck to tow in this test.
Where does it leave Lightning?
The word “electric” may not yet pull much weight in towing circles, but the Ford F-150 Lightning showed no signs of cracking under the pressure of our test. Despite having the lowest maximum towing capacity and the highest gross combined weight, the Lightning handles its load with composure throughout the duration of the trip. Its expanded battery pack and two electric motors have no problem going up and down inclines, and its independent rear suspension – as opposed to the traditional solid axles found in most trucks – smooths ride quality without compromising capability.
Of particular note is the Lightning’s modest 26.7% efficiency shortfall compared to EPA estimates, a respectable midpack result in this test and a much smaller deficit than we’d expect based on what we’ve heard. How does this happen? For one thing, we stuck to the legal towing speed limit of 55 mph instead of straying toward the normal or higher speed limit, which certainly helped the cause. Also, our trailer is quite aerodynamic. But it’s not like we’re messing around; this is a normal (and legal!) pulling scenario. As such, we’re impressed that the electric Ford hangs in there and loses nearly a quarter of its projected efficiency, tying the Ram for second place in the category and crushing its Ford stablemate.