Can a customized tune make for a better towing truck? We take this Ford F-150 up and the down the Ike Gauntlet™ – world’s toughest towing test and get the real-world results.
The truck we are testing is a 2017 F-150 with the second generation 3.5L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 and a 10-speed automatic. It’s a crew cab 4×4 in XLT trim and a few options. It’s equipped with a 3.55 rear axle ration and the towing package.
This truck is provided by and this video is sponsored by 5 Star Tuning. Please check out their website for customized max power, towing, and efficiency tuning for Ford, GM, and other vehicles.
First, we run the truck in Stock mode. We tow our standard 20-foot cargo trailer loaded to 9,000 lbs of total trailer weight. This is the same trailer and weight that we have used over the last two years for our Gold Hitch towing competition.
We measure the downhill performance (in tow/haul mode) by the number of brake applications we have to make in order to slow the truck down and keep it under the speed limit of 60 MPH. We start the 8-mile 7%-grade descent at 50 MPH. Every time the truck and trailer go over 60 MPH, we apply the brakes to bring it back down to 50 MPH. We do not manually shift the transmission, as we want to evaluate the truck and its grade shift programming.
Since the tune is specifically calibrated for 91-octane fuel (available in Colorado) and Ford recommend 91-octane for best performance, we made sure we always filled up with a quality 91-octane fuel.
The applied the brakes 9 times down the mountain in Stock mode.
On the way up, the goal is to maintain a steady 60 MPH, but without using cruise control as the trucks we test are strained by the maximum loaded weight and the elevation (we go to 11,158 feet above sea level). We also reset the trip meter to see the fuel economy average as reported by the trip computer in the truck.
The stock truck went up the mountain in 7 min 54 sec with a reading of 3.4 MPG.
The 5 Star Tuning / SCT tuning process is pretty straight forward. The first time takes 10-15 minutes, as the tuner module takes a copy of the stock configuration. The truck can be returned back to stock at any time. Subsequent tuning changes take about 5-10 minutes in our experience.
Once we loaded the customized “heavy tow” tune, the transmission downshifted a little more aggressively on the way down and went into 2nd gear several times during the descent (the stock truck never went below 3rd gear). We used tow/haul mode during both runs: stock and tuned.
The fact that it went into 2nd gear naturally increased the engine rpm, but it also controlled the downhill speed better than stock. The truck was able to maintain about 52 MPH for extended periods of time.
We registered just 4 brake applications this time, much better than any Ford F-150 EcoBoost we have tested before.
The uphill results showed a virtually identical time of 7 min 55 seconds. This is precisely what we expected. Basically, the truck was able to maintain the uphill speed in the same way (stock or tuned). The trip meter showed a lower fuel efficiency result of 3.1 MPG. We expected an MPG result to be much closer on both runs.
In the end, the downhill performance was the big difference between running the truck in stock or 5 Star tuned modes.
If you have warranty questions, please refer to the manufacturer or your owner’s manual.
Join the Ike Gauntlet trailering fun in the video below.