Ford boosts the F-150’s acceleration by adding the same sport mode found on the Mustang

Updated Aug 17, 2015

F-150 Sport Mode

One of the cool things about development at Ford is the amount of cross-pollination of ideas that occurs between the automaker’s truck and car engineering teams.

For instance, the 2017 F-150 Raptor unveiled earlier this year will be powered by the same turbocharged EcoBoost V6 as the GT supercar. And now the automaker has announced that the regular F-150 has benefitted from the company’s most iconic sports car.

An amber ‘S’ lights up on the F-150’s tachometer to indicate that the new sport mode has been activated.An amber ‘S’ lights up on the F-150’s tachometer to indicate that the new sport mode has been activated.

Beginning with the latest 2015 F-150 models, Ford is including a new standard sport mode borrowed from the new Mustang. 

In a release, Ford explains the 2015 models of both vehicles were developed on a similar time line. And because they “share certain automatic transmission technology, powertrain engineers often drove both vehicles on the same trips used for testing.”

One of those trips provided an “aha” moment.

“Our team realized how well the new F-150 handled and responded to acceleration due to its reduced weight,” said Karl Jungbluth, Ford transmission calibration engineer, in a statment. “So we decided we could adapt the sport mode capabilities of the six-speed automatic transmission from Mustang to F-150 to enhance the overall driving experience for truck customers.”

Activating sport mode on the F150 is done by pushing the “tow/haul” mode button twice and can be done in two-wheel drive, four-wheel-drive automatic and four-wheel-drive high settings.

The result is quicker acceleration and a noticeable increase in responsiveness to the driver’s force on the pedal. Ford says the mode provides an improvement in feel “similar to what an aftermarket modification might add to the truck, but with the benefit of maintaining the Ford vehicle warranty.”

The following is Ford’s technical explanation of how sport mode works:

The feature works by changing the frequency of gearshifts, so the truck stays in the “sweet” spot of the powerband and holds lower gears longer to make driving more fun. That means less shifting on engaging drives, such as twisty roads with rolling hills. Instead of shifting gears up and down for peak efficiency, the transmission holds a specific gear longer to make driving more responsive and spirited.

An advanced feature of F-150’s six-speed automatic transmission is its ability to match engine rpm as it downshifts in slowing for a corner. Electronics calibration for this feature comes straight out of Mustang.

“Sport mode keeps the engine operating in the desired power and torque ranges, or what we like to call the ‘sweet’ spot,” explained Jungbluth. “It makes Mustang come alive, and we feel it does the same thing in F-150.”

Sport mode is similar to F-150’s tow/haul mode, which also changes shift points under acceleration, keeping the truck at a higher rpm and further up in the power range while driving over rolling terrain for an improved towing experience. The technology limits the transmission from shifting up when the vehicle crests a hill, and provides downhill brake support that allows engine-compression braking to slow the vehicle and maintain a steady speed.