You can find sport modes in all sorts of vehicles these days. These use electronics to change the character of a car or truck and make it more, er, sporty. But is that something you really need in a full-size pickup truck?
Ford thinks so. It equipped the F-150's six-speed automatic transmission with a sport mode to help make the aluminum-bodied truck more entertaining to drive, and says it cribbed some tech from the Mustang to do it.
On the F-150, sport mode is activated by pushing the "two/haul" mode button twice. An amber "S" appears in the lower-right area of the tachometer when the selection is made. When in sport mode, the transmission holds the lower gears longer, which allows the engine to stay in the meatier area of its power band longer, improving response and reducing the need for downshifts.
Typically, automatic transmissions will try to select the highest gear possible to drop engine rpm, improving fuel economy and making for a more quiet ride. But this often means downshifting back into the power band's sweet spot to get more power when the driver wants to accelerate.
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Sport mode also matches engine rpm to whatever the transmission happens to be doing as the truck decelerates into a corner, helping to smooth out downshifts.
All of this behavior is based on the calibration of the same transmission in the Mustang. Since both vehicles were in development at roughly the same time, they were often driven together in tests, which gave engineers the idea to share the calibration, Ford says. The company also adapted the Mustang's "aero curtain" aerodynamic aids to the F-150.
Sport mode is standard on all F-150 models, and can be activated whether the truck is in rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive automatic, or four-wheel drive high.
The transmission technology-sharing between the F-150 and Mustang could soon go both ways. The F-150 is expected to get a new 10-speed automatic transmission to help further improve its fuel economy, and rumor has it that the F150's transmission and its copious gears will make it into the Mustang as well.