Ford's F-150 pickup has been the best selling vehicle in America for decades thanks to a rugged design, capable engines and an almost infinite amount of trim configurations, which include specialized niche models like the off-road-focused F-150 SVT Raptor and the burly F-150 Harley-Davidson.
For the latest model year, Ford upgraded the F-150 with new front-end styling, a revised interior and more technology features.
Charting the Changes
Outside, the latest F-150 features a pair of new grille designs, including a three-bar arrangement (for mid-to-high trim levels) and a bracketed two-bar setup that recalls the Super Duty (for entry-level models). HID projector headlamps are now available on Lariat and higher trims (including the Raptor), and several new 18- and 20-inch wheel options can be spec'd.
The cabin benefits from a refined center stack that ditches the short, wide strips of small buttons on the outgoing truck in favor of larger centrally-located controls. Ford's SYNC system is now standard on XLT trim levels and above, and the setup is paired with a new 4.2-inch multifunction display that sits atop the center stack and also displays audio and climate-control information.
Upper-level trucks now come standard with the MyFord Touch infotainment system (including glove-friendly redundant buttons and knobs) with a new eight-inch LCD and two USB ports, an SD card reader and audio/video input jacks. MyFord Touch is not available on XLT or lower trim levels. Upgraded wood grain appliques also grace the interiors of high-end trims, while a power-telescoping steering wheel and power-folding trailer-tow sideview mirrors are newly available on all F-150s. Entry-level F-150s will continue to use the carryover audio and climate controls.
Rugged Frame, Substantial Towing Capacity
The F-150 employs hydroforming technology for a lighter and more rigid frame than can be achieved through conventional manufacturing methods. The frame also utilizes fully boxed, high-strength steel with through-welded crossmembers, a setup that helps the F-150 to carry a payload of 3060 pounds or tow up to 11,300 pounds. Hauling a heavy trailer is also a much less daunting task in the F-150 thanks to the truck's available Trailer Sway Control, which detects trailer sway and automatically reduces engine speed while also applying asymmetrical braking to help counter it.
Ford has worked hard to pack the F-150 with intelligent, effective features that maximize the usefulness of the pickup. For example, the F-150 features an innovative tailgate step that folds out of the rear bumper to allow easy access to the tall bed, as well as a box step that extends from the side of the truck to facilitate reaching into the bed.
In addition, the pickup enables fleet operators to keep tabs on multiple trucks with the Crew Chief System, which collects data such as average speed and fuel efficiency and then sends it to the operators via text messages or emails. The system's purpose is to save money by helping to cut back on uneconomical driving habits like speeding, harsh braking or acceleration. The system also lets fleet bosses check the real-time position of trucks via a website to make sure workers are where they should be.
The F-150 is available with four different engines, including a powerful yet fuel-efficient "EcoBoost" V6. All are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and can be had with either rear- or four-wheel-drive.
The base motor is a 3.7-liter V6 that produces a healthy 302 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm. Fuel economy for rear-drive-equipped V6 models is rated at 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway, while four-wheel-drive versions return at 16/21 mpg.
The next rung up in the powertrain hierarchy is a 5.0-liter V8 that makes 360 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 380 lb-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm. With the 5.0-liter mill under the hood, rear-drive F-150s return 15/21 mpg while four-wheel-drive models are rated at 14/19 mpg.
A popular alternative to the 5.0-liter V8 is Ford's turbocharged and direct-injected "EcoBoost" V6. Displacing just 3.5-liters, the motor is good for 365 ponies at 5,000 rpm and a stump-pulling 420 lb-ft at 2,500 rpm. Ford says that up to 90 percent of peak torque is on tap all the way from 1,700 rpm to 5,000 rpm, and maximum output is achieved with regular fuel. Rear-drive EcoBoost trucks are rated at 16/22 mpg while four-wheel-drive models are good for 15/21 mpg.
Thousands of Configurations, A Truck For Every Purpose
Whether a customer needs the F-150 to perform serious work day after day or simply be a source of comfortable, luxurious transportation, there are thousands of ways to configure and option out the pickup to make it the ideal ride for any given objective.
Available cab layouts include Regular Cab (two doors, three-passenger capacity), SuperCab (adds two rear-opening doors, five- or six passenger capacity) and SuperCrew (features four conventional doors, larger cabin with five- or six-passenger capacity). The Regular Cab and SuperCab variants can be had with 6.5- or 8-foot beds, while the SuperCrew features a choice of 6.5- or 5.5-foot beds.
The F-150 can be had in no less than eight trim levels, including the XL, SXT, XLT, FX2/FX4, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited.
Interiors range from work-minded XL trucks with cloth seats and vinyl floors to several types of coddling leather interiors. Optional features are numerous and run the gamut from work/hauling focused bits to luxury and appearance items.
All F-150 models come standard with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags. An AdvanceTrac stability system detects wheel slip, understeer, oversteer or roll motion through the use of two gyroscopic sensors and intervenes with reduced engine power and selective braking to help the driver maintain control. A traction control system is also included.
Although there tends to be a great deal of brand loyalty in the full-size pickup segment, potential F-150 buyers willing to entertain other options should consider the sturdy Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Ram 1500, which boasts a refined ride thanks to coil-spring rear suspension design. The Toyota Tundra is also a worthy rival thanks to its strong engine options.