By Robert Nichols
For the past 38 years Ford has led the way in light truck sales. That fact is not hard to fathom as every day we see F-150’s everywhere. For the 2016 model year Ford is once again leading the way with the introduction of its new trailer backup system, the change toan all-aluminum body and box and the availability of useful technologies like SYNC 3. In a segment that has a very loyal customer base; does the new F-150 have what it takes to build on their already impressive sales? I spent a week in a Red XLT Sport SuperCrew 4X4 to find out.
The trend in the world of trucks these days seems to be “go big or go home”. The F-150 has gone big. From every angle the sheer size of this rig makes an imposing impression. The SuperCrew Sport comes with the 6’5” box, but a 5’5” box is optional on this model. To put the size into actual figures (rounded off) the F-150 is as near as makes no difference to 2 meters tall, 6 meters long and 2.5 meters wide. That can be an issue for some as it makes getting in a literal climb and using the box more aspirational than possible. Ford realized this and has a couple of handy options you may want to consider. First are the $300 retractable box side steps. Simply kick the button on the step and it will extend allowing you to easily access the front of the box from either side. When done you use your foot and weight to push it back into its retracted position. The second option is the $400 tailgate step that resides inside the tailgate. Lower the tail gate and pull out the step (complete with handle), and anyone will be able to get into the bed. The best part of this feature is its concealment from dirt and salt which could otherwise wreak havoc on the hinges with time.
In my humble opinion the most important option you can buy for any pickup is a spray-in bed liner. For $550 Ford will do this for you; they can also install wheel well liners for an extra $180. The benefit of a spray-in liner is its ability to seal every nook and cranny in the bed. This prevents damage to the paint and the eventual corrosion such damage will lead to. The wheel well liners will protect against stone chips in an area that is not often seen and is prone to corrosion. While we are discussing the box it can be equipped with some very illuminating LED lighting and lockable cargo hooks to secure your load; all in all quite a useful space.
The SuperCrew is the largest cab available in the line-up, and it is immense. The rear seat legroom rivals a limousine, as does the headroom and shoulder room and so on. There is a sense of isolation from the front seat passengers due to the expansive distance between rows and the full length sunroof adds even more to the sense of openness. If no one is riding in back the seats can fold up to reveal a very large flat floor space that is perfect for carting around tools, groceries or whatever else you may not want to leave exposed to the elements and sticky fingers.
Up front you will find just as much room as well as a large centre storage box and numerous storage areas for your odds and ends. The dash layout is neat and tidy with easily found controls, actual buttons and real knobs. This is essential in a vehicle that will be used for work as it allows the owner to keep their gloves on and still operate the required systems.
The seating was cloth and looked nice, they offered just enough support for longer hauls and could be heated. Ford has made their new SYNC 3 infotainment interface available and it functions very well and is easy to navigate.
There is a knob located to the right of the steering wheel that is unique to Ford. It controls what is known as the Pro Trailer Back-up Assist. Rather than trying to explain this great tool just watch this brief video from Ford:
Under the Hood
The engine I tried out was the new 2.7L EcoBoost V6. It produces 325 hp @ 5,750 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque @ 3,000 rpm. It never felt underpowered and worked smoothly during my time with it. I did not expect a quiet ride, but that is what the F-150 provided. I am used to the growl of a big V8 when driving a truck; there is a roughness and an implied toughness that has been lost with the use of these engines that are shared with CUV’s. The benefit to using a smaller forced induction engine is performance. The Ecoboost engine pulled the truck from every stop with considerably more eagerness than I had thought possible given the size of the engine vs the size of the truck. Needless to say, I was impressed.
There are two other V6 engines to choose from; both displace 3.5L , one is naturally aspirated and the other is an EcoBoost. The naturally aspirated version will deliver 282 hp and 253 lb-ft while the Ecoboost version puts out 365 hp and a stout 420 lb-ft. The force fed 3.5L has the highest towing capacity of the bunch with a rating of 12,200 lbs. Of course if you believe there is no replacement for displacement you can opt for the 5L V8 that makes 385 hp and 387 lb. ft. All of the engines are mated to 6-speed automatics that function well and allow you to feel the shifts; this is a truck after all, so it can’t be too soft.
On the Road
Driving the latest F-150 is just like driving a rather large car. Thanks to the electric steering, the engine shared with the Edge Sport and the lightweight aluminum body and box it behaves in a predictable and easy to maneuver way. The addition of rear park assist and camera made parking this long behemoth as simple as parking a mid-size sedan. Amazingly the electric steering actually gives you some sense of what the front tires are doing. The suspension does a fantastic job of soaking up the bumps and protecting the occupants from the harshest hits. You will still feel the imperfections because the suspension is designed to carry a heavy load, but it doesn’t beat you up the way trucks used too. This truck will easily pull double duty working all day and driving the kids to hockey practice at night.
The official numbers supplied by the Ministry of Natural Resources for the model tested are: 13.3 city/ 10.7 highway/ 12.3 combined (L/100km). Personally I saw an average of 12.2 L/100 km of mostly highway driving. This sort of consumption was returned with absolutely no load besides me and an occasional passenger and a light footed approach to acceleration (with the odd bit of enthusiasm for the purpose of fully testing the unit). This implies that the economy may suffer when this engine is burdened down with a heavy load and when used in such a manner these findings will not reflect real world use. If however you plan on using to drive the family around town then you could possibly see numbers that are close. Confused yet?
I have found in large vehicles powered by small displacement engines are great if you drive in a slow and gentle way. As soon as you put your foot in it a little they guzzle more than the large displacement naturally aspirated V8’s. The larger the vehicle the more this proves true. I am not condemning these engines in anyway, I am merely pointing out that owners who want to spend less on fuel will likely have to adjust the driving habits to get the full benefit of these turbo-charged power plants and accept the the inevitable truth that it is they who are holding up traffic.
After a week at the wheel of the latest and greatest F-150 I can easily understand why the Ford is number 1. The F-150 does everything well. It is easy to use, offers some great features, it is available in numerous configurations and continues to impress with advanced technologies like the tow assist system. I even liked the Ruby Red Metallic paint job. While some of us may miss the ruff and tuff feel of the work truck, it is nice to see that trucks will continue to have a vital and ever more efficient place in the market.
Base Price: $42,849
Price as tested: $57,479
- Interior space and comfort
- box side steps and tailgate step
- car-like drive
- quicker than expected
- size could make maneuvering a chore in models without electrical assist features
- car-like drive
- fuel economy not as good as hoped for
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