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Ford F-150: Working to Stay the Best Truck in the Biz

By Lyndon Conrad Bell, March 10th, 2018

Still amazing after all these years, Ford's venerable F-150 pickup remains America's best-selling automobile -- bar none. In fact, Ford tells me that they sold 245,923 more F-150 pickups than its competitor Chevrolet sold of the Silverado for 2017.

Manufacturer photo: The 2018 F-150 arrives with bold new front and rear styling, advanced technologies and improved engines
Manufacturer photo: The 2018 F-150 arrives with bold new front and rear styling, advanced technologies and improved engines

Entire car lines accomplish fewer annual sales. One of the reasons for the model's perennial success is the F-150s product-planning team listens to its customer base and is in the habit of making improvements wherever they are warranted. Pricing on the 2018 F-150 starts at $27,610.

For the 2018 model year, this means a trio of new or heavily revised engines. The normally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 from 2017 has been dropped in favor of a 3.3-liter capable of developing more power and delivering better fuel economy than its predecessor. Meanwhile, the 2.7-liter V-6 and the 5.0-liter V-8 have been revised for more output and are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Auto stop-start is applied across the engine range to help increase fuel economy ratings.

The 3.3-liter V-6 and the 2.7-liter twin turbocharged powerplants are considered all-new. Though based upon the 3.5-liter engine it supplants, new cylinder heads are incorporated for the 3.3-liter, enabling the application of both port and direct fuel injection. The 2.7-liter's turbochargers have been fitted with an electrically actuated wastegate to provide more accurate boost control and its camshafts have been lightened. The new fuel injection scheme has also been applied to this engine, as well as the 5.0-liter V8, which also gets a new bore lining process.

The result is 290 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque for the 3.3-liter, which is an increase of 8 horsepower and 12 lb.-ft. of torque over the 3.5-liter. The 2.7 delivers 325 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, an increase of 25 more lb.-ft. The 5.0-liter V-8 claims a 10 horsepower gain to 395 and a 13 lb.-ft. increase in torque to 400.

With the power increases come revised tow ratings as well. Properly equipped, the F-150 can now tow up to 13,200 pounds. Ford's 375-horsepower and 450-horsepower EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engines return for the 2018 model year, giving F-150 buyers a choice of five powertrains.

Exterior styling is also updated, with a selection of six new grilles in addition to six new wheel choices. Providing a wealth of variety in this manner gives the F-150 the ability to be all things to pretty much all people. No fewer than seven trim packages are offered, from basic work truck to ultra-plush Limited and the fire-breathing Raptor desert running sport truck.

In addition to the engine changes, all F-150s (except Raptor) get enhanced interior treatments for 2018. These include leather-trimmed bucket seats on the basic Lariat, while an all-new Bang & Olufsen premium audio system is offered as an option for the upper-level models. New tech and safety features include Wi-Fi, integrated ramps, pre-collision alert with pedestrian detection, blind-spot indicators capable of working with a trailer attached, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go capability.

Speaking of trailering, Ford's outstanding Trailer Backup Assist returns as an option. Activated with a knob to the right of the steering wheel, the system uses a checkered sticker on the trailer neck to measure distance and angle. You'll simply watch the mirrors and rear camera, turning the dial in the desired direction, to get the trailer to go where you want. The speed of the truck is controlled with the brake, just as when using automated parking.

On the road, the newfound power reinvigorates the F-150 across the board. Long praised for its comfortable ride quality and easy handling, the 2018 models carry those traits forward effortlessly. Steering is bit on the light side, but this nicely disguises the weight of the full-size Ford pickup. It's also quite accurate and turns-in quickly. Handling is surprisingly agile for its size.

All in all, this truck's power, comfort, capabilities and good looks make for a compelling argument

Specifications

Base price $27,610 (as tested: $28,905)
Curb weight 4,100 lbs.
Displacement 2.7-liter
Engine type twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 w/DI
Epa mileage rating 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 26 gal.
Horsepower (net) 325 at 5000 rpm
Overall length 209.3 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 400 at 2750 rpm
Transmission 10-speed automatic
Vehicle type 3-passenger Regular Cab RWD pickup
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