Ford F-150

Popular pickup gets heavy revisions

No one can accuse the folks at Ford of resting on their laurels when it comes to the F-150 pickup truck. Boasting one of the most comprehensive mid-cycle refreshes in the model’s history, 2018 changes to the popular F-150 include heavily revised engines, a new 10-speed transmission, updated styling, and improved active safety features.

Remarkably, given the runaway success of the venerable model, Ford’s F-150 product planners could have taken the year off and still been in good shape. Consider this: the 2017 Ford F-150 outsold its nearest rival, the Chevrolet Silverado, by some 245,900 units. The F-150 is a very big deal at Ford.

To help maintain its leadership position, Dearborn’s engineering department prescribed a replacement of the 3.5-liter V6 base engine with a 3.3-liter that produces more power and better fuel economy. The F-150’s turbocharged 2.7-L V6 and 5.0-L V8 also received significant revisions, enabling them to generate more power, while also improving upon their fuel economy. In other words, on balance, the 2018 Ford F-150s’s powertrain portfolio is both more powerful and more fuel-efficient than that of 2017.

The Ford’s automatic transmission choices help the fuel economy picture significantly. For 2018, the F-150 features a 10-speed automatic transmission for the first time in mainstream versions of the model. This is paired with the 2.7-L and 5.0-L powerplants, while the 3.3 runs a 6-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is offered as an option across the board, while auto start/stop is now standard for all F-150 engines.

Payload and towing improvements come along with those power increases. The 2018 Ford F-150 is capable of towing up to 13,200 pounds, or hauling a maximum payload of 3,270 pounds. This is up from the 2017 model’s maximum tow rating of 12,200 pounds and 3,220-pound payload capability.

Naturally, these powertrain updates also return dividends going over the road. Even the base 290-horsepower 3.3-L delivers adequate performance, particularly when its advanced throttle and more aggressive transmission behaviors are activated in the Sport mode. The six-speed transmission also provides a Tow/Haul selection in addition to its Normal setting. The 10-speed offers all three of those, along with a Wet/Snow calibration and an Eco function.

With all due respect to the 3.3-L, you’ll see a significant improvement in acceleration when you opt for the 325-horsepower 2.7-liter. Plus, the 10-speed transmission is far more effective than the six-speed at routing power to the drive wheels. Always in the right gear for any given situation, it makes driving the Ford a more rewarding experience.

Of course, we’re talking about an American pickup truck here, which means nothing other than a V8 will do for many buyers. To that end, Ford’s 395-horsepower 5.0-L is one of the best on the market. Smooth and powerful, drivers will enjoy hearing it as much as driving it. However, if maximum potential means more to you than sitting behind a burbling V8, you’ll want to look into the 3.5-L high-output EcoBoost V6, which cranks out an amazing 450 horsepower and 510 lb.-ft. of torque.

Exterior styling updates for 2018 include new grilles, bumpers, lighting instruments, tailgate treatments, and wheels. A total of seven trim packages are offered; XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited, and Raptor. These, when combined with the three cab sizes and three bed lengths, mean there are literally hundreds of different configurations available once you also figure in all of the available F-150 equipment packages.

Tech highlights include an awe-inspiring Bang & Olufsen premium audio system, SYNC Connect, a WiFi hotspot, and adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality. Self-parking and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection are also available. Available utilitarian features for the 2018 Ford F-150 include a rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist, snow plow prep, a 36-gallon fuel tank, a spray-in bedliner, an integrated trailer brake controller, and a stowable bed extender. Pricing starts at $27,705.

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