The vehicle pictured here might look like a pickup truck but it isn’t. It is a sedan. It is a proper large American luxury sedan, a true descendant of land yachts from decades ago. Really, it is. Like those land yachts, it has huge amounts of interior space. That space is filled with incredibly comfortable heated, ventilated, and massaging seats. The rear seat passengers have more leg and head room than in any of those puny European luxury sedans. That thing in the back, that’s not a pickup bed. Put a cover on it and it becomes a huge trunk. Put a cap on it and you have the modern large American station wagon.
This begs to define what a pickup truck is. A pickup has a vinyl bench seat for three people. A pickup has a huge bed that easily swallows an eight–by-four plywood planks or 3000-pounds of manure. This Ford F-150 large luxury sedan cannot do these things. It has a power tailgate, like a Range Rover, power folding mirrors, and automatically deploying sidesteps. Driving this to a construction site would be like hiking in your ’s.
But calling the F-150 just a luxury sedan is really doing it a disservice. It is a lot more than that. It is a sedan with significant ground clearance and an available all-wheel-drive system. Yes, an automatic all-wheel-drive, like an Audi, there is a setting for that in addition to the typical 4WD High and Low. There is a trailer hitch which allows for towing of a trailer that weighs over 11,000 pounds and systems that make towing very simple. That bed/trunk, while only five and a half feet long, can easily swallow up a washing machine, or a monthly shopping spree in Costco, and has more than enough space for five golf bags. There is even a step to make getting into this trunk easier. Call it what it is then, a highly functional large American luxury sedan then.
Having established that the Ford F-150 is a highly functional large American luxury sedan, we should now discuss its new 3.0 liter turbo diesel V6 engine. Despite the fact that it is made in the same Dagenham, England facility, it is not the same engine as the one in the . Ford says that the crankshaft, main bearings, and connecting-rod bearings have been beefed up for pickup duty. The turbo and fuel injection system is specific to the F-150, too. Seemingly subtle changes subtly change overall power, with the F-150 having 250 horsepower at 3,250rpm and 440 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,750rpm.
All that power is sent to the wheels via Ford’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. Unfortunately the engine and transmission seem to be calibrated for maximum fuel efficiency. The powerplant seems heavy and somewhat lethargic. The transmission shifts up way too conservatively. But then I remembered having the same feeling when I was driving the significantly more powerful . Engaging the sport mode took care of that – the Raptor became an instant hooligan.
The diesel however, does not have a sport button anywhere to be seen. Not on the steering wheel, not on the dash, nowhere. It wasn’t until I was standing outside, with the door open, that I noticed a small button labeled “DM” low on the shifter. Curiously pressing it displayed available driving modes on the dash: normal, tow/haul, snow/wet, eco, and finally sport. Selecting the sport mode disabled the engine start/stop feature and predictably changed the engine and transmission logic. That button unleashed a bit of the Ford Raptor within. The mighty diesel become responsive and eager to pull. The gear changes now allowed the engine to sweep the tach needle much higher. It started whistling louder. This stupid sport mode allowed it to be what the engineers designed it to be – strong, quick, and efficient.
Accelerating at highway speeds is smooth, gently pressing your back into the seat. But there is noticeable turbo lag, especially off line or during sudden acceleration when the transmission is caught in a wrong gear. But once the turbo kicks in, the power is addictive and grin inducing. Given all the available F-series engines, including the Raptor, this might be my favorite. I would love to see a tuned up version of it in the Raptor; I think it would be a great match.
Efficiency is the name of the game with a diesel engine. This F-150, a crew-cab and short bed model with 4WD is rated for 20mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, for a combined average of 22 mpg. According to the dash computer I was averaging 22.3mpg with a mix of slow city and free-flowing highway driving, almost always in sport mode. That does not seem like a lot compared to any econobox but it’s quite a lot when compared with even a mid-sized V6 SUV and significantly better than V8 gasoline pickups. Optional 36-gallon fuel tank gives a theoretical driving range of almost 900 miles.
The King Ranch is one of the higher trim levels of the F-150. The model shown here had interior covered in really nice leather and rather fake-looking wood. In addition to fancy massaging seats, the interior had a Bang & Olufsen audio system which was controlled by Ford’s excellent Sync 3 infotainment system with an 8-inch screen. There are four USB ports, two 12v DC sockets, and two 120v AC household receptacles. Rear seatbelts have built-in airbags. A panoramic sunroof and a technology package with 360-degree camera and an adaptive cruise control are optional.
Outside, the King Ranch gets a classic two-tone paint treatment. This model had an optional Chrome Appearance Package with 20-inch wheels wrapped in 275/55 all-terrain tires. There are LED lights everywhere: headlights, daytime lights, taillights, several in the bed, search lights on the mirrors, puddle lights under mirrors, and in the tailgate, which is handy when attaching a trailer at night. The bed was sprayed with bedliner and had hooks for tying down your cargo.
Ford offers the F-150 in seven trim levels. There are three cab sizes and three bed lengths available. The six different engine choices can be mated up with two different automatic transmissions, and all models are available with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel-drive. Prices start at $27,705 for a fleet-grade regular cab, short bed, V6, rear-wheel-drive model. Check off all the boxes on the Platinum crew-cab, long bed, 4×4, diesel model and that prices goes to over $70,000. The loaded badass Raptor comes to about the same amount. The mildly optioned King Ranch model shown in these pictures has the manufacturer’s suggested price of $64,375. The upgrade to the diesel engine is $4,000 over the price of the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, $3000 over the 5.0-liter V8, and $2400 over the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6.
Pickup trucks have been outselling other vehicles in the United States for decades. Over two million full-size pickups like this one were sold here last year. Many of the first-time buyers are from affluent suburbs, often trading-in luxury sedans or SUVs. While $60,000 for what can be described as a wheelbarrow with an engine seems like a lot, it isn’t. That money buys a highly functional large American luxury sedan. One that is powerful, luxurious, spacious, very comfortable, easy to drive, capable in all weather, and can tow a boat, a horse trailer, or a weekend race car. And it has a huge trunk, too. And now it’s more fuel efficient than ever. The 5-series has nothing on this. Long live the great American pickup.
[Disclaimer: Ford Motor Corporation provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. All images copyright Kamil Kaluski/Redusernab 2018]