2018 Ford F150 First Drive

With its predecessor already an award-winning vehicle, what does Ford do for an encore? The 2018 Ford F150 holds tough with a new, bolder grille, bringing it closer in line with its bigger Super Duty brethren. But is that enough to keep this aluminum wonder relevant into the new model year?

With the aluminum bodied F150 already well received, Ford revisits engine configurations and choices, adds more design cues, more safety features, more payload, more, uh, more. Are pickup trucks still sexy? Let’s find out.

What’s New?

Ford flew us to their backyard, in Ann Arbor Michigan, where they displayed a beautifully ancient Model TT truck and a 1950s-era Ford F1 pickup, following the axiom that you need to see where you’ve come from in order to see where you are going.  Even though the brand has been successful with over 26 million F-Series pickups sold to date, the company still tries to push the envelope. Not content with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ethos, Ford designers and engineers, following their successful redesign in 2015, decided to tweak a few outside appearance items and then go whole hog on the powertrain. That, and the fact they are constantly aware of what is happening with their around-town rivals, the RamTruck Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado / GMC Sierra twins, and the Texas-bred Toyota Tundra.

New on the 2018 Ford F150 are revised C-Clamp headlamps with available LED lighting that help to add some swagger to the twin bar grille. As a result, there’s no mistaking what another driver sees in their rearview mirror. Returning: Ford’s trademark “drop down” side glass is back for an easier sideview of the road. New design cues on XL, XLT and Lariat series trucks mimic that of Ford Super Duty models, while the premium King Ranch, Platinum and Limited series up the ante even more.

Ford F150
Ford F150

New for 2018 is the base 3.3-liter V6 engine, which is smaller, but puts out eight more horsepower and an additional 12 lb-ft of torque than the base 3.5-liter V6 it replaces. In current trim, it’s good for 290 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque.

That engine is joined by a revised second-generation 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. It includes port and direct-injection, and now features 325 horsepower and an additional 25 lb-ft of torque, up to 400 lb-ft.

Finally, a revised Five-Point-Oh (5.0-liter) V8 is offered, which like the 2.7-liter V6, now includes port and direct-injection, along with friction-reducing enhancements that boost it up an additional 10 ponies to 395-horsepower and 13 more lb-ft of torque to 400 lb-ft.

Ford F150
Ford F150

Ford, in an effort to keep the entry price low, mates the 3.3-liter exclusively to a six-speed automatic transmission, while the 2.7- and 5.0-liter receive a 10-speed automatic gearbox. These and other enhancements help the F150 achieve a maximum gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 18,400-pounds, with a 1,000-pound increase in towing capacity to 13,200 lbs. As far as rocks in the box, you can haul up to 3,270-pounds of cargo in the 5.5-, 6.5-, or 8-foot boxes. Cab configurations start with a regular cab setup, a SuperCab and a SuperCrew cabin for the full E-ticket ride.

Safety First.

The Blue Oval reportedly included a new 12-corner front crush horn to throw off energy in a frontal impact. Ford has determined that it helps to increase occupant safety in such a shunt.

Adaptive cruise control is also in the mix with stop and go measures for truck applications, including towing. According to Ford, the system operates by using radar to bring the F150 down to a complete stop, depending on following distance.

An available Pro Trailer Backup Assist guides drivers in backing up with trailers to boat ramps or driveways. Also on board: an optional Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) which works with trailers up to 33-feet long, causing the system to add in the extra towing length when considering the blind spot. Combine that with the available 360-degree camera system for a total view around your ride.

Behind the Wheel.

Always a competent runner, we found the new 2018 Ford F150 only improving on its legendary abilities. Sufficiently quiet on Michigan back roads, we found normal conversations possible, even from the back seat. When we were in a mood for tuneage, the Bang & Olufsen audio system provided clear and crisp dBs of sound, despite what was emanating from under the hood.

Ford F150
Ford F150

Power from the 5.0-liter V8 was flawless even at high speeds, which saw the new 10 speed automatic transmission trying to get to its top cog in an effort to achieve fuel sipping nirvana. Lower speed jaunts around town found it skipping a gear or two for added efficiency. No matter, as it is probably very easy to get lost within 10 gear sets.

On an impromptu off-road course, the F150 admirably displayed added functionality from such features as the 360-degree Around Vehicle camera system and vehicle sensors. When cresting up a hill, all it took was a flick of the switch to turn on the front-view camera, to see what lie below before descending on the other side.

Plowing through the water hazard was just plain fun and a good indicator of how the F150 will perform under trying conditions. Slip it into 4-low and the powertrain supplied all the grunt needed to pull us up and away from a simulated shallow river crossing.

Add that to the thoughtfully designed tailgate step and other around-truck features, and it’s easy to see why the 2018 Ford F150 will likely continue its dominance in the half-ton pickup truck segment.

2018 Ford F150

Story and Photos by Mark Elias. Additional pics by Sam Varnhagen/Ford.

F150 Specs:

Base prices:

XL: $28,675; XLT, $34,265; Lariat, $41,980; King Ranch, $52,895; Platinum, $55,450; Limited, $61,815.

Engines:

3.3-liter Naturally Aspirated V6

2.7-liter EcoBoost Turbocharged V6

3.5-liter EcoBoost Turbocharged V6

5.0-liter Naturally Aspirated V8

 

Transmissions:

Six-speed Automatic with manual shift mode

10-speed Automatic with manual shift mode

 

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 122.4-163.7 inches

Length: 209.3-250.5 inches

Width: 79.9 inches

Height: 75-77.5 inches