2018 Ford F-150 FTE Review – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
Is the refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 still the best pickup truck for sale? Let’s take it for a spin and find out!
“There’s no such thing as a perfect pickup truck,” I proclaimed to Ford’s marketing manager for the F-150, Brian Bell. There isn’t, but I was struggling to find a single thing I didn’t like about the trucks I had been driving all morning long. “I disagree,” said Bell.
I was at Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter, Michigan driving the entire range of revised 2018 F-150 pickup trucks. Our drive route took us near the famous Hell, Michigan. I was in Hell trying to figure out things to not like about the American icon. Literally.
To be clear, no truck is perfect. But before we get into the nitty-gritty about the F-150’s mid-cycle refresh, know that the truck is the best it has ever been. It’s easily the best half-ton truck on sale and is a solid performer across the range, including at the entry-level.
At first glance the changes to the F-150 are cosmetic. There’s a new front fascia with several different grille offerings. There are new headlights. There are new wheels. The tailgate is different along with the taillights. Some of the new tailgates even carry an embossed F-150 logo on them.
It’s all quite lovely to my eyes, really. It brings the truck’s design in parity with the new-generation Super Duty. Although I’m not convinced I like every grille option, the fact that Ford offers so many of them means that if there’s one you don’t like, odds are you can specify the truck without it. It’s all about giving people options.
There are several new interior treatments, and I’m quite fond of them. On the Limited there’s a blue Navy Pier interior. With the XLT Sport there’s a newly designed trim-specific interior. The range-topping Platinum sports a classy Dark Marsala treatment. Finally, on King Ranch, the Kingsville interior immediately transported me to Texas. All the materials feel top notch, and on the upgraded trims soft-touch materials abound.
The big changes, though, lie underneath the hood. For 2018 most of the engines are either new or refined. Replacing the 3.5L naturally-aspirated V6 is a new 3.3L unit that makes 290 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque. The 2.7L EcoBoost sees a boost of torque by 25 lb-ft to a solid 400 lb-ft. The 5.0L V8 is upped to 395 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The 3.5L EcoBoost remains unchanged because it was improved last year to 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Raptor is also unchanged.
The Surprise of the Day
I popped into a base 3.3L V6 with a pretty blue exterior and tan interior. It was a SuperCrew with tons of space and a bench seat up front. Options were limited to four-wheel drive and the SYNC 3 screen. No navigation was on hand, or any other premium technology or feature offering.
I quickly plugged in my phone to bring up Android Auto (or Apple Car Play for iPhones), and I instantly had Waze and my entire music library on the eight-inch touchscreen. There’s no need to have a fancy infotainment system when you can just let me use my phone.
On the road, the 3.3L is surprisingly quiet. In the business, we call that Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) and it’s kept in check. While some of the materials that you don’t usually touch are hard plastic, at no point does the truck feel cheap. There are niceties such as USB charging ports in the back for passengers.
Acceleration is brisk with or without cargo in the bed. We were offered 1,000 lbs of mulch to help test the truck’s capability. The six-speed transmission is revised for the new engine and shifts are smooth and predictable. Heck, pulling out of the farm I gave the truck a bit more throttle than I thought I did and got the back-end to break loose a bit.
At around $40,000, this XLT with some thoughtful options would be a truck I could live with happily every single day. Work truck fleets customers are going to be thrilled with the new engine, as are people who need a truck but don’t want to go overboard with options or engines.
If you need more towing oomph with a slightly-better EPA fuel economy estimate, order the 2.7L EcoBoost V6. The best part? It’s only $995 bucks.
The 2.7L EcoBoost is still my favorite engine in the lineup. It’s the Goldilocks of performance, price and fuel economy. Of course, I love a good V8, and the Coyote that’s available is great. But I still think for most people, the 2.7 is precisely what they need.
My butt can’t tell the difference of the extra 25 lb-ft over the previous-generation engine, but the improved towing and hauling numbers tell a different story. Some of that also comes down to the standard 10-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are imperceptible most of the time, and Ford has performed further programming so it’s not hunting for gears.
Yes, you can trip up the transmission and force it to hunt or perform a not-so-smooth shift, but you have to try to do it. Leave it to its own devices and don’t drive like a buffoon, and the transmission is as smooth as a CVT but without the drawbacks.
Also, the 2.7L makes the same amount of torque as the 5.0L V8.
Why Get the 5.0L?
Towing. If you tow once-in-a-while the 2.7L is fantastic, but many of you know that the fuel-economy department pays a price when the turbo spools up. The 5.0L V8 won’t pay such a large penalty for frequent towers. Yes, there’s a drop, but it’s not as severe, but you do lose some everyday economy.
Also, if you need to run on compressed natural gas (CNG), you have to have one of the naturally-aspirated Ford engines.
In the technology department, all of the systems are updated or refined to be better. Radar cruise control now stops and goes. It’ll bring the truck to a complete stop in traffic and automatically resume in less than three seconds if traffic moves again (or just hit a button on the steering wheel if longer than three seconds). The system has also been designed to work better when hauling a trailer.
Autonomous emergency braking, to help protect you avoid a crash or mitigate the damage now has pedestrian detection, and improved night visibility. Keep in mind though, it’s only human-detecting at this point, so deer and moose won’t be noticed, and that it’s not an infrared night vision system. But it’s more advanced than it was before.
The blind spot monitoring system also works when towing a trailer. While it seems obvious, the truck will help you see in the trailer’s blind spot and not just the truck’s.
Pro Trailer Backup Assist is still there, and it’s still awesome. As a reminder, if you don’t like it you don’t have to use it.
Finally, the B&O Play stereo sounds better than the Sony it replaces. A lot better. For those of you who like to listen to music while driving, you’ll appreciate the new premium offering.
Other little tweaks are also nice to see. For example, the truck remembers if you had your seat heated or cooled, and reactivates it when you restart the truck. Whether you’re in Texas or Alaska, you can certainly appreciate that.
It’ll tow more than ever. It’ll haul more than ever. It also gives the buyer more choices than ever with all the engine options and available features.
Unfortunately, the diesel isn’t available yet and I don’t know anything new about it. Hopefully, as we get closer to spring, when it’s scheduled to hit dealerships, I’ll get a chance to drive it and let you know about the desirable powertrain.
There are few. I’d like to see the 110v, 400-watt normal plug available as standard. Work truck trims could benefit from them for recharging tools.
I’d also like to see some sort of bed storage system, similar to Ram’s RamBox or Titan Box from Nissan. Ford’s Brian Bell said they looked into RamBox, but their customers didn’t express interest in it. Personally, I think there are takers out there.
I suppose I could also complain about the cost, but the new truck’s pricing is right in line with where the competition is. But unlike the competition, the F-150 offers loads more options for customer to get the exact truck they want.
Speaking of price, the new F-150 starts at $27,380 before destination, and it works its way up from there. They should be rolling into dealerships right about now.
I Suppose Y’all Want a Final Verdict?
First impressions are quite positive for the new truck. The subtle refinements they made for 2018, combined with the new looks make the F-150 even more compelling than it was before. It genuinely is hard to find fault with the truck, other than one isn’t currently in my driveway. It really is a truck that can be configured to be all things to all buyers. Oh, and the diesel will make it even better.
No, there’s no such thing as a perfect truck, but it’s hard to see where Ford will go from here. It’s the best half-ton pickup on sale today.
Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>
Photo Credit: [Sam VarnHagen, Ford]