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  • Pickup Truck of the Year Contender: 2018 Ford F-150

Pickup Truck of the Year Contender: 2018 Ford F-150

Poise and Comfort with 5.0L Muscle

Dec 20, 2017
Photographers: Robert Guio
Coming off a fresh mid-cycle update, we had high hopes for the ’18 Ford F-150, which arrived in Platinum trim wearing an unusually black shade of red that Ford calls “Magma.” Further stoking our excitement was this tester’s powertrain, a 5.0L V-8 paired with the company’s new 10-speed automatic transmission. We’ve got some experience with that gearbox, which is the same unit found under the Raptor from last year’s test, but we’ve never sampled Ford’s 5.0L V-8. Making 10 hp and 13 lb-ft more than ’17’s five-oh and boasting four more forward gears than before, we were very much looking forward to putting the naturally aspirated sport truck through its paces. Thanks to that quick-shifting transmission, we were not disappointed with the F-150’s performance numbers.
In addition to the 10-speed gearbox, which spread to the 5.0L V-8 and the 2.7L EcoBoost V-6 for ’18, this truck also features a cosmetic update compared to last year’s model. The front grille is bolder than before, with two thick chrome bars that span into each headlight’s C-shaped notches. A new tailgate comes stamped with the F-150 logo on lesser models, although our Platinum had a metal-look plastic applique on the back. Inside, the F-150’s tech-heavy interior gets updated for ’18, with our Platinum sporting the latest SYNC 3 infotainment system, as well as revised materials and trim to impart a richer, more upmarket feel.
Photo 2/18   |   2018 Ford F150 Platinum Engine
All that amounted to arguably one of the most comfortable, accommodating vehicles in our test. Ford’s spacious crew-cab configuration provided the most stretch-out legroom for rear-seat passengers, with cushier seating than even the Ram Mega Cab’s reclining rear perches. And like last year’s F-250 Platinum, every last one of us feel in deep, deep love with the multicontour massaging front seats, which felt great on our various freeway drives.
Drawing ire, however, was that updated infotainment system. SYNC 3 improves on its predecessor with better ergonomics and more attractive graphics than before, but it still requires too many touchscreen inputs for simple tasks like adjusting the radio. It also occasionally exhibited glitches, particularly when Apple CarPlay was active. One driver was unable to access the climate-control screen, for example, unless he disconnected his phone to deactivate CarPlay and return to normal SYNC 3 operation.
Photo 3/18   |   2018 Ford F150 Platinum Side
Also frustrating was the active lane assistance, which would occasionally attempt to steer toward the wrong lane line or become confused by a highway’s rain grooves. Turning off this feature requires using the menu display between the primary gauges, an electronic maze of vehicle settings. Overall, we found the driver interface to be too complicated.
Back on the positive side of the ledger, the F-150 was a willing tow companion, with its 360-degree camera system making hitching a total cinch. The 5.0L V-8 made ample power and a smooth, American rumble when accelerating from a stop with a trailer in tow, and the adaptive cruise control kept downhill speed (and brake function) in check by commanding eager downshifts from the transmission.
Off-road performance was respectable, as long as we held realistic expectations. We must address one concern: By the end of our 1,200-mile test, the F-150’s structure had developed a few creaks, which were most noticeable on ditch crossings. But all-terrain tires made the most of the truck’s available traction, and the relaxed suspension tuning made small washboard surfaces disappear. With a low-hanging air dam and 20-inch wheels, no one would confuse this truck for a Raptor, but keeping the needs of a hobbyist outdoorsman in mind, our tester did just fine.
Photo 4/18   |   2018 Ford F150 Platinum Interior
And its interior and exterior design made most, if not all, of our editors happy. The not-actually-red Magma Red paint code attracted a few snickers, but the blackish-bronze exterior still drew plenty of longing gazes, and the Platinum-specific brightwork provided a few visual highlights to the F-150’s modern, architectural design. Inside, Dark Marsala upholstery with classy contrast stitching, a genuine leather dash top, and plenty of storage made the F-150 a great choice for long freeway rides.
In the end, keeping the truck out of top finishing position was the frustrating infotainment interface, those worrisome structural groans, and somewhat limited off-road abilities. One editor said it best: “Sorry I’m not being more specific, but the F-150 kind of left me wanting. I thought it might have a little more to offer.” For about $63,000 as tested, we have to agree.
Still, count us among the F-150’s fans. Ford’s volume seller offers all the comfort and capability we’ve come to expect from the F-Series lineup, with a wonderful freeway ride and a reasonable towing rap sheet, all accompanied by the soundtrack of a modern, American V-8.
WE LIKE: Interior comfort, especially those massaging seats. Excellent sound, both from the audio system and the 5.0L V-8. Controlled towing experience.
WE DON’T LIKE: Complicated infotainment system. Structural creaks and groans.
Photo 5/18   |   Ford’s all-new, all-aluminum F-150 won our award back in ’15, so expectations were high for this refreshed version of the former champ. While an impressive vehicle nonetheless, the outcome of this year’s test was slightly less favorable.

2018 Ford F-150

Base Price: $57,580
Price As Tested: $63,204
Trim: Platinum
EPA Fuel Econ (City/HWY/Comb): 15/19/17
Engine: 5.0L V-8
Horsepower: 395 @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 400 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Accel 0-60 MPH: 7.32 seconds
Quarter-Mile: 15.32 seconds @ 93.40 mph
Braking 60-0 MPH: 134.98 feet
Accel 0-60 (Payload): 8.61 seconds
Quarter-Mile (Payload): 16.30 seconds @ 87.77 mph
Braking 60-0 MPH (Payload): 139.30 feet
Accel 0-60 (Towing): 15.47 seconds
Quarter-Mile (Towing): 20.41 seconds @ 70.53 mph
Weight: 5,250 pounds
Decibel Level (at 60 MPH): 63.0
Tested Fuel Econ (Average/Best): 15.53/19.23
*1,700 pounds of payload **7,500-pound trailer weight

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