If there's one brand that's synonymous with pickup trucks in America, it's Ford. Sure, Chrysler has Ram, its newly-bespoke truck-only brand, and General Motors has GMC. But looking at the truck landscape from a quantitative standpoint, Ford rules the roost, as it has for the past three decades. To experience the current pinnacle of the lineup, we drove a 2013 Ford F-150 King Ranch for a week to experience its leather-lined luxury, country-style.
Being number one has its advantages, but despite Dearborn's commanding lead in the truck market, complacency is no longer an option for Ford. And unlike other vehicle segments, where the "good, better, best" trim hierarchy suffices in meeting most customers' needs, the full-size truck market has a mind-boggling number of configurations of engines, cabs, bed lengths, drivetrains and trims. There are now no fewer than 10 trim levels on the F-150, not counting the other variations mentioned. Four out of these 10 trims arguably overlap to one extent or the other, with the Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited all crowding the upper range of the F-150 line. All trims are offered with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 as an option, with some of the trim levels also offering the 5.0-liter and 6.2-liter V-8 engines.
Room at the Head of the Truck Table?
The King Ranch has been a premium trim level on the F-150 for more than a decade. The Lariat has been around even longer. But Ford added the Platinum trim in 2009, and the Limited most recently in 2013. So the King Ranch, once the undisputed flagship of the F-150 line, is no longer the decisive top-of-the-line. Why does Ford offer so many seemingly overlapping models at the higher end of its truck lineup? Most likely because it can, and because dealers are constantly screaming for high-trim, high-profit models. They sell briskly, despite their $50,000-and-up price tags.
Our tester was no exception, ringing the register to $54,455. For that princely sum, it was outfitted with the full complement of cowboy kit, including power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, driver's side memory seats, King Ranch leather trim, side steps, Ford's built-in tailgate step, rear-view camera, HID headlights, the optional EcoBoost V-6, sprayed-in bed liner and four-wheel-drive.
In terms of features, the King Ranch F-150 is nearly without peer, with the possible exception of the Platinum and Limited trims. But despite the lavish leather trim on the commonly-touched areas of the interior, the King Ranch is still no rival to Range Rover. The dash top of our tester was colored and visually textured to match the rest of the interior, but a brief rap with the knuckles confirmed it was still hard plastic. Likewise, aside from the front armrest, the gauge cowl, shifter, steering wheel and seats, much of the rest of the interior was typical F-150: sturdy and functional, but not particularly plush or hand-crafted. Perhaps we're expecting too much at this price range, but when soft-touch dashes have lately become the expected price of entry for being considered "premium," it doesn't seem like too much to ask.
Once settled in the King Ranch's broad, comfortable front buckets, the truck exhibits the expected attributes from a contemporary F-150: good road noise isolation, responsive power and ample features. However, also like contemporary Fords, there are some blemishes on an otherwise solid execution. Issues with Ford's Synch and MyFord Touch system are well-documented, and once again, we experienced our frustrations. Even for simple, pre-defined voice commands, the Sync system had difficulty recognizing our input, insistently tuning to St. Louis Traffic on Sirius when we spoke "Street Address" as a command, even when in the Navigation mode.
As for the power of the EcoBoost V-6, not much more can be said about Ford's high-tech powerhouse. It's smooth, torquey and responsive, easily the peer of most competitors' V-8s. In our experience, its promise of V-6 fuel economy is perhaps a bit over-rated, but frequently dipping into the deep reserves of 420 lb-ft of torque in a nearly 6000-lb truck can do that. Although quiet, the EcoBoost is not completely silent, with the whooshes and sputters of the turbochargers and waste gates audible when driving with the radio off or on low volume, and the subdued growl of the V-6 a subtle reminder of what's under the hood. The lack of a traditional V-8 soundtrack is about the only downside to this otherwise excellent engine.
In terms of the rationale of having multiple high-end trims, we're not entirely convinced that there's a need for so many in the F-150 lineup, but as long as they're selling, who are we to argue? We could nit-pick the cheapness of some of the King Ranch's trim, or say that it's an "aging" design going on five years without a major redesign. But those critiques ring hollow in light of other full-size competitors going a decade without changes, as well as an all-new F-150 right around the corner.
We expect the next King Ranch, whenever it comes, to improve on refinement, features, and economy over the current model. In the meantime, we can confidently say this version is going out on a high note.
|2013 Ford F-150 SuperCrew King Ranch 4x4 |
|BASE PRICE|| $47,785 |
|PRICE AS TESTED ||$54,955 |
|VEHICLE LAYOUT ||Front-engine, RWD/4WD, 5-pass, 4-door Truck|
|ENGINE ||3.5L/365-hp/420-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve twin-turbocharged V-6 |
|TRANSMISSION|| 6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT || 5687 lb (mfr)|
|WHEELBASE ||145.0 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT|| 231.9 x 79.2 x 76.7 in|
|0-60 MPH ||6.5 sec (est)|
|QUARTER MILE|| 15.0 sec @ 93.0 mph (est)|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH|| 130 ft (est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON|| 15/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY|| 225/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|