First drive: 2012 Ford F-150 in Hatta, UAE
Ford is aggressively pushing products in the Middle East region nowadays, energised by the fact that their first-quarter GCC sales are up by 37% compared to last year. We are told they are concentrating on one segment at a time, and this summer, it is the turn of Ford’s truck line-up. To start it off, Ford Middle East invited us to the “Built Ford Tough” event held right here in the UAE.
We were put up at the Hatta Fort Hotel, where we enjoyed an all-expenses-paid shindig for a couple of days. Somewhere in that time, we were ferried to a location away from town at the base of some small mountains, where there was a camp showcasing almost the entire Ford F-Series range of trucks, including the F-150, the F-250 and the F-350 as well as a couple of Ranger pickups.
The event was broken up into several activities, the first one being a casual presentation by Rick Titus, a certain American journalist who apparently believes the F-150 is so good compared to the competition that he doesn’t mind shilling for Ford. The things he said were rather eye-opening, to be honest, as they directly compared the F-150 to the Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500 and Toyota Tundra. Like the fact that Ford makes the strongest full-size pickup chassis by virtue of having the thickest “fully-boxed” frame, using much longer bolts to hold the bed in, frame cross-supports that are welded in place instead of riveted, and having wider leaf springs in the rear suspension. These as well as various other tidbits made the Chevy Silverado look like a severe cost-cutting exercise, while the Toyota Tundra came out looking the worst in terms of durability, while the Ram is apparently the only one that can run a close second to the F-150. Of course, all these add up to class-leading payload and towing capacities — things that most “lifestyle” truck buyers here will hardly max out.
While the F-150 may not be viewed as anything more than a showpiece in this region, they are designed to be work trucks. We went out on the road in a convoy of various F-150 models, all carrying a one-tonne payload of bricks in the back. These included a base V8 model, a loaded Platinum version, and a fancy-dressed Harley-Davidson edition. They drove perfectly fine with the loads tied down in the bed, and all were slow but never struggling as we hardly ever did more than 3000 rpm on those up-and-down mountain roads. We also took the time to notice how irritatingly quiet these trucks were at 100 kph, and fairly smooth too, with only the slightest occasional jitter betraying their truck underpinnings. With the amazing legroom in the back bench of the dual-cab models, they could classify these as luxury limos were it not for the excessive use of hard plastics beyond the padded armrests.
In another exercise, we drove similar F-150 models on the same roads, but this time, they were towing trailers, the biggest one being a race-car carrier. It was rather interesting, given that we’ve never towed anything before ever. The small loads were fine, but the large car trailer was a fair bit wider than the truck. The models we used here had the optional towing package that bumps up towing capacity and adds a function that can control the brakes on the trailer itself, which can even be worked as part of the stability control even. Needless to say, nothing untoward happened. The light steering made it easy to pilot the truck, while the “tow/haul” mode in the transmission automatically chose and held the low gears. Progress was slow, but again, we barely ever revved above 3000 rpm on the hills, and all we had to do was be mindful of the width on sharp turns.
Finally, we took the F-150 on an offroad jaunt in the surrounding mountain areas. Driving in and around rocks has its own charm. And while we didn’t do anything strenuous, we did have some sphincter-clenching moments manoeuvring the huge-ass truck through 90-degree turns between two rocky ridges with barely inches on either side and with one wheel off the ground, as well as turning onto downhill trails without being able to see where the cliff ends. OF course, we did all of it with the help of spotters standing outside. Climbing up the gravel slopes was no stress for the V8 engine, especially since we were sitting in low-range gear most of the time.
The 2012 Ford F-150 now can be had with a 302 hp 3.7-litre V6, a 360 hp 5.0-litre and a 411 hp 6.2-litre V8 in the GCC, all tuned for high torque and improved fuel economy. In fact, Ford claims their trucks have better horsepower, torque, payload capacity and fuel economy than their equivalent competitors from Chevrolet et al. Based on the specs sheet at least, the F-150 comes out on top. While we are not truck experts, we can still see why the F-150 remains the top-selling truck in America for 35 years.
Photos by Jorge Ferrari and Salma Sultana.