2016 Ford F-150: More advanced than any other truck
American pickup trucks have evolved from being just utilitarian workhorses to something completely in a class of their own. Big, bold and powerful, they are icons with reputations built over more than half a century. Nowadays, you can outfit them as anything from barebones work-trucks to complete luxury cars, so all you ever need is one vehicle in your life. Still, innovation has not been a strong suit of the pickup-truck industry over the years, but a bombshell was dropped recently in the form of the all-new Ford F-150, and it’s a complete game-changer compared to the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and the Ram 1500.
There are very few luxury cars that have aluminium body panels in an effort to save weight. But Ford is the first and only one to bring that idea into the realm of pickup trucks. The all-new F-150 sits on a high-strength fully-boxed steel frame, but all its body panels are made of high-strength aluminium-alloy, the latter said to be military-grade and tested in everything from Baja 1000 rallies to real-life mining duty back when it was just a prototype. The lighter new body helps save up to 300 kg in curb weight compared to a steel-bodied truck. And even then, the new F-150 managed a 5-star crash-test rating from the U.S. NHTSA government agency.
Interestingly enough, Ford’s fuel-saving innovations did not stop there. The F-150 is also the only truck to offer a fuel-efficient turbocharged “EcoBoost” engine alongside its traditional 385 hp 5.0-litre V8, namely a 365 hp 3.5-litre turbo V6, the latter having even more torque than the V8. The smaller turbo motor is also offered with auto start-stop technology as standard, to save fuel when the vehicle is standing still. In contrast, Chevrolet’s 355 hp 5.3-litre V8 and Ram’s 395 hp 5.7-litre V8 offer similar levels of power even though they are larger in displacement.
In terms of available tech, the Ford F-150 has the Ram 1500 beat, while being miles ahead of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500. The F-150 can be had with a new 8-inch LCD “productivity” screen in the gauge cluster which includes updated truck apps involving everything from fuel economy to towing tips, and the ability to create a customised home screen for owners to access their most frequently-used apps in one place.
Additionally, the MyFord Touch system with an 8-inch multimedia touchscreen is also available, for use with the CD/MP3/USB/Bluetooth-capable stereo and automatic climate-control features, among several other functions. Many features can also be run on just voice-control alone, such as changing radio stations or calling phone contacts.
Further available features include such luxuries as massaging front seats, leather upholstery with stitched-leatherette dash, a 360-degree camera system for an overhead view, automatic steering for parallel-parking, LED headlights and taillights, blind-spot monitoring, LED spotlights on the sideview mirrors, and an LED-lit cargo bed.
Just the tailgate itself has more engineering in it that its rivals. It has an integrated step with a grab handle, all of it redesigned to hide away completely now. Neither the Chevy nor the Ram have such a convenient way of stepping onto the bed, easy enough for even your grandmother. The tailgate also has an available damped drop-down action triggered with the key fob for hands-free opening, and can now be remote-locked just like a regular door.
Even more optional features include integrated loading ramps, a trailer-hitch assist function that uses the rear camera for guidance, and a smart trailer-tow module that can detect lighting faults and other issues with the trailer.
All that is fine, but how does it drive? We drove all the versions, and they’re all very good. The turbo V6 engines offer good low-end and mid-range torque before calming down at cruising speeds, while the V8 has a low-end kick followed by a linear build-up of power all the way up the rev range. All engines come with a smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic that make the most of the available power.
The handling is also very stable, with less body roll than a Chevy Silverado. And the ride is very smooth and quiet, more so than both the Ram and the Chevy. The steering and brakes are pretty good for a truck too, and driving the F-150 almost feels like simply driving a big car with living-room levels of space.
Shifting into four-wheel-drive is as easy as turning a dial with the standard electronic shift-on-the-fly system, while automatic all-wheel-drive is available on higher trim levels.
The optional FX4 Off-Road Package is optional on F-150 4x4s and adds goodies like an electronic-locking rear differential, hill-descent control and off-road tuned shock absorbers as well as skid plates. With a bit of careful driving, it can go most places out in the desert as well as on the mountains.
Ford has managed to cram an immense number of features into its next-generation truck that easily makes the F-150 the most advanced in its segment.