2020 F-150 New Car Test Drive
One word to describe the 2019 Ford F-150 might be “bewildering.” Not the vehicle itself, but the choices and characters it offers. It tries to be almost everything to almost everybody, with its variety of powertrains, cabins and beds, and we must say it succeeds.
There are V-6, V-8, diesel, twin-turbocharged, normally aspirated, 6-speed automatic, 10-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, regular cab, super cab, super crew cab, base trim, in-between trim, luxury trim F-150s. There's no hybrid, but it's coming soon, says Ford.
The F-150's towing, comfort, and available safety are tops among all full-size trucks. The fit and finish is better than many of Ford's sedans and crossovers, including some Lincolns. It has an aluminum body over its heavy-duty steel frame, to lower the weight. It has a fairly smooth ride and reasonably sharp handling, while not fooling anyone behind the wheel that it's not still a tall, heavy truck. The fuel mileage is competitive but not great.
There are only minor changes for the new model year.
Last year the F-150 gained a new 3.3-liter V-6 base engine that offered more power than the outgoing 3.5 liter; the new V-6 makes 290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque, and uses direct injection to improve fuel mileage over the old V-6. However it maintains the old transmission, a 6-speed automatic, its only use in the F-150 line. It gets 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
The twin-turbo, 2.7-liter V-6 makes 325 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, effectively replacing the V-8 engine that Ford used to put in this space. It uses the more modern 10-speed transmission, and gets about the same mileage as the less powerful base V-6: 20 mpg city, 26 highway, and 22 combined.
There's another twin-turbo V-6, bigger at 3.5 liters and a lot more powerful with 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet in most versions. But hold onto your hat: in the Limited and Raptor models, it's tuned to make 450 hp and 510 lb-ft. Even with all that power, it still gets 17/23/19 mpg, and that's with four-wheel drive.
If you must have the throaty rumble of a V-8, there's the trusty 5.0 liter. It tries to keep up with the bigger twin-turbo V-6 by bringing 395 horsepower to the table, but that turbo torque blows the V-8's mere 400 pound-feet away. And it's a notch behind in fuel mileage, at 17/23/19 mpg with rear-wheel drive, 16/22/18 mpg with four-wheel drive.
The 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 was introduced late in the 2018 model, so practically speaking it's a 2019. It costs $4,000 and has limited appeal, since Ford's V-6 engines are so good. It's quiet, and the fuel mileage is improved to 22 city, 30 highway, and 25 combined mpg with two-wheel drive, while four-wheel drive takes a big hit on the highway, to 20/25/22 mpg. It makes a mere 250 horsepower, compensating with 440 pound-feet of torque, which is what diesels are all about, and it can tow 11,400 pounds with all the right equipment.
Regular-Cab F-150s are targeted at fleets, and maybe too the SuperCabs with small rear bench seats and rear-hinged rear doors, designed more for loading packages than passengers. The SuperCrew is the best-seller to individuals, being expansive inside, with reclining and folding rear seats that provide good lockable storage space. Beds of 5-foot-6, 6-foot-6, and 8-foot lengths come on various cab styles.
The NHTSA gives the F-150 five stars overall, with four stars for rollover resistance. The IIHS gives it the best 'Good'? rating in every category it tested, except for headlights, where it gets a 'Poor,” and the difficult passenger-side small-overlap protection, which the IIHS hasn't done yet.
But there's a problem here. Safety scores are strong, but automatic emergency braking isn't available on the lower- and medium-cost F-150s, as it should be. You have to buy way up at the Lariat level, until active systems even become optional. Until you spend that money, you can't get forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, or inflatable rear seat belts..
The 2019 Ford F-150 comes as XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited and Raptor models. The base XL begins at just over $28,000, and it's easy to get a mid-range F-150 above $50,000?never mind the mind-blowing numbers possible at the top of the line.
As work trucks, XL and XLT can be configured with any cab style (Regular Cab, SuperCab, and SuperCrew) and every bed length (5-foot-6, 6-foot-6, and 8-foot). Nearly every drivetrain can be specified in them, as well.
Standard equipment on the XL includes manual windows, cloth seats, AM/FM radio, manual door locks, vinyl floors, a tilt/telescoping wheel, air conditioning, and on four-door models, flip-up rear seats. Equipment packages add on trailer hitches, cruise control, and power accessories.
The XLT adds power locks and windows, chrome bumpers, and a CD player. But it's meant to be like a blank canvas for buyers: it can be equipped with 18-inch wheels, a sport-appearance package, an off-road package with skid plates and special shocks and four-wheel drive, and a trailer-assist feature that makes hitching as easy as the turn of a knob. The XLT also can be fitted with navigation, power seats and power-adjustable pedals, and blind-spot monitors.
The F-150 becomes a more lavishly equipped family vehicle in its middle trim grades.
Lariat F-150s only come with turbo V-6 engines or V-8s, and only with four doors. To the XLT trim, they add an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Ford's Sync3 infotainment system, keyless ignition and more. Options include premium Sony audio, adaptive cruise control, automatic parking assistance, heated front and rear seats, and two-tone paint.
On the F-150 King Ranch, Ford ventures into dude-ranch territory with saddle-colored leather, heated front and rear seats, lots of chrome trim, and multi-contour power front seats. Options run the gamut of luxury and utility, including a moonroof, a surround-view camera system, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, power running boards, extended bed, trailer-tow package, and 20-inch wheels.
For the Platinum F-150, Ford loads on blind-spot monitors, remote start, ambient lighting, inflatable rear seatbelts, navigation, wood trim, heated and cooled front seats, and LED headlights.
On the top of the luxury range, the Limited gets 22-inch wheels, a standard turbo V-6 engine, a dual-pane sunroof, standard surround-view camera system, and LED headlights.
For lovers of high performance, the F-150 Raptor turns up the boost on the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 to get 450 horsepower (optional in the Limited) and adds six drive modes, exceptional ground clearance, and special knobby off-road tires. It's essentially a desert muscle car with a short pickup bed (5-foot-6) on the back, and costs about $53,000. .