2018 FORD F150: REFRESHED OR RECYCLED
Refreshed or Recycled?
TRUCK AND SUV SALES have a set a blistering pace over the last few years, spurning a highly competitive market as manufacturers attempt to gain and hold market share. Their strongest tool in this game is technological innovation and styling refresh in order to make every year a new year. Because new is news.
Ford plays this game better than anyone else and that’s not a bad thing. Not only do they give the people what they want, they are willing to take some risks in delivering what we don’t know we want yet, for instance, the introduction of aluminum into the F150 back in 2015.
2018 doesn’t introduce any game changers into the F150, not the kind that makes you want to trade in your one to two year old truck to get a 2018 model. But there are enough enhancements to make you want to lease a new truck rather buy out your old lease, or take a solid look at Ford if your brand loyalty is wavering from Ram or Chevy. Many
changes are just cosmetic, but there are also new powertrain options and enhancements, as well as new driver assist technologies to allow F-150 owners to do more on and off the road with their trucks.
Let’s start with every 4x4 enthusiast’s core values, the steak not the sizzle, the substance rather than style – the engines and power trains. The 2.7l EcoBoost V-6, and the 5.0l naturally aspirated V-8 get some tweaks to improve torque and horsepower, and, along with the 3.5l Ecoboost, will be mated to the new 10-speed automatic transmission.
Last year's normally aspirated 3.5l V-6 has been dumped and replaced with a more efficient 3.3l V-6, bolted to a six-speed transmission for a lower price point engine/powertrain option.
All engines will get the Auto Start/Stop technology, which reduces idling time by stopping the engine at a traffic light and firing it up when you step on the gas. Fortunately it is automatically disabled in tow/haul, and off-road mode.
Here is the reality check. Although there are six engines (including the diesel to be released next year) to choose from, there are only two engines you should or will want to buy.
The bottom end 3.3 litre doesn’t have the jam to do anything a pick-up truck needs to do, unless cruising main street is all it needs to do. Max torque and horsepower figures are too low to be of consequence, and the RPM required to hit the max numbers is too high to be used efficiently. Ford has also hamstrung the engine, as it is only available with the six-speed transmission. This does create a price point truck so you can get in the door of a shiny new Ford at $30,500 CDN – albeit only for the Regular Cab 4x2 in the XL trim. If, like 99% of Canadians, you only buy 4x4 pickups, your entry fee to the 2018 F-150 will be $35,000 CDN.
The normally aspirated 5.0 litre V8 is sluggish under load. Yes it has that wonderful V8 sound, and yes, you can
option it out to hit the best-in-class payload capacity (3,270 lbs.; 1,483 kg), but the truck felt sluggish pulling just an 3629 kg (8000 lb) trailer, so that much or more would be an exercise in frustration on any uphill grade. Unless you plan to add aftermarket engine enhancements after your warranty is done, or you are a die-hard V8 aficionado, skip this engine as well.
The 3.5 l high-output Ecoboost is an awesome engine, but only available in the Raptor, and the diesel engine hasn’t been released yet, although it will be your most expensive upgrade when it arrives.
This new diesel entry is a 3.0l turbocharged Power Stoke V-6 (which also gets the 10-speed transmission). It is welcome news for Ford enthusiasts as Ford is the last of the big three to bring a diesel to the half-ton market place. Ford says it won’t be available until spring of 2018, it will be expensive, and will only be available on higher end trims. No fuel efficiency, horsepower or torque values have been released as Ford continues to calibrate the engine in advance of EPA scrutiny, courtesy the debacle over VW’s intentional fudging of emission test results. But in the neverending competition for ‘best-in-class’, the engine will have to beat Ram’s three litre Ecodiesel. So we expect max numbers from Ford's diesel to be roughly 250 hp @ 3600 rpm, 450 lb-ft of torque @ 2000 rpm and hit 29 mph on the highway in a 4x4. But as I said, you can’t buy it yet, we don’t know the performance, and we don’t know what it will cost.
So essentially you have two smart choices for your 2018 F150 this fall– the 2.7 and 3.5 litre EcoBoost. Base your choice on your needs, or the thickness of your wallet. The 2.7litre is spry and exciting to drive, even great with a 7500 lb trailer hanging off the back. The 3.5l Ecoboost is the workhorse engine, your best choice if you need to haul heavy payloads or trailers, or consistently climb significant grades. It didn’t feel bogged down even with a 4082 kg (9,000 lb) trailer hanging off the hitch. My recommendation is the 2.7 litre Ecoboost so you can enjoy good acceleration and good fuel economy in a 4x4 at 13.1l/100km (18 mpg) city, 11.8 l/100km (20 mpg) highway, and have a truck that doesn’t labour under most common loads. Unless, and it is a big unless, you really need, or can afford the extra torque and horsepower of the 3.5 litre Ecoboost engine.
How did Ford get more torque, horsepower and some slight improvements in fuel economy from their engines? It is in large part due to the implementation of port injection (PI) in combination with direct injection (DI). DI atomizes fuel by delivering it under high pressure directly into the cylinder during the compression cycle. The phase change has a cooling effect in the cylinder allowing a higher compression ratio and a more efficient engine. Port injection on the other hand, provides quiet, smooth performance at idle and low rpm, and flushes excess soot and particulate created by DI.
Cosmetically, most grilles now feature a dual bar that stretches across the
front of the truck giving it a wider look (similar to the super duty), and the grille dips down slightly into the bumper (a look taken from the Ford raptor) with variations on this theme to differentiate the different trim levels. The C-shaped lights extend further to the centre of the truck than 2017, with upper trim levels getting LED’s. In the back, the tail lamps are slightly redesigned, and the tailgate gets a large embossed F-150 on the XL, XLT and Lariat trim levels, and a satin chrome applique on the King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trucks.
Ford has introduced new interiors and paint colours, and wheel lovers will appreciate the six new wheel options ranging from 17-22" in diameter.
Ford continues to introduce driver assist features that, while not ground breaking, are designed to give drivers the confidence to use their truck more. More trailering, more boat launching, more off-road.
New for 2018 technology
New for Ford, your truck can come equipped with Wi-Fi hot spot technology delivered by AT&T across North America. In the US-of-A, unlimited data will be $20 USD/month. Who knows how badly Canadians will be gouged as AT&T will have to work through Canadian cell providers.
Adaptive cruise control allows you to set your speed, then using radar and camera tech your vehicle will match the speed of the vehicle in front of you. You can choose from four different distances between vehicles, which it will then maintain, or if the vehicle in front of you comes to a complete stop – so will you. The system is also calibrated so you can use it while towing – great for long hauls.
Audiophiles, and anyone who loves great sound will drool over the B& O ten speaker amplified sound system and the Pre-collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection is another option to keep you out of trouble.
Other driver assist features carrying over from 2017 include a lane keeping system to prevent unintentional drifting, and a 360° camera system to help you see around the vehicle when you park. The 360° camera in conjunction with the forward facing camera make great additions for navigating the tight trails many of us experience off-road on the way to the cabin, cottage, favourite fishing spot, or camp site. The downside is the mandated shut down once you are over eight kph courtesy the government safety nerds – heaven forbid you should be distracted by the screen at 9 kph trying to avoid obstacles you can’t see out the windows.
Also carrying over is their Blind Spot Information System with trailer tow technology, which uses radar in the tail lamps to detect obstacles you may not be able see, now helping you with trailers up to 10 metres long.
Pro Trailer Backup Assist uses a rear camera in conjunction with your side mirrors, you turn a knob on the dash in the direction you want the trailer to go. How is this different from putting your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and doing the same? Using the knob eliminates over-correcting and centering issues that accompany inexperienced trailering. Just turn the knob so the trailer follows the curve you want, and keep your hands off the steering wheel as it spins wildly to guide the trailer along a perfect path. Let the knob go when you are pointed in the correct direction and the truck will straighten the trailer.
With a Sync Connect equipped model, you have a number of remote features accessible through your smart phone using the Fordpass app. Remotely start, lock, or unlock your truck, track its location, or check the fuel level. You can even schedule start times.
The new technology, cosmetics and powertrain will keep the F150 in the halfton game and will no doubt help keep it the best selling pickup in Canada for another year. Brand loyalists will find it easy to love, and if you’re not a Ford fan, you should take the time to drive it before you dismiss it.
Ford ekes out every last bit of engine efficiency with dual injection technology. Trailer Backup Assist gets your boat launched or your trailer parked with ease.
Ford’s new ten speed transmission aids fuel efficiency and smooth power delivery.
The Blindspot Information System adds a level of safety to your daily drive.