From tradesmen to chief executives, the Ford F150 appeals to all sectors of American society which serves as a reason why it’s been the country’s best-selling vehicle with over 35 million sales since 1948. Liam Campbell heads stateside to put the iconic pickup to the test, both on and off the road, on his journey from Chicago to the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis.
Since its humble beginnings as a light farm hand almost seventy years ago, the Ford F150 has evolved over thirteen generations to become the epitome of American motoring and symbolise middle America’s working man. However, upmarket specs, like our Limited test vehicle, rival Mercedes and BMW for their glam and are aimed at a more discerning customer.
The Limited is the flagship trim in the F150 range, sitting above the XL, XLT, Raptor, Grand Ranch and Platinum. The interior of the Limited is unlike any European pickup; it’s generally furnished and incredibly spacious, with the central console alone being wider than a European seat.
As you would expect for a vehicle that’s pitted against high-end European saloons, the F150 Limited is loaded with kit and the features include a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat with driver memory, heated seats all-round, heated steering wheel, 360-degree reversing camera, keyless ignition and dual-zone climate control.
Infotainment is provided by DAB radio and CD player, with an eight-inch touch screen display, 10-speakers and subwoofer, voice-activated controls and satellite navigation. The seats are comfortable and there’s enough room in the back for the kids to swing a cat.
Unlike European pickups, there is a choice of load area lengths and our test vehicle came with the shorter, 5.5ft load bed. The load bed measures 1,704mm long by 1,285mm wide between the wheelarches, and with 535mm side walls.
There are access steps and a durable cargo bed liner included as standard, with LED box lighting illuminates the box with forward-facing LEDs via the two switches in the bed or on the headlamp control in the cab. Optional extras include the tailgate release, which allows drivers to remotely open and close the tailgate with the push of a button.
Weight and loads
Due to its aluminium body, the F150 weighs in at just 2.2 tonnes unladen, which isn’t much different to a Ford Ranger, VW Amarok or Toyota Hilux. The most surprising aspect of the Ford F150 is its payload. At 635kg, this huge American truck isn’t capable of carrying anywhere near what the smaller Europe trucks can, although payloads do extend up to 1.3 tonnes on some variants.
However, it is a formidable tower. The towing capacity is rated at 4,850kg and there is 569Nm of torque on hand to ensure ample pulling power when towing the full load.
On the road
On the open road, the F150 is extremely refined and there is surprisingly little noise for the huge 5.0-litre powerplant. Despite its 2.2 tonne chassis, its hair-raisingly quick and the 365hp, 3.5-litre V6 powers the F150 to 60mph in just 5.8 seconds. Even during heavy acceleration, the 10-speed automatic transmission, with Sport Mode, doesn’t lose momentum through the gear changes and switches through the gears effortlessly.
The steering feels well-connected with the road and unexpectedly light, although it’s hard to manoeuvre in tight spaces with a 13 metre turning circle. The long springs provide a comfortable ride and there’s very little bounce, although pot holes are more noticeable than other pickups of this size and it can’t rival smooth coils of the Ram 1500.
We turned off the main highway and entered the Hoosier National Park in Indiana, where there was a number of hilly sections and off-road tracks. Down the mud tracks, the F150 would shudder and shake as it hit potholes and bumps, even at lower speeds, but it felt sure-footed over unstable terrain thanks to the four-wheel drive system with locking rear differential.
There was, however, another problem. The low sitting chassis and long overhangs provided poor approach, departure and ramp over angles of just 25.5, 26.0 and 21.0 degrees respectively – despite the side steps automatically raising when in transit.
Ford F150 summary
In America, where the roads are big and the fuel is cheap (around 21mpg on the combined cycle), the Ford F150 makes perfect sense. At $60,900 (£47,800), the Limited is in the same price bracket as luxury European models but a lot of American’s prefer its commanding views, more affordable parts and, of course, that macho image.
There are a number of companies in the UK that specialise in importing American vehicles like the Ford F150, but with talk of FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) looking at bringing the Ram 1500 to Europe, we’re staying hopeful that Ford will one day follow suit with the F150.