(NOTE: This review has been UPDATED with CORRECTIONS since original publication.)
Last year, Ford re-designed its 35 year strong top-selling F-150 half-ton pick-up truck around an aluminum body. Apparently, the mostly [Chevrolet] “Bow Tie Fans” who heckled “Isn’t that what soda pop cans are made of?” have never flown on aluminum skinned airplanes.
“Drive…He Said” set out to ascertain whether the 2016 Ford F-150 continues to earn the “Built Ford Tough” reputation.
Ford’s revolutionary [for light truck] fabrication employs especially rigid castings, more numerous laser welds and aerospace strength bonding. The achieved result is a body which feels darn solid and quiver free. For extra strength where it counts, F-150′s boxed-in frame carries over in steel.
SQUARE IS SQUARE DOES:
Three-Bar Ranch: Next to the outgoing model, the 2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat 4×4 boasts at least 20 different visual cues. The addition of a 3rd horizontal grille bar signals an increase in rank from a corporal to sergeant. LED The Way in the tapered head- and tail-light housings. Man Handle: Liftgate release can nearly fit a boxing glove and is positioned at top-most edge.
POP in the CAN:
Ford’s F-150 Lariat is propelled by an “Ecoboost” 3.5L DOHC 24V direct-injected, twin-turbocharged, gas V-6 coupled to a Selectshift 6-speed auto gearbox. An electronic shift-on-the-fly 2-speed transfer case splits torque to open front & rear differentials, featuring electronic viscous locking in the rear.
– F-150 Lariat’s “big” turbocharged V-6 is normally subdued. Once prodded exuberantly it releases a rapturous roar. There’s enough torque to readily set-off the stability control off the line. The only weak-link is a 6-speed gearbox which occasionally gets caught snoozing in times of urgent downshift need.
– Ignore the Bad-Mouthing of “Real World” turbocharger efficiency gains: F-150 Lariat 3.5L turbo V-6 = 17 combined mpg = 13% > Ram 1500 5.7L Hemi V-8 = 15 combined mpg
LEAVE THE FIELD for the ROAD :
PHYSICS LESSON: most of the sprung mass of higher ground clearance vehicles is way up. The sprung mass wants to move away from the ground.
ENGINEERING SOLUTION: Cut the weight of the body by nearly 700 lbs. with aircraft strength aluminum alloy, effectively lowering the center of gravity. Add stiffer bushings, higher spring rate, faster rebound damping Off-Road packages. Like the Ford F150’s FX4 setup.
– Unlike other half-ton pickups, the F-150 manages a good amount of neutrality into bends, avoiding severe understeer on a higher-speed sweepers. True, more road impacts are felt than preferred. Yet, faster steering input response and quicker compressing rear end damping bring incredible confidence to such a large conveyance. F-150 single piston calipers clamp with authority all around, while dive is restrained.
DRIVING ASSISTANCE REPLETE: F-150 can be spec’d with 360° Surround View, Park Assist, Rear Cross Traffic Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Keep Assist and self-steering Trailer Backing Assist. In our hands LKA had difficulty self-correcting steering on anything other than the straightest roads in daylight.
TUG & HAUL:
Were the light-weight 3.5L V6 Ecoboosted Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4×4 short box fitted with a 3.55:1 rear axle, the Blue Oval would have trumped a Chevy Silverado 1500 5.3L V-8 or Ram 1500 5.7L V-8 with a 11,500 pound trailer pull. Alas, with but a 3.31:1 final drive, the tested F-150 was rated to tow 10,700 pounds, 100 lbs shy of the Silverado with the 3:42:1 rear locker.
Note that a 3:55 final drive 3.5L Ecoboost F-150 outpulls its 5.0L V8 brother by 400 pounds. More eye-popping is that, in 4×2 configuration, an F-150 3.5L Ecoboost V-6 SuperCrew short box running 3.55 gearing will out-tow the “Big Gun” Chevy Silverado 6.2L V-8 Crew Cab short box by 300 lbs.
LOAD & CARRY:
– In payload toting, the aluminum-boxed Ford gives up a measly 90 pounds to the steel-boxed Chevy Silverado 1500.
– Sure, the F-150 beam is 2″-inches shy on a Silverado . That doesn’t mean it’ll fit inside a 20″-foot house garage.
Although Ford’s aluminum recycling program has dropped repair costs down close to that of steel, the factory spray-in bed liner is a MUST HAVE for any serious hauling.
While no half-ton pickup truck short box will fit a 4’x8′-foot standard sheet of plywood fully within the box, dropping the F-150 tailgate will get most of the plywood sheet.
Seeking adjustable J-track pulley side rail anchors or locking integral side saddle boxes? Keep your eyes on the Toyota Tundra or a Ram Box equipped Ram 1500 .
A few 2″x4″ wall studs will make it through the power sliding center rear backlight window. But there’s no fully retracting backlight window ala Toyota Tundra .
– F-150 front buckets are swathed in leather/ velour trim. While slightly narrow, bolstering nearly matches some sporty cars; A 6’5″ rear seat occupant can stretch out with 43″-inches of legroom. Door pockets are usably large. Center console caddies are nicely segregated. There are wider center consoles and larger gloveboxes out there, though.
– Generously wide cab side steps were present and accounted for on F-150. Disappointingly, our tester wasn’t fitted with available power lowering corner steps and front bed side steps.
– Finer details from their Fusion family sedan are implanted in the 2016 Ford F-150. Perhaps it was the leather. Our tester’s Lariat trim isn’t even the top Platinum variant. Switchgear possesses sensible Euro placement and syrupy action.
– Imitation metallic trim convincingly brightens the confines. Pseudo stitched soft dash panels enhance add coziness. Gauges are more digitized and premium car-like. A myriad of vehicle and driver assist setting required that much more spelunking through the F-150 MFD. The F-150 cabin is a bit more hushed even at speed than pretty much all the competition.
– For 2016 the F-150 has made the infotainment jump to Sync Generation 3 My Ford Touch. Supposedly akin to the move from Windows XP to Windows 7. The 8″ LCD infotainment screen is now capacitive, requiring less touch effort. Pinch and release zooming is allowed, but gloved fingers denied. The home screen reduces congestion from 3-panes. Key setting icons populate by gesture at the bottom.
Not all is so hunky dory with Sync 3 MFT: Clearly enunciated voice commands could be misunderstood. A sky blue/ white background easily washes out in direct sunlight. Navigation GPS tracking lags vehicle actual vehicle position enough to issue audible direction commands AFTER exits are passed. Until Ford rolls out Android Auto/ Apple Car Play sometime this summer, free infotainment apps are limited to Pandora & Aha radio. Sirius XM TravelLink is subscription based.
HALF-TON, HOLD ‘EM :
2016 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat: Weight loss via aluminum alloy body = “Tossable”. 2 mpg > the competition = Bragging Rights. Near Lincoln Navigator attention to detail. Making some controls too dainty. Sync MFT Gen. 3 navigation needs a software fix & free apps are few until A-Auto/ I-Car Play roll out; $54,000 and this ain’t even a Platinum or King Ranch? It had a fancy panorama moonroof, though!