A proper work truck
I credit the F-150 with being the first full-size pickup truck to complete the transition from strictly a utilitarian work vehicle to a luxurious and practical vehicle with mass appeal.
When I think about this 2013 Ford F-150 I think back to 2004: I was just a teenager and my dad brought home a brand new brown crew cab F-150. It looked so big and bulky, yet properly proportioned and I still remember climbing inside and being shocked at just how spacious and luxurious it was. I do credit that truck with beginning my fascination with pickup trucks. I also credit that generation of F-150 with being the first full-size pickup truck to complete the transition from strictly a utilitarian work vehicle to a luxurious and practical vehicle with mass appeal. Since that time it has seemed to me that Ford has done a good job making sure the F-150 has been near the top of every full-size pickup shoppers list, and their sales have reflected that. The truck did undergo a major overhaul in 2009, but in a market that has now become a battleground for the Detroit automakers, does the F-150 still have what it takes to defend its position as king of the job site?
The F-150 is available in ten unique trim levels and countless different configurations; ranging from a basic $20,000 work truck to a $50,000+ loaded 4×4 beast. My tester for the week was a mid-range 4×4 XLT model with a regular 2-door cab, 8ft box and an MSRP just under $38,000. This particular configuration is what I’d consider a loaded work truck. It has everything you’d need to get the job done, without any of the frills or distractions. In this configuration it’s certainly not the prettiest truck, the short cab and massive box really throw off the proportions and the 17” wheels seem dwarfed against the enormous body of the truck. But that’s not what this truck is about, this model remains true to the roots of the F-150 and is more for the traditional pickup truck buyer, someone who has a job to do and wants a truck that can do it as efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.
Speaking of getting the job done, there has been a lot of talk in the full-size truck community around the new bed and tailgate steps that Ford has released on the F-150. Fortunately, my tester came equipped with them, so I was finally able to judge for myself. I was immediately impressed with the retractable bed side steps which can be easily operated completely by foot. They are just the right size to make accessing the bed from the side extremely easy, and the steps feel very solid, definitely a great new feature. The swing-out tailgate step system was initially less impressive to me. The step portion that pulls out from the tailgate has a lot of moving components and doesn’t seem to move in and out of the tailgate as smoothly and as easily as I would have liked. I was left feeling that after a few years of use the step would become a larger source of frustration that any sort of help. That was until I decided to move a living room set on a dark rainy evening; the tailgate being complete wet and slippery, I used the step numerous times to help with loading and unloading and came away very impressed with how much easier it actually made the job. It’s certainly not a pretty setup, but it does get the job done.
The interior matches the exterior remaining extremely utilitarian, everything is where it should be, and it all works quite well, but there’s very little flare, and not a lot to get excited about. The one thing I did get a little excited about is the new gauge cluster; the beautiful ice blue lighting used on the needles and accents looks just right and is very easy on the eyes at night. The LCD screen in the center of the cluster is also very well laid out and can display just about any statistic you’d want to see, including an interesting “off-road application” which shows the truck’s current pitch and angle. With that said, The rest of the interior doesn’t feel like it’s evolved much from the 2004 model I remember and I found that a little disappointing.
The plastic used just about everywhere inside the truck looks and feels low-grade, especially when compared to all the soft-touch material being used by a couple of the F-150’s key competitors. The stereo also left a lot to be desired, and I don’t think there’s a driver out there who doesn’t appreciate some quality sound every once and awhile. However, the biggest let down for me was the lack of storage space in the regular cab. Sure, it’s a small cab and it does offer a plethora of storage bins and trays, but they’re all quite small. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find any convenient place to keep an appointment book – something I think would be very important to the many contractors who may opt for a similar model. I quickly came to realize that I simply must not understand the idea of regular cab trucks as during a downpour I found myself driving around in a huge truck with the front seats full of groceries because there was no place else to put them. Speaking of the front seats, when free of groceries, I did find the cloth bench quite comfortable.
The last few Ford products I’ve driven recently have impressed me with surprisingly refined driving dynamics. So I expected a certain level of refinement behind the wheel of a truck that has been the bestselling pickup in Canada for over 47 years, but curiously I was a little let down by the F-150. Most notable, the ride on rough roads is startlingly bouncy and the steering feels very disconnected and slow. I really do think some quicker steering ratios would make the truck a lot easier to navigate on tight city streets, and I am sure plenty of hard working truck drivers out there would appreciate that.
The 5.0L V8 in my tester does help to redeem the driving experience a little bit; it is putting out 360hp and an impressive 380 lb-ft of torque – and really, that’s what good pickup truck engines are all about. Moreover, the 5.0L puts out all this power exceptionally smooth and quietly, a very welcomed trait in a pickup. As much as I like this engine, it could use some more top end power to make highway passing feel like a little less of a chore. I also noticed that the throttle response is very slow and really takes some getting used to.
All the major players in the full-sized pickup market have been working very hard in recent years to produce more palatable fuel economy numbers and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the numbers that have been published. I was blown away by the cylinder shutdown technology used in the v8 Chevrolet Silverado I drove back in July which dramatically reduced my highway consumption. Ford has been banking on their EcoBoost V6, which has posted some equally impressive numbers. However, it seems the 5.0L v8 in my tester may have been missed in Ford’s latest fuel economy push as the best average I could manage was a 14.2L/100km in mixed driving. Definitely a respectable number for a full-sized 4×4 truck, but I was hoping for a little more.
All in all, the F-150 does feel like it’s slightly overdue for a refresh. However, if you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit on the comfort and luxuries, the F-150 offers the power, strength and innovation to make getting any job done that much easier, just as Canadians have trusted it to for over 47 years. The next major redesign for the F-150 is planned to release for 2015 and based on what’s happening in the market now, I would expect great things. So if you have the time, it might just be worth the wait.
2013 Ford F-150 Gallery