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The 2018 Ford F-150 gets powertrain enhancements, added safety equipment, and freshened styling. CR bought its own F-150, and we’ve given it a first drive to see whether these updates help the best-selling pickup truck compete better with its peers.
Specifically, Ford added a new base engine to the lineup: an all-new 290-hp, 3.3-liter V6 paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. The existing turbo 2.7- and 3.5-liter V6s, as well as the 5.0-liter V8, get a new 10-speed automatic transmission. Ford also says that a new 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 is on the way, available in the spring of 2018.
In addition, the new truck gets optional pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and adaptive cruise control. Other available safety features previously offered include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot warning. All versions get standard automatic start/stop functionality to save fuel. Various exterior styling elements have been updated for 2018 as well.
Despite Ford’s marketing this truck as “redesigned,” it’s only a freshening of the current generation that debuted for 2015. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing because the F-150’s Overall Score has been very competitive among its peers.
For our latest test, we bought an XLT crew-cab four-wheel-drive model with the turbo 2.7-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic, the configuration most customers are expected to buy.
While the 325-hp, 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 pulls effortlessly, we do miss some of the plushness and seductive rumble of the available 5.0-liter V8. But there’s more than enough power here. Most drivers wouldn’t miss the two missing cylinders. The turbo delivers a swell of torque at low to midrange revs that lends itself to confident towing.
The 10-speed transmission—the primary reason we bought this truck to retest it—comes with a gear-selection display in the instrument panel that’s mesmerizing. The transmission works well but it’s not the smoothest in the business; we felt some driveline abruptness and noticeable shifts. But the engine start/stop feature is among the most seamless we’ve ever experienced.
So far we’re seeing about 19 mpg overall from the trip computer, good for a gasoline-powered, half-ton truck. Our truck is fitted with the optional 36-gallon fuel tank, which should be good for around 700 miles of cruising. That’s about the distance from New York City to Indianapolis.
The ride is quite similar to our last F-150: jittery and jumpy, and like a most trucks, worse when the bed is empty. Handling is about the same—that is, not very nimble and not as responsive as competing full-sized trucks. The steering remains somewhat vague and slow to respond. Keep in mind that Ford didn’t make any changes for the 2018 model to tweak these driving characteristics, so the same judgments we made on the last tested truck about ride and handling remain valid.
To get some popular features, we added the Equipment Group 302A, which includes the Sync 3 infotainment system and remote start, among other items. We also got navigation, the trailer tow package, and a few other odds and ends. The total came to $52,535. We were a little surprised that this chunk of change didn’t include leather seats and automatic climate control. For those features you have to opt for the Lariat or above trim lines. And our truck doesn’t have a bed liner, either.
Like our previously tested F-150, the new model is very quiet inside, approaching luxury-car levels. The cloth seats are mostly comfortable and come with two-way lumbar support. Along with most of the controls, Ford’s Sync 3 system responds quickly to commands and is easy to figure out. The system also includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility.
One of our complaints, however, is that the heavy tailgate isn’t as nicely damped and doesn’t close with the slick precision of the ones found on the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
We’ll continue to put the break-in miles on this truck en route to our full testing regimen. Whether or not the extra speeds in the transmission work with the truck’s innovative lightweight aluminum construction to turn the F-150 into a fuel-economy champ remains to be seen. In the meantime, this Ford remains a very solid competitor.
Read our latest Ford F-150 road test.
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