Pros: Varied model lineup; turbocharged V6 engine; lots of clever options to assist on the job site.
Cons: Poor fuel economy on V8s; confusingly long list of options and trims.
What's New: A new grille and front end highlight styling changes for the 2013 Ford F-150, while a new Limited trim is added to the extensive F-150 lineup. Limited models include navigation; rain-sensing wipers; HID headlights; red and black leather seating; and 22-inch polished wheels. MyFord touch with voice-activated controls is also new this year. The Harley-Davidson is discontinued.
While the choices in full-size half-ton pickups aren't nearly as varied as with family sedans or SUVs, there's still a pretty good selection from which to choose. Four of them come from domestic manufacturers, namely: the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500 and the best-selling pickup truck in America, the 2013 Ford F-150. Toyota and Nissan are also in the mix, but they don't sell nearly as many units. The F-150 continues as a top seller year after year not because these other brands are weak, but because Ford continues to offer its customers so many of the features important to them, in a package that's handsome, reliable and rugged.
In the world of half-ton pickups, it doesn't get much better than the Ford F-150. From features to towing and hauling to fuel economy, the F-150 can be anything from a basic beat-it-up work truck to a luxurious country limousine. The F-150 is the first full-size pickup to offer a turbocharged V6 engine and an electronic locking rear axle; it also has a number of clever little features like a built-in step inside the bed door and Hill Start Assist, which prevents the truck from rolling backward when stopped on a steep angle.
Comfort & Utility
The 2013 Ford F-150 comes in a dizzying array of possible combinations, all predicated on three cabs with a choice of long or short beds. The Regular Cab actually features a small front-facing rear door that allows easier access to the space behind the front seat. Next up is the SuperCab, which also has swing-out side doors with roll-down windows. Finally, there is the SuperCrew with four full-size doors. Bed lengths are 5 1/2, 6 1/2 and 8 feet.
There are no fewer than ten trim levels, from the entry-level XL to the range-topping Platinum and Limited trims. The XL comes with the basics and includes air conditioning, a V6 engine, automatic transmission, vinyl flooring, a 40/20/40 vinyl seat and tilt wheel. The models move up through STX, XLT, FX2, Lariat, FX4, SVT Raptor, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited. Among the more off-road oriented are the FX and Raptor, while the King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models combine maximum towing and hauling with cabins so luxurious that they might as well wear a Lincoln nameplate.
The engine choices are impressive: there's the base V6, a torque-heavy 5.0-liter V8, a powerhouse 6.2-liter V8 and the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6. Other available equipment of note includes a Sony audio system; Ford's SYNC app link; MyFord Touch; a rear-view camera; leather seating; dual-zone automatic climate control; HID headlights; power adjustable pedals; heated and cooled seats; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; a 110-volt power outlet; a power sliding rear window; a power moonroof; and wheels ranging from 18 to 22 in.
Items geared toward the kind of work expected of a pickup include a shift-on-the-fly 4-wheel-drive setup on base models and a 2-speed automatic 4x4 system; it's featured on Lariat, King Ranch, Limited and Platinum models. Among other options, there's the Ford Work Solutions cable lock system, a 36-gallon fuel tank, a 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen, max trailering package, skidplates, box side steps, an integrated tailgate stepladder and a stowable bed extender.
Inside the F-150's cabin, Ford offers its popular SYNC voice-activated communication system to control your cell phone and iPod. Available on all models except the base XT, SYNC makes it easier and safer to operate a cell phone while driving, allowing you to take incoming calls, make calls and even hear text messages read aloud. You can also stream popular apps like Pandora via the Bluetooth wireless link. When the F-150 is equipped with the optional navigation system, Sirius Travel Link can be added, letting you locate the cheapest gas around, keep you up to date on movie times and sports scores and display the weather forecast.
Standard on FX2 and higher trims and available on the XLT is Ford's 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen. It shows data such as fuel economy, towing information and off-road data, all easily controlled via a steering-wheel-mounted controller. For times when it's not convenient to bring along the remote key fob, the SecuriCode driver's-side keypad can be used to lock and unlock the truck.
On the mechanical side, the F-150 offers a number of useful electronic features such as Trailer Sway Control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control (FX4/Raptor), Trailer Brake Control, electronic locking rear axle and remote start.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The base F150 engine is a 3.7-liter V6 good for 302 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. Although it's no V8, this engine has good power for light-duty towing and hauling, and it returns fuel economy figures of 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway (2WD) and 16/21 mpg (4WD). The twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 uses a 3.5-liter block and produces a very healthy 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque while returning fuel estimates of 16/22 mpg (2WD) and 15/21 mpg (4WD). Properly equipped, the EcoBoost V6 can tow up to 11,300 lb and carry a payload of 3,060 lb.
In the V8 category, the F-150 offers a 5.0-liter engine rated at 360 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy figures are similar to that of the EcoBoost, at 15/21 mpg (2WD) and 14/19 mpg (4WD). At the top is the monster 6.2-liter V8 rated at 411 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque. EPA fuel ratings for this engine are a dismal 13/18 mpg (2WD) and 12/16 mpg (4WD).
The Ford F-150 comes with ABS; electronic traction and stability control; front and front seat side-impact airbags; and side curtain airbags (for both front and rear passengers on SuperCab and SuperCrew cabs).
The F-150 scores fairly well in the government's crash tests, although some models got only three out of five stars in the rollover roof strength test. However, the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2013 F-150 excellent marks in all of its crash tests and named it a Top Safety Pick.
Given its impressive towing and payload abilities, one might expect the F-150 to ride like a stiffly sprung work truck. But that is far from the case. On the open road and even around town, the F-150 delivers the kind of ride and handling one would expect of a large SUV, which is to say smooth, stable and comfortable. The F-150's electrically assisted power steering delivers good feedback and handles the job of moving the F-150's bulk with ease.
On rough roads, the F-150 remains composed, with no shuddering transmitted through the steering column and a cabin that remains rattle free. We like the power provided by the 5.0-liter and 6.2-liter V8s, but it's the EcoBoost V6 that most intrigues us. It's an amazingly willing engine, delivering huge supplies of power when asked yet achieving better than 20 mpg on the highway.
Other Cars to Consider
Toyota Tundra - The Tundra can't match the F-150's luxury options or towing ability, but it retains resale value right up with the F-150 and has an excellent history of reliability.
Ram 1500 - Like the Chevy, the Ram 1500 is equally competent in the areas of horsepower, creature comforts and towing, but its resale value falls short of the F-150.
With so many trims and models, it's impossible to pick just one. We'd say go with the EcoBoost engine for most uses, but if you tow heavy loads on a constant basis, there is no substitute for the 6.2-liter V8.