The 2018 Ford F-150 range offers something to please virtually anyone looking to buy a new full-size pickup. It goes from basic to luxurious to off-road-capable glorious.
This generation uses a lot of aluminum for its body instead of steel. Aluminum is tough, but much lighter. The benefit is in fuel consumption and payload capacity. The other twist is that the range-topping engine isn’t a big V8. It’s a turbocharged 3.5-liter V6.
Making the truck even more compelling is a comprehensive list of features and advanced safety equipment. The competition is fierce, but the F-150 has everything it needs to be a winner. It’s frequently one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States.
What’s New for 2018?
The engine bay sees some changes. A new, naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V6 takes over from the previous 3.5 base engine. The 2.7-liter V6 turbo and the 5.0-liter V8 have also been upgraded for more power, and both are linked to a 10-speed automatic transmission. Every engine gets an automatic stop/start function. Ford plans to offer the option of a turbocharged diesel V6 in 2018. Otherwise, the forward-collision mitigation system is updated, and the front and rear see some styling tweaks, with different trim levels having their own “look.” See the 2018 Ford F-150 models for sale near you
What We Like
Excellent driving dynamics; impressive capabilities; bearable fuel consumption; comfort, convenience and safety features
What We Don’t
The ride can feel stiff when the truck is unladen; repairing aluminum body panels is more expensive; options drive up the price considerably
The new entry-level 3.3-liter V6 is linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The other engines pair with a 10-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is optional in all models except the Raptor, where it’s part of the package.
The 3.3-liter V6 makes 290 horsepower and 265 lb-ft of torque (that’s up from 282 hp and 253 lb-ft in 2017’s 3.5 unit), returning 20 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined driving with rear-wheel drive. The figures for all-wheel drive are 18 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/20 mpg combined. These figures are also slightly better than last year’s.
The optional 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6 puts out 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (25 lb-ft more than 2017). With rear-wheel drive, fuel consumption is 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined, or 19 mpg city/24 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
The 5.0-liter V8 is a useful choice for towing (see below). It makes 395 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque (up from 385 hp and 387 lb-ft) while achieving 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/19 mpg combined in rear-drive form, or 16 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/18 mpg combined when driving all four wheels.
The first of the turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 engines makes 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. This combination achieves 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy/21 mpg combined as a rear-driver, or 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.
King of the propulsion hill is the 3.5-liter V6 in the Raptor, developing a muscular 450 hp and 510 lb-ft of torque; 15 mpg city/18 hwy/16 mpg combined is the result.
Standard Features & Options
Choosing a 2018 Ford F-150 is not straightforward. A multitude of configurations involve the Regular Cab, SuperCab (extended) and SuperCrew (what everyone else calls a crew cab); bed lengths measure 5.5, 6.5 or 8 feet (the two longer beds come with the two smaller, cabs and the SuperCrew is eligible for the shortest bed). Then there are engines, trim levels and options bundles. Trims are XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Raptor, Platinum and Limited.
XL models ($28,675) are bare-bones work trucks. Standard equipment includes an AM/FM stereo with a clock (but no CD player or USB port), a 4.2-inch screen in the center stack for audio controls, air conditioning, trailer sway control, trailer connection wiring, side curtain airbags, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 17-in steel wheels and little else. Not even power windows.
All-wheel-drive versions of the XL are eligible for the FX4 Off-Road package (an electronic-locking rear axle, a specialist suspension, skid plates and hill-descent control). Other options include a tailgate-assist step, side steps, drop-in or spray-in bedliners and trailer tow packages with the Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature (basically a self-steering function for reversing up to a trailer).
The XLT ($34,265) adds power windows and locks (including the tailgate), power mirrors, a cargo management system (with four tie-down cleats), remote keyless entry, cruise control, SYNC voice controls, a USB port, a CD player, 17-in alloy wheels, some exterior chrome work, carpeting and a few more cabin stowage areas.
The Lariat ($41,980) brings leather upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, power-adjustable pedals with memory, keyless access/push-button start, the SYNC 3 infotainment system with an 8-in touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, satellite radio, a rearview camera, LED bed lighting and 18-in alloy wheels.
The Raptor ($51,080) is available in SuperCab and SuperCrew forms, both with the 5.5-foot bed. It has a specialized suspension with longer travel and increased ride height (compared to a regular all-wheel-drive F-150), all-terrain tires, a transfer case for the 10-speed automatic transmission, a Torsen (torque-sensing) front differential, a Terrain Management System, skid plates, running boards, tow hooks, LED grille lights, the most powerful turbo V6 and 17-in alloy wheels.
The western-themed King Ranch ($52,895) comes only with the SuperCrew cab, containing a remote starter, remote tailgate release, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel and a 10-speaker Sony audio system.
The Platinum ($55,450, SuperCrew only) is more conventionally luxurious. It includes aluminum interior accents, voice-activated navigation, automatic high-beam detection, parallel-parking assistance, blind spot monitoring, power running boards, 20-in alloy wheels and a series of exterior upgrades.
The Limited ($61,815, SuperCrew only) has 22-in alloy wheels and is loaded with virtually all that’s optional in the lower levels.
There’s a lot of equipment available. Major upgrades include a 360-degree camera system, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, massaging seats, and a segment-exclusive panoramic sunroof. Some standard equipment in the higher trims may be optioned for the lower levels. For example, XL models can be upgraded with most of the XLT’s features.
Standard safety items include side curtain airbags, antilock disc brakes, daytime running lights and traction/stability control. Options range from parking sensors to adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance and blind spot monitoring.
In government crash tests, the F-150 received five out of five stars overall; five for front- and side-impact protection and four stars for rollover protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also made it a Top Safety Pick after the truck won the top score of Good in five major categories.
Behind the Wheel
Aluminum construction means the F-150 feels nimbler than its rivals. The handling/comfort balance is generally good, and the steering is direct. It’s only at higher speeds where the limitations of rear leaf springs are more easily felt. The cabin is well thought out and welcoming overall. Bottom line, the F-150 is a great all-rounder.
With the basic 3.3-liter V6, maximum towing capacity is 7,700 (that’s up by 100 pounds). Using the 2.7 turbo V6 allows 8,500 pounds of towing. The 5.0 V8 is capable of 11,600 pounds (up from 500 pounds), and the most powerful 3.5-liter turbo V6 can pull 13,200 pounds. Payload capacity gets as high as 3,270 pounds.
No argument or discussion is necessary — anyone looking to buy a half-ton truck must absolutely consider the F-150.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 — The usual rival to the F-150. Favors big V8 engines for higher trims.
2018 GMC Sierra — Mechanical twin to the Silverado. Try shopping both to see where you can get the better deal.
2018 Ram 1500 — Refined and capable. Rear coil springs provide a comfortable ride. Options include air suspension and a diesel engine.
2018 Nissan Titan/Titan XD — The XD version straddles the ground between a half-ton truck and a three-quarter-ton truck. A superb machine, highly capable and with an excellent Cummins diesel engine. The regular Titan is also well worth a look.
2018 Toyota Tundra — No nonsense and definitely no cowboy themes. Refreshed for 2018, including an updated safety package.
The whole F-150 range has a stellar combination of standard and optional equipment, decent fuel economy, strong abilities and civilized driving manners. The most basic version might do the job well enough. A Lariat with the turbo 3.5-liter V6 looks tempting because of its broad range of talents and features. Many buyers, however, find an XLT with the SuperCrew cab and 2.7-liter V6 hits a sweet spot.