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A Ford F-150 Is the Best New Overland Vehicle


The majority of people interested in off-road adventure travel seem to be drawn toward Toyota and Jeep products. But when it comes to overlanding, nothing from those automakers can touch the value and functionality of a low-to-mid-spec Ford F-150. Not an F-150 Raptor, not an F-150 Tremor, not an F-250 Super Duty, but a basic, smartly optioned, and reasonably priced Ford F-150.

Between powertrain options, payload capacity, available features, consumer-friendly packaging, pricing, and more, the F-150 is far above the best base for any overland build.

Here’s why the Ford F-150 makes nearly every other overland vehicle platform irrelevant.

1. Powertrain

All New Ford F-150

As it’s the best-selling vehicle in America, the Ford F-150 offers a variety of engine options, from a basic 3.3-liter V6 aimed at cost-conscious fleet buyers to a 5.0-liter V8 (the same engine powering the Mustang GT) to a pair of modern turbocharged V6s, the more potent of which even offers the option of hybridization with a built-in generator. Every F-150 uses a 10-speed automatic transmission.

This is a boon for buyers who want to tailor their F-150 to their unique needs, as there’s an option for everyone. Except for the fleet-oriented 3.3-liter V6, all of the engines available for the F-150 make at least 400 lb-ft of torque while offering fuel economy that’s, at worst, highly competitive with the rest of the segment and, at best, segment-leading. Dollar for dollar, these engines offer good value compared to what you’ll find under the hood of other body-on-frame 4x4s.

2. Payload

All New Ford F-150 Payload

Payload is all the weight — people and things — a vehicle can carry before it’s considered overloaded by its manufacturer, not to mention the law. A vehicle’s curb weight (which includes a full tank of gas) plus its payload capacity equals its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Needless to say, payload capacity is massively important when you’re planning to weigh down a vehicle with gear or aftermarket accessories.

Payload capacity varies widely across configurations and changes any time different packages or options are added. Hence, it’s difficult for manufacturers to publish the payload capacities of specific vehicles on their websites. The best way to tell the payload capacity of any particular vehicle is to check the tire and loading information sticker on the inside of the driver’s door jamb.

It’s tough to come up with hard-and-fast takeaways about payload, and nearly impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison. Still, two facts about payload matter. First, full-size trucks typically offer more payload capacity than midsize trucks and body-on-frame SUVs, the other two vehicle classes most commonly used for overlanding. Second, Ford trucks and SUVs tend to sit at the top of their respective classes when it comes to payload. So, the F-150 is in the right class and comes from the right manufacturer for anyone looking for maximum payload capacity from an overland vehicle.

3. Features

All New Ford F-150 Features

Here’s a list of some of the features available on the Ford F-150 that help to make it the best new outdoor adventure rig money can buy:

  • 36-gallon extended-range fuel tank
  • Available built-in generator
  • Folding gear selector
  • Foldout center console workstation
  • Factory tailgate work surface
  • As many as 14 power outlets
  • 360-degree camera system
  • Locking rear differential that can be activated in 2WD
  • Onboard scales
  • Available regular cab configuration

On top of that, the F-150 has massive aftermarket support, with everything from bumpers to bed caps to storage racks to retractable running boards available from several different suppliers. Dometic even offers a refrigerator that can be retrofitted to the center console box. This kind of thing comes with the territory for the best-selling vehicle in America.

4. Consumer-Friendly Packaging

Consumer Friendly Packaging

As it serves many use cases, the F-150 is available in various configurations. On top of that, it’s possible to order an F-150 from the factory optioned almost exactly how you want it. Try that with a Toyota Tacoma or Jeep Wrangler.

Want an extended cab with the cost-effective 2.7-liter V6? Easy. A 430-horsepower twin-turbo hybrid V6 with a crew cab? No problem. How about a regular cab with a standard bed and the 5.0-liter V8? Even a unicorn like this is in the cards for the F-150. While other automakers limit you to high-volume configurations and bundle features into specific and expensive trim levels, Ford lets you configure your ideal F-150.

5. Pricing

Poking around at Ford’s online configurator, an F-150 set up for overlanding has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of between $50,000 and $55,000, meaning the ideal overland rig also costs about the same as a Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro or Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. When it comes to the F-150, $55,000 will get you a 4×4 extended cab XLT model with a 6-foot bed, a relatively efficient 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 making 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, a modern 10-speed automatic transmission, skid plates, off-road shock absorbers, a locking rear differential, and 1,700 pounds of factory payload capacity.

Add some options — the XLT Mid, FX4, and Trailer Tow packages, Power Equipment Group, active safety systems, 36-gallon extended-range fuel tank, full-size spare, interior work surface, 360-degree camera system, onboard scales, tailgate work surface, and a few other bits, and you’re looking at the best new overland vehicle money can buy.

So while you may be compelled to drive something a little less ubiquitous, it’s hard to argue that the F-150 doesn’t pack more value for off-road adventurers than any other vehicle on the market. Once shoppers realize its merits, maybe the sight of an F-150 wandering the trails will become more common.

See Ford F-150 models for sale

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Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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