Review: 2017 Ford F-150 showcases modern automotive innovation
Pickup trucks dot the American landscape, and half-ton trucks claim the top three spots on the list of best-selling vehicles in the US. The Ford F-150 tops those sales charts with a combination of utility, fuel economy, and comfort that defines the modern pickup truck. Read on for our thoughts on the 2017 F-150.
We might look towards more exotic vehicles as the best examples of technical achievement in the automotive space, but the reality is that the pickup truck is the true harbinger of the industry. Ford, Chevrolet, and Ram make up the top three best-selling vehicles in the United States, not Teslas or Bolts, and there's still plenty of high tech engineering underpinning a truck like the F-150.
When Ford debuted the latest F-150 back in 2014, the buzz was all about its aluminum body and high-strength steel ladder frame. This lightened the truck by over 700 pounds (318 kg) from the previous-generation, dramatically changing the F-150's dynamics in the process.
Since the F-150's introduction, new engines have been introduced as well, including a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6 and, more tellingly, the adoption of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine. For the first time, a V6 is now the most-opted for engine in a full-sized pickup truck rather than a V8. Of course, that V6 outputs capability similar to a larger V8, but without the fuel economy loss in everyday use.
The twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 outputs 385 horsepower (287 kW). Fitted with this engine and the optional (and very finely-tuned) ten-speed automatic transmission, the F-150 is rated to tow up to 11,500 pounds (5,216 kg) and has an impressive payload of up to 3,300 pounds (1,497 kg). Our 4x4 test model was also equipped with skid plates and other gear to make it off-road capable. With all of this, it's also EPA-rated at 17 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway (13.8 and 10.2 l/100km).
Shedding weight in the bodywork definitely boosted the F-150's fuel economy, which is reproducible in the real world. We averaged 19 mpg (12.4 l/100km) overall after nearly 500 miles of driving in mixed conditions on and off the road, with and without loads.
The dynamics have also changed when towing. With the new body, the F-150 now has a lower center of gravity. In previous years, we'd noted that his meant more "push and tug" from the trailer because there is less truck to motivate the weight of the trailer forward and push the wheels down to the pavement. In this 2017 model with the 10-speed transmission we felt a lot less, and improvements to the sway control also alleviate the pushiness of the trailer as you drive down the road. This translates to a more comfortable ride when towing without compromising the comfort of the F-150 when driving empty.
Speaking of everyday driving, the 2017 Ford F-150 is far more car-like than any other pickup truck you drive. It has the high ride height and visibility of any pickup, but its lower center of gravity and punchier turbocharged engines mean that it drives more like the family sedan than it does a big truck.
It certainly doesn't look like it, but this feels like a family sedan that can haul all of your camping gear, plus three kids, plus tow your boat. It also has available trailer backing assist, parallel and perpendicular park assist, adaptive cruise control, and a lot more available as options.
We don't think of pickup trucks as being innovators in the automotive marketplace, but when you really get down to brass tacks, they are. They deliver what many Americans really want out of a vehicle and do so with loads of high-tech engineering that makes them fuel-efficient and smart on top of being useful.
So before you make fun of that pickup truck driving down the road, remember that consumers buy them in droves. There's a reason for that.
Product page: 2017 Ford F-150