The Ford F-150. North America’s best selling vehicle for what seems like eternity now. Decades in reality. In 2014, Ford upset the truck world by suggesting that they use something other than steel. They continue their trend bucking by refreshing their F-150. New for 2017, just ahead of the actual design refresh in 2018, comes an engine update, and a brand new 10 speed transmission. Years in development in house, in tandem with General Motors, this is a lot of gears for a truck.
All of these changes, as with the aluminum body panels, are results of Ford chasing more elusive MPG from their truck line-up. Considering the staggering number of these trucks Ford sells, and how much money they make, any change must stand up well. With a new drivetrain, is the 2017 Ford F-150 still king of trucks?
Ford sells a lot of these trucks for a reason: they’re darn good trucks. This generation of the F-150 keeps refining the road manners of pickup trucks. Typically, this is a really uncomfortable place for trucks to be, but they’ve come a long way. This latest F-150 goes the next step, bringing the refinement to car like standards. Sure, it still very much feels like a truck, but the engine and road noise are so well isolated, it mine as well be electric. While the fuel mileage certainly isn’t electric-like, it’s an improvement over the outgoing F-150 model and its competition. Highway driving is a treat, as the F-150 settles into a comfortable groove. With an impressive 470 ft/lb of torque at 3,500 rpm, the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 feels like it has torque for days. Turbo blow off during acceleration is delightful.
Trucks used to be beasts of simplicity: big V8, a few gears and a whole mess of hauling power. Modern trucks, like the F-150, are moving more and more towards efficient, comfortable hauling machines. Now with 10 gears, the drivetrain has a lot more ways to maximize torque band and fuel mileage. Initially, seeing all those gears was a bit of a worry. Would this thing spend the whole time shifting endlessly up and down? Turns out: No. This is a smart transmission, which picks and jumps gears to match driving style, load and mileage parameters in its computer brain. It does this very well, and accurately. There is always the right amount of power and engine rev for the task at hand, and there is almost no gear searching. Which is admirable, considering the gear count is getting into mountain bike territory.
Ford hasn’t lost much of the simplistic utilitarian heritage of their signature nameplate. The interior is simple, and buttons for audio controls are oversized. So are the door handles. Perfect for gloved hands of working folk who might drive them. Front seats are very comfortable, and the interior space can only be described as cavernous. Compared to the competition, Ram’s MegaCab aside, there isn’t a bigger feeling one out there. Everything is well laid out and exactly as you would expect it. At the Lariat trim, where our tester falls, practical additions include 400W, 115V outlets in the front and rear. There are also two USB charge ports for the second row, with another two up front in a mobile phone cubby. Adding the Sport Special Edition nets rather stylish, perforated suede inset leather seating; heating and cooled for maximum comfort.
As with previous versions of this aluminum clad F-150, you can option things like retractable side steps, a tailgate step for bed access and remote tailgate release. Ford also has a full suite of driving aids available on the Lariat and higher, which our F-150 had. It’s unique among the big trucks, and only the Ridgeline offers the same tech. Thanks to engineering changes, the F-150 is an IIHS top safety pick+, and stands alone in that ranking. We’re a bit on the fence about the auto start/stop technology added to the EcoBoost engine, but there is something nice about not idling, burning precious dollars, while stuck in traffic.
The not so good
There are a few quirks to this truck. While the interior is excellently laid out and roomy, it feels a bit cheapened out for rear passengers. Our tester was an optioned up Lariat, so it came loaded with a lot of features and leather. Even still, the second row bench felt a bit thin. Seating position wasn’t optimal, meaning the average adult might have a hard time finding a comfortable seating position. Using thinner seat padding makes sense, given the fold up feature, but it has cost comfort. Rear passengers are also surrounded with hard plastics on the doors and pillars. It cheapens an otherwise luxury feeling truck.
When the XLT or Lariat Sport Special Edition package is optioned, Ford decals out the truck. They look kinda cool, but it’s not a paint decal. These are hard, external decals. We’re confident that Ford has done their homework, but it does raise some questions about how these will age. Particularly for owners with extreme heat or cold weather. Because they’re also surface mounded, and hard, there’s a noticeable edge to them.
For all the large buttons and glove-friendliness of the F-150, there was a glaring lack of basic menu buttons for the infotainment unit. Yes, there is a menu button, or you can swipe up, to access the infotainment apps. However, you can’t quickly get to media features, navigation or android auto without going through a multi-step process. It’s clunky, especially for someone unfamiliar with infotainment. From a daily usage standpoint, it’s interesting to see another tailgate lacking any kind of lock. First morning drives and cold starts seem to catch the new transmission a bit off-guard. Shifting isn’t as smooth as a warm transmission, but not harsh. You just feel it more.
Should I buy this car
Truck people the world over have their own ideas and opinions about which pickup is the best. Arguments will be had, trails will be rode, and logs pulled. At the end of the day, sales volume seems to reflect the winner. With class leading torque for pulling, comfort and space for family, payload for real work and mileage, yes, you should. The F-150 isn’t good because it’s popular, it’s good because it continues to be the standard other trucks are measured against. It’s looks and styling aren’t for everybody, but when the rubber hits the road/construction site/logging path, the F-150 is the right tool for the job.
The manufacturer provided this vehicle for the purpose of review. Opinions are our own.