Truck of the Year Winner: Ford F-150

Truck of the Year Winner: Ford F-150Forced Evolution: Blue Oval’s Pickup is a Truck For All Reasons

From the February, 2012 issue of Motor Trend By Michael Febbo | Photos Wesley Allison

You Know that feeling you get when you see a supercar sitting in the parking lot of the local sixbuck-

a-cup coffee shop? The ache in your stomach, knowing that toddling back and forth from

the gated community to the strip mall is all the driving that poor car will ever do? We get that

same feeling when we see an F-150 that doesn’t have at least 1000 pounds in the bed or 5000

pounds hanging off the hitch. Just like that supercar, the F-150 is a tool built for a purpose. It

has a goal in life, and the people who never use it as it was intended are squandering the

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truck’s ability and a heritage that goes back to 1948.

We had a pair of Ford F-150s for our 2012 Truck of the Year testing that represent two of the

more popular trim levels: a Platinum Edition EcoBoost and an XLT 5.0-liter V-8. New for this

year, but not on hand, are Ford’s entry-level 302-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 and the rangetopping

411-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 from the Raptor now available in the Lariat, Platinum, and

Harley Davidson Editions.

We extensively tested all four engine options early this year, including strapping each one down

to a chassis dyno, so we’re very familiar with power levels and delivery of the entire lineup.

The testers who drove the 5.0-liter first were bigger fans, at least until they drove the ecoboost.

The EcoBoost is the obvious orange in the apple crate here. Ford’s throwing a gasoline directinjection,

twin-turbo-fed V-6 under the hood of a full-size truck is almost enough to knock the

earth off its axis. What’s even more shocking is that an engine that looks like it would be at

home mid-mounted in a sports car is actually better than any of the eight-piston offerings in

maybe any company’s lineup. It clearly checks the box for Engineering Excellence, one of the

key criteria for any Of The Year competitor. Truck Trend editor Allyson Harwood noted, “On the

road, the EcoBoost makes the 5.0-liter look like obsolete technology. The twin-turbo V-6 is

incredibly quick and eager, power is abundant throughout the rpm range, and I didn’t really

notice any lag.”

All our testers had similar remarks, and for good reason. The EcoBoost delivers more torque to

the ground than the big 6.2-liter up to roughly 5000 rpm and more than the 5.0-liter all the way

up to 6000. In loaded, towing, and uphill testing, several judges noted how hard the 5.0-liter was

working. “Power seems opposite of where you want it in a truck” to “had to keep the throttle

mashed while the transmission hunted” were typical comments.

To be fair, the testers who drove the 5.0-liter first were bigger fans, at least until they drove the

EcoBoost. “Moved over a half-ton with ease at very impressive NVH levels,” logged Lieberman,

adding that the V-8 sounds “good and burbly.” Kiino loved the “musclecar engine note” and

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wondered if this is the “boss of trucks.” The V-8 is obviously still a good engine, but it’s

overshadowed by a great engine. This is often the problem with advancement: People don’t

know what they’ve always wanted until after they’ve experienced it.

It seems as though Ford’s big marketing push with the EcoBoost is centered on fuel economy.

During our testing, the EcoBoost turned in almost identical numbers to the 5.0-liter V-8. Most

consumers will look at that and think there isn’t really an advantage to buying the slightly more

expensive twin-turbo V-6 if the efficiency benefits prove negligible. Were the performance

between the two the same, we’d agree, but the smaller engine’s performance is closer to the

6.2-liter V-8’s. If they could just make it sound like a V-8, everyone would be happy.

Regardless of the drivetrain, the judges were unanimously impressed with the F-150’s ability to

earn its keep. In towing or hauling, the consensus was both trucks only got better the harder

they were working. “It rides even better at 80 mph with a payload than without. It carries out its

business like there’s nothing there,” wrote Jurnecka. “As nice as the ride was unloaded, it got

even better loaded,” agreed Harwood.

Even in handling tests, the F-150 feels more planted and better balanced with a payload in the

bed. Some trucks feel as though the load is trying to peel the truck off the asphalt and roll it

over, but in fast turns, the F-150 is still using both rear tires to put power down. We aren’t

delusional about how people will use these trucks; no one is buying one as a sports car.

However, our performance driving translates directly to how an F-150 will handle in emergency

situations. We’d be confident to throw one of these, even loaded, through an emergency lane

change.

Ford tells us there are roughly 650,000 different ways to equip an F-150, including engines,

cabs, beds, wheelbases, and assorted options, but not paint color. The moral of the story is, if

you’re seeking a truck and can’t spec out an F-150 to suit your needs, you may want to look into

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buying your own personal freight train. Our judges found the XLT a more honest approach to

trucks, with Kiino calling it “clean and functional.” Jurnecka referred to it as “cheap, but palatable

with the reduced MSRP.” The V-8 XLT comes in at $38,745, which was considered about right

for a work truck and seemed like a steal compared with the $50,115 Platinum Edition EcoBoost.

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Ford insists it gets crossover customers from some of the luxury brands who tell them the

interior is nicer in their F-150 than in the sport sedan they traded in. While that might be a

stretch, we agree the Platinum is certainly nicer than the standard truck, although we’d still go

for something more utilitarian.

Both the SuperCrew and SuperCab body styles offer plenty of room in front and back. The

Platinum’s front seats are bisected by a center console with enough storage for files, a large

lunch, or even a medium-size pet. The shifter is console-mounted, which a few judges found untruck-

like. Others more accustomed to cars deemed it sporty and familiar. The XLT retains the

traditional column shifter with a bench seat in front and a folding center backrest with

cupholders. Clearly, Ford’s marketing department has missed a golden opportunity for yet

another acronym with this feature. We’d have called it the Storage On Demand Active Center

Accessory and Nutrition Holder, or SODACAN Holder for short. Yeah, Ford, that one is free.

Storage cubbies abound throughout the interior, along with such other thoughtful design

touches as extra power outlets and wide-opening doors. We still have mixed feelings about

Ford’s Sync system, but it seems to be evolving into something more useable than the first

iteration. The new gauge cluster features a 4.2-inch driver productivity display for monitoring

fuel economy, towing, and off-road driving data.

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Platinum and XLT front-seat configura-tions offer plenty of space for two or three passengers,

and all the judges, who range in height from under 5-to 6- feet, were able to find a comfortable

seating position with good visibility. Both cabs offer three-across seating on the rear bench with

fold-up seat bottoms for a huge amount of storage inside the SuperCrew.

Entry and exit are relatively easy, though still require a step on the runningboard or a good pull

on the steering wheel or O.S. handle for passengers. Which brings us to one of the few

ergonomic complaints with either truck. The Platinum edition includes power runningboards that

swing out when the door is opened. Just about every judge complained of bruised shins, as the

boards pop out during the roundhouse leg kick up and into the truck. Yes, the runningboards are

electronically defeatable, but why have them if they just stay tucked up under the body?

It was hard finding fault with design elements or overall execution of any of the F-150s. Several

judges remarked that, were they in the market, the EcoBoost F-150 SuperCrew would be their

choice, hands-down. The more utilitarian XLT or even something like an FX2 or FX4 trim level

would likely be chosen for value over something like the Platinum Edition. Besides the 10 trim

levels, Ford offers four engine choices: three that represent solid traditional options, with the

EcoBoost truly a step forward in performance. The two transmission choices are six-speed

automatics with the higher-end option offering select-shift manual modes. We all agreed the F-

150s are built to work and felt better the more they were challenged.

Ford offers an enormous variety of configurations and designs, making the truck tailorable to

just about any need. It’s the combination of advancement in design, engineering excellence,

efficiency, safety, value, and the performance of intended function that has earned the Ford F-

150 the title of

Motor Trend’s  

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Truck of the Year.

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