This little off-road exercise let us witness the working of another modern element in the F-150, the Off Road applications built into a high-resolution display on the instrument cluster. These apps showed steering angle, active wheels, and incline angle. That display, controlled from a steering-wheel button, also let us view trip data and an eco coach screen, with a graph bar to indicate current fuel economy.
As our truck was in Lariat trim, the cabin was far from being the rough lair of a roustabout you might expect. A number of surfaces, including the seats, were leather-encased, while fake wood covered the center stack. A full climate control system let us set the cabin temperature, and the seats featured individual heating and cooling.
The doors latched with a hushed click no matter how hard we slammed them. As this truck was a SuperCab, it had a good-sized rear seat bench. Half doors allowed easy access to the rear, and legroom in back was reasonable. The ride quality might have been hampered by the strongly sprung rear leaf springs, but the seats were soft and comfortable.
Rather than a tool-belt-wearing construction site worker, we had to picture a wealthy rancher behind the wheel. Or a winery owner who decided to ditch thefor something that can actually carry a load.
That sense of a comfortable, 21st-century truck was enhanced by the full Ford cabin tech suite. Along with Sync, which enables voice control over paired Bluetooth phones and MP3 players, this F-150 featured the optional navigation system and a 700-watt Sony stereo.
Ford hasn't gotten around to implementing its new MyFord Touch system in the 2011 F-150, which from what we've seen so far is a good thing. Although the F-150's onscreen menus are ugly, the touch screen is responsive and the navigation system keeps track of the vehicle's position.
This is the cabin tech suite from Ford that has repeatedly impressed us over the last few years. The navigation system, with its maps stored on hard drive, shows 2D and perspective views, and includes a few landmark buildings in 3D for urban areas. Traffic conditions are displayed on the map, and route guidance will offer to detour around traffic problems on the road ahead.
More data, brought in through the satellite radio data feed, supplies weather information, gas prices, and even movie times for local theaters. However, the F-150 does not have the latest generation of Sync, so while it includes services such as Vehicle Health Reports and 911 Assist, it does not support AppLink, the new app integration Ford is bringing to market.
Sync includes its original functionality, connecting to Bluetooth phones and MP3 players. Although the voice control and other features it offers still work excellently, these features are rapidly being emulated by other automakers.
The last unlikely feature of this work truck was the aforementioned 700-watt Sony audio system, which included 10 speakers placed around the cabin. Music plays with a surprising finesse, with vocals coming through in good fidelity and delicate sounds, such as the light strumming of a guitar, reproduced clearly. On a live recording, we clearly heard incidental sounds in the background.
The high-wattage amp makes even music played quietly clearly audible. When we wanted to turn up the volume, the system responded without rattling door panels or distortion. The clarity was very nice, but didn't quite hit the transporting elevation of a really high-end system.
We've found a number of problems with Ford's new MyFord cabin tech interface, so it was good to see the 2011 Ford F-150 still has the previous system. It may not look great, but it works well, and offers many useful features. The center screen on the instrument cluster is a nice touch, showing its Off Road apps and the fuel economy coach in high resolution.
The EcoBoost engine creates a load of power, with torque that will be useful for trailer pulling and other heavy activities. But it doesn't offer a huge fuel economy gain over the V-8, according to the EPA numbers. We were impressed by the truck's four-wheel drive system, which was easily adjustable for different needs.
The 2011 F-150 loses none of its capability or toughness, even as Ford brings it into the 21st century.
|Model||2011 Ford F-150|
|Trim||Lariat SuperCab EcoBoost 4x4|
|Power train||Twin turbocharged direct-injection 3.5-liter V-6, 6-speed automatic transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||15 mpg city/21 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||17 mpg|
|Navigation||Optional hard-drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard with phone book support|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single-CD/DVD|
|MP3 player support||iPod, Zune, others|
|Other digital audio||Onboard hard drive, USB drive, Bluetooth streaming, auxiliary input, satellite radio, HD Radio|
|Audio system||Sony 700-watt 10-speaker system|
|Driver aids||Rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$44,260|