Out on a video shoot for the 2017 Ford F-150 King Ranch, I went to reposition this luxury pickup, but the doors wouldn't open. After a pocket pat-down, I looked through the windows, and there was the key fob, sitting in the cupholder.
Yes, you can still lock your keys in Ford's otherwise thoroughly modern truck.
Fortunately for me, the F-150 King Ranch comes with a keypad embedded in the B-pillar to unlock the doors. Enter the code, and you're back in the saddle.
It's easy to see why the F-150 is America's best-selling truck. The aluminum-bodied workhorse drives well on pavement, has excellent towing and hauling capabilities, and comes with a whole slew of cab, engine, drivetrain and bed choices. You want a two-door cab with four-wheel drive, an eight-foot bed and a 2.7-liter engine? There's a model for that. How about a two-wheel-drive, four-door SuperCab with a six-and-a-half foot bed and a naturally aspirated V6? Yup, got you covered.
My test model King Ranch is only available with the larger SuperCrew cab and a five-and-a-half- or six-and-a-half-foot bed. Unlike the SuperCab, where the two back doors are rear-hinged, the SuperCrew features four traditionally hinged doors. It comes standard with all the leather and wood trim you could possibly want, heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats. It still can function as a work truck with a power inverter, oodles of storage and a remote tailgate release.
The standard engine in the King Ranch is a 5.0-liter V8, but Ford now offers a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. At 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, this engine puts out nearly as much horsepower and more torque than the V8. Unfortunately, my real-world fuel economy of 14.2 miles per gallon did not even come close to the EPA average rating of 20 miles per gallon. Apparently there is plenty of Boost in the twin-turbo engine, but not so much Eco.
Still, the F-150 has it where it counts, with strong acceleration and surprisingly good handling. Don't get me wrong -- it's still a pickup truck with a solid rear axle, so expect a somewhat bouncy ride when unladen, but it isn't cringe-worthy around tight turns. The 3.5-liter engine is mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission, and while it sounds like overkill, its shifts are nearly imperceptible. The brakes feel strong and linear, not grabby at all. While the F-150 is at home on wide-open country roads, it's easy enough to drive in the city with the available blind-spot monitoring. Commuters will like the comfortable seats with -- get this -- a massage option.
Back it up, you got it
The F-150 has some cool innovations to help towing newbies attach and back up a trailer. A checklist in the gauge cluster takes you through every step, so you won't forget an important part, but the real coolness is the F-150's Pro Trailer Backup Assist. As anyone who has towed knows, backing up a trailer involves a mental switch. If you want the rear of the trailer to go to the left, you must turn the steering wheel to the right. Pro Trailer Backup Assist takes this switch out of your brain. If you want the trailer to point more left, simply turn the dial located to the right of the steering wheel to the left and watch in amazement as the steering wheel moves in the opposite direction. You're still in control of brake, throttle and steering, but you're steering from a dial, not the steering wheel itself.
Towing and payload ratings can get a bit tricky, as it all depends on engine and drivetrain setup. An F-150 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and two-wheel drive can be outfitted to tow 12,200 pounds, or the equivalent of nearly five. That number is only bested by the Chevrolet Silverado, which can tow 12,500. The and , , and all fall below Ford's rating.
The F-150 with a regular cab and the 5.0-liter engine earns a best-in-class payload rating of 3,270 pounds. While 2,030 pounds is all my King Ranch can muster, that's still more than the Ram 1500 and Nissan Titan, and just slightly less than the Toyota Tundra.
Unfortunately, many advanced driver aids are not standard in the F-150. In a truck that spans over 19 feet (20 feet with the longer bed choices) and over six-and-a-half feet wide, blind-spot monitoring is a must-have. However, it isn't even an option until you get to the midtrim Lariat model. In the King Ranch, it's only available either in a $3,780 package or as a standalone option for $1,585.
A 360-degree camera is pretty useful for a truck this big, but it's part of a $990 technology package or as a $375 standalone in the King Ranch. Adaptive cruise control, which allows the F-150 to follow the vehicle ahead at a predetermined distance, is a standalone $1,250 option, and it doesn't work below 12 mph, making it useless in stop-and-go traffic.
Ford offers a lane-keep assist as part of the technology pack in the F-150. If the system senses that you veer outside the lane without signaling, it applies a gentle tug at the steering wheel. Fortunately, you can override it by responding with a slight steering input.
The F-150's Sync3 infotainment system is easy to use and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The embedded navigation uses single-box entry for both addresses and points of interest, so there's no need to cycle through multiple screens to input a destination. The voice-control technology was able to make sense of the Spanish street names, like Cahuenga Boulevard, that are so prevalent in California.
How I'd spec it
Me, I'd go straight to theline, but with specialized features for high-speed desert running, that really is a very different F-150. Of the remaining model trims, I'd start with the midline Lariat with the SuperCrew cab for the extra room and the shorter five-and-a-half foot bed. I'd also opt for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine and the Max Trailer Tow Package to get more capability. I'd spring for the blind-spot monitoring and 360-degree camera standalone options, but I would leave the adaptive cruise control alone. Unless it brings the truck to a complete stop in traffic, I'm just not interested. Provided you haul things, the Pro Trailer Backup Assist is a great value at $395, so tack that tech on, too.
While the F-150 starts at a pretty solid price of $27,110, don't expect to pay anywhere near that for the lux King Ranch trim. This baby starts at about $54,000, and the example I drove came with over $11,000 of options. It's pretty easy to get carried away with options on the F-150, so slow your roll when it comes to checking those boxes.
Competitors can be almost as spendy. The Toyota Tundra starts a little higher at $30,120 and a comparably priced Platinum trim starts at $47,080. Spec-ed out the Tundra Platinum lands at $51,325, but it's not chock full of tech like the F-150 and doesn't have as many engine options. The Chevrolet Silverado starts at $27,785 and a similarly priced LTZ trim starts at $48,820. After running through the build calculator I came up with $7,200 in options, although the Chevy doesn't have available adaptive cruise control or blind-spot monitoring like the F-150.
Still, with seven models and five engines to choose from, plus your choice of three cab and bed sizes and two drivetrain options, chances are there's an F-150 to suit your style and, maybe, your budget.