Trucks are, both in terms of size and function, growing closer to mobile homes every day. No longer the staple of work and work alone, this vehicle class has grown to become both workhorse and the family car. Thus, it needs to be as capable as ever, but it must also contain enough modern accouterments that it'll keep the kids busy and the whole family safe. The 2018 Ford F-150 does all that with aplomb.
Of course, no family is the same, which is why the F-150 offers a staggering number of options. There are five different engines (if you count the late-arrival diesel), six new grilles and several new exterior colors and wheel choices. That's in addition to the different cab and bed configurations available. 10 of these things could roll past you on the highway and none would look the same.
If you want a pure work machine, it's not hard to grab a low-end model with the base 3.3-liter V6 and very few options. The 3.3-liter V6 isn't the best on gas (that's the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6), but it provides ample pickup and efficiency and will prove more than capable enough for people who only use their truck for "truck stuff."
But throwing a bunch of tech into the F-150 doesn't make it any less of a truck. In fact, I found one system -- Pro Trailer Backup Assist -- damn near necessary. Instead of relying on your own failing knowledge of physics to back a large trailer up, just turn a dial and slowly manipulate the brake pedal. It's proper witchcraft, with the wheel turning all willy-nilly to create the exact movement you need from the trailer.
With a full bed, the ride went from a little bouncy to properly soft, while the braking remained confident and there was plenty of torque to keep moving the truck along. Granted, it was only with about 1,000 pounds in the bed, and the max payload is north of 3,000 pounds, so it had plenty more to give.
If you want a vehicle that covers both work and family life, you can throw close to $70,000 at a dealer and walk away with a truck that's basically a luxury car capable of towing 12,000 pounds.
The top-tier engine is a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, and it's a peach. This engine didn't receive any major modifications for 2018, but it's still eminently capable. With the 10-speed automatic in tow, it'll still produce some pretty efficient figures while giving you enough torque to affect continental drift.
Using the truck for play usually means the bed will be empty, but that doesn't ruin the F-150's ride. The truck remains stable with an empty bed, with only a slight hint of bounce in the suspension.
The only real complaint about the ride would be the steering, which is thoroughly numb and over-boosted. Yet, at the same time, it does what it needs to without requiring the driver to commit to a regimen of muscle-building exercises, so I certainly can't ding it for a lack of functionality. It just feels closer to video game driving than actual driving.
If you'll be hauling human cargo, the F-150's crew cab offers a disturbing amount of interior space. It's wide, and it's long enough to give rear-seat occupants a level of legroom typically reserved for big-body (and big-budget) luxury cars. Add in the front massaging seats (yes, that's available), and the F-150 basically becomes a full-on luxury car.
I also had the chance to take the F-150 for some light off-roading, and it performed as expected. The part-time 4WD system ate up the ruts and logs that were thrown at it, and it's got enough fording depth to dive through some gnarly puddles. If you're taking the long way to your weekend getaway, it shouldn't be a problem.
Everything in between
While I have to commend Ford for being the first truck manufacturer to add new-age safety systems like adaptive cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, I didn't get the chance to test them all. Adaptive cruise worked fine, but I didn't feel like playing chicken with a wall to test the autobrake.
The safety systems are but one part of a large and impressive tech portfolio. The 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, which supports up to 10 devices, works well for filling in your phone's coverage gaps. Sync 3 remains an excellent infotainment system, with competent voice recognition, a straightforward tile-based UI and very little lag between pressing the touchscreen and the system responding.
360-degree cameras and parking sensors are almost necessary in a vehicle of this size. Taking advantage of those two systems, you might completely forget that the F-150 is also capable of parking itself, a system that Ford's had down pat for years. Even drivers who aren't fully confident should find parking much easier than expected.
No matter what you're after -- a basic truck for work, a high-end family cruiser or something somewhere in the middle -- the F-150 has a trim that should fit your needs, with oodles of capability and creature comforts to keep every seat happy.