2010 Ford F150
Comprehensive line of superb pickups.
By G.R. Whale
The Ford F150 is among the heavier trucks in its class, contributing to a solid feel and none of that empty metal box bang-and-clang that characterized pickups of old. There's an impression of substance and tight construction regardless of the road surface or the model.
What stands out most driving the F150 is the verve from the six-speed transmission and that it feels so quiet and smooth. Ford attributes much of this to ongoing refinement and the Quiet Steel laminate used in some body panels. Ford notes the F150 Platinum is quieter inside than a Lexus LX450 at highway speeds and to our ears this is accurate. Granted, the LX450 was last produced 11 years ago and was a genuine four-wheel drive with solid axles at both ends; we believe the current LX570 to be a smoother, quieter and more expensive ride than an F150 Platinum.
The two-valve, 248-hp 4.6-liter V8 is standard and able to tow a ski boat, utility trailer, small toy box, or a couple of tons of dirt.
The primary reason to upgrade to the three-valve 4.6-liter (from the two-valve 4.6-liter) is because you get more of everything: Despite an extra 44 horsepower and 26 pound-feet of torque it has equal or better EPA fuel economy ratings than the two-valve engine because it comes with a six-speed automatic transmission. This makes the engine work less to accelerate and run slower at highway speeds; 70 mph at 2000 rpm with middling axle ratios.
The 5.4-liter V8 remains the top engine. Its power output is often erroneously reported as 320 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque; those ratings apply to E85 use where EPA Combined rating is 12 mpg. On gasoline, the 5.4-liter makes 310 hp and 365 pound-feet of torque and an EPA Combined rating of 16 mpg. Of all half-ton pickups Ford's 5.4-liter is the least powerful of the upgrade engines, slightly trailing the Nissan Titan and way behind the Dodge Hemi, GM 6-liter or 6.2-liter, and Toyota's 381-hp 5.7-liter. Only a GM with a four-speed automatic might be slower, so if you want a truly fast F150 you'll have to consider aftermarket upgrades.
Both the four- and six-speed automatics work smoothly, anxious to get into that fuel-saving top gear as soon as possible; engaging Tow/Haul mode will stretch out the shift points and not require a carpet-flattening mash of the pedal to affect a downshift. On long descents or climbs where you might prefer to use fifth-gear instead of sixth you don't get the choice because the shifter offers just D321 positions; other half-ton pickups are superior in this respect.
The F150 has a fully boxed frame, which is quite stiff and resistant to both bending and twist. The front suspension is a dual ball-joint design pioneered and still used by BMW and found on the Expedition sport-utility, while the rear suspension has long leaf springs and outboard shocks.
The sheer mass of the F150 combines with that architecture to deliver a very good ride (by pickup standards) and quiet composure. Sure, it will skip on bumpy corners and move around over dry wash scrabble at speed but it doesn't get upset or noisy. The steering is nicely weighted and requires little correction because of good directional stability. Longer wheelbases will still bob or pogo-stick on some expansion joints and expressway surfaces but it never becomes fatiguing.
Brakes get the job done with their ultimate performance based as much on tire choice and weight in the bed as anything else. Electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes are standard across the board. The FX4 offers a locking differential option for the best traction, and in many cases the suspension tuning on an FX4 produces the best ride quality over marginal roads and city potholes.
Some of the factors that aid visibility also hinder it. The tall stance of a pickup is good for more distant views but hides things behind the tall tailgate and this is a wide piece of equipment. Extendable towing mirrors include a flat upper element and separately adjustable wide-angle element for a superb view rearward and safe towing but they are big and will be easily smacked off if you forget about them.
The rearview camera is good for the view behind the tall tailgate and on the navigation screen has colored lines to indicate the width of the truck and centerline for hitching a trailer; however, this display is not predictive and does not move the colored lines with the steering wheel so it applies only in straight reversing. Rear park sensors also aid maneuvering in tight quarters, raising the frequency of audible beeps as you move closer. You'll want to turn that off when backing up to a trailer or in other situations, but that involves going through a couple of menus on the information screen, more tedious than the simple defeat buttons used by Toyota and others.
The payload rating for the F150 models varies from about 1,340 pounds to just over 3,000, but that includes occupants other than the driver. A construction crew of four 200-pounders in a SuperCrew might have just 700 pounds of rated capacity left for tools and materials. The highest gross combined rating (truck, trailer, cargo, passengers) for any F150 is 17,100 pounds and these pickups are among the heaviest half-tons.
Maximum tow ratings for most F150 models range from 11,000-11,300 pounds with the 5.4-liter V-8 and 3.73:1 axle ratio that might not be available in the trim or in combination with the wheels you want. These are the highest tow ratings of any half-ton, though we tend to prefer staying below 9,000 pounds as a maximum comfortable trailer weight for light-duty pickups.
The integrated trailer brake controller option is the ideal choice for smooth braking, but only with conventional electric drum trailer brakes; as with the majority of these systems the integrated controller is not certified for electro-hydraulic brakes. As mentioned, the available rear camera helps when hitching up a trailer.