Diesel 2018 F-150 Platinum Is Certifiably ‘Built Ford Tough’
My colleagues needed my help. I fired up the Power Stroke diesel in the F-150 Platinum and headed out to a ranch to do some dirty work.
Every fall, the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) puts on the Texas Truck Rodeo. Journalists from the Lone Star State and from across the country spend two days driving crossovers, SUVs, and pickups on a Texas ranch and provide exterior, interior, performance, value, and personal appeal scores. At the end of the rodeo, the TAWA board announces the winners of categories such as “Compact Sport Utility Vehicle” and “Full-Size Pickup Truck.” The biggest prize of the entire contest is the title of “Truck of Texas.”
Since 1993, when TAWA held the first Texas Truck Rodeo, a Ford F-Series truck has been named the Truck of Texas 14 times. It won back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017 with the 2017 Super Duty and 2018 F-150, respectively. So it came as a shock when Blue Oval decided not to attend this year’s competition at the Longhorn River Ranch in Dripping Springs. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford made that choice because it’s “trying new, custom programs to better serve Texas media.”
It’s a shame because Ford has been such an integral part of the rodeo for so long. Plus, it would’ve been interesting to see how its thoroughly revised 2018 F-150 fared against the all-new Ram 1500, which went on to sweep the categories it was entered in and take home the Truck of Texas award.
One Ford truck did end up at the ranch, though.
The weather affected the rodeo in a major way, too. I’ve been attending TAWA’s signature event since 2014. Every one of them was filled with sunshine and dusty trails. We all knew rain was in the forecast for this year’s contest, but we had no idea just how much of it we were going to get. The first morning of the rodeo, my buddies from TFL Truck and I carpooled from the host hotel to the Longhorn River Ranch. When we arrived, temperatures were in the 40s and the rain was shooting down at an angle.
We all sloshed our ways into the breakfast tent. As I clutched my coffee cup and tried to make its small amount of heat radiate through my entire body, I listened to the announcements from the board. The rodeo typically has three ranch testing loops. Level 1 is suitable for all of the vehicles in attendance. Level 2 is more challenging and technical. Level 3 is Wrangler and Raptor territory. The rain had already been so bad that the first two designs of the Level 3 course had to be scrapped.
I ventured out of the warm tent and made a few runs on Level 2 in a couple of Ram 1500s, a Nissan Titan XD, and a Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. Things did not look promising. The mini rivers that had developed on the trails were carving grooves into the soft earth, which a never-ending procession of heavy vehicles was only going to turn into a rutted mess. Rocky and technical uphill sections which would be challenging in dry weather had the potential to be dangerous in such a downpour.
Out of concern for the safety of everyone present and the vehicles the manufacturers had brought down, the TAWA board decided to move the rodeo from the ranch and back to the host hotel halfway through the first day. After lunch, we began running paved routes which started at the parking garage and took us through the nearby suburban streets and country roads.
The next morning, the weather conditions had improved slightly, but we were going to stick to the previous afternoon’s routes. I had a $67,080 2018 Ford F-150 Platinum 4X4 with the Power Stroke diesel waiting for me in the parking garage. I wasn’t going to get the chance to drive it until the following day.
That’s what I thought. Then I got a text from Derek, one of TAWA’s board members. “Any chance you’re willing to help us pick up cones at the ranch this morning? I’m looking for a hard worker who can help us do it fast, and you’re the first person who came to mind.”
I was honored. I was equally excited about driving the F-150 Platinum out to the ranch, awful weather be damned. I was looking forward to making the luxury truck do some work. I threw on my bright yellow raincoat and duck boots, then climbed into the F-150 with Steve, another TAWA board member. We had messy work ahead of us so I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. I turned on the steering wheel heater, activated my seat heater, and cranked up the back massage function.
The day before, members of the TAWA board had positioned dozens of tall orange cones to guide journalists and show them the boundaries of the vehicle staging area. Each orange part fit through a substantial rubber base. The tops of the cones were linked by bright yellow nylon rope. Given my older colleague’s sore back, I knew what I had to do.
I parked near the first cone and we jumped out of the truck and into a chilly, heavy drizzle. Steve untied the first length of rope, then moved to the end of that section of cones and began spooling up the rope. I began the slower process of disassembling each cone and loading them into the 5.5-foot bed of the F-150 – bases on the sides and tops in the middle. I was going to have to move the truck a few yards at a time, so to make things go as quickly as possible, I shut off the automatic start/stop function and kept the Power Stroke lit.
The F-150 wasn’t the only white truck getting stuff done at the ranch. Derek and his fellow TAWA board member Scott were in the higher sections of the ranch picking up cones and throwing them into the back of Derek’s Ram 2500 press loaner. When Steve and I reached the halfway point of the line of cones, we saw a Chevy Silverado 2500 HD attempting to yank a medium duty flatbed truck out of a chewed-up muddy path. It was stuck in a section of the ranch that was the re-entry point for journalists returning vehicles to the staging area just the morning before. After trying a few angles of attack, the Silverado freed the flatbed from Mother Nature’s grip.
Steve and I had to go the direction they had just come from. To minimize our chances of getting stuck, I put the F-150’s four-wheel drive system into its automatic 4A mode and drove over untouched earth. It was still slippery going, but the Hankook rubber managed to keep us moving ahead.
The more cones I dismantled and loaded, the filthier I got. My raincoat was covered in brown spots. I looked like the Gorton’s fisherman if he had given up on life. My hands were slick with rain and earth. Mud packed the treads of my duck boots. Every time I got into the F-150, I left a trail of muck on the driver’s-side running board and door sill, steering wheel, and shifter.
By the time Steve and I had finished, we had collected hundreds of feet of rope and 41 cones. We weren’t able to shut the tailgate, but that didn’t matter. We only had to make a short trip across the ranch to drop them off in a spot where a company would retrieve them later. Assuming a minimum weight of 30 pounds for each base, the F-150 helped us carry 1,230 in rubber alone, leaving 162 pounds of payload capacity in reserve. Once we had removed the orange cones and the bases closest to the back bumper, I decided to make use of the F-150’s convenient tailgate assist step and bar so I could get in the back of the bed and pass the remaining bases forward to Steve.
All of the cold rainwater and mud didn’t dull the F-150 Platinum’s shine. Sure, it was fancy and expensive, but it was willing and able to work. Its 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6’s 250 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque made more than half a ton of cargo feel insignificant. Thanks to its four-wheel drive system and capable factory tires, the F-150 was sure-footed.
The weather conditions, as unpleasant as they were, didn’t diminish the enthusiasm I started with that morning, either. I was cold, wet, filthy…and smiling. I had helped out my fellow writers and lived out a boyhood fantasy at the same time. The 2018 Ford F-150 Platinum didn’t have the word TONKA anywhere on it, but it sure was fun taking it outdoors with my friends and getting it dirty.