Ford Trucks Gets Dirty in an F-150 Diesel at ‘Droptops & Dirt’

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We head to the Malibu hills to put one of Ford’s best-selling trucks to the ultimate off-road test.

We are sitting in a 2018 F-150 Lariat stopped at the top of a huge hill on a dirt trail in a remote part of Malibu. Our driver, Ford Truck Enthusiasts contributor Nolan Browning, pauses and considers the steep decline, surveying the situation just before we are about to drop down and descend steep, rocky terrain on an intimidating, unforgiving dirt trail. This isn’t something we would usually do in a $70,000 truck, but today is special.

We are giving the F-150 4×4 SuperCrew with 3.0L V6 turbo diesel a workout at one of our favorite events, the Motor Press Guild‘s annual Droptops and Dirt, which drew us to the hills of Malibu once again on May 15.

The gorgeous grounds of Calamigos Ranch has its lush, expansive grounds packed with some of the coolest trucks and cars on the market, from the new Ford F-150 Power Stroke Diesel truck to a McLaren 570S Spider that everyone seems to have their eyes on. We sure like the look of the McLaren, but we were jonsin’ for some off-roading action, so, of course, we headed straight to the shiny, red 2018 F-150 Lariat with SuperCrew cab and FX4 Off-Road trim package that was parked nearby.

Even better, we were lucky enough to get a special guest to take the trip with us: Jason Camp, Ford’s Product Communications Manager for the Western Region. Now, considering that we were taking a new $70,000 truck up into the rocky hills of Malibu for some crazy off-roading to satisfy our own curiosities about the capabilities of one of our favorite trucks, having a Ford pro providing a play-by-play is as confidence-building as it is vital to capturing the full experience of the FX4 Off-Road trim package.


[The F-150’s] able to control all four wheels independently, which is something that you can’t do. So, it’s impossible for you to outperform hill descent control.’


Sitting here now in the F-150 and staring down at a precarious descent, our nerves are on edge. However, it certainly helps that the interior is super-comfy and spacious. Nolan surveys the situation one last time. He glances at the 360-degree wide-angle camera’s video feed, and then we begin to drop.

The cruise down hill is much more controlled and less shaky than we were expecting. “It just makes it effortless,” Camp says about the F-150’s downhill assist. “It’s very smooth and easy,” he adds as the Ford truck slowly continues to descend the rocky, uneven dirt trail with nary a slip, slide nor shake of any kind. Sitting in in the cabin and looking out at the terrain, it is almost difficult to believe the type of treacherous road that lies beneath us. Although we are going very slow, it is a comfortable, relatively smooth ride that at its most rocky moments merely feels like riding over a few potholes on a city street.

“As it loosens up, you’ll feel the truck sort of slide a little bit,” Camp tells our driver. “Just steer it down the hill and it takes care of everything. It’s able to control all four wheels independently, which is something that you can’t do. So, it’s impossible for you to outperform hill descent control.”


‘After driving the F-150 with the FX4 Off Road Package, the cost of the diesel would not make sense in the cheaper trims.’


Browning is impressed. “This is the truck doing all this; I’m not touching the brake,” he says while carefully navigating the F-150 downhill as rocks shift beneath its massive tires. The 20-inch six-spoke painted aluminum wheels are a $1,000 option and are making a huge difference in our riding experience. In addition to the wheels, the $770 FX4 Off Road Package and the $4,000 3.0L V6 turbo diesel engine are also a big plus when it comes to confidently crushing challenging terrain with ease. However, when it comes to style, the power-deployable running boards ($995) and twin-panel moonroof ($1,300) help to further transform this badass F-150 into becoming both, a head-turning daily driver and an unstoppable off-roading beast.

2018 Ford F-150 3L PowerStroke Diesel 001

“After driving the F-150 with the FX4 Off Road Package and talking with Jason, the cost of the diesel would not make sense in the cheaper trims,” adds Browning, addressing recent feedback from fellow auto enthusiasts who are dismayed that Ford is only offering the 3.0L V6 turbo diesel engine in the higher priced packages. “The added efficiency isn’t high enough to make up for the $4,000 price difference over a regular gas engine.”

“That said,” continues Nolan, “the engine feels refined and the overall trim inside the $70,000 truck feels comfortable enough for someone willing to spend that money. It would be perfect for towing on longer drives for someone who doesn’t want to step up to a Super Duty. It was fairly good off road in FX4 trim, despite being put through a trail that most owners would never dare try with a truck this expensive.”

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