2018 Ford F-150: Fresh face pickups with powertrain changes

Ford's 2018 F-150 XL is offered with a $1,995 STX Appearance Package on its SuperCab and SuperCrew models. Highlighting the package is a bold grille design featuring a custom-look body-color surround and black mesh insert. The STX package includes 20-inch machined-aluminum wheels. Ford's top-level 2018 F-150 Limited features grille styling that's completely different from others in the lineup. Designers delivered on an artistic creation that mixes satin- and chrome-finished elements. Chrome "LIMITED" lettering adorns the hood above the grille. Motor Matters photo

BY TIM SPELL
Motor Matters

Ford is well-satisfied with the design and engineering of its new-generation aluminum-alloy-bodied F-150 pickups, launched for the 2015 model year. This is reflected with its new batch of 2018 models, which for the most part are carryover vehicles. Mid-cycle changes mainly consist of cosmetic exterior treatments, and a short list of powertrain upgrades that heighten the lineup’s efficiency.

A new 3.3-liter V-6 replaces the 3.5-liter V-6 for the base engine. It features power-optimizing twin independent variable cam timing, and a port- and direct-injection system. It’s mated with a six-speed automatic transmission featuring three selectable driving-condition modes: normal, tow/haul and sport.

The new 3.3-liter propels the 2018 F-150 with 290 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 265 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm. Fuel economy is estimated at 19 miles per gallon city and 25 mpg highway. Automatic Start-Stop is standard on all engines for 2018.

“It’s more than capable, more than adequate, and at the same time gets us the fuel economy that we need,” said John Rieger, F-150 product marketing manager, of the new 3.3-liter engine.

Previously limited to F-150 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engines, the 10-speed automatic transmission also is standard on 2018 pickups with the 5.0-liter V-8 and 2.7-liter EcoBoost engines.

“It adds significant fuel economy and makes the vehicle much more efficient,” Rieger said of the 10-speed. “It also provides for other things, like multiple drive modes.”

Pushing a “DM” button at the shifter-handle base selects Drive Mode, which provides multiple selections: normal, tow/haul, snow/wet, eco-select and sport. These modes automatically control vehicle dynamics by regulating power, braking, traction, shifting, etc. For instance, in wintry slick-pavement conditions, in which engaging the electronic shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system formerly was the solution, the selection of snow/wet mode efficiently addresses the driving situation.

While performance efficiency is a key part of the 2018 F-150 story, Rieger said the most attention-grabbing changes for the lineup’s mid-cycle refresh are exterior enhancements — particularly the new front-end appearances.

“When you have all those different trim series,” he said, “you need to give the customer differentiation, and that’s one of the key things we do with our grille.”

Ford’s base 2018 XL pickup, with a $27,380 starting price for the Regular Cab, wears a new black two-bar grille with side nostrils. The XL is offered with a $1,995 STX Appearance Package on its SuperCab and SuperCrew models, base priced at $31,465 and $33,920, respectively. The list of STX upgrades is long, but the grille stands out in the package’s striking appearance transformation. It turns heads with a custom-look body-color surround, filled with black mesh. Another STX highlight is the 20-inch machined-aluminum wheels with Flash Gray painted pockets.

“It’s a truck that can do everything you need it to on the jobsite,” Rieger said, “and run it through the carwash and it looks very nice in front of the restaurant or wherever you’re going.”

Moving up to an XLT, base priced from $32,970 to $38,230 depending on cab configuration, the two-bar grille and nostrils are chrome versus black on the XL. Trim levels beyond XLT delete the Regular Cab configuration. The more-luxurious Lariat model, which starts at $40,685 for the SuperCab, features a grille design that emphasizes its premium character. The grille’s dual chrome bars stretch to the headlamps, covering side nostrils that are open on the XL and XLT designs. It has four minor chrome bars, a narrow black surround and black mesh strips at the top and bottom.

King Ranch and Platinum models share a power-look Super Duty-inspired two-bar grille design, featuring bars that extend to the headlamps. The King Ranch’s twin bars and surround are chrome, and the inserts are square-patterned Caribou mesh. The Platinum grille has satin-finished bars and surround, and the mesh is brighter silver. Platinum models get new-design LED headlamps and fog lamps. King Ranch and Platinum F-150s are sold only in SuperCrew configurations, and have starting prices of $51,600 and $54,155, respectively.

As expected, Ford’s top-end Limited has bold grille styling that’s completely different from others in the lineup. Designers abandoned the signature twin-bar theme and delivered on an artistic creation that mixes satin- and chrome-finished elements. Chrome “LIMITED” lettering adorns the hood above the grille. Base price for the Limited is $60,520.

Exterior changes also were made to the rear end of most F-150s, with all non-applique tailgates getting a redesign. Large, stretched “F-150” lettering is stamped into the lower carved-out portions of XL, XLT, Lariat, Raptor and King Ranch pickups.

The freshened F-150 exteriors are offered with a bold new color for 2018. Magma Red is the additional paint choice. It’s a dark red, which in certain situations can appear to be black.

Inside the F-150, most of the styling is carryover from 2017. Seats, instrument panels and console trim get new materials and colors on XLT Sport, XLT Special Edition, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models. King Ranch F-150s are upholstered in Kingsville leather, which is a lighter brown than the previous leather. Platinum interiors sport Dark Marsala leather and Navy Pier is the new leather for Limited models. Base Lariat models are available with leather bucket seats and a flow-through center console.

Ford’s 2018 F-150 lineup offers consumers an impressive range of pickup choices. Mid-cycle enhancements refine a lineup that had taken a giant step toward revolutionizing the market with the technologically advanced new-generation trucks introduced in the 2015 model year.