Ford’s mighty F-150 pick-up officially arrives in Australia soon. So we heading Stateside to sample the XLT spec due for Oz to further whet our appetite for the world’s biggest-selling truck
Budding Aussie owners who’ve put money down on the long-awaited official-release of the Ford F-150 are now counting the weeks – undoubtedly some the minutes – until their examples roll into Aussie driveaways.
Some entry-grade XLT and high-spec Lariat variants – the only two offered locally – have landed and are shuffling through Ford’s local right-hook remanufacturing facility in readiness for Aussie consumption, with first deliveries set for late Q3 and early Q4.
Kicking off from $106,950 (or from around $117,000 driveaway) in its most modest XLT short-wheelbase guise, and topping out at $140,495 for the stretched Lariat, it’ll be Ford Australia’s priciest range to date…and few believe such an outlay will pull the handbrake for what’s predicted to be unprecedented buyer demand.
For many deposit holders, then, the F-150’s arrival will be…about bloody time.
Fortuitously, during a recent visit to the US to drive the new seventh-generation Mustang in its flagship high-performance Dark Horse guise, Chasing Cars got the chance to drive an F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew, the SWB (3680mm-wheelbase) version with ‘5.5-foot Styleside’ tub that serves as an authentic taste of the Aussie-spec entry point as is currently offered in the US.
The trip was no quick whip around the block, either. Our F-150, festooned with select options including tasty Heritage Edition accoutrement, accompanied the Mustang Dark Horse on a road trip from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Washington DC, a circa 600-kilometre trip over two days.
And as much as I was smitten by the new mega ’Stang, I opted for plenty of seat time – in both rows – of the F-truck, because in my personal experience there are few other options out there, period, that makes for a finer all-American grand tourer than the F-150. That’s right, you read that correctly…
Back in 2019, I’d clocked up around 3000kms in the top-dog Limited 4×4 Supercab, taking in locations from Santa Monica in California to Monument Valley in Utah via Death Valley Nevada, the hottest place on Earth.
And I was left with an unwavering belief that that pickup was the ultimate vehicle for such a trip, two-up and with luggage.
Today, on the US east coast, we’re a crew of eight spread across three cars – the third a turbo-four-powered Bronco Heritage – and the F-150 is tasked with no fewer than four adults and a full complement of luggage throughout the entire grand tour.
Spoiler alert: the F-truck quickly became the preferred option for long hours in the saddle as it began to dawn on the rest of the crew that our largest Blue Oval companion was easily the roomiest and most comfy choice of the convoy.
At USD$68,755 (roughly AUD$105,000) on road with options, our XLT was fancier than stock if not excessively so.
Options fitted outside of Heritage Edition detailing ($1975) included a twin-panel sunroof ($1495), 2kW onboard power with 120v outlets in both rows ($995), a tow package ($2215) and a 360-degree camera system ($765) and a two-tone XLT Sport exterior appearance pack ($465) to name a few extras (all in US dollars).
Otherwise, this US-spec package is very close to what Aussie buyers will expect from localised XLT. So the base version gets halogen front lighting and cloth trim, rather than the Lariat-spec LEDs and leather-accented heated/cooled pews.
The XLT also trims niceties such as rain-sensing wipers, inductive phone charging and ambient lighting.
Our US truck, though, fits 12.0-inch media, whereas the Oz version will be 8.0-inch as standard.
Elsewhere, the imported XLT loses front parking sensors, fits regular rather than adaptive cruise found on Lariat, and skimps on the flagship’s reversing AEB, junction assist and evasive steering active smarts to name a few cut corners.
The long-wheelbase ‘6.5 tub’ option costs an extra thousand bucks in Oz.
For the fat-trimmed specifications against the high-grade Lariat, the XLT does feel like a reasonably lavish, well-appointed rig. Or so is the impression once you climb in.
The cabin is simply vast. There’s massive width between the door cards, a supreme sense of airiness and a real lounge-like vibe, with an open ambience between the two rows.
Space wise, it feels first class – it makes a Toyota Prado seem cosy – even if some of the materials, such as the cloth seat trim, are more salt-of-the-earth.
Still, there’s a solidity and integrity to the cabin space. It doesn’t feel overly cost conscious. Indeed, the F-150 is quite elaborate in details less for the sake of opulence and more to serve practical convenience.
So the pedal array is height adjustable, the transmission selector electrically stows to convert the console lid into a table, and you get (US-spec) 120-volt three-pin power outlets in both rows to power laptops, portable coffee machines and whatnot.
The cloth trim itself is, like much of the XLT’s cabin fit-out, quite plush and comfy as well as unpretentious, which sort of typifies the cut of the F-150’s jibe in this modest trim grade.
The XLT gets a 12-way driver and 10-way front passenger seat with relaxed, couch like contours, while the rear bench is vast in width, 60/40 split folding and has a base that flips upwards with vast under seat storage for large gear and luggage.
No matter where you sit, the ‘lounge factor’ is excellent. The sheer roominess of the thing allows any occupant to assume any body posture they like and the long-haul comfort four-up is utterly fantastic, allowing anyone not driving to work off their laptops without crouching uncomfortably over their devices.
It’s a proper five-adult prospect, too, with an almost flat rear floor for ample foot space.
The ‘5.5-foot’ (1.7-metre) short tub offers a huge load area and, really, you’d only need to stump the $995 upcharge for the longer ‘6.5-foot’ (2.0m) rear box if you frequently need to load large payload such as lumber or dirt bikes. Tub width is almost 1.3m with a height of around 55cm.
Aussie spec brings inner tie downs, Boxlink cleats, a lockable tailgate and heavy duty spray-in bedliner as standard but misses the powered tailgate and 12v socket of the Lariat.
During our road trip, the F-150’s rump was home to the four Aussie custodian’s luggage, though a lack of hard-locking tonneau meant that the payload had to be locked inside the cabin – an easy fit – during adventures away from the parked truck. The US version offers around 1.4 tonnes of payload capacity.
Towing? Officially, the F-150 is rated at 4500kg and both Aussie variants will fit a tow bar with integrated trailer brake controller and the nifty Pro Trailer back-up assist reversing guidance system.
Our US truck fits a Max Trailer Tow Pack, which includes extras such as a 136L fuel tank – 115L is standard – and low-ratio rear locking LSD.
There was no towing if a decent enough taste of touring capabilities as four blokes and luggage saddled up for the 600-odd-kilometre trek across three US east coast states, taking in twisty Appalachian Mountains road, grand American highways and backroads, and the inner city confines of towns such as Charlotte, Richmond and Washington DC.
At almost 5.9 metres in length, even the ‘shorty’ F-150 is a large rig, though the vast glasshouse and surprisingly handy outward visibility makes acclimatising to its sheer girth a quick process.
At least, for the most part. It’s just over two metres wide even without factoring in elephant ear wing mirrors that threatened to clip walls and poles of every drive-thru and multi-storey carpark during our four-day venture.
Squeezing the big Ford four stories below ground, downtown in the US capitol, made for a few paint-shaving moments…
Inner-city confines apart, there’s not a lot about the F-150 that’s too big and unwieldy for the American landscape. And there are plenty of current large-pickup owners in Oz who’ll claim the same in Australia.
There’s much – perhaps too much – discussion that trucks this large are inappropriately sized for the likes of Newtown (Sydney), Brunswick (Melbourne) or Fortitude Valley (Brisbane) without acknowledging that such enclaves are pinpricks on the vast Australian landscape.
And the F-150 is simply not too much truck for a helluva lot of it…
That’s a concept our XLT is out to demonstrate handsomely as soon as we hit the wider American road. It’s simply fit for touring, but so accomplished at it that you might be inclined to believe, once you settle in, that there’s not much out there that can better it.
The twin-turbo Ecoboost petrol V6 is a real peach. Paired with a ten-speed auto and a part-time 4×4 system that almost never demands front-axle drive during most motoring situations, the force-induced petrol engine is glove-fit in the manner in which it blends energy, frugality and refinement.
The six is buttery smooth and very quiet at a cruise or under load, where it needs 3100rpm on the tacho to ply its 678Nm peak. And yet the engine is very tractable off idle and steadfast in its politeness, even loaded up with occupants and gear while chasing its 6000rpm redline, where its 298kW is fully uncorked.
There’s some very faint nibbling from the auto during upshifts or negotiating three-point turns, but otherwise this powertrain is as polished as a German limousine.
As a whole, the turbo six offers superior performance to the 5.0-litre V8 offered in some F-150 variants and none of the agricultural clatter of diesel power so many Aussie pickup owners are accustomed to.
There’s a broad array of drive modes to choose from: eco, sport, tow/haul, slippery, deep snow/sand and mud/rut for 4×4 versions. But there’s ample enough on-road flexibility in good old normal mode that I didn’t feel compelled to venture outside the default setting.
In fact, the Ecoboost engine is impressive enough that one does get more than a little curious about the 320kW/770Nm 3.5L Powerboost V6 hybrid Ford offers as a premium option on some F-150 variants, including bound-for-Oz XLT and Lariat.
At less than a $US2000 upcharge over the Ecoboost V6, the hybrid in 4×4 guise offers a 9.8L/100km claimed for both urban and combined consumption – 9.7L for highway – as a compelling option.
Our Ecoboost XLT 4×4 tester, though, is officially rated at 12.4L combined, with 13.9L for urban and 10.2L for highway. And even loaded up, it proved reasonably genuine to its claims during our 600km trek.
The real on-road highlight, though, is ride quality. It’s wonderfully compliant, allowing the big truck to waft along in a settled and dignified manner far beyond the sort of experience you’d find in your average Thai-built dual-cab.
It’s particularly impressive given the XLT sits on passive suspension – coil spring front, two-stage leaf rear – and rather hefty 20-inch alloy wheels, albeit shod with chunky 60 series tyres with broad 275mm tread.
Some of the crew did think the chassis tends to float a touch excessively and that body control isn’t quite the most confidence inspiring once you stick it into a corner with enthusiasm.
I can’t say I necessarily agree, though the jury is out as to whether the F-150’s cushy nature might impact driver confidence when hauling a heavy trailer.
In terms of steering and stopping, there really are no complaints from a package that, dynamically at least, shouldn’t necessarily prompt lofty expectations.
When the corners arrive the big Ford is best guided rather than manhandled, where it remains planted and cooperative enough for its whopping wheelbase and circa-2.4 tonne heft.
It’s easy to place on the road, even if you have to be careful keeping it on the hot-mix because it takes up so much real estate. But, again, even for those of us unfamiliar with such a large unit, the F-150 does start to ‘shrink’ around you surprisingly quickly and do get accustomed to its sheer size rather quickly.
The F-150 is good. Very good. As a popular choice in the broader F-Series range that’s been the best-selling nameplate in the US for 41 years (as of 2022), and has a long history of trading off with Toyota Corolla as the biggest-selling nameplate on the planet, its success is certainly no fluke.
And this goes a long way to explaining just how well sorted and polished the F-150 package is and how impressive it can be even in relatively lowly XLT grade (albeit with a host of US market options fitted).
How does our US tester fare compared to Aussie spec? It is, on paper, very very close.
In the metal? Australia media and buyers patiently on the waiting list will find out soon enough, as the long-awaited, RHD factory versions of F-150 launch locally in September and start rolling into local driveways shortly thereafter.
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