I used to absolutely love Ford Motor Company when I was young. I might have stemmed from the fact that everyone in Montana had one while I lived there, but even after I moved to Virginia I still had a thing for the blue oval’s products. My family’s ownership of a Ford was brief, consisting of a 1986 Escort L which lasted two years before being totaled in accident, and a hand-me-down 1996 Escort SE that made it 6 months before the fuel pump quit, and we traded-in for a Corolla. This was also about the time I discovered the under-stated greatness of the 90’s Toyotas. Meanwhile Ford started designing their cars to look like melted crayons and I lost interest, as did many others who weren’t fans of the jelly bean-like styling.
Fast forward to the last 5 years. Ford has been killing it (yes, in a good way). I love how you have a plain-Jane Focus as well as ST and RS variants! The Mustang is the most desirable it’s been to me in years and the Fiesta ST is a riot. You can even have the Taurus (SHO) and Fusion with fun EcoBoost engines. Need I mention the Ford GT? After helping Josh and Will with their review and video of the Focus RS, my heart is easily the warmest it’s been for Ford Motor Company in many years.
Roughly about the same time I had begun taking a second look at Ford’s products I took a trip to visit some good friends in Galveston, Texas. It was my first time in the state. You can probably guess what I’m about to say next… Well, YES. Yes, they took me to a Buc-ee’s and Yes, it was amazing! Secondly, Yes, just about everyone in Texas does have a truck. I never really thought about owning a truck before, but there was just something about that visit to Texas. Trucks were just cool there. My trip left me with me with many memories; wonderful company, awesome food, beer sitting on ice in check-out lines, massive gas stations, and those of trucks. Trucks everywhere!
Ford has been on top of the truck market for some time so I was itching to drive something that checked many of the these new boxes I was now seriously considering. So what do we have here then? Well like the last F-150 we had on RFD, this one has an EcoBoost, but it’s the bigger engine. Specifically this is a 2017 Ford F-150 Lariat 3.5 EcoBoost, Crew Cab, 4×4.
Off the break, let me start off by saying that the last Ford F-150 I drove was my employer’s 2000 V6 2wd base model. He bought it new and still has it in service today. It has low miles, but is beat to $#*% from many years of grunt work around the shop. It might not be my favorite design, but I have an appreciation for the reliable service it’s provided. Today we use it mostly for hauling trash or scrap metal, after it served us well as a parts delivery truck for some time. It has a place of honor among us all after all these years. Could a new truck compare? Yes and no… Ehhh. It’s not that simple. Wait… or is it?
Let’s just say that trucks have changed considerably in the last 17 years.
The truck that Ford gave us for a week is likely fairly popular these days among most buyers. You get a 3.5 liter V6 with two turbos that is capable of respectable gas mileage (for a truck, mind you) and yet can haul when needed. Ours was nicely a nicely equipped Lariat 4×4, with a crew cab, in Sport trim. Price as tested was $59,500.
If you’re like me and haven’t looked at truck prices in a while, you might be taken aback. Truth is, all full size trucks are expensive these days. Still, this price gets you heated and cooled leather seats (heated rear seats as well), the latest Sync & Sony infotainment, parking assistance with self-park, radar cruise control, a coated bed with electric opening tailgate, electric rear window, and all sorts of towing aids. When you really begin to think about it, the price starts making some sense. Still, how did it make me feel?
The engine looks small in the massive bay in which it resides. Almost like it doesn’t belong, or there is something missing. Don’t let it’s appearance under the plastic cover fool you. The 3.5 Liter with two turbos provides more than adequate power to move the truck down the road with or without a trailer. Power is rated at a nice 375hp and 470lb ft of torque. Delivery of the power is nice and smooth, without ever being a slouch. When you stomp on the gas, it sounds intimidating and almost has a V8-like note, but with a nice whistle/hiss from the turbos to remind you that they’re there.
Hard acceleration was downright infectious, with the noise and sensation of speed even crossing the threshold of “Fun” at times. Even on moderate acceleration, you’ll hear a little something from the turbos and forced air. The truck, or at least its engine, just wants you prod it. You need to restrain yourself at times because the fuel gauge can seem deceptive. You think it’s being easy on gas, but the reality hits when you go to refuel. The massive tank keeps the overall range high and I paid $76 for 3/4 a tank of required premium gas. Not something I’m used to with all the smaller cars I’ve had.
It averaged a roughly 18mpg which isn’t terrible for such a big beast. Upon an inspection of the engine, most components looked fairly serviceable although adding turbos can raise the level of intimidation to most driveway mechanics. Depending on your level of ability, you may find yourself in over your head turning wrenches in at home, if not careful.
After spewing my love for the 3.5L EcoBoost, it’s time to look at the as-equipped transmission – the new 10-speed automatic. To put it plainly, it could use some more refinement. It liked to hang out up in the higher gears for what I assume would be better MPG, instead of downshifting. This would often result in some shuddering with engine speed a little low for road speed. You have the choice of dropping the 10th gear for just 9, and “manually” shifting the automatic as well. Why though? Especially for just one gear? I can see using the manual setting for towing, but for everyday driving few will use it as such.
Speaking of shifting, it was mostly smooth with occasional “hiccups” or mis-calculations on gear. I typically encountered less-smooth shifting was while coming to a stop. On deceleration you’d get a little…pause…and then a very slight thump heading into lower gears. I suspect this is because the tranny would skip some gears while going up or down. Speaking of going up and down, the gear indicator inside the tachometer looks more like an elevator floor selection with all those gears. As you drive, you can watch the meter “ascend or descend” through gears even when not “manually” shifting. It was a pretty cool feature, but you should keep your eyes on the road. Regardless, with all these cars with eleventeen-speed transmissions, it’s nice to see where you’re at, even if a computer is doing the work for you.
Handling, for the most part, is typical truck. The suspension was forgiving but not as prone to wallow as I expected. In corners, the truck gave me some confidence, that I was reeled back in by overall height and outright tire howl. Response during “evasive” maneuvers was also mostly as expected, but pretty decent for such a big vehicle. The collision avoidance system would alert you to potential incidents and start taking action before you got too close. I encountered this phenomenon when trying to thread the F-150 through narrow openings. The computer responded by cutting throttle and applying some minor braking, accompanied by flashing red LEDs. The brakes are solid overall with re-assuring pedal feel and travel. The threshold before over-heating them without a trailer was excellent, at least during my time with the truck.
Speaking of comfort, the interior was fantastic. My only criticism was a shorter than expected seat bottom. All controls were pretty much within decent reach, although I found myself stretching just a little to reach some infotainment operation. With the Crew Cab, the rear seat passengers had more than enough room to stretch-out. My friends young daughter could literally walk around inside. Four of the five passengers had seat heaters and the front seats had seat coolers. The seat coolers are a nice touch on this truck, and lets be honest, the working class love heated and cooled seats. I cannot tell you how nice it feels to have a cooled seat after a long day of working in the heat, and I don’t have (that much) back hair!
Fit and finish inside was pretty good, though there were some details that could have had more attention. The carpet and insulation were cut in such a way that strands of fabric were exposed in some areas. The rubber mats seemed a little thin as well. I can’t criticize it that much though, the over-all inside quality of the truck was still leaps and bounds better than models from years ago.
Instrumentation is excellent, you have a wide range of menus to choose from for the main display located in the center of the gauges. At the top of the display were LCD gauges displaying fuel, engine temperature, oil pressure, and you could toggle the last one between a boost gauge or trans temp when towing. The tach and speedo gauges were analog. For some reason, the main display kept defaulting to towing information, and I couldn’t figure out how to default it to something else. Perhaps a previous driver was pulling something? With this power, perhaps tree stumps?
My favorite display was easily the Off Road Status gauges. That’s cool.
The Sync infotainment system was easy to use and the Sony sound system was great. Pairing my phone, calling people, and using the stereo was very easy. Navigation worked very well with limited learning curve. Sound from the Sony system was great with some occasional speaker distortion. If you peer behind the seats and upholstery on the rear wall, you’ll see the Sony amp and small subwoofer. The display uses a fantastic system of parking cameras. It’s always a trip to see the bird’s eye perspective provided by them when parking. I recommend the birds eye view when going through car washes! Neat!
Speaking of parking, I attempted the self-park feature once, but failed. Along an empty street no-less! Part of it might have been my fault, I like to pretend I’m like most people and not read manuals or instructions. Next time, I’ll do some reading.
The power lift-gate was a nice touch, although it would be cool if it closed similarly. The step came in handy but I felt like the handle was unnecessary. Other buyers of various ages and heights may find it helpful. When I loaded up some old trash cans to take to the dump along with a rusty grill and some old worn-out deck furniture, the step came in very handy. Since I was loading by-myself, I had no-one to grab the old grill and bring it into the bed of the truck. Speaking of which, was nicely lined with a 1/8th of an inch of a tough material applied at the factory. If for some reason, you were doing something in the bed of the truck at night, there were also lights to illuminate it, not only from the back of the cab, but the rear sides of the bed as well. Perhaps good for those times when moving things take longer than expected? Sure! Perhaps good for those times when it could be considered mood lighting? No thanks, haha.
Exterior lighting was another cool trait of this truck. The parking and marker lights had this really cool shape and glow and as I said the lit bed was neat. The mirrors featured LEDs you could turn on with a button for each side, presumably for a better view at night. They are BRIGHT though and you can turn them on while driving next to someone. If there was ever a need for sunglasses at night, I think Ford might have found it. This might need a little more thought. Inside the gauges and screens are nicely lit. The bottoms of the cup holders glow, and the doors glow blue when closed and red when opened.
Even beyond Texans, the working class—or even people who like Monster Energy Drink—trucks always mange to capture the attention of the young or young at heart. My good friend’s young daughter absolutely adored the truck and looked right at home with it in her little pink cowboy boots. She compared it to a space ship and mentioned how she loved sitting up so high. As I mentioned, she was able to walk freely in the back before sitting in her (easily anchored) booster seat. The window switch was conveniently just out of her reach. Perhaps those of us who like the up-high-views provided by SUV’s and crossovers develop this taste at a younger age?
What didn’t I like about the truck? Well, parking it for starters. I’m used to smaller cars and finding a place to park the F-150 meant being a little more choosy due to it’s size. I’ve already mentioned the large fuel tank and how expensive it was to keep it full. And then there was the occasionally odd-feeling transmission; but the cherry on top had to be the fixed metal radio antenna mast. Seriously? It’s a $60k truck, built in 2017. Haven’t we evolved past this? A minor thing, but noticeable every time you look at, or out of, the truck.
After my time driving the F-150. It was actually harder than I thought it would be to let it go. Could I be starting to fall head over heals for Fords again? I’m not so sure about that, I think it was more because it’s a truck. There is something inside me that loved driving a truck for a week. To add to it, there were two turbos, and the noises to go with it which added to the fun. I can see why people love sports cars, but I can also truly see why people appreciate and love trucks. Perhaps it’ll soon be time to consider one soon?