2016 Ford F-150 Review
To celebrate the Fourth of July we needed to take a look at the most popular car in America—the Ford F-150. The premier light-duty pickup truck is the best-selling vehicle in the United States for good reason. The useful combination of rugged style and impressive capability keeps drivers in the seats and trucks on the road. At the same time, the last model was a serious gamble—introducing a new style, a new aluminum body, and economical engines. Take a look at the 2016 Ford F-150 and decide for yourself if the truck still lives up to America’s expectations.
In 2015, Ford revealed a pioneering military-grade aluminum body that reduced curb weight by over 700 pounds. The frame was still high-strength steel, but the sheet metal was completely replaced, except for the engine firewall. Drivers and mechanics were nervous that the new body would be weaker and more difficult to maintain, but, at the same time, the new materials improved the power-to-weight ratio and performance across the entire engine lineup. On balance, the aluminum body is an unexpected success. The reduced weight leads to greater acceleration and pulling power. A lower center of gravity improves handling. Dropping the beltline just a fraction enhances visibility and saves your elbows and arms from the pain of a long drive. Even the tailgate is lighter and easier to handle. The cumulative improvements outweigh any doubts in our mind—aluminum is here to stay.
On paper, the new engines are a significant improvement over the previous generation. The new base engine is the 3.5L Ti-VCT V6 with 282 horsepower, 253 pound-feet of torque, and a tow rating of 7,600 pounds. While fuel economy has improved, the 3.5L still feels sluggish and underpowered despite the reduction in curb weight. Frankly, the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 is a remarkable improvement despite its smaller size. The tough little block provides 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque, 19mpg/city and 26mpg/highway, and impressive acceleration. While, like every other truck, most on-the-road towing configurations will sit below the maximum, the 2.7L promises that you can haul 8,500 pounds or a payload of 2,210 pounds. Most light-duty trucks won’t need more power, but you can upgrade to the 3.5L EcoBoost if you need a real workhorse with 365 horses, 420 pound-feet, and a tow rating of 12,200 pounds, albeit with lower fuel economy. EcoBoost pairs well with the six-speed automatic, power assisted steering, and tow/haul mode. The only problem is the deadened sound compared to the reassuring roar of a V8. You can still choose a 5.0L V8 with 385 horsepower, 387 pound-feet and best-in-class payload of 3,270 pounds. At that point, however, you might want to look into a medium or heavy duty truck. The F-150 has the highest available towing and hauling capacities for any light-duty truck with a great combination of economy and power, but we’re disappointed that the EcoBoost lacks the feel of a powerful engine.
Style and Trims
The new style of the F-150 was introduced by the Ford Atlas at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. The concept vehicle revealed a new design for the F-Series with distinctive windows, headlights, and taillights without sacrificing the rugged look of a real truck. The new style continues over into the latest model in six trims, including the luxurious Limited Series. Also back on the lot is the Raptor—an off-road model with an exclusive 5.5’ cargo bed, racing shock absorbers, and all-terrain wheels. The two-door Regular Cab with XL and XLT trims minimizes weight and maximizes towing and payload capacity. The two-plus-two SuperCab and the four-door SuperCrew offer the most comfort, style, and features especially in Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum. Depending on how you’re going to use your vehicle, there’s an array of comfortable and practical features for any driver.
Safety and Features
The SuperCab F-150 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick for 2016 and received a five-star NHTSA safety rating. The new generation almost overloaded the F-150 with advanced features, including 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system and cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping system, and collision warning brake support. Curve Control keeps your truck steady on winding roads and the standard trailer-sway control, dynamic hitch assist, and smart trailer tow connector ensures that even long hauls are easier than expected. Available active park assist can mitigate the difficulty of maneuvering a pickup into tight spots on city streets, while Pro Trailer Backup Assist can help you park your trailer. If you want to get the most out of the onboard technology, there’s an available eight-inch LCD “Productivity Screen” that can connect to your trailer or display other information about your cargo and vehicle. Otherwise, the available SYNC system will handle all of your infotainment. Unfortunately, the new SYNC3 system is a vast improvement on the original (which isn’t saying a lot) but requires an additional expense. At least you can ineffectually stab at your touchscreen from the comfort of the supportive and adjustable seats.
The F-150 looks good and handles well. While you might need a heavier-duty truck for significant loads, when configured properly the aluminum body accommodates regular use with ease. The reduction in weight frees up power for best-in-class towing and payloads. Ignoring the feel of the 2.7L EcoBoost, the 2016 Ford F-150 the improved weight, acceleration, handling, and fuel economy is a significant advancement for an impressive vehicle. Head cross-country, load up for the long weekend, or watch the fireworks from the cargo bed—let’s celebrate Independence Day.