KBB Editors' Overview
By KBB.com Editors
That the F-150 is the best selling truck in America for 33-years running tells you Ford must be doing something right when it comes to their full-size pickup line. Ever increasing competition, however, has forced Ford to step up its game, especially in the one area the F-150 has shown vulnerability in the past: Power. In what Ford bills as the most extensive powertrain overhaul in the 62-year history of the F-Series pickup, a total of four all-new engines and a new six-speed automatic transmission move the F-150 to the top of the horsepower and fuel economy charts. But Ford has not forgot the core purpose of its fabled truck, and knows that the bulk of its sales will come from buyers who genuinely need the unique aspects full-size pickups offer – big payload and towing capacities among them – instead of those who simply want to be seen in a pickup. With this in mind, Ford engineers have built in class-leading capabilities in both these areas while, at the same time, boosting fuel economy across the board. But don't think they skimped on creature comforts, as the 2011 Ford F-150 offers increasing levels of luxury from among its 35 variants.
You'll Like This Car If...
If you want a truck with serious towing and payload capabilities, yet as quiet and comfortable as many luxury sedans, then the F-150 should surely be on your shopping list.
You May Not Like This Car If...
Despite this year's new round of engine choices, the 2011 F-150 still doesn't offer a diesel option, so if you are a firm believer in diesel you must shop elsewhere.
What's New for 2011
Four new engines mark the big changes for the 2011 Ford F-150: a 3.7-liter V6, 5.0- and 6.2-liter V8s, and a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6. For the first time, a six-speed automatic is standard on all F-150 models. Other new features include the use of electric power-assisted steering, an available 4.2-inch LCD message center, a larger in-mirror rearview camera system, and a telescoping steering wheel.
Ford is so proud of the F-150's payload and towing capabilities that it might be natural to assume the 2011 version would "ride like a truck." The surprising news is it doesn't. Instead, each and every version of the F-150 we've driven offered exceptional ride quality – no shudders, hops or hiccups – and a level of quiet that was startling. Each version also offered ample power, good acceleration and, thanks to the new electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), a level of steering feel and control that belied its size and heft. Perhaps most impressive was the towing demonstration in which we hauled 20-foot trailers with absolutely zero drama, thanks in large part to the pickup's trailer sway control, rearview camera and integrated trailer brake controller. Our off-road excursions in the well-equipped four-by-four versions of the truck demonstrated it has the goods to get it done in muck and mire as well.
Designed to deal with the awkward and potentially dangerous chore of getting into the pickup truck's bed, the integrated tailgate step scored big. It deploys easily and even offers a safety hand-hold.
Roomy SuperCrew Cab
The cab in the 2011 SuperCrew is so roomy it out-measures some full-size sedans. In fact, the rear-seat legroom is absolutely limousine-like, and the mechanically articulated second-row seat flips up and out of the way, delivering an ample 57.6 cubic feet of space behind the front seats.
The 2011 Ford F-150's interior is both attractive and functional. Knowing men's hands would most often be using the controls, Ford designers made the knobs, buttons and switches brawny and put them within easy reach of the driver. The center console is both long and wide enough so it can easily accommodate two or more laptops, and it even has ridges so it can accept file folders. It is just one of more than 30 storage areas built into the interior for things like cell phones and music players. We especially appreciate the dash-mounted USB port and auxiliary music player input, plus the two easily accessible 12-volt outlets – one on the dash and one in the console – and even an available 110-volt outlet. Ford also paid special attention to the seats, which are some of the most comfortable in our experience.
Two generations ago Ford designers penned a swoopy, almost Ferrari-like F-150 that bowled over critics but didn't play as well with truck buyers. In the two generations since, Ford has made the F-150 much huskier, with an imposing front end, strong shoulders and a deep, deep pickup box. One drawback are the box's tall sides that make reaching into the center of the bed a difficult chore for all but the tallest among us; an available extendable side step somewhat alleviates this problem and is an option worth considering. The three-bar grille is the most important element of the design and if you're paying attention you can tell an F-150 trim level simply by the grille treatment – ranging from simple in the more work-oriented versions to more luxury-car-like looks for the up-level Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum versions.
Notable Standard Equipment
The 2011 Ford F-150 comes in flavors ranging from plain vanilla all the way to banana split with whipped cream, nuts and sprinkles, but one thing all levels share is a robust, hydro-formed, boxed-section chassis that offers superior torsional rigidity while actually being lighter than the old-fashioned ladder frames of the past. The level of standard safety equipment is truly outstanding, including AdvanceTrac with RSC traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes (ABS) and Safety Canopy side-curtain airbags with roll-fold technology for enhanced head protection in rollovers and side impacts. Safety is also enhanced by front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, "smart" airbags and seatbelts, a new second-row center head restraint and integrated spotter mirrors.
Notable Optional Equipment
For those who really use their pickup trucks as trucks, the F-150 offers some exclusive options that are right on the money. Our two favorites are the integral tailgate step that makes clambering into the box easy and the spring-out box side steps that make reaching into the vehicle's deep cargo box much more convenient. Also earning high marks are the stowable bed extender and beefy cargo management system. And for those who have ever left a tool on a work site, never to see it again, the Tool Link radio-frequency identification tracking system enables you to maintain a detailed real-time inventory of the tools and/or equipment stored in the pickup box. When it's kick-back time, Ford's SYNC, SIRIUS Travel Link and a high-powered Sony brand audio system help you while away the time.
Under the Hood
Do you want a gasoline engine or a gasoline engine? Perhaps the only shortfall with the 2011 F-150 is the lack of a diesel option, but the four new gasoline engines available – two V6s and two V8s – offer reasonable fuel economy, aided significantly by the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission. A twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 is offered, a first for this segment and an engine that promises both strong performance and good fuel economy. Both the 3.7-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 are fitted with fuel-saving twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) technology, and for towing needs, nothing can beat the two-valve per cylinder 6.2-liter V8s best-in-class 11,300-pound tow rating.
302 horsepower @ 6500 rpm
278 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 14/20 (2WD), 14/18 (4WD)
3.5-liter V6, twin-turbocharged
365 horsepower @ 5000 rpm
420 lb.-ft. of torque @ 2500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: TBA
360 horsepower @ 5500 rpm
380 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4250
EPA city/high fuel economy: TBA
411 horsepower @ 5500 rpm
434 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: TBA
With more than 30 different variants, the 2011 Ford F-150 is priced across a wide range. Regular Cab XL models have a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) right around $23,500, while a fully laden Platinum SuperCrew can run over $50,000. Somewhere in between those two extremes is where most buyers will find themselves. A look at the Fair Purchase Price on kbb.com shows the typical transaction price being paid for the F-150 in your area, so be sure to check it out before you set out to buy. The F-150 is expected to retain a better-than-average residual value, with the SuperCrew models at the top of the chart, followed by the Regular Cab and then the Super Cab. Over a five-year period, the F-150's projected residual value is expected to be nearly on par with the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra, better than the Dodge Ram and Nissan Titan but slightly below the Toyota Tundra.