- Lightweight remake doesn't sacrifice a thing
- Excellent 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6
- Great ride quality
- Ordinary, evolutionary look for such a radical design
- Aluminum body's potential for pricey repair
- No more bragging-rights 6.2-liter V-8
The 2016 Ford F-150, fresh off a transformation that made it leaner yet much-improved in most ways, gets new Sync 3 infotainment and trailer-backup wizardry.
Full-size pickup trucks like the 2016 Ford F-150 have been caught in a dogfight for decades. It's a tug-of-war in capability—in towing and payload ratings, and in interior space, and bed dimensions, these big trucks inch ahead of each other, seemingly undaunted by concerns over parking spaces and garage heights.
Even so, fuel economy now plays a role in the truck world. It's there that the F-150's recent dramatic transformation to an aluminum body might just pay off.
In an expensive gamble for Ford, the F-150's pickup's body and bed are composed of glued and riveted aluminum panels. It's a technique akin to the one Ford pioneered with Land Rover and Jaguar before it sold those brands. Under the lighter-weight panels, the F-150 is built on a ladder frame that's almost all high-strength steel, with durability assured by a buffer between them.
The 2016 Ford F-150 holds passengers and cargo better than ever. Fleet-duty Regular Cabs aside, the SuperCab and SuperCrew four-doors have great space to match up with the usual 5-foot-6-inch-, 6-foot-6-inch-, and 8-foot beds.
The F-150 goes out of its way to play down its radically new body structure, wearing every possible right angle, even ditching the few rounded shapes it once wore. Make no mistake, every square inch is detailed to cheat the wind, to make it easier to extract every possible tenth of a mile per gallon from a classically styled pickup truck. Outside and in, though, the F-150 barely makes mention of the fact that it's forging a new path in the market.
Ford F-150 performance
The 2016 F-150 keeps a V-8 in the lineup, as well as a base V-6, but the heart of the lineup is now occupied by a couple of twin-turbocharged V-6 engines. The base is a 3.5-liter V-6, making 282 horsepower and offering a max tow rating of 7,600 pounds. The torquey 2.7-liter turbo V-6 is a better choice, for just a $795 upcharge. It's rated at 325 hp and 375 pound-feet of torque, and it tows up to 8,500 pounds. Engine stop/start is included, too, which might aid fuel economy in real-world stop-and-go.
The two engines at the top of the lineup are the 5.0-liter V-8, now at 385 hp, and the even more capable twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6, at 365 hp. The former has the F-150's top payload rating at 3,300 pounds; the latter, the top tow number of 12,200 pounds, which Ford says is best in the full-size class.
All four engines are paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Both 4x4 and 4x2 drive configurations are available. Electric power steering is standard across the board, and it's light and quick, which doesn't sound very truck-like but complements the new F-150's road manners. The Ford truck has exceptional ride isolation, quietness on the road, and a composure that belies the body-on-frame design.
The 2016 Ford F-150 offers some useful cargo-bed features. There are loading ramps that lock into the bedsides, for easy ATV loading; a BoxLink system that fits cleats and brackets to the bed so that it can be divided and so cargo can be anchored; LED lighting in the cargo box; and a deployable bed step. Our favorite is the tailgate step that slides out, along with a picket-style handrail. It folds in and out of the way inside the tailgate, but can support up to 500 pounds of weight on its slim steps.
Ford F-150 safety and features
If safety is a priority, it's all here in the 2016 F-150. The usual airbags and stability control are complemented by things like a second-row inflatable seat belt; additional braking help via Curve Control; adaptive cruise control; blind-spot monitors; and a lane-keeping system, which nudges the truck back into its lane when it detects a crossing of the double yellow.
In the 2016 F-150, there's a new Pro Trailer Backup Assist option that makes it a lot easier to backup into a tight driveway or boat launch with a trailer; with a simple turn of an in-dash knob, the system does the actual steering—counter-steering when necessary—to keep you going in the desired direction.
The F-150 pares down its trim levels in this transition year to XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum. New equipment offerings include inflatable rear seat belts, pickup-box LED lighting, Sony premium audio, and, on Platinum models, real wood trim. An off-road-oriented FX4 is available (now as a package, not a model), bundling off-road-tuned shocks, skid plates, and an electronic locking rear axle. Top King Ranch and Platinum models command more than $60,000.
This model year, the big news is that Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system replaces the much-maligned MyFord Touch system, wherever that previous system was offered. Although we haven't yet used this system in a vehicle, we look forward to the streamlined experience and improved voice controls that Ford promises.
The 2016 F-150 with the 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 is the efficiency leader of the lineup. At 19 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined, it's several mpg higher than Ford's comparable V-8 F-150 from last year.
The two upper engines in the lineup do modestly better than their predecessors. With the 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6—which more than replaces the former V-8 models—the F-150 is rated at 17/24/20 mpg. And naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8 models factor in at 14/19/16 mpg. The base V-6 is the least improved: Ford quotes 17/24/20 mpg.