- Wide choice of powertrains
- Quick, hefty electric steering
- Excellent towing and hauling ratings
- Cabin is quiet and refined
- Comfortable front bucket seats
- Plain, blocky looks are a little too Tonka
- Ride quality isn't as calm as Ram
- Engine noise intrudes on most versions
- MyFord Touch's learning curve
Muscular but lower in fat thanks to turbo V-6 power, the 2013 Ford F-150 shares the truck lead thanks to extreme towing capability and best-in-class tech features.
It's hard to complain when you're the best-selling pickup truck on the market, and for the new model year, the 2013 Ford F-150 has added a few features, too. That's important, because the competition is gaining ground in their attempt to catch up with this Ford's sales.
The F-150's been one of the top-rated trucks here for years, and it keeps its share of the lead thanks to advanced luxury and tech features, improved gas mileage, luxury touches, and class-leading towing. It also gets connectivity in its cabin that's rivaled only by the latest, best-equipped Ram.
With King Ranch editions, EcoBoost V-6 turbos, and a Harley-Davidson model wearing basic black like it owns it, how can the F-Series Ford truck get better? For starters, most of the F-150's running gear carries over unchanged, wrapped in the same defensive-lineman looks it's worn since a 2009 redesign. Back then the F-150 had borne a smooth, carlike look influenced by the company's epoch-making Taurus. All curves and upscale cues, that F-Series was caught off-guard by the Dodge Ram's blockbuster 1994 redo and its tractor-trailer-alike looks. Since then the F-150's migrated into a blocky, Tonka-like look that's either cartoonish or spot-on macho, depending on your allegiance to trucks in general, and Ford, specifically. The huge grille, the slab sides, the impossibly tall fenders make it a musclecar in its class, and an object to be coveted in certain parts of the country--anywhere within a 100-mile radius of an oval-track race. The cabin couldn't feel more contrasty: it's quiet, well-organized, and depending on the model and trim, plushly finished in high-grade plastics and tightly assembled pieces, with attractive proportions. Even work-grade trims look expensive--and the addition of MyFord Touch controls have pushed the center stack in a more adventurous direction.
The quartet of powertrains that replaced Ford's old modular V-8s in the 2011 model year are back, unchanged for 2013. The standard 3.7-liter V-6 may seem like the dollar-store choice, until you've driven it with a light cargo load. The six-speed automatic (standard across the board) gets paired with taller rear axles to help it accelerate to 60 mph in under 10 seconds, and gas mileage still pushes the envelope, at up to 23 miles per gallon on the EPA highway cycle, while towing capacity is a reasonable 6,100 pounds. Of course, if you want to hang with the popular crowd, you'll need the turbocharged, 3.5-liter version of the six. It blows out 360 hp, runs and guns to 60 mph in less than 8 seconds, and cranks out enough torque to challenge Ford's own V-8s for supremacy, while also giving the EcoBoost six the best towing numbers of the F-150 range--11,300 pounds.In their 1990s heyday, pickup trucks excelled at smooth V-8 power. Now they're truly muscular, especially at Ford, where the 5.0-liter V-8 endows the F-150 with a Mustang GT powertrain and its sizzling exhaust note, too. The 5.0 puts out an EcoBoost-identical 360 hp: the engine's retuned from the Mustang application for better low-end torque and to maintain the truck's 10,000-pound tow rating. At the top of the range is a new 6.2-liter V-8 with a monster output of 411 hp and 434 pound-feet of torque, fitted in the most luxurious models and in the Raptor off-road special edition.
Electric power steering was adopted along with the new engines, and it's also carlike in feel, with quick, light responses to inputs, more so than any other full-sizer. The ride and handling of the F-150 is probably where it gets nudged by Silverados and Rams: it handles pretty well for such a large pickups, but the ride is just a touch tougher than either. Four-wheel drive is available across the lineup, of course, and a new mechanical setup comes with automatic 4x4 mode that shifts power to the front wheels when needed.
The F-150 comes in a wide range of body styles and bed lengths, and it's up to you how to configure it. The Regular Cab has either a 6.5-foot or 8-foot bed, and so does the extended SuperCab. The SuperCrew four-door pickup also comes with short- and long-bed options, as well as a wheelbase six inches longer than other versions, with all the additional room going to the rear seats. All F-150s can have well sculpted bucket seats, and even the basic bench isn't a bad alternative. In back, the seats have a truly flat floor, and the cushions fold up against the back on four-door models so huge packages can be carried inside, safely and securely. A tailgate ladder and a side box step are stamped into each version.
All F-150s have a package of safety gear that blends electronic assistance with the usual airbags. Stability control is standard, and so are trailer sway control, which uses anti-lock brakes to mitigate the motion of a trailered vehicle, and hill start assist. A rearview camera and Bluetooth are available, too, and the F-150 has done well in crash tests. Especially of note is that the F-150 is the only one of the Big 3 full-size trucks to be an IIHS Top Safety Pick and achieve 'good' scores in the important, rollover-related IIHS roof-strength test.
More than most any vehicles on the road, pickups still offer the custom-order experience, not just in hard points but in soft points. The F-150's no different: it comes in no less than eleven packages that run from stripper XL editions to Harley-Davidson, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited editions. The F150 can be fitted with Ford's SYNC media controller, with real-time traffic information, and even with features like a Sony sound system, DVD entertainment players and second-row heated seats. If you want to get an idea of how luxurious an F-150 can be, step into the King Ranch, upholstered in natural leather, surrounded by LCD screens and a navigation system. It's like sitting in the world's most sophisticated baseball glove--and the price tag of more than $44,000 adequately underscores that impression.
2013 Ford F-150
The F-150's Tonka-like looks make an impact, and the cabin's very well-fitted in the uppermost trim levels.
Is the Ford F-150's shape just the right mix of size and strength--or is it an over-the-top 'toon rendition of a Tonka truck? Maybe it's both. In the post-Dodge-Ram era, emphatic styling's been a selling point among full-size pickup trucks, and the F-150's slab sides and its huge grille have a following that hasn't dropped off as it's grown bolder and bigger.
It's been a huge departure from the prior F-150, which took up a smooth, rounded shape in the 1997 model year and for its time, changed the notion of truck styling. Understatement and carlike cues were in, if only for a few years.
Clearly, today, macho sells. The current Ram relies on some cues from tractor trailers, and the relentlessly linear F-150 must hit some nerve in the brain of boys of all ages, pinging that first toy dump truck from decades past. It may be G.I. Joe from head to toe, but the F-150's essential shape takes on different personalities with an ease that would make Barbie's stylist green with envy. Suit it up in black with tasteful orange pinstripes and it's a Harley-Davidson; give it leather chaps and fringe and a big belt buckle and it's a King Ranch cowboy. Drop the costumes for plain jeans and a T-shirt and the F-150's just an unpainted bumper away from Joe Six-Pack XL. It's all highly efficient and democratic, even if the F-150 is not. New for 2013: available high-intensity discharge headlamps that form little hockey sticks around the lights--a subtle Michigan-ism if there ever was one.
Inside, the F-150 shows no signs of the somewhat carlike, drab plastic interiors of just a few years ago. The redesign that gave it tough-guy looks brought a more businesslike and upright dash with upgraded interiors. Well-coordinated materials and trims have boxy outlines, punctuated with round, high-set vents. The same look can appear restrained and rather well-done, as in the basic F-150 XL, and it can come off as the most luxurious vehicle sold under a Ford blue-oval badge, if you're settling into a Platinum edition.
With the addition of MyFord Touch controls to the cabin, the F-150 gets either a 4.2-inch LCD screen on the dash or a larger 8-inch screen when fitted with navigation, and a new stack design with larger buttons that underscores how truck users will adapt to MyFord Touch differently--and how Ford is dialing back some of the knob-less designs that it launched MyFord Touch with in the 2011 model year.
2013 Ford F-150
The F-150 earns its excellent performance rating with a wide range of powertrains and excellent V-6 gas mileage; we'd choose an EcoBoost.
A performance rating this high may seem like a typo. But in the case of the Ford F-150--as with the Ram 1500--the well-knit range of powertrains mate up perfectly with vast hauling and towing capacity.
Since it revamped the F-150's powertrains back in 2011, Ford's shifted more and more buyers into the V-6 versions of its best-selling vehicle. For many reasons, it's a good idea--but the reasons that matter to truck buyers come down to power and gas mileage. For the truck drivers who ply the fleet versions, or don't pack thousands of pounds into the bed or on the ball of the hitch, the base 3.7-liter V-6 is a reasonable choice. It's the same engine as the six in the latest Mustang lineup, and in this instance it produces 302 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It's agreeably smooth and moderately powerful--it's actually stronger than the old 4.6-liter V-8, and posts better fuel economy, at 17/23 mpg with the six-speed automatic that's standard in all F-150s. Straight-line performance is fine, but towing is the lowest of the lineup and torque feels thin below 3000 rpm.
Strap on turbocharging to a 3.5-liter version of this engine, and the F-150 earns the EcoBoost tag--and some of its strongest sales in a generation. This newest version of the F-150 has been a sales smash, accounting for almost 40 percent of all F-150 sales at last account. It's no mystery as to why: it throws off 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, more than the last-generation F-150's 5.4-liter V-8 could muster in its top form, and it enables the highest towing limits of the entire F-150 lineup, at 11,300 pounds. It's a seamless fit with the big pickup: though it's tuned differently in the F-150 than in other applications, such as the Ford Flex crossover, it's effortlessly strong at low engine speeds, with bags of torque and excellent passing power from a wide powerband across the engine's mid-range. Apart from its whistling, slightly boomy engine note, it's difficult to detect a difference, really, from the even more muscular eight-cylinder editions.Some just won't be happy without the extra pair of cylinders. For them, Ford mints a pair of V-8s related to the new V-6s. The lineage from the Mustang is clear and audible, down to the rip-snort exhaust, in the 5.0-liter V-8. With 360 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque, its power output is almost identical to the specs from the EcoBoost six, but it's delivered with a rorty V-8 exhaust note. There's also a big 6.2-liter V-8, which delivers 411 hp and 434 lb-ft, and in the off-road specialist Raptor, the lowest fuel economy ratings of the new F-150 lineup, at 11/14 mpg.
All versions come with a clean-shifting six-speed automatic, and on trucks in the XLT trim and above, there's a manual-shift mode. Ford's making some fast rear-axle ratios available to maximize the grunt for EcoBoost buyers doing medium- to heavy-duty chores. The 5.0-liter V-8 is good for up to 10,000 pounds with a regular-cab, long-bed, 4x2 F-150 and a special heavy-duty package. The 6.2-liter or EcoBoost engines can tow up to 11,300 pounds on SuperCrew short-bed 4x2 editions.
The entire engine lineup gives the F-150 a more carlike character, but wait until you feel its steering. All versions except the 6.2-liter F-150 now have electric power steering, which helps fuel economy numbers, but also gives the F-150 a quick, light driving feel, without much feedback at all but with so much more responsiveness, you'll never want to go back to the dead racks you'll find in the big Japanese trucks. You won't find yourself pushing hard around corners or darting into gaps in traffic just for the sheer enjoyment of it, but the EPS makes the F-150 drive a little smaller than it is. Ride quality is decent, a little jittery on 4x4 versions and a notch below the Ram 1500 most of the time, but braking performance is impressive for such a large vehicle, and Ford has finally mastered a more confident, firm brake pedal feel with this latest version.
Four-wheel drive is available across the lineup, and this year, Ford's hot-swapped in a new 4x4 system on upscale versions that adds an automatic traction mode that shifts power to the front wheels when slip is detected. At the same time, limited-slip differentials on EcoBoost and 5.0-liter F-150s are being replaced by systems that use anti-lock brakes to simulate limited-slip devices, for a less expensive, less weighty, more widespread solution.
2013 Ford F-150
Comfort & Quality
SuperCrews have the best cabins, but shorter beds; SuperCabs and Regular Cabs are for the work-truck crowds.
The F-150, like the other best-selling pickup trucks in America, can be tailored to fit just about any need--whether it's for play, or for work. Getting comfortable in any of these versions is a given, at least up front, and hauling lots of cargo is a snap, too. It's mostly a matter of picking the right version to match the task at hand.
Every version of Ford's full-size pickup will tote at least three passengers. In the least appealing reality, that means three burly guys sitting shoulder to shoulder in the vinyl-seat Regular Cab after a double shift at the mud mines. Few drivers get to experience that kind of F-150, though, as it's mostly the workhorse special, purchased by fleets and utilities. Regular Cabs have just the bench and very little room behind it, but the Super Cab gets a longer body with a pair of rear-hinged access doors and enough room behind the front seats for a pair of flip-up jump seats that can be stowed, leaving behind more cargo space behind locked doors. These are offered with either a 6.5-foot-long bed or an 8.0-foot-long bed.
Still, it's the Super Crew that most truck buyers have lust for in their hearts. It comes with either a 5.5-foot-long or a 6.5-foot-long bed and a second pair of front-hinged doors. Six inches longer than other versions, the Super Crew is essentially a full-size SUV with a fair-sized truck bed hung off the back--all the extra length is applied to rear-seat leg room, not to the cargo well.
Paying attention to the seats inside the F-150 will pay off in the long run. The basic bench seat that comes standard in many F-150 pickups isn't uncomfortable, but you'll need to leverage its fold-down armrest to create any lateral support. The higher you climb, the better the support: King Ranch editions have supple natural-hide cushions that pocket your butt like a baseball in a well-worn mitt. All F-150s have exemplary head, leg, and knee room in the front seat in every direction, unimpeded by the dash shapes at all.
Super Cab rear seats are emergency-use only, so we'll skip ahead to the rear seats on Super Crews, which get a truly flat floor that makes it very comfortable for passengers on long rides. The bench-seat cushions fold up against the back on four-door models so that in-cab storage is flexible without resorting to the kind of midgate design that makes the Chevy Avalanche so distinctive--and soon, extinct. A tailgate ladder and a side box step are stamped into each F-150, for easier cargo loading.As a pickup truck, versatility and utility is the F-150's primary reason for being, and the Ford F-150 doesn't disappoint in the cargo category. Likewise, inside some F-150 trims come with a lockable center console good for large items like laptops or small briefcases—or even file folders—while there are plenty of smaller storage cubbies, for notebooks, smartphones, sunglasses, tools, and the like.
Ford has made huge strides in terms of interior quality, and although the materials aren't free of imperfections they are well ahead of what consumers are used to from Ford. Otherwise, however, build quality is tight. The F-150's cabin is superbly quiet and refined, although in some models—especially those with the new V-8s—engine noise can be a bit much, depending on your expectations.
2013 Ford F-150
The F-150's crash tests have produced mixed results, but it's earned the IIHS' Top Safety Pick award.
The two major sources of crash-test data haven't tested all the different body styles of the latest F-150, but with the conclusion they have drawn--and with its extensive list of safety features--the F-150 earns a spot on the safe-trucks list.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has updated its test scores for the 2013 model year, and it gives the F-150 four stars overall, with a mixed rating of three stars for front-impact protection and five stars for side-impact safety on Super Crew models, and four stars and five stars respectively for other body styles. No small-overlap tests have been performed yet on the truck.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meanwhile, had already given the F-150 its Top Safety Pick award, with top 'good' results in frontal, side, and rear impact tests. It's worth noting that the F-150 only manages 'acceptable' scores for foot injury in the frontal test.
Even more importantly, the F-150 is the only one of the Big 3 full-size trucks to achieve 'good' scores in the important, rollover-related IIHS roof-strength test.Overall, the F-150 lineup is bristling with protective technology, and the list of safety features rivals that of any other pickup on the road—including side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control with Roll Stability Control. There's also Trailer Sway Control, which can take control of both braking effort and engine speed to help stay stable, while the F-150 lineup also gets Ford's first-ever Hill Descent Control, for safe descents down slippery slopes. A rearview camera is available, as are parking sensors and Bluetooth.
One of the problems with driving large trucks is poor visibility, but Ford has taken steps to improve sightlines from the driver's seat of the F-150. Some reviewers have pointed to the huge rear pillars, especially in Regular Cab models, as an issue. Power trailer mirrors are a new feature for the 2013 model year.
2013 Ford F-150
Trail king, rock climber, workhorse or luxury SUV: the F-150 has many personalities on order, and now, MyFord Touch, too.
You'll need more than two hands to count the different trim levels and models offered in the Ford F-150 lineup. It's a truck for every personality--and price point, with stickers ranging from about $25,000 to up, up, and away from $50,000 in luxurious Platinum and Limited versions.
Fleet duty is the F-150's stock and trade, and basic versions are outfitted for just that. The F-150 XL has a radio, and air conditioning, and wind-up windows, and not much more. Stepping up from the XL into STX and XLT, while the equipment gets progressively more luxurious; the STX adds a CD player, while the mass-market XLT adds on power windows/locks/mirrors and cruise control. All the mainstream models of the F-150 offer buyers the chance to choose from among a few body styles, bed sizes, and powertrains.
The plush Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited editions piles on features. Lariat trucks add on an LCD screen that displays vehicle settings; steering-wheel controls for audio and phone; 18-inch wheels; leather seats; power-adjustable pedals; satellite radio; and a towing package. Lariats also have an option for an off-road package that bundles skid plates, tougher shocks, and a locking rear differential. Lariat Limited and Platinum models add even more, like remote starting, larger wheels, and heated rear seats.
For the jacked-up, energy-drink-and-dirt-sandwich crowd, there are FX2/FX4 models and the F-150 Raptor, all with a macho look highlighted by exaggerated fenders and blacked-out trim. The Raptor's the hardcore thrasher of the group, with its 6.2-liter, 411-hp V-8, skid plates, and Baja-ready add-ons.
At the top of the lineup are the luxury trucks, like the King Ranch edition and its special untreated-leather interior, and the Harley-Davidson edition, which includes a power moonroof, rear view camera, second-row heated seats, ambient lighting and a remote start system. The Harley exterior gets a unique six-bar billet style grille and boasts specialized forged aluminum and Harley-Davidson chrome badging. The truck also has a lowered appearance due to a fully integrated deployable running board. Also standard are 22 inch Euroflange forged wheels with a polished center wheel cap and low-profile performance tires. The paint selection is classic Harley-Davidson—Tuxedo Black and Ingot Silver.
Among the new features added for the 2013 model year are power-telescoping steering and power-folding trailer mirrors on some trim levels. On XLT versions and above, Ford now makes its Bluetooth-driven voice controller SYNC standard. This version of the system runs mobile phones with voice commands and includes emergency assistance and vehicle-status reports; optional add-on services include real-time traffic, turn-by-turn navigation, Send To SYNC from Google Maps, and other real-time information from news to sports to weather. The information from SYNC is displayed in a new 4.2-inch LCD screen paired with another screen in the gauge cluster that shows information from the trip computer.
MyFord Touch is now offered in the F-150 as well, standard on Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited models. As in other Ford vehicles, MyFord Touch uses voice, steering-wheel controls, and an 8-inch touchscreen to run phone, audio, navigation, and some climate systems. In the pickup truck, it also comes bundled with a media hub that contains twin USB ports, an SD card reader, and a set of RCA jacks--perfect for plugging in a 3G dongle, a fresh map data card, or a gaming system. As soon as we're able to test this new version of MyFord Touch, with its specially designed controls made of ease of use in trucks, we'll update this review.
2013 Ford F-150
EcoBoost F-150s have excellent gas mileage and performance, and now account for almost half of the truck's sales.
With no powertrain changes announced for the 2013 model year, the Ford F-150's gas-mileage ratings are expected to remain unchanged from last year. In some cases, they're among the best in the segment, and Ford's had great success shifting many of its buyers from thirstier V-8s into more efficient turbocharged V-6 versions.
It's better than most pickups--and acknowledges the reality that even small improvements in pickup-truck efficiency mean huge reductions in fuel usage, since the F-Series is the best-selling vehicle in America.Back in 2011, Ford updated the entire powertrain lineup in the F-150, replacing a modular V-8 with a pair of V-6s and a pair of V-8s. The most powerful engine found in the off-road-ready Raptor guzzles gas to the tune of 11/14 mpg--but the base six-cylinder that can replace an eight for many buyers is rated as high as 17/23 mpg, tops in big pickups. Even the turbocharged V-6, a suitable V-8 replacement for almost any need, gets an EPA-rated 16/22 mpg.
With these claims from Ford there's a technical catch: Hybrid versions of the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado are rated at 20/23 mpg. But both models are significantly more expensive than their base versions, and are sold in very limited volumes--whereas Ford says V-6 F-150s now account for almost half its full-size trucks sales. There's a new 2013 Ram 1500 V-6 with an eight-speed automatic coming soon, too, and its promised fuel economy numbers are exceptional. Once it's rated by the EPA, we'll update this section to reflect any changes.