Donuts and Ford F-150s really don’t change. Why mess with success? The 2020 Ford F-150 has more varieties than the breakfast pastry and we’re sweet on all of them.
The best-selling full-size pickup truck soldiers on this year with minimal changes—active safety features now can be had on less-expensive versions—and we don’t mind.
It’s a 6.2 on our overall scale for now. Fuel economy isn’t a strong suit, but nearly everything else in the lineup is just strong. Full stop. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the F-150 is available in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims. Three cab configurations are scattered among the trims (regular cab, extended cab, and four-door) with one of three beds attached (8-foot, 5-foot-6, and 6-foot-6). Rear-wheel drive is standard on nearly all pickups, and four-wheel drive will be a popular upgrade for many shoppers. The 2020 F-150 starts at less than $30,000 for a no-frills power appliance and the price skyrockets up toward $70,000 in luxury grades that rival Lincoln in all but their names.
Regardless of trim level, the F-150 won’t be mistaken for anything else but a pickup. The Ford’s tall sides and open bed don’t think outside the box, they just make it better.
Ditto inside, where work trucks are simple and utilitarian. Top trims slather on chrome, leather, and soft-touch materials—but are just as useful and comfortable as the bunch.
The Ford F-150’s powertrain menu is long: pack your lunch. Four gas V-6s are available: a 3.3-liter base engine, a 2.7-liter turbo-6 (our pick), and two tunes from a 3.5-liter turbo V-6 up to 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. A turbodiesel V-6 is an expensive upgrade and delivers up to 30 mpg highway, according to the EPA, for long haulers. Ford’s venerable 5.0-liter V-8 makes a cameo, too. It’s lusty exhaust rumble is appealing, but its power has been largely surpassed by other models.
In most cases a smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic extends trips between fuel-station visits, and the F-150 rides and handles like a tall truck, which it is.
Crew cabs are the most comfortable for five adults and our pick for comfort. All-day comfortable bench seats or cozy buckets are equipped in every model, and most buyers will find nearly every modern convenience inside—storage cubbies, power plugs, USB ports, a big touchscreen, et al.
Active safety features such as automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors are equipped on Lariat and higher trims—we wish they were standard on all models.
Federal and independent crash testers have mostly good things to say about the F-150’s crashworthiness in four-door versions.
The varieties and available configurations for the F-150 are breathtaking and long—the order guide is at least 41 pages.
We’d suggest two things: The XLT Crew Cab with a 2.7-liter turbo-6 and a few conveniences, and that shoppers block out a long weekend to pick one.
A hybrid F-150 is on the way, but for now the F-150 manages combined fuel economy in the high teens in most cases, highway mileage up to 30 mpg in diesel-powered models.
Ford’s kept it simple with the F-150 for generations: box, bed, not much else. It’s straightforward and classic, utilitarian but not simplistic.
It’s a 7 on our styling scale because it’s exactly what it needs to be, inside and out, and we appreciate its candor.
Ram has gone uptown, and Chevy has gone to Hollywood, but Ford has gone back to the blocks it had before its curve appeal of just a few generations ago.
Upright and boxy, the F-150 is full of right angles and straight lines. The different trims wear different garb, but all the grilles are wide and all the body sides are tall. Sport versions heap on honeycomb and black, Limited and Platinum versions go all-in on the brightwork. All trucks wear wide Ford badges in the back that span the tailgate, some plainer than others.
Work trucks are unadorned with black plastic that can step-and-repeat without fuss for fleet buyers. Limited trucks are ready for Dallas’ Turtle Creek, and the Raptor is suited for the rest of Texas without roads.
Inside, the F-150 dresses up better than the outside. The plain dashes in XL and XLT give way to big consoles and touchscreens in more expensive versions; King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trucks wrap the interior in sumptuous leather that ranges from black to saddle-brown two-tone upholstery that asks you to kick off the mud from your boots before entering.
Some things don’t change like the Ford F-150’s looks. We like that.
The Ford F-150 has just about every digit covered. Available with V-6 or V-8 power, 6- or 10-speed automatic transmissions, two- or four-wheel drive, it’s the truck’s singular capability that helps it stand apart.
Starting from an average score, the F-150 gets points above average for its drivetrains that are not only good, they’re great, and its off-road and towing capability. It loses one for ponderous handling that’s endemic to anything that weighs nearly three tons—giraffes probably handle just the same if we tested them. The F-150 is a 7 on our performance scale.
The base F-150 is powered by a 3.3-liter V-6 that was added recently and replaced an aging 3.5-liter V-6. The 3.3-liter, though new, will still be a relative rarity among average buyers—it’s only fitted to the base XL and XLT trucks, and even then, it’s a short throw to a more powerful engine with better towing and hauling capabilities.
The 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 has direct injection for better fuel economy and the EPA rates it up to 22 mph combined, even if it’s saddled with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s fine, even as a work-spec truck, with quiet acceleration and has good low-end torque.
Most shoppers will opt for the 2.7-liter turbo V-6 that’s rated at 325 hp and 400 lb-ft. It’s mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission and effortlessly tugs up to 8,500 pounds hooked to the rear bumper or up to 2,500 pounds in the bed. Despite having as many gears as a Schwinn, the 10-speed automatic easily slips down a cog or four without notice, and the busy automatic transmission helps the 2.7-liter rate up to 20 mpg combined when equipped with four-wheel drive. It’s the powertrain that we’d recommend, and recommend driving last if shoppers are considering multiple engines—the 2.7-liter dispatches with many V-8s from yesteryear.
The only V-8 left is a reliable 5.0-liter unit that’s standard in most top trims, even if it’s surpassed by the turbo V-6 engines in performance and towing. The V-8 thumps out 395 hp and 400 lb-ft, and carries more than 3,200 pounds in the bed or 11,600 pounds attached to the rear bumper in certain configurations when properly equipped. The V-8 is like shaking hands with the F-150 we all drove at some point—and you can set your watch to its mileage returns in the high teens, combined—and we concede that traditional pickup buyers clutch a V-8 like a blanket. The V-8 is warm and welcoming, but there are better options available.
From there, it’s all turbo V-6 power, all the time.
The 3.5-liter turbo V-6 makes 375 hp and 470 lb-ft in most versions, enough pull to sate our reflexes for a V-8 lump in a pickup. The turbo V-6 is rated to haul more than 3,200 pounds in the bed and tow up to 13,200 pounds when properly equipped.
A higher output 3.5-liter turbo V-6 is standard in the F-150 Limited and Raptor pickups. That engine makes 450 hp and 510 lb-ft and is rated to tow up to 11,100 pounds or haul 1,520 pounds in the bed in rear-drive F-150 Limited trucks. Aside from the power bump, the high-output V-6 performs like the big V-8 it replaces in comfort, torque, and drivability. It can whistle away from traffic effortlessly at stoplights, launching the heavy truck in seconds up to highway speeds. Fuel economy in the turbo V-6 engines can swing wildly with heavy feet, or on long slogs, but its power is prolific.
The last stop for the F-150 for now is an optional turbodiesel V-6 that doesn’t haul or tow any more than the rest of the engine lineup (it tows up to 11,400 pounds and can carry up to 1,900 pounds in the bed) and doesn’t return significantly better fuel economy either. It’s for drivers looking for long ranges on long drives, and is refined—albeit much more expensive. It’s rated at 250 hp and 440 lb-ft.
F-150 ride and handling
Ford’s diet of lightweight materials on a steel frame has helped it shed weight, although it still handles like a tall, heavy truck.
The F-150 uses electric power steering and a coilover front end with a Hotchkiss solid rear axle on leaf springs with outboard shocks. Ford doesn’t use air springs or adaptive shocks, so the ride can bound and pitch at higher speeds compared to crosstown rivals. Low- to medium-speed rides are better suited to the F-150 (and most trucks), but stability control systems when a trailer is attached can keep the F-150 composed while hauling.
The Raptor is its own animal altogether—literally and figuratively. It’s ready for high-speed off-roading, on dunes or in a forest, at any speed. For more on the Raptor read our colleagues’ reports at MotorAuthority.com.
Ford’s menu of powertrains and drive configurations for the F-150 are deep, but there’s not a bad pick.
The possibilities for the 2020 Ford F-150 are nearly endless. The trucks can be supremely comfortable luxury machines, brute-force work machines, with nearly every stop covered between.
There’s not much overlap between the opposite poles, but all trucks get a point above average on our comfort for their ability to haul cargo in the bed and most trucks get another point for people-carrying capabilities inside (we rate the four-door crew cab models because they’re more popular with buyers, and for good reason). If rated alone, the extended cab versions wouldn’t get the same point. The F-150 gets a 7 out of 10 on our comfort scale.
Ford sells the truck in a variety of bed and cab configurations that change by trim level and powertrain. Generally speaking, the trucks are available with a regular cab with only two doors, an extended cab (that Ford calls “SuperCab”) with two small, rear-hinged doors, and four-door (“SuperCrew”) models. A 5-foot-6, 6-foot-6 or 8-foot bed is available with some, but not all, trim configurations.
Regular cab pickups are available in XL and XLT trim levels and are typically reserved for work detail. There aren’t many conveniences available in those trucks, they’re prized for their wash-and-ready interiors that appeal to fleet buyers. The cabin usually has a wide front bench with cushy seats and big center console ready that’s ideal for accumulating work detritus. If you’re looking to crank your own windows—all two of you—stop here.
The SuperCab trucks—available in XL, XLT, Lariat, and Raptor trims—offer a small rear seat that’s better suited for small passengers or unloved work colleagues, which means interns. That seat is better when it's folded up for in-cab storage for tools and valuables, locked away from curious eyes in parking lots.
Four-door SuperCrew cabs are available in every trim configuration, which is a good thing. They’re the most comfortable and are mostly available with 5-foot-6 or 6-foot-6 beds that are still functional for most truck owners. Five adults will comfortably fit in the crew-cab trucks with plenty of cupholders, USB ports, and 110-volt outlets on most trucks to charge a raft of tools, smartphones, and tablets. The seats are all-day comfortable and respite for long days on the jobsite. In King Ranch, Limited, or Platinum trims, the F-150’s multi-adjustable seats can be heated, cooled, reclined, or stowed away for more in-cab storage. They’re luxury-level accommodations that are built to withstand ground-in mud and sweaty jeans and still look good in valet lots. (Ed.’s note: How they smell is another story.)
In addition to copious in-cabin storage, the F-150’s knobs, shifters, and controls are rugged and built for use and abuse. Critical functions, such as trailer assist and climate controls get hard buttons and knobs that are useable with thick work gloves.
The bed is similarly built for work detail and is just as tricked out as the interior. In some trucks the beds feature built-in loading ramps, tie-down cleats, lights, and brackets for loading and securing gear. Optional on every trim except Raptor and Limited F-150s, a 36-gallon tank from the factory tests the hardiest bladders with a range up to 1,080 miles.
The F-150 rides comfortably and quietly, although XL versions skip acoustic glass. (We haven’t yet tested those models.) Trucks equipped with a V-6 pipe in noise-cancellation frequencies to quell some of the rougher tones of those motors. Predictably with a wide range of available interiors, the fit and finish of some models can vary dramatically but most are comfortable and durable—top trims are plush and resplendent in soft leathers.
Work-ready or weekend-ready, the 2020 Ford F-150 excels at comfortable interiors and capable exteriors.
Solid crash-test scores and good available active safety features help the 2020 Ford F-150 do better than average on our safety scale. We give it a 6 here.
Federal and independent testers give the pickup good scores in most of its crash tests, provided shoppers opt for a four-door, crew cab version. The NHTSA gave the four-door pickup a five-star overall score, including five stars for front crash protection. The IIHS largely agreed and gave the pickup “Good” scores in every crash test including the front driver- and passenger-side small overlap crash tests. The IIHS rated the F-150’s headlights as “Poor,” though.
Testers weren’t as kind to the regular and extended cab pickups. The NHTSA scored both with four-star overall ratings, including four stars for front crash safety.
Ford walls off active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control to Lariat or higher trims, where they’re included as standard equipment. Limited trucks add adaptive cruise control as standard equipment.
The IIHS rated the automatic emergency braking system in the F-150 as “Superior,” its highest grade, in avoiding forward collisions at 12 mph and 25 mph.
In previous tests, we’ve had difficulty with the active lane control system that Ford bundles in with those trucks. We’ve found that the system incorrectly reads seams in the road as lane markings and can pinball within the lane.
Good crash-test scores and active safety features help the 2020 Ford F-150’s score but don’t apply to all trucks.
Ordering a 2020 Ford F-150 can be more complicated than college-level calculus.
We won’t tell you our grades there, but we are supposed to grade the 2020 F-150’s features. It’s a 6 for features; base trucks are spartan and skip many convenience features that we wish they didn’t.
Like last year, the 2020 F-150 is offered in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited, and Raptor trim levels. The breadth and depth of options and configurations are nearly breathtaking—each truck off the factory line can be unique like a fingerprint.
We’ve broken down the bunch into three categories, but we recommend buyers consider their needs first. We recommend the XLT trim based on its flexibility, relative value, and available powertrains. Luxury truck buyers may want to start at the King Ranch or Platinum and hold their breath—the F-150 can cost $70,000 without breaking much of a sweat.
The XL and XLT trims have the basics square like arithmetic. They can be configured with any cab, any bed, and nearly every powertrain configuration. Basic XL trucks are the least expensive; they start at less than $30,000 but don’t stay there for long. They include manual windows, a basic AM/FM radio, manual door locks, vinyl floors, flip-up seats—they’re the janitor’s closets of trucks.
The XLT is more comfortable for daily use and it’s our pick to live with if we were spending our money. Compared to the XL, the XLT adds an optional turbodiesel engine (along with the rest of the powertrains, cabs, and beds that are available) and better standard and optional equipment. Cloth seats, power features, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, two USB ports, and wi-fi hotspot compatibility are included; sport appearance packages, off-road packages, and navigation are all on the options list. A 2020 F-150 XLT FX4 with power-adjustable seats, a 2.7-liter V-6, chrome bumpers, and a handful of other options is our pick at less than $50,000. It’s a lot of truck, but also it’s a lot of money.
The trucks just get richer from here.
Lariat, Platinum, Limited, and King Ranch trucks heap on the hides like fully loaded cattle haulers.
The engine options get fewer—no 3.3-liter V-6—and four-doors are the only cab configurations available. Lariat adds a few more creature comforts such as an 8.0-inch digital display in the instrument cluster and satellite radio, and also standard active safety features that we cover above.
King Ranch trucks trundle into Cowboy Cadillac country with lashings of saddle-colored leather, lots of chrome, multi-adjustable front seats, and many available options.
Platinum and Limited trucks go further with blind-spot monitors, a surround-view camera system, heated and cooled seats, dual-pane sunroof, and up to 22-inch wheels. They’re rivals for luxury sedans in comforts—and price for more than $75,000 in top trims.
The Ford F-150 Raptor still has no equal among domestic rivals. The Raptor tightens the screws on the turbos found in other trucks to pump 450 hp to all four wheels. It’s not hard to spend more than $65,000 on a Raptor. It’s comfortable and capable, but not all that practical as a daily commuter.
There’s a reason that the Ford F-150 is so popular—it can be configured in just about any way.
Lighter-weight trucks and more efficient engines have helped the Ford F-150 be more efficient now than it ever has been, but full-size pickups never have been fuel misers. A hybrid F-150 is in the works, which should boost fuel economy further but Ford hasn’t told us much about those electrified trucks.
For now, we give the F-150 a 4 on our fuel-economy scale, which is based on the more popular V-6 versions.
The most efficient F-150 is a rear-drive, diesel-powered pickup according to the EPA. It rates 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined, while four-wheel-drive versions rate 20/25/22 mpg.
The best-sellers are equipped with a 2.7-liter turbo-6 that the EPA rates at 20/26/22 mpg for a rear-drive pickup or 18/23/20 mpg with four-wheel drive, according to the EPA.
The 3.5-liter turbo-6 found in top trims and the Raptor only manages combined fuel economy in the high-teens. We’re not sure many luxury truck buyers or Raptor fans will care.
For purists, a 5.0-liter V-8 in many pickups manages roughly the same mileage as the 3.5-liter turbo-6. Fleet buyers will consider the 3.3-liter V-6 that was new last year, although not many shoppers will ever see one on the showroom floor.
While better than it used to be, the 2020 Ford F-150 is only average for fuel economy.
The 2020 Ford F-150 most often competes against crosstown rivals from Ram and General Motors. The Ram 1500 is a solid choice and combines a fab interior with composed ride and good engine choices. The related Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra offer a similarly dizzying number of powertrain configurations to the Ford, but we’re not as hot on their new, blocky looks. The Toyota and Nissan are full-size also-rans mostly. They offer V-8 power and some functionality (and perceived dependability) but are aged compared to the domestic full-sizers.