I’m coming down with a case of multiple pickup personalities. I’ve mentioned a few times now that one of my greatest desires in life, in addition to finally becoming a father, is to own a pickup.
I’ve shopped for a Ford Ranger, Nissan Frontier, Toyota Tacoma, and Mazda B-Series, just for fun. However, every time I get behind the wheel of one of the big boys, I think to myself that I should just liquidate the entire fleet and dive headfirst into a new one. The RAM 1500 EcoDiesel I drove a while back checks all the right boxes and makes me envious of anyone who owns one. Last summer, we pitted the new Ford F-150 against the Chevy Silverado, and although the bowtie did well, the blue oval won that duel based mostly on powertrain performance.
That Ford shook me to the core, but the RAM and its diesel engine scraped by to hold onto the title as my favorite truck. This is why I opted to drive the new-for-2016 F-150 another time. And damn it all to hell, it featured my one weakness: the 5.0L Coyote V8.
The entire current crop of full-size, light-duty pickups is good. The Toyota Tundra remains the most antiquated of the lot, but it’s tough to fault it. The Nissan Titan XD and “regular” Titan will do their best to throw a wrench in the segment with the only V8 diesel engine available ― a Cummins no less.
Despite the Japanese makers’ best efforts, the battle will always take place amongst the Big 3. Given that capabilities are nearly identical, Ford, GM, and FCA will attract buyers with four “things”: #1 Brand. #2 Powertrains and capabilities. #3 Luxury features. #4 Ride quality.
The Dearborn-based company is a sales king in the truck world. Ford has owned the title of best-selling truck for decades, and they’ll lose the shirts off their backs before they give it up.
Like FCA and GM, Ford’s indelible devotion to the pickup shows in every aspect of the design and execution of their F-150. In fact, their position is so strong that they’re guaranteed many hundreds of thousands of sales every year, unless the bottom falls out of the economy again. With this assurance, they can heavily discount their trucks, essentially pricing themselves into happy consumer driveways across North America. Nissan won’t be able to do this…
Power is the name of the game
Ford’s currently the only pickup manufacturer to offer four powertrains. The other two Americans have three. They are also the only ones to turbocharge gasoline engines, and rumour has it that they are working on a diesel option, as well ― right now this is where the RAM has the edge.
From the base 282hp 3.5L V6 to the EcoBoost-ed 325hp 2.7L and 365hp 3.5L V6s, all the way to the 385hp 5.0L V8, truck buyers are sure to find something to cover their needs. The 3.5L turbo became my favourite early on, but I rediscovered the V8 when we compared the 5.0L Coyote with GM’s 5.3L V8.
Tuning is the secret, here. Ford’s V8 purrs, but does not growl. Unlike the GM trucks, throttle response is spot on. This helps cope with the fact that all of the 387 lb-ft of torque come in at a relatively high 3,850 rpm. What also helps is the truck’s eager and pleasant 6-speed automatic transmission. The two are beautifully tuned to work in complete unison.
When the throttle goes down, the Coyote rises to the occasion with a satisfying rumble that is far from intrusive. In these wintry conditions, the 2-speed automatic 4WD system is best left in 4WD automatic mode ― the system intelligently switches from RWD to 4WD when the rear wheels spin.
The Ford F-150 SuperCrew LARIAT I tested could tow in excess of 9,000 lbs, which is roughly 500 lbs more than what the RAM 1500 EcoDiesel can. This might not create a make-or-break instance for the RAM; however, the latter averages under 10L/100km while I managed no better than 14L/100 km with the Ford. The Cummins represents an extra expense off the cuff, but it will pay you back in little time given these numbers.
It’s no secret that OEMs are fighting for more pie. It so happens that we love our pies deluxe, which is why they are obliging the truck-loving masses with loaded pickups.
My 2016 LARIAT SuperCrew 4X4 model retailed for a mind-numbing $69,429 with options, before destination and delivery and taxes. Some of the interesting features included quad-beam LED headlamps and taillamps, a heated steering wheel and rear bench, a power tilt/telescoping steering column, adaptive cruise control with lane assist, and a 360-degree camera. Throw in leather upholstery, a massive sunroof, navigation, satellite radio, chrome and loads more, and the only difference between this F-150 and a Lincoln MKS sedan is that it has a 2,200lb payload capacity, a nicer ride, and is generally more appealing.
The “work truck” version of the F-150 still exists (as it does for GM and FCA products), but these luxo-beasts lose nothing ability-wise. It’s just that they are generally better appointed and more comfortable than most owners’ homes.
The new Ford F-150 also features the latest generation of SYNC. The new SYNC 3’s graphics are very easy on the eyes and playful. Many of the functionalities are now uncomplicated to access, which is a far cry from the original.
One of the key elements of the new Ford F-150 is the fact that it has shed an immense amount of weight from the previous generation. As you know, weight is the enemy, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the latest model.
The current GM trucks feel more refined than the Ford, but that is a result of an extensive use of sound-deadening materials. They are also undeniably heavy to drive. By comparison, the F-150 feels more nimble, but no less solid. It is quiet, too, even at speeds up to 100 km/h.
The relatively simple double-wishbone front and leaf-spring with staggered shock rear suspension setup belies its aptitude to soak up road nastiness. It even endows the Ford with some proper handling capabilities. I’m not saying the 2016 Ford F-150 handles like a race car and levels bumps like a Lincoln Town Car once did, but for a full-size truck, it’s really good.
Let it rain
In the $65,000-$75,000 price range, there are many options. The severely handsome GMC Sierra 1500 Denali and fiercely competent RAM 1500 Laramie Limited with EcoDiesel come to mind.
The latter remains my No.1 pick, but the tested LARIAT with Coyote is dangerously seductive. When the potential PowerStroke diesel F-150 comes around, this outcome may change…