What Did We Buy?
The 2018 Ford F-150 does not represent a complete redesign, even though it does look slightly different behind its handsome new grille and headlights. Normally, that alone is not enough to provoke a second look at a vehicle we've already hosted in our long-term fleet. But the truck segment is no longer as stagnant as it once was, and the 2018 F-150 offers a collection of unseen improvements and new features we wish we'd had access to when we bought our 2015 Ford F-150 long-term test vehicle.
Since then, the 2017 F-150 debuted an improved turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 — two versions, in fact, because the off-road Raptor variant received a high-output version — and a 10-speed automatic transmission. This year Ford has made similar upgrades to the turbocharged 2.7-liter V6, and the 10-speed is now standard on everything except the 3.3-liter V6 base engine (which is also brand-new this year). Fuel economy ratings are up, as are power, torque and maximum towing capacity.
Except for disappointing real-world fuel economy, we were big fans of the original direct-injected turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 we had in our first truck. It made a healthy 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque and was rated at 20 mpg combined (18 city/23 highway). This revised 2018 version uses port and direct fuel injection, and the turbochargers are made from alloys that can resist higher temperatures. The upshot is 325 hp, a full 400 lb-ft of torque, and a rated fuel economy that's 1 mpg higher across the board. We had to have one.
There are numerous feature-level improvements we wanted to buy and try as well, but in building out this truck we didn't want to stray too far from the 4WD crew-cab template we used last time. Our goal was to spec out a truck that we could reasonably compare to our past 2015 Ford F-150 experience.
What Options Does It Have?
The least expensive regular cab, two-wheel-drive 2018 Ford F-150 costs $28,675 when you include the mandatory destination charge that is absent from the advertised price. But we wanted a 4WD crew cab with a 5.5-foot bed, and the floor level for that configuration is $38,725 in XL trim. But XL is a base trim meant for work trucks. Above that, Ford offers XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trim levels, with the Raptor off on a pedestal of its own.
For our money, the Lariat 4WD is the nicely trimmed sweet spot. For $48,265, it comes standard with the turbo 2.7-liter V6 and 10-speed automatic we wanted. Inside it's got leather-trimmed seats with a heated and ventilated 40/20/40-split front bench, power-adjustable pedals, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, smart entry with push-button start, Sync 3, satellite radio, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. It also comes with 18-inch wheels, halogen foglights, power-folding heated mirrors with turn signals, LED cargo box lamps, removable cargo tie-downs, and a Class IV trailer hitch with four-pin and seven-pin trailer harness connectors.
We wanted to sample the more interesting Lariat options, so we ordered the 502A Lariat Luxury package ($7,335). Everything in the midlevel 501A package is here: blind-spot monitoring with trailer awareness, remote start, remote tailgate release, reverse proximity sensors, LED mirror spotlights, and a 110-volt outlet good for 400 watts. Added 502A extras include auto-dimming LED headlights, LED foglights, rain-sensing wipers, bucket front seats with a center console, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel with power tilt-and-telescoping and memory function. The infotainment system gains touchscreen navigation and a Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker premium audio system.
The hefty 502A price is deceiving because it triggers an automatic $1,500 discount. It also includes $1,695 worth of the elements contained in the Chrome and Sport Appearance packages, mostly added side-step bars and upgraded wheels, grille and mirror housings. The Sport package we selected usually costs $1,995, so we paid $300 instead.
We also bought the FX4 Off-Road package ($770) for its hill descent control, skid plates and an electronic locking rear differential. This triggered a discount on a separate upgrade from 3.55 standard axles to 3.73 axles with a locking rear differential. We paid $100 instead of $570 because the electronic locking portion was covered by the FX4 package.
Finally, we selected the Trailer Tow package ($995) for its upgraded transmission cooling, a beefier front stabilizer bar and the unique Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature. Other stand-alone add-ons include an integrated trailer brake controller ($275), a 36-gallon fuel tank ($445), a tailgate step ($375) and a factory spray-in bedliner ($495).
All in, and including the built-in $1,500 discount, our fairly loaded Lariat 4x4 had a sticker price of $57,855. Our friends at Galpin Ford gave us an additional discount and we ended up paying $54,129, plus tax and title. This included a $750 rebate that was available at the time.
Why We Bought It
Your sense of déjà vu is well justified. We bought a 2015 Ford F-150 for our long-term test fleet shortly after this aluminum-bodied pickup first came out, and we were able to paint a clear picture of its strengths and shortcomings after driving it 35,105 miles. It was generally well liked, but there were a number of things we didn't much care for. The changes made to the 2018 Ford F-150 might just wipe out those weaknesses.
Fuel economy shortfalls are a gnawing EcoBoost issue, and indeed our old truck's observed average fuel economy of 16.9 mpg fell far short of its EPA rating of 20 mpg combined (18 city/23 highway). This new 2018 F-150 is rated at 21 mpg combined (19 city/24 highway), but beyond that we suspect the 10-speed automatic and the specific revisions made to its EcoBoost V6 could also close the gap between its laboratory-derived ratings and our real-world observations.
We also wonder what it's like to live with a 10-speed gearbox. We're eager to spend time with Sync 3 and its ability to accomodate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And we hope to learn whether the trailer-aware blind-spot monitoring and Pro Trailer Backup Assist systems are worthwhile towing features.
Also, the Ford F-Series is the No. 1 selling vehicle in America, and fully redesigned versions of both the Ram 1500 and the Chevrolet Silverado will be introduced while we have this truck. Over the next 12 months and 20,000 miles, we hope to learn if the 2018 Ford F-150 has what it takes to keep its re-energized rivals at bay. Follow along on the long-term road test page for detailed impressions of the 2018 Ford F-150.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.
Dan Edmunds, director of vehicle testing @ 1,491 miles