When an Aussie ute just won’t cut it, Ford’s American F-150 takes over. But is America’s best-selling vehicle worth the extra expense on this side of the pond?
Ford’s F-150 has been America’s top-selling vehicle since 1981, but it’s largely only available here through specialist importers like Harrison F-Trucks. Tested here with a 5.0-litre, naturally-aspirated V8 petrol engine, this four-wheel drive F-150 SuperCrew lays down its power via a six-speed automatic transmission with dual-range transfer case. Tested here in high-spec King Ranch trim, this F-150 SuperCrew is priced at $159,990 (plus on-road costs).
If you think American pickups are unsophisticated, think again – this F-150 SuperCrew may be at the light end of Ford’s F-Series range, but in King Ranch trim it’s packed with electronic wizardry. No, rednecks and bogans need not apply – well, not unless they’re happy to fork out $160k.
Yessir, that’s what our test vehicle will set you back, plus on-roads, as tested. That’s a whack more than the US price – something north of $AUD66,000 – but then converted low-volume imports have never been cheap on this side of the pond.
The King Ranch falls below the Platinum and Limited grades, but above the XL, XLT, Lariat and Raptor variants. It gets just about all the fruit, bar a few of the Platinum’s and Limited’s cosmetic touches.
A few companies bring these trucks Down Under, but this one if from Harrison F-Trucks in Melton, on Melbourne’s outskirts. Harrison has been working with its partner company, Vehicle Development Corporation (VDC), to offer these right-hand drive F-Series conversions for over a decade.
And a tidy conversion it is. VDC retains the original steering box and swaps everything else over as neatly as can be, with only a few signs it started life in the US. The opener for the glove box is on the left-hand side, as is what was originally the driver’s footrest, while some of the controls on the centre stack are reversed – the air-con dials, for example.
Under the hood lies a naturally aspirated, 5.0-litre V8 petrol engine, good for a claimed 287kW at 5750rpm and 525Nm at 3850rpm. Harrison brings in both the V8 and the 3.5-litre V6 EcoBoost, which actually produces quite a bit more torque (637Nm). Here the V8 is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with manual selection mode, with the drive fed to either the rear or all four wheels. This 4×4 variant has a switch-actuated dual-range transfer case and locking rear diff.
As a 2016 model, this F-150 has an aluminium-alloy body on its steel chassis. Ford says this saves over 300 kilograms.
So, just who buys these beasts? Not city commuters, that’s for sure – although the numerous external cameras, which display a 360-degree top-down view on Ford’s expansive SYNC3 colour touchscreen, are ideal for negotiating tight confines. According to Will Wyhoon, Sales Manager for Harrison F-Trucks, it’s a select but well-defined market.
“Most buyers of these trucks are Grey Nomads or equine types, with some forestry, mining and construction guys thrown in,” he says.
So, those in need of a workhorse. Our test vehicle has a somewhat modest maximum payload of 750kg and maximum towing capacity of up to 4000kg. Stateside authorities allow up to 5500kg, but it seems they’re a little more relaxed than the transport authorities here. In any case, they’re still handy figures, and the numbers only increase as you climb higher through the F-Series family tree.
From the outside, the bold American styling and sheer dimensions leave no-one in doubt of the F-150’s origins. However, climb inside and any preconceptions of rough-and-ready hay haulers are blown away – this machine is packed with smart features.
The key fob can be used to start the engine remotely, so the climate control can heat or cool the cabin to your liking before you get in. Another button lowers the rear tailgate automatically, and on the passenger-side A-pillar there’s a keypad for keyless entry even without the fob.
Open the door and the sidestep automatically lowers, thus maintaining the truck’s ground clearance when off-road.
Inside the cabin is functional but opulent. Leather seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, wood-grain highlights, panoramic sunroof – the list goes on.
The seating is super comfortable and the front passenger’s and driver’s seats feature full electronic adjustment with three presets, heating and cooling – there’s even a massage function. The steering wheel also has full electronic adjustment, while the pedal box can be adjusted for height.
The leather-topped centre console box opens to reveal a cavernous storage space with 12-volt outlet. A small storage compartment with lid at the bottom of the centre stack, reveals two USB ports, a 3.5mm jack, and the SD card slot for the sat-nav.
The climate control is effective and the SYNC3 infotainment system is highly intuitive, with a large colour touchscreen. The stereo is excellent, its clarity aided by the truck’s superb sound suppression – this could well have the quietest cabin of any pickup we’ve tested.
The driver technology is comprehensive. There’s anti-lock brakes, stability control, collision mitigation, cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, radar cruise control, tyre-pressure monitors, blind-spot monitoring, auto high-beam, rain-sensing wipers and auto parking.
Most features can be altered or even switched off if desired, using the navigation buttons on the steering wheel to access the logical and legible menu system on the central TFT display.
Sadly we only had the F-150 for a short period so we didn’t test its towing credentials, but a few hundred kilometres of both city and country driving did give a good feel for life behind the wheel.
Car drivers will find the F-150 cumbersome, despite the relatively short steering box (3.25 turns lock to lock). However, anyone used to trucks will find the F-150 positively ‘car-like’ in its handling. The big V8 is super smooth; for the most part it does its thing in the background, but on the gas the muted V8 growl still taps into some deep primal nerve…
Yes, it has a ‘generous’ turning circle and manoeuvring is a struggle in the average shopping centre car park. Those extended mirrors – great for towing – require careful consideration around town.
The suspension – rear leaf/shocks and double wishbones up front – is plush. We barely noticed dirt-road corrugations but, unsurprisingly, the F-150 displays some body roll through sealed bends. You can’t have it both ways.
Speaking of off-road, the F-150 has 239mm of ground clearance, a 25.5-degree approach angle and a 26.0-degree departure angle. The 21.0-degree ramp break-over angle suffers because of the long 3683mm wheelbase.
By way of comparison, a 4×4 Ford Ranger Wildtrak has 237mm of ground clearance, a 29.0-degree approach angle, a 21.0-degree departure angle, and a 25.0-degree ramp break-over angle (and a 3220mm wheelbase).
The F-150 can be switched from high range to low range via a dial on the dash. There’s also an auto range selection mode and pulling the dial out engages the rear diff lock.
One aspect where this F-150 shines over Aussie one-tonners is its cabin space. Even second-row passengers score acres of leg room, plus power outlets and venting. The centre seat back folds down to provide an armrest and the rear window has an electric centre pane.
The tub measures 1700mm long and 1300mm between its wheel arches. There’s a clever foldout step with hand support to help you up into the tray, which here features a spray-on wrinkle-black finish.
Our test vehicle has flip-out load extenders so gear can be carried safely with the tailgate down. There are also two tub lights and footplates to aid access to the rear of the tub – they pop out on each side, just aft of the rear doors.
This Ford F-150 SuperCrew King Ranch is anything but unsophisticated. On the contrary, its list of appointments, its sumptuous interior and its clever features put it up there with many luxury cars.
This truck has so far returned an average of 16.9L/100km, but fuel costs and consumption won’t be high on the priority list for prospective buyers. No, they’ll be after tenacious towing ability, practicality, presence and performance, all capped off with thorough lick of luxury.
If the eye-watering price tag is no impediment, the F-150 King Ranch ticks all those boxes as only an American truck can…
2016 Ford F-150 SuperCrew King Ranch 4×4 pricing and specifications:
Price: $159,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 5.0-litre eight-cylinder petrol
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel: 16.9L/100km (as tested)
Safety Rating: N/A