By on October 4, 2010

Since we both live in Houston, and I have aspirations of writing more material for TTAC in my copious lack of free time, it only made sense that Sajeev Mehta and I should eventually get together and hang out, so that’s exactly what we did at Ford’s come-kick-our-tires event for the new F150 trucks, including their new EcoBoost (turbocharged) V6 truck engine. Since I’m the epitome of not-a-truck-guy, I thought I’d toss in some random thoughts from somebody coming to this experience completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into.

First, when did Ford start building decent car interiors? The last time I spent any quality time in the interior of a Ford was a long-term loaner of a 2002-or-so Ford Mustang Convertible with the pokey V6 (loaned to me for most of 2007). That car had no power, had radically inconsistent and ugly panel gaps, and had just no soul at all. Comparing that to a 2011 Ford F150 makes me want to reevaluate my opinion of the whole brand. Maybe Ford’s finally got it figured out.

Okay, these trucks have insane amounts of (unnecessary?) ground clearance, and different models have a variety of different devices to give you a step to get up. (Some fixed, some that fold down and fold back up again by themselves. I’m sure those things never break.) The seats are comfortable. Notably, the back seats of the crew cab models, with the front seat all the way back, yield excellent legroom. Stunning! Also impressive is that Ford seemed to do a decent job of human factors engineering. The dashboard isn’t quite as space-cadet-like as a modern Honda/Acura, yet there was some definite attention to detail. Buttons were, for the most part, suitably large sized.

This contrasts with the Chevy Silverado they had, for drag-racing comparison, which to my mind totally flunks any human factors test. Its radio and a/c buttons are unnecessary tiny and far away; somebody at GM needs to go read up on Fitts’s Law. Furthermore, the Silverado’s door handle is colored the same as the panel it’s mounted in, and mounted below the arm rest, giving me a few seconds of bemusement before I sorted out how to get the damn door open. I also tried the Dodge Ram Hemi thing they had for comparison. Its interior wasn’t as tricked out as either the Chevy or the Ford, but there was at least some evidence that usability engineers had input into the design.

I tried plugging my Android phone (a Droid X running the latest Froyo) into the SYNC connector. It “connected”, but the car failed to see any of the music on my phone; it did at least give power to charge my phone. Some web pages I’ve read seem to indicate that Ford will be coming out later with something called Ford SYNC AppLink that will fix this problem. For now, you can still use the analog audio jack.

From my car-centric worldview, these monstrous trucks have a bouncy ride on uneven pavement, although I suspect that’s part of the compromise you make. Aside from that, they drive, accelerate, brake, and handle quite reasonably. I was also impressed with the gas mileage. On the maybe two-mile loop they let us drive, the EcoBoost model got me 16.3 mpg, driving in a “normal” fashion (i.e., neither hoontastic nor hypermiling). From my 2005 Acura TL, I’d expect maybe 18 mpg doing the same thing, which is all the more impressive given that a Ford F150 is radically larger and heavier than my TL.

Would I buy an F150? I don’t think it would even fit in my garage! No, this isn’t the car for me, but if I was shopping for a full-size truck, I’d certainly consider it. (Note to Ford: next time, bring along some Japanese competition. I’d like to see an F150 side-by-side with Nissan and Toyota’s latest.)

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42 Comments on “2011 Ford F-150: A Non-Truck-Guy Counterpoint...”

  • avatar

    Ford IS the best in Texas

    • 0 avatar

      There are no real trucks anymore.  These are just glorified, plush, air-conditioned salons on wheels that the girls can drive to the mall (The only exceptions are DIESEL pickups with MANUAL tramsmissions).  As a matter of fact, during my daily 1.5 hour commute to work, I’ve seen many an oversized “pickup” truck with a big, tough manly looking driver yapping on the cell phone like a teenaged girl (despite the fact that “hands-free” Bluetooth technology is widely available).
      The reason why these trucks are oversized monstrosities nowadays dates back to the effort in the late 1980s by the Big Three to emasculate soften the features of the pickup in order to attract more female buyers.  It worked, but the only drawback was that the traditional male buyer was being alienated (my Dad says the front end of pickup trucks started looking like cars after the 1987 model year  – the last of the pickup trucks with rectangular features).  So the pickup trucks had to be supersized in order to soothe the ego of retain the male buyers.
      My truck is a 1987 Chevy full-size 1/2 ton with:
      Bench seats
      No air conditioning
      4.3L TBI Vortec V-6 with 3-speed manual transmission (a.k.a. “Three on the tree”)
      Manual Brakes (non-boosted)
      Standard 8-foot bed (an 8-foot bed is only available as an option on todays monster trucks, for crying out loud…).
      Best of all, I can change ALL of the sparkplugs without removing a bunch of fancy engine covers, wires and all of that crap,  AND
      Oil changes can be performed without jacking the vehicle or removing any panel underneath the vehicle.
      Because I don’t have the extra weight of a 4-wheel drivetrain or experience the parasitic power losses of air conditioning and an automatic transmission, my fuel mileage is quite good.   The mileage averages in the low to mid-20s on the highway.
      Since I use this truck for hauling things, I see no need to purchase one of these new monstrosities.   Everytime I drive the 87, I keep getting comments like “now that’s a REAL truck”, or “they don’t make REAL trucks like that nowadays”.
      It used to be my Dad’s truck (bought brand-new in 1987).  Both of us drove (and maintained) it for 23 years until he stopped driving it at age 84 (he’s 86 now) when his leg started to bother him.  So I bought it off of him to keep it in the family – especially since (1) I know the history of the truck and (2) It is in very good condition and well maintained.
      This is one truck that my wife definitely WON’T take to the mall to go shopping with her girlfriends…;)

      • 0 avatar
        Still Truckin'

        I am glad you have an old lad, but I can’t imagine with a commute like 1.5 hours a day you can put more than 300,000 on that motor without a rebuild (maybe 5.5 years). I agree looks were great from an 80’s stand point; and yes I agree with the chick thing. But keep in mind that our skirts in office dictate regulations, and I am sure there are engineers in the big three that continually kick the wall board, however engineering is second to none at Ford. And having not taken Obama money, these folks can still cater to a group (working man) and stick it to the skirts (Green B.S. “fuel mileage”)hey “Its a damn truck women”, leaving the rest behind. Who has the last laugh for now. I appreciate Ford and what they have done even if for the present. LEAD, NOT FOLLOW!!!!!! or……Go big or GO HOME!!!!!!!

    • 0 avatar

      The Roman gladiators used horsehair brushes on their skin to make it tough. Until you do that daily, you’re not a real man. So you might as well turn on the AC, discover that gears 4-6 improve life, and enjoy the ride of modern pickups like the rest of us teenyboppers.

      Oh, yeah, and I got a ’51 Ford F-1; when the truck was 20 years old, my great-grandfather would stand 4 cows in the wooden, 6.5′ bed and drive through hills using all 100 horsies the flathead V-8 could muster. Think about that the next time you’re hauling you’re hauling a load of tampons in your ’87 Pussy Wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      >Think about that the next time you’re hauling you’re hauling a load of tampons in your ’87 Pussy Wagon.
      Awww – I hurt Mr. Tough Guy’s Apollo’s feelings.  You’re one of them thar emasculated “men” sitting behind that purty keyboard, ain’t ya?
      I have a name for “men” like you – “Little Dick Johnson”.
      I bet you really drive a Hummer to compensate for your lost manhood.
      Son, I’ve driven tougher vehicles during my enlistment than you’ll ever experience driving around your toy sandbox you call a ranch.
      As far as your flathead V-8 goes, a simple call for an airstrike from an A-10 Warthog will pulverize your Tonka truck when 30mm armor-piercing shells are fired on it.

      One more thing, Little Dick…
      Y’all come back now, y’ hear?

      I’ll be more than happy to turn on the A/C and shift six gears if you’ll pay for the transmission and rear differential conversion and the A/C retrofit.

      My V-6 will leave your flathead V-8 and your fathead in the dust. With my three forward gears no less.

      So man up, quit acting like a pussy by living through your great-grandfather, be your own man (if you can accomplish that simple task) and learn to take some criticism without getting all whiny and reactionary.

      Get back to me when you’re all grown up…

      And one more thing – move out of your parents house you bum – I did when I left for the military at age 18 – and didn’t look back. And that was 30 years ago…

      Class dismissed.

    • 0 avatar

      Vento, Apollo’s right, your ’87 is a creampuff. My grand-pappy drove a log dragging behind an ox and now that grand-pappy’s too old to motivate the ox, he’s passed it on to me. And yeah, I do drive that ox and log to the mall to buy new fashionable outfits, but my women don’t.
      And i moved out the house at 6 to join the Trojan infantry and we kicked ass all around the Mediterranean. You try spelling that.

    • 0 avatar

      >And i moved out the house at 6 to join the Trojan infantry and we kicked ass all around the Mediterranean. You try spelling that.

      srogers – I’ll admit – I’m impressed with your spelling prowess – despite your 6*(10^1) IQ-level response

      Man, I really struck a nerve – I’ll try to be more sensitive P.C. next time.  I have to realize not everyone can enjoy driving a vehicle unencumbered by computer-controlled gadgetry – without the need to operate a hand-held electronic communication device at the same time.

      In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my creampuff the same way it’s been used for the past 23 years – hauling wood, construction materials, livestock, rocks, furniture, etc. – while you and Apollo can enjoy your gladiator fetish (not that there’s anything wrong with that)…;)


  • avatar

    No toyota for comparison?  Was Ford afraid of them?  I’m really wondering about that because MKF said in the past, that the crew manning the F-series War Room was taking no chances to lose mkt share to the Japanese… if this was a target delivered-on, the there should have been a Tundra available for a side-by-side…

    • 0 avatar

      You ever think that Toyato, for all its trying, isn’t really a major competitor in the full sized truck market?

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t say major.  But I also didn’t say worth skipping. 

      If the Tundra doesn’t compare well, then there is no stronger reason to bring several to the gig and make sure that everybody drives one before getting any wheel-time in a Ford.

      Marketing 101:  Let the weaknesses in the competition be laid bare so as to demonstrate the superiority of your product.

    • 0 avatar

      The Tundra doesn’t compete well sales-wise, and I assume Ford didn’t want to dilute the message by bringing too many competitors vehicles along.
      Pick any category – ergonomics, resale value, fuel economy, cabin space, and now power, and the Tundra just doesn’t stack up well compared to the domestic competition.

    • 0 avatar

      As far as competing in the heart of Ford’s work truck market, Toyota isn’t matching up to Ford or GM with the Tundra.  One look at a Tundra in hard daily use will show it.
      On the other hand, most people putting Ford and GM trucks to similar hard use are buying 3/4 ton trucks.  F-150s and Silverados can get to looking just as rough with carrying daily loads of concrete and broken masonry.
      The point that the Tundra’s critics miss is that Toyota is selling substantial numbers of trucks at high prices and trim levels to personal owners.  Reality is that the 200 pounds or so of scrap metal and rotten fence posts I put in my CUV yesterday qualified it as harder working than most of America’s pickup trucks.
      Yes, it’s a piece of a declining market, but history says that Toyota will get more and more competitive over time.  Hostility to bailed-out automakers and union workers in the South is on Toyota’s side.

    • 0 avatar

      Patrick –
      It’s just anecdotal, but most of the Tundra’s I’ve had traded in are in the midrange SR5 trim.
      At the same time, Ford sells plenty of high dollar high trim trucks.  While the fleet department sells a lot of base and work trim vehicles for business use, on the retail side I rarely sell something less than a XLT with the Sync, Chrome, and Tow package, and more often than not, it’s one of the Lariat or above trims.  For 2011 Ford is even rolling out another incarnation of the Lariat Limited, meaning at the top end you have your choice of the Lariat, King Ranch, Harley Davidson, Lariat Limited, or Platinum trims.
      The core of the truck buying market is still very loyal to Detroit, and for good reason given the consistent high quality of vehicle the D3 has put out in this segment.  I think Toyota actually made a misstep with the current Tundra, because they lost some of the market that appreciated the 4/5 size Tundra of yore, and despite very strong sales the first year, they haven’t managed to grab much of the fullsize truck market from Ford, GM, and Dodge.

    • 0 avatar

      @Nullomondo  I agree with you that Toyota following Ford in its latest size increase was a mistake.
      Any stock 1/2 ton pickup where a six footer can’t look into the truck bed is ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar

      As far as bed height goes, the one in the photo is a 4×4 with what looks to be 20″ wheels, and going by the mirrors, has the max trailer tow package which makes some adjustments to the springs, all of this increases the height of the truck.
      If you go with a 4×2 with the standard 17″ wheels the truck sits a good bit lower.

  • avatar

    If I need a pickup truck I’ll rent one. Better yet, I’ll just pay them to deliver whatever it is that done not fit in my car.


    • 0 avatar

      The best advice by far. I do the same thing. I can’t believe that I put up with a pickup truck for so many years, and could have saved a ton of cash, by just having what I needed delivered for a modest fee. I fell deep into the “large truck for personal use” Bulls**t.

    • 0 avatar

      When I asked an American acquittance the same thing after he bragged of having a car and a pick up truck, he said: “they don’t deliver”.

    • 0 avatar

      Or just rent a truck. Of course a friends truck is nice to borrow, after use I fill the tank and drop off a 12ver.

  • avatar

    Is TTAC that hard up for content?  Non truck guy (accurately self described) reviews something that he obviously knows nothing about, then thinks he kind of likes it, maybe.
    Next up, the Booth Babe reviews a Kenworth.

    • 0 avatar

      As customers departed the personal-luxury segment in the early 1990’s (think T-bird to Mk, Monte Carlo to Eldo, not to mention minivans in the late ’90’s), there were a whole lot of “never heard the term ‘SUV’, let alone ever drove one”…

  • avatar

    As even compact trucks have grown grotesquely large, I’ve gained new appreciation for more modest – and ultimately more practical pickups like the T-100.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve also been astounded by this middle-age spread … I’m not up on the program details, but I’m really wondering how much of the market will move to F-100 territory (or F-150) when the P150 is put out to pasture.

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    I appreciate this review…though I do own a truck (not sure if that makes me an official “Truck Guy”).  From my non-Texas experience, the vast majority of guys driving trucks do it as a style statement, not because they’ve got hoards of 4×8 plywood sheets in dire need of delivery.  And that’s totally fine:  How is the guy who buys the M3 and then drives 70mph on the interstate any better?

    Anyway, one thing you neglected to include in your review:  How many Armor-All wipes does it take to shine up that bed liner?  That’s as equally important as radio/HVAC knob quality for many “Truck Guys”…

  • avatar

    Until recently I preferred the Tundra, based on it’s looks and it’s (once?) legendary reliability. Does anybody remember the Titans? Didn’t think so. Honda Ridgeline? Just kidding.
    Though I obviously have no idea what I’m talking about, I think the lack of Japanese competition is just that. They were not included because they are not currently competitive.

  • avatar

    Nice to see the author abides by the GM bashing code required for all contributions! (Mandatory negative remarks toward Silverado). And you think a Tundra should have been present? You mean the one that sells at a small fraction of the domestics? And a Nissan Titan? Newsflash- Nobody buys a Titan!

    • 0 avatar
      SVX pearlie

      Yeah, and not smart enough to find the door handle…

      God, I hope GM has a sticker on the Volt handle, just for TTAC.

    • 0 avatar

      FYI the way the trucks were parked, the glare thru the windshield was bad.  It took me a little while to find the handle too, because I had to squint and stare to find it.

      I’m not writing this to change your opinion, just to speak my peace.  The Dodge and Ford had an easier to spot door handle when you’re blinded by the light. It’s in the right place and it looks like a manly hunk of metal. (even if its probably plastic)

  • avatar

    Let’s review: you’d written off Ford based on your impressions of a 2002 V6 Mustang’s interior.  You think that Japanese full sized pickups are legitimate competition for the F-Series.
    Next time, maybe research a bit, no?

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t get too cocky.  People’s impressions are their reality.  And people’s personal realities lag real-world events.  One’s reputation is usually only as good as their previous effort, or the last time the potential customer (here the TTAC columnist) crossed-paths with the producer’s product – to change that perception takes a good impression made after a variable interval.

      His impressions are more representative normal customers than you realize.  A bad impression can linger for a long time (I still recall my experience with an S197 with the door panels and IP seemingly made out of HDPE and with graining seemingly based on a gallon milk jug equipped with a disappointing variant of the Cologne 4-liter… I so wanted to like this variant of the car that I contributed to and which paid a part of my paycheck … but I couldn’t.

      Re full-size trucks, there is a segment of the market not looking for constructor-grade vehicles, and if these folks have had positive experiences with their Camry or Lexus, this could easily translate into Tundra sales.

    • 0 avatar

      No, I realize that there are millions out there just like the author.  It’s what industry pundits call a “perception gap”.
      And a Camry/Lexus to Tundra transition is highly unlikely, unless Mr. or Mrs. Bland Appliance driver inherits a horse ranch…

    • 0 avatar

      Aren’t “plumber’s specials” sold on the basis of their appliance-like nature plus reliability?  I appreciate the value of the APG Durability Cycle (frame-twist ditches, Arizona Dust and all that) but, again, there are certain customers, that given a positive experience with a product are primed and willing to consider more, or different, products from that same producer (and therein lies the danger!)

      Marketing 102:  For sustainable growth, after building a positive and profitable brand reputation, leverage this by expanding one’s product portfolio into other market segments. 

    • 0 avatar

      I saw fleet Ridgelines, so even that is a competitor to crew cab F-150. And generally Japanese full-size trucks were in competition since T-100.

  • avatar

    Why would/should I want such a car (especially in shining black)?  I have been working professionally in landscaping and construction and our cars at this time were more rugged and useful. Look at those loading heights! Wouldn’t it be a hassle to load/unload something to/from this car?
    Of course, it’s nice for showing up. My hairdresser is driving a Dodge Ram. But I’m still waiting for a sane reason why I should do so. I don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to herb
      My Dad ran a roofing business for 40 years and never had a truck. Had a trailer built up with a Model A rear axle with a 4″ diameter 12 foot long galvanized pipe bolted up to the front of it with a reducer for the hitch. A sheet of 3/4″ plywood for the bed and handmade fenders completed the trailer, which ran on regrooved heavy duty tires. Surprisingly easy to wheel around job sites by hand and didn’t jackknife into the tow vehicle like most trailers do. Hooked up to BOF Pontiacs with 389/400 CID engines. My personal best was towing almost 3000lbs – Dad had, uh, overestimated one job a leetle bit – like by 12 squares of roofing. Damn good thing I didn’t have to brake hard on that ride.
      His main roofer always had an Econoline with all the seats gone except the drivers – could fit several 28 foot extension ladders inside handily – several needed because we worked a lot of gambrel farm barns 60 to 80 feet long and staged off ladders and planks – a 12″ plank is like a sidewalk after you get used to it. Good times…not.
      None of these trucks would satisfy either Dad or his main guy. Not enough room, not enough capacity.

  • avatar

    “My hairdresser drives a Ram” would make a good bumper sticker.  Not sure how it would impact Calvin and Hobbs royalties.

  • avatar

    Full-size 4×4 trucks have never been good at delivering reasonable fuel mileage. I’m surprised that Ford was using one for a test vehicle.

  • avatar

    Let’s call them what they really are. SUV’s. About 90% of what anybody hauls can be dealt with by a small SUV and a trailer. When I farmed, having a F250 4WD Lariat SD Powerstroke (six speed no less) made some sense in that I can tow the trailers, haul the fertilizer, etc. Now that I don’t farm, the SD got ditched for the Expedition and what I discovered was in general, the Exped is far more useful in general, even as a quasi farm truck. Most of us in the PNW deal with rain, so all pickups end up with a doghouse anyway. With a protector for the interior, and the rear seats down low, I just about haul anything in the Exped or on the roof rack, that the SD could. Some exceptions of course, but those can all be dealt with trailer. Yeah, the SD had a bit more on the Exped on towing but really, I didn’t haul to 20,000 GCVW that often.  Sure the trailer’s a pain, but once you learn how to lash up, tow and back, no issues. A 4WD power train with an auto will out pull a stick, particularly in questionable traction. Most people haul their ass in pickups and think they look truck cool (sporty) in their blinged out upscale leather lashed, sync jiving, donkd flash lounge chairs. I can haul, tow, 75% of what that SD would do and still pack 4 farmer golfers to Bandon Dunes. With the 10 ply Michelins pumped to 65 pounds I can match the Diesel’s mileage too (light foot on the throttle) and don’t have to pay the premium price. An ecoboost in the Exped..that’d be sweet.
    145K on the Exped. A new vehicle on the horizon in a year…too many choices!

  • avatar

    The biggest lesson here is that clearly, you should have just went with an iPhone.

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