I live in the country, well outside city limits in the septic tank/well/propane tank kind of area. Like many that live out where the blacktop ends, we have some farm animals, over a mile of fencing and a pasture in need of TLC. Since I’m a DINK and have a day job that has nothing to do with my animal husbandry, I’m apparently the perfect demographic for a luxury pickup. True to form, the last 5 times I shopped, I wanted a pickup truck. Badly. Every time it came time to put money down however, I ended up with a sedan, station wagon or SUV. Still, I’m not ashamed to admit my loins burn for a “cowboy Cadillac”, and now that my GMC Envoy has 140,000 miles on the clock it’s time for a 6,000lb tow-capable replacement. Since the HD pickup trucks are honestly overkill for the majority of us, I hit Ford up for an F-150 Platinum to see if I should take the plunge.
The F-150 has been Ford’s best-selling nameplate and the best-selling vehicle for 30 years and the best-selling truck for 35 years. If you wonder how the F-150 manages to be all things to so many buyers, you have to look at the F-150 as if it were several different vehicles that share the same name. With 10 different models ranging from the $22,990 no-frills XL to a nearly $56,000 Platinum model, few other vehicles have a price spread like the F-150. Adding to your shopping dilemma is a line-up with four different engines, three cab sizes, four bed sizes and more axle options than you can shake a stick at. For our review we were given the high end F-150 Platinum 4×4 with the 5.0L V8.
In 2009 Ford released the 12th generation F-150 which was bigger in almost every way compared to the 2008 model, adding a taller hood, bigger cabs and a nifty tailgate spoiler. In typical Ford fashion, the powertrains were largely carried over and we had to wait until 2011 to get the full picture of the “completely new” F-150. Let’s shake up the typical review format by talking engines first: the 2009 and 2010 F-150s were V8-only trucks, with the old 4.6L or 5.4L V8 under the hood. 2011 brought not one but four new engines to the F-150; two V6 options and two hefty V8s. All engines for 2011, including the base V6, are mated to Ford’s six-speed automatic transmission and optional 4WD.
Platinum F-150s come with a standard “Coyote” 5.0L V8 (as our model was equipped) which delivers a healthy 360HP and 380lb-ft at 5500 and 4250 RPM. Our 4×4 equipped tester delivered a 6.75-second sprint to 60. If you have displacement envy, you can jump up to the 411HP and 434lb-ft 6.2L V8 for an extra $2755, but the ringer in the group is the 3.5L Ecoboost V6 model which delivers 365HP at 5000RPM and a whopping 420lb-ft of twist at a diesel like 2500RPM for only $895 more than the base 5.0L V8. If the bang-for-the-buck doesn’t pique your interest, the EPA numbers on the 4×4 models might: 14/19 for the 5.0, 12/16 for the 6.2 and 15/21 for the Ecoboost (eco is a relative term apparently). While the 6.2L V8 sounds incredible, a short towing demo I had in an Ecoboost V6 (and the larger payload capacity of the Ecoboost model) made me doubt whether anyone would be better off with the big-daddy V8. The only downside we noticed: slight turbo lag at the stoplights.
On the outside, Platinum models are distinguished with a revised grille that attempts to soften the bold lines worn by its blue-collar brethren with perforated bars. Unique wheels and an enormous brushed-aluminum panel on the tailgate tagged with “PLATINUM” complete the “I run the company” image. While the badging is more subtle than an Escalade, it still lets other F-150 drivers know how you roll.
GM’s pickups feature your choice of a “work-truck” interior, or a car-like dashboard borrowed from GM’s full-size SUVs while Dodge’s mantra seems to just be “cheap plastic”. Instead of taking either approach, Ford uses one interior theme for all models but as you climb the price-ladder, bits and pieces are swapped out for swankier duds. The base XL gets a rubbery steering wheel, mono-tone dashboard and a durable black plastic center console while top-end F-150s can be had with two-tone dashes, a stitched pleather gauge hood, and faux-wood trim or acres of brushed aluminum. Unlike some of GM’s attempts at “tarting-up” their work trucks, the F-150 feels comfortable all-dressed up.
Joining the new engines for 2011 is a tweaked instrument cluster which now sports a 4.2-inch LCD between the speedo and tach (not offered on the F-150 XL, optional on XLT and standard on other F-150s). The screen is used for the usual trip computer and vehicles settings as well as displaying off-road information like vehicle pitch and yaw. Joining the snazzy in-dash LCD on the Platinum model is a revised steering wheel, standard backup camera, ambient lighting, power-lowering running boards, integrated trailer brake controller, remote start, 110V power outlet, power folding mirrors, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, backup sensors, heated and cooled seats, and dual-zone climate control. If you don’t plan on adding a lumber rack, an optional sunroof is available, as is Ford’s SYNC navigation. MyTouch critics will be pleased to note that the updates SYNC system hasn’t made its way to the F-150 just yet. The up-side is improved reliability and a snappier interface, the downside is the loss of WiFi connectivity and the second USB port, a small price to pay in my mind. While the build quality isn’t up to Audi levels, entry level luxury shoppers will find just about every creature comfort they could ask for.
The Platinum can only be had with the four-door “SuperCrew” cab and as a result, the payload suffers somewhat starting at 1,800lbs with the 5.0L V8 and 2WD, jumping to 2,000 with the Ecoboost V6, dropping sharply to 1,680lbs due to the added weight of the 6.2L V8. These are some serious hauling numbers that required a ¾ ton pickup truck to achieve not too long ago. Thisare a hair shy of the 3100lb payload capacity mentioned in some F-150 ads, possible in only two of the 57 axle/cab/engine combinations. Compared to the Ram and Chevy, the Ford offers consistently higher payload capacities but more configuration options to wade through, so be sure to check the configuration and the door labels on your truck before you add a pallet of concrete to your weekend.
For the trailer-loving truck-buyer, the endless battle between the big-three for top-dog towing numbers has resulted in some impressive figures. Depending on your axle ratio and drive (2WD or 4WD) choice, towing tops out at a whopping 11,300lbs for the Ecoboost, 11,200 for the 6.2L V8 and a notably lower but still substantial 9,500lbs with the base 5.0L V8. Making towing easier, Ford includes an integrated trailer brake controller standard on the Platinum and a few other F-150 models. If you tow regularly and care about maintenance on your rig, there’s now an app for that. While Ford obviously ripped Apple with their “Truck App” name, it does provide some handy features like keeping track of the mileage on 10 different trailers and remembering the brake gain for each trailer. In order to keep your “distance to empty” figures more accurate, it also recalculates the averages when you have a trailer connected.
If you’re looking at the Platinum, you’d better have deep pockets Then again, if you’re the weekend warrior type, it’s cheaper than your comparable BMW X5. Our tester started with a sticker of $44,325 on top of which was added a $470 electronic locking axle, 6-1/2-foot bed, $325 folding side-steps and a $2,465 option package which included a sunroof and navigation system taking our tester to the nose-bleed section at $52,405. If that price frightens you, $27,670 buys you my personal favorite: the F-150 XL with the Ecoboost V6, 8-foot bed, 3.55:1 locking rear axle, cloth seats, power accessories, CD player and cruise control. Configured in this way the F-150 delivers 3060lbs of payload capacity and 9,800lbs of towing ability.
At the end of the week I found myself more in love with trucks than when I started. There was just one problem. The F-150 is huge. As with most vehicles these days the F-150 has been growing like the Stay Pufft Marshmallow Man. While I used to feel like a man when I was in college out muddin’ in my buddy’s F-150, the 2011 Ford makes me feel small, and adult-Alex has at least 40lbs on his former college self. With the CUV craze killing off SUV towing capacity, the day for me to finally take the truck plunge is rapidly approaching. The four-door luxury pickup truck may be the right truck for an Austin professional with a ranchette in the burbs, but I can’t shake the feeling that I would be best served lusting for the new Ford Ranger from afar and buying a diesel Touareg. I’d still dream pickup dreams in my sleep however.
Ford provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas.
Statistics as tested
0-30: 2.514 Seconds
0-60: 6.75 Seconds
Fuel Economy: over 555 miles, 17.0MPG