By on August 2, 2017

2018 Ford F-150 XL

It’s been two model years since this series put America’s best-selling vehicle under the harsh Ace of Base lights in a solo environment. Since then, the Blue Oval had given the truck a nose job and stuffed a new base engine under the hood.

Last time, I professed to not being offended by the F-150’s grille, given its propensity to blend in with its surroundings if Shadow Black is selected as a paint choice. Now, for 2018, I’m not so sure. That’s a lot of flat black plastic.

A variety of grilles are available on the 2018 F-150 and most of them look good, especially once one gets up into the high-zoot trims. This year’s new mug foists a wide and thick black grille on the base XL and, to this author’s jaundiced eye, it doesn’t balance as well with the rest of the entry-level styling. Around back, Ford has abandoned chrome nomenclature in favor of pounding the model name right into the tailgate.

The 2018 F-150 XL starts at $27,380. That’s $840 dearer than when we examined the base 2016 model. For those extra shekels, Dearborn includes a new 3.3-liter V6 engine, equipped with stop/start technology and other wizardry not traditionally found at the bottom of the work truck food chain. Port and direct fuel injection help push the new mill to 290 hp and 265 lb-ft; increases  of 8 hp and 12 lb-ft over the old base engine.

This engine is lashed to Ford’s six-speed automatic, so ignore any bleatings you read claiming every new F-150 will have the fancy 10-speed unit. Buyers can opt for a 2.7-liter EcoBoost that does come with ten cogs, so technically all F-150 trims get the new transmission — you’ll just have to pony up $1,000 in the XL to get it.

I’d still pop for the optional 3.73 gears. They’re $80 now, up from $50. Every color in the catalog is $0, except for the new Magma Red which forces buyers to select an additional option package. Base steelies look the same as they did in 2016, and are still wrapped with 245/70R17 tires. Airbags continue to pop out of the dash, seats, and roof if drivers fail to keep the thing shiny side up.

Cloth seats are standard; hose-it-out vinyl is a no charge option. For a base work truck, it is great to learn that A/C is on board, along with a tilt/telescope steering wheel.

Ford installs a stereo is fitted with an AUX port for those who cannot bear terrestrial radio and a rear view camera is standard with visual aids to help drivers hook up to a trailer. My eight-year old Ram, a model near the top of trim levels when it was new, is not equipped as lavishly.

But that grille, man. I don’t know. I just don’t know. For the record, here’s what I think is the best grille in a 2018 F-150, and it’s far from base. $30,340 away, in fact. Yes, my style choices are still as obnoxious as ever.

2018 Ford F-150 Lariat FX4 SuperCrew Special Edition

[Images: Ford Motor Company]

Not every vehicle at the Mr. Noodles end of the price spectrum has aced it. The ones which have? They help make our automotive landscape a lot better. Naturally, feel free to roast our selection and let us know if there are other models you’d like included in this series.

The model above is shown with American options, absent of fees, and is priced in Freedom Dollars. Do your research and bargain hard.

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33 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2018 Ford F-150 XL...”

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I like the black plastic. It’s honest. It’s not pretending to be anything other than what it obviously is.

    There is charm in these base trucks and I love those steel wheels. But I’ve got a hangup with 2WD trucks. We get some snow here, have big elevation changes, and lots of backcountry roads, so I really would rather have 4WD in a pickup. You can configure the XL with a 6.5ft bed, 4WD, and the 2.7L ecoboost, but then you’re pushing $35K MSRP and they’re a bit thin on the ground. Still, it would work decently off pavement and be quite the sprinter on.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve seen a few Base/XL SuperCrew 4wd F150s on, I think they look the business with plain steel wheels and the black plastic. If you could get that with the rear diff lock as a standalone option (maybe you can?) that would be pretty neat.

      • 0 avatar

        So it looks like on the Ford build site I can get a XL SuperCrew and add the $770 FX4 package that includes skid plates and rear locker and up-rated shocks. That’s awesome! Doubt any dealer would ever order that configuration on their own, I wonder how much leverage you lose when you special order something versus buying what’s on the lot.

        • 0 avatar

          I wouldn’t go out of my way for it. The FX4 shocks are indistinguishable from the standard ones and the skids are so thin that they’re basically decoration. The gas tank skid is plastic!

          The locker is a $500 stand alone, put the other $300 towards real aftermarket skids.

          • 0 avatar

            “The locker is a $500 stand alone”

            Interesting, I saw it show up in the extra payload package with 3.73 gears for $750 but not as standalone. And yes plastic skidplate seems to be the norm these days for fuel tanks across the half-ton world. I can see where they have real functionality, but would feel better with steel. ATVs and such have had plastic ‘armor’ for some time now. My old 4Runner’s stock skidplate that many serious offroaders regard as ‘tinfoil’ has taken some good hits and shrugged them off so I’m pretty content with the thinner steel OEM stuff (better than nothing).

        • 0 avatar

          Not much – but since Ford dealers are everywhere, find one who is willing to go a bit further.

        • 0 avatar

          I have an FX4. The gas tank plate is indeed plastic, the shocks are different than the std 4×4 version, and the electric 3.55 locker is worth the pony-up.

          Climbing out of my plowed-in driveway from December to mid-April has proven their worth.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, 30. I find the grille refreshingly unpretentious. This is in fact not a Kenworth.

      That’s a lot of truck for the street price it commands. Even if the interior looks like a bed liner with seats, it’s still a helluva deal. Makes you wonder why most buyers pay so much more, although I suppose the answer is “crew cab.”

    • 0 avatar

      My local dealer has a left over 2016 grey 4×2 base model F150 long box for 27k (Canada). It is into its 2nd year on their lot but they only have a 2k discount on it. Last fall and this spring they had several fleet spec 4×4’s with the 5.0 on sale for 5k more at 32k with 12k discount.
      I’ll keep watching it since my son is turning 16 soon and my wife is now an “ex”, I might just buy it if they drop the price some more. I don’t want to give a 16 yr old the keys to a 4×4.

    • 0 avatar

      I also love the steelies, and I don’t think the black plastic is excessive.

      My ideal F-150 is a SuperCrew XL 4×4. Rugged, capable, roomy and attractive, its a do-all vehicle that has more features standard than I’d imagine.

      I suppose I’d have to drive both the new 3.3L and the 2.7L EcoBoost before deciding. Actually, I’d wait to find out if the diesel V-6 will come in XL 4X4 configuration first, and see how it performs.

      On a somewhat unrelated note:
      I wish Ford would make that 3.3L optional in the Fusion, on trims SE and above. It couldn’t hurt to push back against the decline of n/a V-6 engines in that class. Evidently Toyota sees the benefit of keeping a n/a 6 pot on the options list. I’d rather not go with the Fusion Sport if I could get an SE V-6 with 2wd and a better ride quality (than the Sport).

    • 0 avatar

      What would be really cool is if some Ford dealers did a body-colored paint option for the steel wheels and the grille.

      The Ford Dealers in Oregon did this back in 1970, with the Torino Type N/W, offering a special appearance package.

  • avatar

    We all know these trucks regularly have $7,500-12k on the hood. A 4dr extended or crew with 2.7L & 4×4 for $30k…that’s a good deal for a brandy new rig that can tow a crapload.

  • avatar

    Those headlights are a definite design step backward. Those extensions into the grill are what ruin it.

    • 0 avatar

      Those extensions into the grill are designed to blend with a chrome grill. If the top and bottom bars of that blacked-out grill where chromed plastic or even just silver-colored paint, they’d blend almost perfectly while leaving the grill itself reasonably subdued.

    • 0 avatar

      @Dave – I’m not a fan of it either.

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed. I think they look horrible. A friend with one of the new superduties has the same (or similar?) headlights, and they have this massive LED ring DRL around each. Can’t see that truck with the DRL on in my rear view and not think goatse.

  • avatar

    I did a *lot* of configuring back in 2015 and you could get an XL priced right up there with an XLT, or higher, with the options listing.

    A 4×4 XL with the 2.7TT and SuperCab was at or near a 301A-equipped XLT. Economies of scale… go XLT instead.

    (for the record… not a fan of the redesign, possibly biased though. It’s a lot of grill real estate to design).

  • avatar

    Seems like a nice truck. Do they come with nice incentives that bring the price down to under $25k?

  • avatar

    For the record, chrome F-150 grilles are available on Ebay for ~$250. The XL is the way to go rather than XLT; I bought a heavily-optioned ’16 XL (the base truck is just TOO base) and saved $3K over the XLT.

  • avatar

    I’ll give kudos on both grill choices, Matthew, though I think I like the black one better because it’s much more subdued. The red outline one emphasizes the oversized chicken-wire grid that just makes it look like a small-mouth bass with its mouth wide open. Even so, for at least a couple models they’ve moved away from that gross, fake, Big Rig look that essentially made them as aerodynamic as a brick in water.

    Now if they would only go about making them SMALLER!

  • avatar

    Flat black is urban camouflage. Nobody will pay attention to you.

    Do the 3.27 gears come with limited slip? If not how much?

    • 0 avatar

      Oxford white is the true urban camouflage. No one notices a white regular cab truck.

    • 0 avatar

      Flat black is NOT “urban camouflage”. Flat black draws attention to it, rather than deflecting attention. In fact, just recently a man got arrested for driving a stolen car BECAUSE it was flat black and actually attracted attention to him.

      I do like the flat black grill on the Ford because it minimizes what used to be a grossly oversized snout.

  • avatar

    the XL is interesting in that you can select pretty much any engine offered in the lineup. Lariat and up remove the ability to get the base 3.3 V6.

    I’m thinking (depending on the available configurations) when it comes out I’ll be trading up from my Ranger to an XL with the diesel. Just a couple of options packages to get power windows etc. and carpet.

  • avatar

    I have always had an affinity towards base model vehicles and have bought several over the years. I especially like the standard cab configuration. And a plain Jane six cylinder

  • avatar

    The two bar grill does not look that good. The three bar harkens back to the 1950 classic Forda.

    Full disclosure, I own a 16 f150 super crew.

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