Ace of Base: 2018 Ford F-150 XL

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

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.

[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.

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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2 of 33 comments
  • DV Diva DV Diva on Aug 02, 2017

    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

  • Johnnyz Johnnyz on Aug 02, 2017

    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.

  • Bd2 If they let me and the boyz roll around naked in their dealership I'll buy a Chinese car.
  • THX1136 I would not 'knowingly' purchase a Chinese built or brand. I am somewhat skeptical of actual build quality. What I've seen in other Chinese made products show them to be of low quality/poor longevity. They are quite good at 'copying' a design/product, but often they appear to take shortcuts by using less reliable materials and/or parts. And , yes, I know that is not exclusive to Chinese products. When I was younger 'made in Japan' was synonymous with poor quality (check John Entwistle's tune 'Made in Japan' out for a smile). This is not true today as much of Japan's output is considered very favorably and, in some product types, to be of superior quality. I tend to equate the same notion today for things 'made in China'.
  • Mike Beranek No, but I'm for a world where everyone, everywhere buys cars (and everything else) that are sourced and assembled regionally. Shipping big heavy things all over the planet is not a solution.
  • Jeffrey No not for me at this time
  • El scotto Hmm, my VPN and security options have 12-month subscriptions. Car dealers are not accountable to anyone except the owner. Of course, the dealer principles are running around going "state of the art security!", "We need dedicated IT people!" For the next 12 months. The hackers can wait.