With the launch of the redesigned F-150, Ford broke all of the rules for pickup trucks. From its much-touted aluminum construction -- shaving about 700 pounds from the old model -- to available small-displacement twin-turbo V6 engines promising the power of a V8 but with better fuel economy, Ford has shaken things up in a category not known for innovation. It has bet the farm on the biggest-selling vehicle in America.
The weight-loss program and high-tech wizardry under the hood pay off with an impressive 17 mpg overall fuel economy from the 2.7-liter turbo V6 -- edging out the 5.3-liter V8 Chevrolet Silverado by one hay-hauling mpg. (The Ram 1500 diesel still leads the class with 20 mpg overall.) The F-150's 2.7- and beefier 3.5-liter turbo-V6 engines provide plenty of punch even at low revs, with quick acceleration and effortless towing ability. Powerwise, you won't miss a V8.
Still, old-school truckers can relax because a 385-hp, 5.0-liter V8 is also available. It has a great V8 rumble, but the two turbo V6 engines have more torque. The 3.5 turbo is actually the best choice for towing, with a max rating of 11,500 pounds. Rounding out engine options is the base, non-turbocharged 282-hp, 3.5-liter V6.
Inside, our tested crew-cab models had cavernous room front and rear, and both were almost tomb-silent. The driving position is comfy and roomy. A standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and optional power-adjustable pedals can accommodate truckers of all shapes and sizes. Large windows and relatively narrow pillars provide better visibility than the competing Silverado or Ram 1500, but a rear camera costs extra. It should be standard equipment, given a pickup's rear blind zone behind the back bumper.
A wide range of trim levels and option packages let buyers choose anything from a hose-it-out fleet special to a posh, leather-lined interior with luxury-car comforts. Our tested midlevel 3.5 trim was as plush as a typical mid-grade family sedan but priced far above one. Lots of clever features, including a tailgate ladder and side mirror spotlights, make work and play easier. 2016 brings Ford's new Sync 3 infotainment interface, which is a big improvement over the distracting and frustrating MyFord Touch system that it replaced.
Despite the revolutionary new structure, the F-150 driving experience falls flat. Bearing in mind that we were testing a truck, the steering was nonetheless vague and slow to respond, and the ride was fidgety and unsettled even on relatively smooth surfaces. Keeping within your lane on rural back roads requires paying close attention. A wide turning circle doesn't help with parking. The Silverado handles better, and the Ram has a plusher, more settled ride. Typical for the class, the F-150 also lost points for long stopping distances.