The Ford F-150 is the nation’s best-selling truck. A new F-150 is sold every 42 seconds, which also happens to be the answer to everything, but we digress. This incredible feat of sales must mean that Ford is producing a great truck, so we took the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the 2014 F-150 XLT for an extended test to find out. While not being perfect, we found the truck to be extremely capable and better understand why it is a sales hit.
A Raptor by Any Other Name
It is no surprise that we are fans of the SVT Raptor. We took a road trip with it across Texas early in 2013, and then went through the Knibbe Ranch off-road course in the fall of 2013. Our XLT, stripped of the chrome wheels and bumpers, could be a mini-Raptor. Our test vehicle came equipped with the 4×4 Off Road package, which includes skid plates and off-road suspension. Like the Fox Racing shocks on the Raptor, the XLT has its shocks mounted outboard of the chassis, improving ride quality and off-road capability.
The XLT was not equipped with the upgraded 3.5L EcoBoost V6, but instead included the 5.0L V-8 base engine. This motor makes 360hp and 380lb/ft of torque. Unlike the EcoBoost, the V8 sounds the part. While not as loud as the Raptor, it still has a growl to it that only an American V8 can generate. Fuel economy might not be the greatest, but in “Smiles Per Gallon” this truck wins.
On the subject of fuel economy, we observed a combined rating of 16.4mpg. That included several 200+ mile highway road trips. It is definitely a thirsty truck (though not as thirsty as the before-mentioned Raptor).
We attempted a small road trip, with the tailgate down, in an area where our average speed was about 60mph consistently. In those conditions we were able to edge out almost 20 miles per gallon. It is not a bad number by truck standards, especially with a V8. However, those looking for the best overall economy should probably opt for the EcoBoost.
In terms of off-road capability, our tester came equipped with four-wheel drive and a locking rear-differential. What we like about the locking rear-differential is that it can be locked independently of the four-wheel drive system. What this mean is the driver can lock the rear wheels without being in four-wheel drive. We found it more useful than we originally thought we would.
The downside to our XLT test unit is the chrome. The wheels, bumpers, and tow hooks are polished to a shine, and look really nice against the Blue Jean Metallic paint (we received numerous comments on the color). However, we fear the moment we use those tow hooks, or do some serious off-roading, we would damage the finish. Granted, most truck owners view a truck as a tool, and do not worry about cosmetic damage, we still would at least like to see the tow hooks finished differently.
Our test unit did not come equipped with MyFord Touch. For those who do not like the system, or who do not want to spend extra cash on it, will receive a standard radio with SYNC. The display does feature a full-color LCD, and will show lots of information about the phone call, radio station, or text message. Although a little small in size, the screen gets the job done.
The one thing we don’t like about the non-MyFord Touch version is that it does not include automatic temperature control. If a $17,000 Fiesta can have it, it’d be nice to see our $41,305 (as tested) version have it too.
It’s not all hate on the technology though. The instrument cluster features a 4.3″ display that shows loads of information, including a Truck Apps display that shows off-road and trailer information. The XLT also features a backup camera, with the camera display in the rear-view mirror. We enjoy it in this location a lot, since we feel that is where someone would naturally look after putting a vehicle into reverse.
We also really liked that our test model featured a driver-side automatically dimming exterior mirror. The mirrors are NOT small on the F-150, and the dimming feature is a blessing at night on a busy motorway. One other cool automatic feature is the sliding rear window. With a push of a button the window slides open or closed, and has a defrost feature.
Other intelligent design comes at the rear of the truck. Built into the tailgate is the $375 tailgate step. We would check this option every single time, because we find it immensely useful. For some, it may be an ego bruiser to have this equipped, but if you are frequently getting into the bed of the truck, we’d rather have convenience over ego.
The truck also featured a $475 spray-in bed-liner. This was added at the factory, and is warranted by the vehicle warranty. It also looks good installed, and seems to protect well. Some guys would opt for a Line-X install post-delivery with a lifetime warranty, but it is nice to see Ford offer it as an option.
For us though, the best option of all is the 36-gallon fuel tank. While it is more expensive to fill up when empty than the stock 26-gallon unit, the extra 170 miles or more of range is great for road trips or work trucks. Having to stop less to fill up saves both time and money when the job depends on the truck. Ford, please bring the 36-gallon tank to the SuperCab Raptor like it is on this truck.
Driving the F-150
For a truck, we believe that the F-150 rides well. The softer shocks found on the Raptor do create a better on-road ride, but the regular F-150 is hardly jarring. Speed is a bit deceptive in the XLT, as we often found ourselves driving faster than we thought we were. The V8 is nearly silent when driving down the road at highway speeds, with most of the noise coming from the tires and the external mirrors.
The brakes stop the truck well, and the 6-speed automatic transmission seems to do a decent job at finding the right gear and sticking with it. There are several manual control options available on the column-mounted gear selector, but we’d advise leaving them alone. We found manual mode awkward when trying to use a column shifter.
The rear-view camera and parking sensors are fantastic in a truck, and make parking a breeze. We found it easier to reverse into parking spaces rather than parking front-first just because it was easier to see the rear of the truck. We wouldn’t be surprised to see blind-spot monitoring and cross-traffic alert in the next F-150. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Active Park Assist either.
Overall and Final Verdict
We liked the 2014 F-150 XLT quite a bit. We liked that it had cloth seats, which we think is more fitting for a work truck. We like the rear-seat storage area. We like the visibility and we like versatility. Also, for the sake of longevity, we appreciate the 5.0L motor.
We popped the hood for a friend of Motor Review and he pointed out how easy it was to access the engine components. There is plenty of room under the hood, and the oil filter is easy to reach. The 3.55 gear set doesn’t help fuel economy, but does give the 5.0L V8 plenty of pep. The truck is much more “simple” than the EcoBoost. If you are looking for a truck to drive until it dies, the 5.0L might be a better choice. It should be noted though there have been no longevity issues with the EcoBoost.
Despite the fact that the F-150 is basically four years old, and the Silverado and Ram 1500 are both relatively new, the F-150 is still a great truck. We would have no problems recommending the F-150 XLT to anyone.
We don’t believe a new truck purchase decision is cut-and-dry anymore. The “Truck of Texas” winning Ram 1500 is a great alternative and should be driven before a final decision is made. Toyota and Chevrolet also have very strong offerings. Unlike just a few years ago, there really isn’t a bad truck on the market.
Sales numbers speak volumes, and the F-150 is the sales leader. It is easy to understand why after spending a week in one. If you are looking for a new truck, you should drive one yourself.
Note: Vehicle provided by Ford Motor Company