2014 Ford F-150 in review

Pros:

  • Excellent fit and finish, durable interior materials.
  • Modern tech features like MyFord SYNC.
  • Silk smooth drivetrain, throbbing V8 performance.

Cons:

  • Confusing tether anchor points in rear.
  • Stiff, hard to adjust/remove headrests
  • Small steering wheel controls fat-fingered by gloved hands.

 

Picking up the truck, grinning like a fool

Picking up the truck, grinning like a fool

Thanks to the good folks over at Leslie Motors I was recently able to test one of my favourite vehicles.  It’s been a long time coming but here are the results of a great 3 day test.  The weekend saw almost 300kms put on the truck, including full family trips to my in-laws, 20cm of snow, breakfast out and late night driving from Hanover.  All in all, aside from towing, this is the most inclusive test of a truck I’ve done to date.

Summary

The 2014 F-150 features a few minor changes but nothing substantial since Ford redesigned the F-150 in 2010.  There are some minor cosmetic changes to the truck for 2014 but the basic layout is the same.  A new MyFord Sync system was recently launched and features well in most mid level F-150s.  Our test truck was an XLT model with the XTR package.  Included were some nice features like leather seats, backup camera and dimming mirror.  MyFord Sync was also included but without the navigation system.  While it lacked some features I might add –  EcoBoost engine and heated seats to start – there was still plenty about it to make it a comfortable riding truck.

Ford’s standard 5.0L V8 and 6 speed transmission were an excellent pair.  Ride was smooth and passive, only on very bumpy roads at higher speeds did you feel the frame’s stiffness.  Seats were large and pleasant for short and long drives.  Sure, they were cold to get into, after some time your body heat did the work for you.  Visibility was great all around and room was abounding inside the cab.  Outside of the MegaCab Dodge offers this must be the roomiest I’ve seen.  On-board infotainment system was a step up from other domestic systems I’ve used and audio quality was excellent.  All around an excellent truck which handled snow and a family of 5 comfortably and confidently.  It met and exceeded the very high expectations I had, not often does one meet a “hero” and not get disappointed.

Performance

Our test truck came with the standard 5.0l V8 and 4×4.  In 2 or 4 wheel drive performance was pleasant.  The V8 had a delicious throb to it when idling and a throaty growl when you spurred it on to acceleration.  Conversely it was rather quiet and tamed when idling, even on cold starts early in the morning.  My minivan is much louder (though much older) on cold starts.  Driving at cruising speeds the truck was confident and smooth.  I often found myself going way faster than usual without pushing the truck at all, resorting to cruise control to keep it steady.  Road and engine noise were surprisingly low.  What also immediately struck me was how the transmission felt at shift points, better still, how it didn’t.  During the first 45 minute trek north to Hanover only on a few occasions could I feel the gear change.  Even accelerating to pass on two lane highways was smooth and quick.  Ford certainly has a wonderful foundation for the next generation of F-150 here.

Our tester didn’t come with the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 but Leslie Motors were kind enough to let me take one for a quick jaunt.  I’ll admit to being a traditionalist when it comes to trucks and the inclusion of a V6 as the workhorse engine has always made me slightly apprehensive.  After driving the V8 around and jumping into the EcoBoost, there is an immediate difference.  The EcoBoost doesn’t have the wonderful sound of the V8 during idle.  It also lacks the noise during acceleration.  That all said, the EcoBoost is a stunner to drive.  Acceleration is much faster with the V8 and happens with substantially less drama.  While the V8 puts on a show during pickup the EcoBoost simply gets you there, and quickly.  Driving in cruise the engine settled right down and responded to hills much nicer than the V8.  Driving the EcoBoost did feel very different and changed how the truck felt for sure.  I’d definitely recommend opting for it, though.  The towing capacity alone is worth it, not to mention the performance and mileage boosts.

Mileage

As mentioned above our test truck came with the 5.0L V8 which produces an impressive 360Hp with 380ft/lb of torque.  Ford lists the combined mileage of this engine in a 4×4 configuration around 13.1L/100km.  City and highway mileage are 15.1L/100km and 10.7L/100km respectively.  Ford’s standard V8 is, admittedly, one of the least efficient on the market since Dodge shifted to an 8 speed transmission.  That said, it’s numbers aren’t far behind at all and it has higher horsepower than GM’s 5.3L counterpart.  In our test we averaged 14.1L/100km over 300kms of travel.  Travel was roughly 70% highway with the remainder in the city.

The EcoBoost engine we tested is the 3.5L twin turbo V6 which produces 365Hp and a whopping 420ft/lb of torque.  What’s more, the EcoBoost engine achieves its torque at 2,500 RPM making it the ideal engine for heavy towing.  Ford lists this engine with 14.2L/100km city, 9.6L/100km highway and 12.1L/100km combined.  It doesn’t seem like a huge mileage boost until you factor in the performance numbers.  You’re getting big block V8 power at higher V6 mileage.  While only in the EcoBoost for less than 20kms, it averaged 8.7L/100km in highway driving.

Ride

Covered in snow.  Canada looks good on the F-150

Covered in snow. Canada looks good on the F-150

Briefly touch on the ride.  A truck is a truck and it rides like a truck.  This F-150 was pleasantly gentle on the roads in our area which have been ravaged by winter.  On more than one occasion the truck absorbed a pothole (whoops) with ease.  Once you got over 80km/h bumps were a bit more pronounced but nothing more than usual.  Side mounted struts act as advertised and reduce body roll while turning.  Quiet, smooth and sure footed even on snowy roads.

Interior

“I hate how often trucks are made with materials that aren’t easy to clean,” my father-in-law commented as he drove.  “But this one is made with durable plastics that look like they could handle really working.”  My thoughts exactly.  While not the softer plastics people seem to clamour for these days, they felt durable and lasting quality.  A familiar dashboard design and dial locations made navigating the readouts very easy.  Rear space was expansive.  We fit all three of our kids seats along the back bench comfortably.  There was some struggle getting the tether anchors in place; Ford has strap loops you feed them through.  It was a tough task in below zero temps while your kids stand around waiting but it got done.  The user manual wasn’t a huge help either but provided enough information to point us in the right direction.  A lot of minor issues we encountered essentially centered around learning a new vehicle.

Speakers in all four doors as well as the A pillars provide great all around sound.  Expansive and comfortable seats were wrapped in a pleasant smelling leather.  A lack of heating – a must in our climate – made for some cold bums.  This is less an issue with the truck and more a feature preference.  Cold cheeks aside, front and rear seating offered plenty of comfort for short hauls and long road trips.  Even the middle space, often the worst seat in the house, was nearly as comfortable as the bench seating which straddled it.  Our tester did lack rear heating vents which would also be an option I’d opt for.  Interior space was plentiful and it felt like there was miles of space above my head.  Combined with the visibility the height provides driving felt more like lounging in your den than riding in a car.

Infotainment

Here is where I spent a lot of time and focus.  As an IT guy and all around gadget geek I was dying to see how the MyFord Sync got on.  I’ve used many systems in the past with a variety of results.  Some were in European sedans north of $150,000 while others were in minivans.  I’m happy to report that the Ford’s system is among the best.  While ours lacked navigation – another feature of course – it did have the entry level MyFord system.  This featured a driver information screen between the tachometer and speedometer dials along with a smaller screen on the radio.  I was immediately struck by the image quality and colour depth even for simply displayed items.  A nice selection of information is available to the driver on the center screen.  The radio screen also serves as the backup monitor for the camera should you have that option installed.  MyFord Sync also features USB and Auxiliary inputs.  The USB also serves to charge any phones or devices you may have connected to the system via Bluetooth.

Proof that an F-150 fits a family of five.  Comfortably

Proof that an F-150 fits a family of five. Comfortably

The “Sync cubby” – a term I coined – was a nifty little spot.  It offered a location to stash my phone and charger cable out of the way.  Since all the features I normally would use – calling, text, music – were all available through Bluetooth I didn’t need access to my phone.  In fact using the system was a breeze once my phone book was downloaded and I figured out how to pair them.  It turned out to be far simpler than the last one I used.  Radio controls via voice command were simple enough but also limited in functionality.  It didn’t recognize a request to tune into Satellite radio channel X, nor did the system allow you to switch functions via voice – ie switch to FM radio to CD and back to Satellite – you’re limited to the commands relevant to whatever is currently running.

Conclusion

All in all this was a great truck.  A lot of the negatives boiled down to nit picking and a simple lack of vehicle familiarity.  The F-150 offered great comfort and real life durability.  It proved that pickups can be effective family vehicles.  It also proved that the F-150 is well suited to Canadian driving.  With great options available at reasonable entry level prices this is a good value truck as well.  Since Ford has just announced the new redesign you can expect this 2014 style to be the last.  Despite the model age, and lack of awards, it leaves little doubt why this is the best selling vehicle in Canada – and North America – for decades running.

I would also like to extend a thank you to Leslie Motors for allowing me to take their truck for a test.  In the few conversations I’ve had with owners and sales staff I have been impressed.  They offer great sales experience and prices that make the 45 minute drive from KW well worth it.  I hear it’s a stunning one in the summer.  Check them out online, you can even sign up for their e-club for free!  You’ll get to see window stickers as well as special e-pricing.  It takes a lot of the stress of price haggling off the table and makes the experience much more pleasant.  They’re also very active on Twitter and Facebook, be sure to check them out.  When you do go, tell them I sent you.

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