Commercials blare it: Ford's F-150 pickup has been the bestselling vehicle in America for more than three decades. Yet we've only driven the F-150's competition. We finally got one recently over the holidays, an appropriately red 2011 4x4 Supercrew (2012 changes are minimal). We were excited, especially Lyra, who tows her son's race trailer.
Appearance: The last redesign of the F-150 came in 2009 and streamlined the truck's lines. Our Red Candy Metallic pickup was a stunner. The satin-finish grille with mesh inserts gives it a touch of class not evident on the base (black) grille. The 20-inch polished aluminum wheels also stand out. Lyra got a lot of compliments on it from her fellow race parents. Our Platinum Supercrew came with a power deployable running board, which was very cool - at first. The problem: When Lyra needed to quickly grab something out of the truck, the running board deployed into her shins. Ouch. She would prefer a fixed running board.
Performance: In 2011, Ford changed the F-150's engine lineup with four new choices. Most notable was the 3.5-liter V-6 Ecoboost, which actually produces more horsepower (365 at 5,000 rpm) and low-end torque (420 pound-feet at 2,500 rpm) than our tester's 5.0-liter V-8 (360 hp at 5,500 rpm and 380 pound-feet at 4,250 rpm). Even when towing her 4,500-pound 16-foot trailer, Lyra confidently crossed highway traffic or passed other vehicles. (The capacity for towing is up to 11,300 pounds and payload to 3,120 pounds, depending on the configuration.) The truck's braking was strong, even when towing. The standard sway control kept the trailer steady most of the time, though Lyra did feel some sway on the highway. The estimated mileage is respectable for a large V-8 truck - 14 city and 19 highway. While towing, Lyra got less than 10 mpg.
Interior: Our truck's plush Platinum trim had just about everything. The quiet cabin featured comfortable leather bucket seats, which are heated and cooled for driver and passenger. (A bench seat is also available to seat six.) The white-on-black gauges with glowing blue needles were some of the most attractive we've seen and sensibly laid out. In the center is a 4.2-inch LCD driver information screen chock full of data: fuel efficiency, towing information, trailer checklist; there's even pitch, yaw and angle gauges for off-roading. Other nice features include adjustable pedals and a power tilt/telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel. The center console is nicely designed, with a large, deep bin under the armrest. The rear seats are expansive with lots of room for three adults. Bonus: The 60/40 split seat bottoms fold up for additional in-cabin cargo space.
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Our 3 favorites
Peter Couture: 52, city driver, 6 feet tall, married with two teenagers.
Options, options: Ten trims, four powerplants and three configurations each for cab and bed.
Running boards: Sorry, Lyra, I liked auto-deployment.
Roomy: We loved the back-seat space.
Lyra Solochek: 46, highway commuter, 5 feet 1, married with an 8-year-old and a college student.
Rearview camera:A must-have for anyone who tows.
Trailer-friendly: Sway control, driving data and hitching checklist, integrated trailer brake control.
Power adjustments: Find comfortable settings for seats, steering wheel and pedals.
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2011 Ford F-150 Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew
Price: $22,990 start for base V-6, $51,760 as tested
Powertrain: 5.0-liter V-8 FFV, 6-speed SelectShift automatic, Shift-on-fly 4x4
Horsepower: 360 at 5,500 rpm
Torque: 380 pound-feet at 4,250 rpm
Dimensionsin inches: Wheelbase, 145.5 Length, 231.9 Width, 79.2 (without mirrors)
Fuel economy: 14 miles per gallon city, 19 mpg highway
Safety features: 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, airbags and curtains, AdvanceTrac with roll stability control, safety cage, trailer sway control
Options worth considering: Moonroof, 36-gallon fuel tank, towing package, rearview camera
The bottom line: Motor Trend named it Truck of the Year. Peter will defer to Lyra, who tows frequently and has the need for a truck: "The F-150 is a workhorse, and it has a great balance of comfort and performance."