Short Report: The refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 is a pick-your-own version of just right

We always want more. This is why warehouse stores exist, buy-one-get-one sales are plentiful, and garages are not utilized for vehicle storage. In fact, “more” itself no longer suffices and has morphed into “moar.” But are things really better, though?

Ford says yes. After all, this year marks the 100th anniversary of its first truck, the Model TT. But it was the venerable F-Series that changed the landscape, literally. For the last 40 years, Ford’s F-Series has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. with more than 26 million pickups sold. And sales continue to rise with year-to-date figures tallying 658,636 units, a 10.6 percent increase. The Chevrolet Silverado is perched atop a solid albeit distant second with 418,590 in sales through September.

So, how is it that Ford has seemingly cornered the market of boxy brutes? Ingenuity, perhaps, since the brand certainly likes to champion segment-first ideas like its aluminum-alloy body and box. But variety plays a large role as well, especially with the F-150.

Short Report: The refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 is a pick-your-own version of just right

The 2018 Ford F-150 is a mid-cycle refresh with its biggest changes lying under the hood with all engines being either all-new or updated. Exterior and interior trims do receive a refresh as well.

(Beverly Braga)

Lined up along the dusty driveway of a local farm in Dexter, Michigan, roughly 50 miles west of corporate HQ in Dearborn, were more than a dozen 2018 F-150 models for our choosing. Engines, trims, and options varied as did the vehicles set up at the towing and payload stations. It was a bit much, but so is the F-150’s offerings.

The 2018 model is at best a slight mid-cycle refresh but its new engines—three of the five, anyway—receive bitty boosts in power, payload, and per-gallon sipping thanks in part to automatic start-stop. Ford claims another segment-first here by making the system standard across the model line. Still, the only engine left out of any figurative raises is the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and its high-output version which is outfitted solely in the Raptor.

But the day was short so I was only able to test drive two powertrains, a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 for towing and a 5.0L V8 for cruising. For the record, I’d never towed anything in my life before this day. What compelled me to select the pickup with a 7,500-pound load attached as my first drive, I have no idea. But the F-150 makes it easy.

Short Report: The refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 is a pick-your-own version of just right

Like minivans, a truck’s purpose can be design-limiting but the new F-150 remains a capable driver for any type of hauling.

(Beverly Braga)

Capacities will vary due to axle ratio and drive type but with 325 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque (an increase of 25), the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 has a towing range of 7,600 to 8,000 pounds. If you simply need to pull more, like a miniature house, the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 delivers a best-in-class 13,200 pounds of towing capacity, which is a 1,000-pound jump from last year. Because 375 horsepower and 470 lb.-ft. of torque will do that.

Behind the wheel, my Lightning Blue F-150 XLT SuperCrew 4×4 felt as light as they come. Slow and steady may win races if you’re up against a boastful hare, but with plenty of power and good steering feel, keeping up with the country traffic was less nerve-wracking than I expected.

At no time did the truck feel unwieldy or underpowered when pulling the utility trailer. When braking into a stop too late or entering a corner too fast, the F-150 never felt unstable, surer of itself than I was of my own capabilities. Driver-assistance technologies include trailer-specific blind spot monitoring and a rearview camera hitch assist.

Short Report: The refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 is a pick-your-own version of just right

The best-selling ruck 40 years running, the new Ford F-150 continues to be a recognizable face among the full-size pickup crowd.

(Beverly Braga)

On the more dynamic drive through nearby Gregory, Michigan, which essentially was the not-so-secret test route for an infamous annual 10-best list, the 5.0L V8-powered Race Red XLT SuperCrew 4×4 I later took the helm of felt, well, fine. Mild-mannered and non-truck like, really, despite its color and Sport package, which added cosmetic treatments rather than any adjustments to tuning.

With 395 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque, both year-over-year increases at plus-10 and plus-13, respectively, the 5.0L barreled down the country roads as quickly as every other truck we passed, but probably with better handling. There was a fair amount of twisty turns and off-camber corners, too, but I was not inclined to push the limits of the nearly 5,000-pound behemoth.

Although the tree-lined roads made for pretty scenery, those trees do fall as happened the last time I enjoyed a drive there. Still, high-spirited driving or not, the F-150’s dynamics are more compliant than jaw-dropping (Raptor version excluded, of course). But if you’re spending your day working with and around a truck, you don’t want to exert the same amount of energy in driving it, too.

Short Report: The refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 is a pick-your-own version of just right

The F-150 offers all the luxury you want—if you’re willing to spend the money. Starting at less than $30,000, the base model XL rides on 17-inch steel wheels and features manual windows. A top-of-the-line Platinum with all the trimmings, however, will cost more than twice that.

(Beverly Braga)

Where you will be doing a bit of work is with the vehicle configurator. Regular, extended, and crew cabs are available for all but the F-150 Raptor model, which is not offered with a regular cab. Moar doors when the dino roars, I guess. As trim lines go, the F-150 starts with the XL as its base model and moves up to XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum. Lariat and above can be selected only for four-door models as well.

All 2018 F-150 models are outfitted with the aforementioned start-stop system and all but 3.3-liter-equipped vehicles receive the new and, ahem, segment-first 10-speed automatic transmission. A carryover 6-speed automatic with Tow/Haul and Sport drive modes are relegated to the 3.3L entry engine, itself a downsize from a non-EcoBoost 3.5L. The new 10-speed features additional modes Snow/Wet and EcoSelect.

The look for the F-150 has been updated as well with a new front grille, headlights, taillights, and tailgate. The 18- to 20-inch wheels come in new design options as do a variety of interior trims and appearance packages. Most of the changes are more serene than bold, but the F-150 remains an easily recognizable fascia in the crowd.

And because all the engines are new or updated, fuel economy is up as well. From our test, the 2.7L EcoBoost V6 is an all-new second generation seeing a 1 mpg improvement on all figures for 4×4 models. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 19 city, 24 highway, and 21 combined mpg. The 4×2 version sees a 1 city mpg bump to 20/26/22, which is best-in-class.

The updated 5.0L V8 picks up the biggest gains and for both drive types. The 4×2 is rated at 17/23/19, an increase of 2/1/1 mpg, respectively. The 4×4 model is rated at 16/22/18, which is an improvement of 1 mpg for all ratings.

Short Report: The refreshed 2018 Ford F-150 is a pick-your-own version of just right

Interior comfort is standard in the Ford F-150. Although they could provide more bolstering, available power-adjustable pedals and front seats allow anyone to find the ideal sitting position behind the wheel.

(Beverly Braga)

Although the 2018 Ford F-150 starts at $28,675 (including the $1,295 destination), one would be hard pressed to keep pricing at less than $30,000. A bare bones XL is exactly that with its 17-inch steel wheels, AM/FM-only radio, and throwback manually-operated windows, mirrors, and locks. But there is air conditioning. Manually operated, of course.

Our mid-level testers were a tad pricier. Our 2.7L EcoBoost V6 towing vehicle was priced at $50,385 while our 5.0L V8 road runner is similarly listed at $51,380. Both were XLT SuperCrew 4×4 models with Sport Appearance packages.

They were equipped with sport cloth upholstery, heated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver and front passenger seats, remote start, power adjustable pedals, SYNC3 with an 8-inch touchscreen navigation display, smartphone integration, a rearview camera with dynamic hitch assist, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and trailer coverage.

Regardless of which truck, bed, and drive you choose, the 2018 Ford F-150 remains a capable choice but with so many configurations and almost everything being an option, it becomes a pricey apple to pick. But, wait. There’s even more! (No, I’m not kidding.)

On the horizon is a 3.0L Power Stroke V6 diesel. Slated for a spring 2018 debut, it will mostly likely only further extend the sales lead of the pickup truck champ. More is more, apparently, as it certainly continues to work for the F-150 lineup.

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