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The Ford F-150 has remained the best selling vehicle in the United States for the last 33 years, with the Blue Oval building more than 750,000 per year. So, what makes Americans love this iconic truck so much?
Firstly, it’s the looks. The new 2016 Ford F-150 might be lighter, more fuel efficient and better for towing, but its iconic tough looks remain its best selling feature.
The new truck is more than 300kg lighter than before, thanks in large to an aluminium construction that companies such as Jaguar are only now boasting about. It also comes with engines that make you think it will be dismissively underpowered, but that’s far from the case.
Starting from just $26,995 USD, the Ford F-150 comes with a choice of a turbocharged 2.7-litre (242kW, 508Nm) and 3.5-litre (272kW, 570Nm) EcoBoost V6 engines, a naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 (210kW, 343Nm) and the range-topping but relatively inefficient 5.0-litre V8 (287kW, 523Nm).
In real dollars, you’ll be paying between US$30,000-$60,000 for the base to the top spec, which even at today’s relatively poor USD to AUD conversion rate, is a hell of a lot cheaper than what we get our smaller-sized utes for.
Speaking of which, the success of the Ford Ranger, which some at Ford refer to as the F-100, is largely due to its F-150-like body style and front grille. It’s no wonder than that the F-150 is so hotly desired in our market.
But lets kill those hopes first up, because the new Ford F-150 is not coming our way. Australia’s decision to become a right-hand-drive market way back when all but assured that the Europeans and Americans would have to spend millions of dollars modifying vehicle ranges for our market in the future.
In retrospect, it was a terrible decision that put us in the minority. To make matters worse, other right-hand-drive markets such as the United Kingdom and Japan had changed their rules long ago to allow left-hand-drive vehicles to be road registered and driven like any other car, a policy that our government is mortified to implement.
Why isn’t the F-150 being converted to right-hand drive you ask? Well here’s the problem. The F-150 sells rather well (an understatement if there ever was one), in fact, having toured the Ford Rouge plant in Detroit where more than 350,000 F-150s are made each year, it's worth knowing that every single car that comes down the production line is presold.
Other plants that also produce the F-150 share the same (good) problem. Ford can’t seem to make enough of them, so the economics of then investing yet more money just to create the vehicle in right-hand drive for our market makes no business sense, it makes sense to up capacity in left-hand drive to meet existing demand.
All that aside, though, how does it drive?
The Ford F-150 is pretty darn good. Much like how this writer believes the Ford Ranger to be the best ute on the market in Australia, it would be fair to say the F-150 is up there in its own category.
We started our drive in a 2.7-litre turbocharged V6, which we have to admit we thought would be a slug. It wasn’t. In fact, it felt more than adequate – lively if we dare say – even with two adults on board (admittedly no load or tow).
The most interesting thing about driving the F-150 is its size. It’s massive (that will surely get a laugh from F-250 and F-350 owners), even in its smallest configuration. Despite being the most popular vehicle in America, it seems to struggle to fit in the lanes and attempting to parallel-park one is somewhat entertaining.
But it doesn’t drive like the big truck stereotype you may expect. It actually turns (in those rare occasions when the roads in Michigan have a bend in them) with ease and though it would be ridiculous to punt it hard around a corner (we did anyway… for the sake of science) it performs admirably when asked.
The sweet spot, though, is the 3.5-litre turbocharged V6 that happens to also be in the Ford GT supercar (in a more powerful twin-turbo and supercar-tuned incarnation). So how many trucks do you know of that share a similar engine with a supercar?
The F-150 3.5-litre V6 screams off the line with a roar not too unlike a V8. Ford doesn’t provide acceleration figures but this thing makes the short-lived and relatively unpopular Toyota Hilux TRD look an afterhour’s hobby project.
Once you get over the fact that your truck can drag hot-hatches off the line, you can appreciate the interior, which, admittedly, isn’t all that great.
Sure it has lots of storage and bottle holders that make an Australian McDonald’s large-size Coke look smaller than a piccolo latte, it still doesn’t feel all that premium. Arguably, it’s fit for purpose, tough and solid inside, even if a little Spartan.
We despise the Ford MyTouch infotainment system, as usual, but other than that it’s hard to really complain about the truck.
If you’re wondering, the lowest towing capacity of the F-150 EcoBoost engines, in rear-wheel-drive form with the 2.7-litre V6, is 3.5 tonnes. That goes up to 5.5 tonnes with the 3.5-litre ecoboost and if you use the fifth-wheel option, it becomes a ridiculous 7,756kg.
Would it work in Australia? Absolutely. It might be big, bulky and very American, but considering our insatiable desire for utes, the F-150 would be a hit. A big hit.
Of course, you can get one if you’re willing to pay. They are already selling here for exorbitant prices thanks to outfits such as Performax who go through the pain of converting the previous-generation to right-hand drive. No new-generation F-150s have been converted to right-hand drive as of yet.
Ford Australia previously sold the F-Series all the way back in 2007, when it sourced a right-hand-drive job from a Ford factory in Brazil. It wasn’t the same as the American-built models, though those units are still chasing big bucks on the second-hand market.
If you have to compromise, then the F-150’s nemesis, the Dodge Ram, will be on sale in Australia by the end of this year, following a deal between Dodge USA and an independent distributor who will buy them from the factory and have them converted to manufacturer-approved standards by Walkinshaw automotive in Melbourne.