Smooth and quiet, the Ford F-150 is comfortable on bumpy streets around town, over rugged terrain at construction sites, around farms and over utility roads, and on the open highway. Its steering is nicely weighted and requires little correction on the highway making it nice for long cross-country tows. The cabs are comfortable, whether ordered with leather or cloth.
The 2012 Ford F-150 lineup offers a plethora of models in dozens of permutations. All are highly capable trucks, even those loaded with luxury features. The F-150 was completely redesigned for 2009. For 2011, the F-150 received a new engine lineup and electric-assist steering on all but 6.2-powered Crew Cabs. For 2012, the Lariat Limited model is no longer offered, but one of the nine F-150 versions should be close enough.
A new FX appearance package is for 2012 F-150 FX2 and FX4 models that includes 20-inch wheels and lots of flat-black trim inside and out. The FX Luxury package adds cooling to the heatable front seats.
Other noteworthy changes include electric shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive for 2012 F-150 XL up to Lariat models, while 2012 F-150 Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum offer a 4x4 auto mode that requires no driver action and hill start assist. All 2012 F-150 4WD models can now be flat-towed behind another vehicle, like a motorhome or larger construction truck. And a new locking rear differential for 2012 is offered on more axle ratios and 2WD models than the old limited-slip was.
The F-150 lineup runs the gamut from wash-off vinyl flooring and a two-door Regular Cab to leather-lined premium four-door models with as much rear-seat legroom as the front of most luxury sedans: Within those extremes lies something for everyone. Yet even the least-expensive F-150 isn't boring; it leaves room for customization, does the work required, and keeps overhead down.
With one of the deepest beds in the segment, the F-150 has generous cargo volume out back and a maximum payload rating of 3,060 pounds; most versions carry 1,550-2,100 pounds. Any cab model F-150 can be optioned to tow more than 11,000 pounds; the range varies from 5,500-11,300 pounds. (The Ford Super Duty line of heavy-duty pickups is covered in a separate New Car Test Drive review.)
Two V8 and two V6 engines are offered, all with 6-speed automatic transmissions. Standard on 2WD is a 302-hp 3.7-liter V6. Other choices include a 360-hp 5-liter V8, the only engine offered on every cab/bed combination, a 411-hp 6.2-liter V8 on SuperCrew short beds, and a 365-hp twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 on all but regular cab short beds. Each engine except the 6.2 offers multiple axle ratios.
Many years the best-selling pickup, the F-150's had a target on it for those same years. So it has to stay competitive: The standard V6 is more powerful than any other pickup V6 and the same horsepower as Chevy's 1.1-liter-larger V8; the 6.2 offered in Crew Cabs and Raptor is more powerful than any half-ton pickup engine; it's the only pickup that comes with a 6-speed automatic in every model. And its maximum payload and weight ratings are competitive in a world where numbers and rankings often change monthly.
Like any full-size pickup, the key to an F-150 is assessing your needs accurately and choosing the best one among all the permutations. Also like any pickup, remember that maximum payload and maximum trailer weight don't go together, are available only on a few of the 50-plus versions, and often decline as soon as you check an option box other than paint or aluminum wheels. Also remember the EPA ratings are only that, for empty trucks, and you are moving around at least 5,000 pounds. Do that, and you should be quite happy with any F-150.
The 2012 Ford F-150 comes in more than four-dozen configurations, so it's easier to find which setups you can not get: No luxury trim Regular Cab, no ultra-lux SuperCab, and no long-bed SuperCrew. Everything else is split amongst four wheelbases, three cab sizes, three bed lengths (one of which is available in two styles), four engines, nine trim levels, and rear- or four-wheel drive.
Regular Cabs are offered in standard bed (about 6.5 feet) and long bed (about 8 feet) XL, STX, or XLT grades. SuperCab trucks add higher FX and Lariat trim to choices plus SVT's Raptor, and a short-bed option (about 5.5 feet). A long-bed SuperCab is available only with the heavy-duty package. The SuperCrew F-150, available with either the short bed or standard bed, drops the STX grade and adds King Ranch and Platinum derivatives while Harley-Davidson is SuperCrew short bed only.
The F-150 XL ($22,990) is a standard bed, Regular Cab two-wheel drive. It comes with 3.7-liter V6, 17-inch steel wheels, black bumper/grille/mirrors, and vinyl upholstery and floor covering. XL includes air conditioning, split front bench (and rear on four-door cabs), locking tailgate, tilt steering wheel, stability control, capless fuel filler and a stereo radio. 4x4 models get standard electric-shift-on-the-fly 4WD.
F-150 STX ($26,665) adds body-color bumpers over a black grille, CD player, and cloth seats with driver lumbar. More equipment is available, including 18-inch wheels, Sirius radio, SYNC, cruise control, fog lamps and power mirrors.
Many models of F-150, the longest bed in all three cab styles, are available with a heavy-duty payload package with 3.5 and 5-liter engines. This is typically about $1,700 and required to get the maximum payload rating about 1,000 pounds heavier than standard F-150. It includes stouter parts underneath and 7-lug 17x7.5 inch wheels.
F-150 XLT ($27,690) adds chrome for bumpers and trim, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, automatic headlamps, carpeting, cruise control, power windows and locks, and better cloth upholstery. All manner of options are available on the XLT, including three wheel diameters, tailgate step, cargo management and towing equipment.
F-150 FX4 ($37,480) and FX2 ($33,900) come with a 5-liter V8, black grille and body-colored bumpers, trim and mirrors. Standard are fog lamps, a locking differential, towing package, 18-inch wheels, sporty cloth split bench seat (power driver on four-doors), Sirius radio, and electric-shift 4WD on FX4. Options include infotainment and 17-inch (for more severe off-road use) 20-inch wheels and the FX appearance pack that includes 20s and lots of blacked-out pieces.
F-150 Lariat ($35,010) is the mainstream luxury F-150 and hence is four-door only with V8 or turbo V6 engines. Chrome trim and bumpers highlight monotone paint, and the Lariat adds heated mirrors with signal repeaters and auto-dimming on the driver's and inside, dual-zone climate control, heated power leather seats with driver memory, leather wheel with redundant audio controls, tow package, SYNC, trip computer, and power adjustable pedals. Options include 20-inch wheels, heated/cooled front seats, Sony sound and navigation, trailer brake controller, rear camera and park sensors, and moonroof.
F-150 King Ranch ($42,515) is like a Lariat with a different attitude. It adds two-tone paint and KR badges, unique wheels, mesh chrome grille, Chaparral leather heated and cooled power captain's chairs with driver memory, running boards, and power folding, heated, signal outside mirrors with chrome caps. Options are essentially limited to engines, a locking differential, alternative axle ratios, 20-inch wheels, Sony sound and navigation systems, moonroof, chrome tube running boards and remote start.
F-150 Platinum SuperCrew ($44,235) gets a unique satin chrome grille, body-color bumpers and wheel lip moldings, 20-inch wheels, power-deploy/retract running boards, satin chrome tailgate trim, tuxedo-stitched leather power captain's chairs, wood grain and brushed aluminum trim, rain-sensing wipers, power folding/heated mirrors, and unique console. Options are limited but you can get 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires for luxury on the farm.
A special F-150 Harley-Davidson edition ($48,720 2WD/$51,995 4WD) comes with 6.2-liter V8 only and decked out in colors and heavy chrome trim befitting the brand it's named after.
Ford's SVT division offers the Raptor SuperCab ($42,570) and Raptor SuperCrew ($45,470) intended for serious off-road use. It comes only with the 411-hp 6.2-liter V8. Unique long-travel high-performance suspension, wheels and tires, and aggressive bodywork set it apart from any other F-150. A front camera is offered for seeing close-in obstacles or drops obscured by the hood.
The F-150 option list is comprehensive and, although simplified in recent years, can still resemble the tax code to the uninitiated; there are, for example, many option codes for running boards and trailer towing mirrors. Most options are dependent on the model and other options, and many features are standard on more expensive models or go that way with engine upgrades. In addition, prices of options often vary by trim level.
All prices listed above are just a starting point for the trim level. Options and packages add to the price, though they may also add to your enjoyment of the vehicle. To approximate an upgrade, add $2500-$3500 for four-wheel drive, $250-$350 for a longer bed, and $1500-$4000 for a larger cab. In many cases these upgrades add more standard equipment and/or a larger engine. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Mechanical options include engine upgrades, alternate axle ratios, limited-slip or locking differentials, larger tires and upgraded wheels, skid plates, towing mirrors, trailer brake controller ($230), 36-gallon long-bed fuel tank, tailgate step, heavy-duty payload package, and Ford Works systems like an in-dash computer. An engine block heater is available to fleet buyers and standard on Alaska and northern plains-state trucks. Other upgrades include captain's chairs bucket seats with center console, power sliding rear window, rear-view camera (with or without navigation) reverse parking sensors, tri-coat or two-tone paint, moonroof ($995), Sirius radio, sound systems, remote start, and navigation.
Safety features that come standard include antilock brakes, AdvanceTrac RSC electronic stability control, trailer sway control, frontal airbags, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. Safety-related options include an integrated trailer brake controller, rear-view camera, MyKey, and reverse park sensors.