2020 Ford F-150

By April 24, 2020

Full-size pickup trucks don’t really change much. Each competitor, including the Ford F-150, has an avid owner base made up of people who wouldn’t dream of considering another make. Others, of course, just might be convinced to switch sides. The 2020 Ford F-150 comes in a dizzying variety of choices, all of which are worthy of consideration.

Not much has changed for the 2020 model year, but Ford did make active safety features more available. All models get automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warnings, and automatic high-beam headlights. The Lariat trim and above also include blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, and active lane control, while the range-topping Limited also gets adaptive cruise control. New STX and XLT Appearance packages are available.

Ford’s full-size pickup has been America’s top seller for decades. Up to three cab configurations are offered: the two-door Regular cab, the extended SuperCab, and the four-door SuperCrew. Cargo beds may be 5.5-, 6.5-, or 8-feet long. Fuel economy wins no prizes, but nearly every other attribute comes on strong.

Four V-6 gas engines are available. The base engine in the XL and XLT is a 3.3-liter V-6 that makes 290 horsepower and is mated with a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Most shoppers will probably prefer the 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged V-6, which is standard on the Lariat and available on the XL and XLT. It’s rated at 325 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque and can easily tow up to 8,500 pounds.

Available for the Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels, the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 is rated at 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, ranking as a contender against V-8 power. A higher-output version in Limited and Raptor trucks generates 450 hp and 510 lb-ft.

Plenty of buyers prefer the familiar 5.0-liter V-8, which develops 395 hp and 400 lb-ft while releasing a lusty exhaust rumble. It’s standard on King Ranch and Platinum models. In recent times, V-6s have overtaken the V-8 in terms of power, but properly-equipped V-8 trucks can tow as much as 11,600 pounds.

Additionally, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 with 250 hp and 440 lb-ft is available, but it’s an expensive upgrade.

Rear-wheel drive is standard on every trim but the Raptor, but four-wheel drive is a popular optiont that’s available on all other models. All engines but the 3.3-liter V-6 are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission.

Though better than predecessors, the F-150 provides only average fuel efficiency for its class. Fuel economy is best in a rear-wheel-drive turbodiesel, which is EPA-rated at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, and 24 combined.

The base 3.3-liter V-6 gets 19/25/22 mpg with RWD and 18/23/20 mpg with four-wheel drive. With the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6, the F-150 achieves 20/26/22 mpg with RWD or 18/23/20 mpg with 4WD. Both the 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and V-8 achieve 17/23/19 mpg with RWD. The Raptor only gets 15/18/16 mpg.

Federal and independent testers announced good ratings in most crash tests. SuperCrew models earned a five-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA, while Regular and SuperCab variants get four stars.

The F-150 also scored the highest-possible “Good” score on every IIHS crash test. However, it failed to earn a Top Safety Pick due to its “Poor-”rated headlights.

Model Lineup

The F-150 comes in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trim levels, plus the assertive Raptor.

The XL costs $30,090 to start. It’s the no-frills model that comes with the 3.3-liter V-6, a 4.2-inch display, manual windows and door locks, vinyl floors, flip-up seats, AM/FM radio, and flip-up seats.

The $36,105 XLT also comes with the base V-6, but upgrades to a more modern 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Other newly standard features include cloth upholstery, two USB ports, wi-fi hotspot capability,

The Lariat is priced from $44,740 and gets the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6. It’s also the first trim where the SuperCab is standard. Other upgrades include leather upholstery, push-button start, ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, an 8.0-inch digital instrument display, blind-spot monitors, and active lane control.

The $54,980 King Ranch gets the SuperCrew configuration as standard, along with the V-8 engine. The King Ranch takes on a southwestern motif with saddle-colored leather, unique wheels, trim, and two-tone paint. Other features include 10-way power front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, LED lights, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

Next up in cost is the Raptor, which starts at $54,800. This off-road-oriented trim brings a more aggressive exterior design with bulging fender flares, as well as Fox shocks, a unique suspension, and a fully locking rear differential. It houses the high-output 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 and standard 4WD.

The Platinum, which is only available in SuperCrew form, costs $57,510 and adds power running boards and a unique grille and trim. It features the V-8 engine.

The top-of-the-line Limited is priced from $69,725. It gets the high-output 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6, a dual-pane moonroof, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera system, an automated parking system, and 22-inch wheels.

Exterior

For decades, Ford has kept its “classic” F-150 simple, practical, and straightforward. Nothing about the big pickup is hidden or obscure.

Boxy and upright, the F-150 is an amalgamation of right angles and straight lines – unlike GM and Ram competitors, which lean toward curves. Appearance details vary by trim level, but all grilles are wide and bodies are tall. Sport versions favor honeycomb patterns and black accents. Limited and Platinum models pile on the chrome. Wide “Ford” badges span each tailgate.

Regular cabs, offered only in XL and XLT trim, have two doors and aim at fleet buyers. SuperCab (extended-cab) models get two small, rear-hinged doors. SuperCrew trucks have four full-size doors.

Interior

Regular-cab trucks typically contain a wide bench and big center console, with crank-open windows. Easy-clean interiors, with no back seat, enhance their utility as work trucks.

SuperCab trucks – available in XL, XLT, Lariat, and Raptor trims – have a shrunken rear seat that’s suitable for small passengers. Or better yet, folded to provide in-cab storage. SuperCrew models, with a full-size back seat, are definitely the most comfortable for five adults.

Upper trims might be plush, nearing luxury-level accommodations, but all cabins are built to withstand mud and dirt while looking good. Fit and finish can vary dramatically.

Dashboards are plain in XL and XLT versions, but upper trim levels add big consoles and infotainment touchscreens. Knobs, shifters, and controls are built for use – and abuse. Hard buttons that control critical functions are usable with thick work gloves.

Full-size seats, whether bench or buckets, are all-day comfortable. In top trims, multi-adjustable seats can be heated, cooled, reclined, or stowed. King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited models are upholstered in sumptuous leather.

Driving Impressions

Every F-150 rides and handles like a tall truck. No surprise, since that’s what they are.

Drivetrains excel. The high-output twin-turbo V-6, in particular, performs like a big V-8, unleashing profuse power. Even the base engine is fine, accelerating quietly with ample low-end torque.

Ford’s 10-speed automatic transmission downshifts with ease, hardly noticed even when dropping by a couple of gears. Especially when fed by the 2.7-liter V-6, it’s a worthy choice.

Ford skips air springs and adaptive shock absorbers, retaining traditional rear leaf springs and a solid axle. At higher speed, the truck can bound and pitch. Low or medium speeds restrict that tendency. Stability control systems, when towing a trailer, can keep the F-150 composed.

Ponderous handling is a curse of heavy trucks, including Ford’s. Use of lightweight materials helps, but handling still wins no prizes. Though refined, the optional turbodiesel V-6 doesn’t haul or tow any more than a gasoline engine.

Each F-150 rides comfortably and quietly. Piped-in noise cancellation in V-6 models squelches some harsher engine sounds.

During past test-drives, Ford’s active lane control system has incorrectly read pavement seams as lane markings, triggering a pinball-like effect.

Final Word

Solid powertrains head the list of virtues going for the 2020 Ford F-150, augmented by incredible utility and capabilities, quiet running, and a vast choice of options. Some big pickups ride better. Others are more luxurious. But few combine so many attributes, along with such a multi-generation heritage. Based on flexibility, daily-drive comfort, and available powertrains, the XLT seems like the best value – especially with the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6.

 

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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