Year after year, experts declare the Ford F-150 the best full-size pickup truck you can buy. Last year's engines were a bit weak, but testers say this year's four new engine choices thoroughly crush that problem, and they once again recommend the 2011 F-150 over all other pickup trucks.
The F-150's new entry-level engine -- a 302-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 -- easily out-hauls and out-tows a comparable 2011 GMC Sierra 1500 (Base MSRP: $21,235 to $47,030) and 2011 Dodge Ram 1500 (Base MSRP $20,810 to $45,810) while still guzzling the least gas in a test at PickupTrucks.com. Edmunds.com editors warn buyers away from the sluggish and underpowered base engines on the Sierra, Ram and 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (Base MSRP: $21,235 to $42,160), but they make no such complaint about the base F-150. It's even fun to drive, says Sajeev Mehta at TheTruthAboutCars.com.
"That's right, an $18,000-ish truck can rev to 7,000 rpm and bring a smile to one's face," Mehta says after testing all four available F-150 engines alongside a big-engine Silverado and Ram. If you want to tow more than 5,000 or 6,000 pounds, you'll need to spring for one of the more powerful F-150s. But Mehta says most truck buyers will be happy with the base F-150, "far and away the most exciting truck I've experienced in years."
It's also the most fuel-efficient full-size pickup you can buy (without going hybrid or diesel). Expect 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway/19 mpg combined with the base engine and rear-wheel drive, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Four-wheel drive sacrifices 2 mpg highway and 1 mpg city and overall.
If you need more power, you've got three choices. Ford is unique in that it offers a 3.5-liter, twin-turbo, V6, EcoBoost engine, which cranks out 365 horsepower while sacrificing only 1 mpg versus the base engine. It can tow 11,300 pounds, too -- as much as some super-duty turbodiesel trucks. Test drivers are impressed, but more than one expert wonders whether the turbocharged engine will hold up under heavy pickup use.
You can also opt for one of two V8 engines. The 5-liter V8 was pulled from the Ford Mustang, and testers love its snarl. It delivers 360 horsepower and tows up to 10,000 pounds. Expect 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive, dropping 2 mpg highway and 1 mpg city and overall with four-wheel drive.
For maximum power, the F-150 offers a 6.2-liter V8 that's good for 411 horsepower and up to 11,300 pounds towing. Gas mileage plummets to 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway/14 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive, cutting another 2 mpg highway and 1 mpg city and overall with four-wheel drive. The off-road-ready Ford F-150 SVT Raptor trim holds the dubious honor of being the least efficient standard pickup truck as measured by the EPA, wringing out only 11 mpg city/14 mpg highway/12 mpg combined.
All Ford F-150s now share the same six-speed automatic transmission.
The Ford F-150 comes in three cab styles. The regular cab seats three on a 40/20/40 split bench seat, with either a 6.5- or 8-foot cargo bed. You can get either of those beds or a short 5.5-footer on the extended SuperCab, which has narrow, reverse-opening rear doors and room for up to six with a 60/40 flip-up rear bench (front captain's chairs are available). The Ford F-150 SuperCrew comes with either the 5.5- or 6.5-foot bed, four full-size doors and plenty of room for five or six.
Edmunds.com does a good job differentiating between the F-150's 11 confusing trim levels: "base XL, sporty STX, popularly equipped XLT, rugged FX2/FX4, luxurious Lariat, Lariat Limited, leather-saddle-inspired King Ranch, blinged-out Platinum, bad-boy Harley-Davidson and extreme off-roader SVT Raptor."
The entry-level F-150 XL (Base MSRP: $22,790 to $34,755) has vinyl upholstery and very few features, except for air conditioning and a radio (XL SuperCrew cabs get power accessories and a few more conveniences). The Ford F-150 STX (Base MSRP: $26,630 to $32,685) adds cloth seats, a CD player with auxiliary audio jack and body-color trim.
The F-150 XLT (Base MSRP: $27,250 to $36,825) is a popular model, with power accessories, fog lamps and better cloth upholstery. The off-road-ready Ford F-150 FX2 (Base MSRP: $33,460 to $36,245) and FX4 (Base MSRP: $37,135 to $39,915) include a towing package, bigger 18-inch wheels, front bucket seats and convenience features including satellite radio and the Sync multifunction voice-command system with Bluetooth and iPod/USB audio interface. The FX4 also gets skid plates and retuned springs/shock absorbers.
Reviewers say the F-150 Lariat (MSRP: $34,495 to $40,545) is plenty luxurious, with heated leather seats, automatic temperature control and more. But the Ford F-150 also comes in four even more richly appointed versions with their own special wheels and trim. The F-150 Lariat Limited (Base MSRP: $47,705 to $50,970) adds heated rear seats and power-deployable running boards and standardizes options like ventilated front bucket seats, a trailer brake controller, navigation and a rearview camera. The F-150 King Ranch (Base MSRP: $42,300 to $45,865) has saddle-inspired leather seats (heated and cooled up front). The F-150 Platinum (Base MSRP: $44,110 to $47,675) includes 20-inch, polished aluminum wheels. And the F-150 Harley-Davidson (Base MSRP: $48,505 to $51,770) has 22-inch wheels and black-and-silver leather seats. The F-150 SVT Raptor (Base MSRP: $42,060 to $44,945) gets an electronically locking rear differential and special suspension and tires for high-performance off-roading.
Experts note that if you don't plan to tow or haul extremely heavy loads, you probably don't need a full-size pickup truck like the Ford F-150. The midsize Honda Ridgeline (Base MSRP: $29,150 to $34,730) offers spacious front and rear seats in a very reliable, high-quality truck, reviews say. The compact Toyota Tacoma (Base MSRP: $16,365 to $27,525) is adequately roomy, with better fuel economy than bigger trucks.
The 2011 F-150 is a Top Safety Pick at the independent Insurance Institute
for Highway Safety, where it earns the highest rating of Good in all crash
tests -- front, side, rear and rollover roof strength. In newly strengthened
government crash tests, the F-150 scores 4 stars overall out of 5 -- the
same as the Silverado, Sierra and
The Ford F-150's reliability has been at least average, experts say. It carries a three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain coverage.
PickupTrucks.com, an affiliate of Cars.com, tests the base 2011 F-150 head-to-head against rivals from Dodge and GMC to name the best work pickup. PickupTrucks.com has also thoroughly tested every version of the 2011 Ford F-150 -- including rigorous towing tests -- and explains what each version does best before picking an overall favorite F-150. Edmunds.com, ConsumerGuide.com, Motor Trend's Truck Trend and TheTruthAboutCars.com also evaluate the whole F-150 lineup, but in less detail. ConsumerReports.org and Autoblog.com do in-depth tests on one or two versions of the F-150. You'll find government fuel-economy estimates at FuelEconomy.gov, government crash ratings at SaferCar.gov and independent crash ratings at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
After testing all available engines in the 2011 Ford F-150, PickupTrucks.com picks the 5-liter V8 as "the box we'd likely check on the order form." During this 800-mile test, the F-150 tows a 9,000-pound horse trailer over mountains and across windy deserts without straining or swaying out of control. Mike Levine also explains what kinds of duty would be better suited to one of the other available engines and links to those reviews.
Review: Road Test Review: 2011 Ford F-150 XLT 5.0-liter V-8, Mike Levine, Feb. 7, 2011
Here, PickupTrucks.com tests three 2011 base-model pickups -- the Ford F-150, GMC Sierra 1500 and Dodge Ram -- head-to-head on the track, dragway and Detroit's streets and highways, looking for the best overall work truck. Editors consider gas mileage, braking, fit and finish, value and ride, handling and hill climbing both unloaded and loaded as well as hauling trailers. The Ford F-150 wins handily.
Review: 2010 V-6 Work Truck Shootout, Mike Levine, Nov. 10, 2010
This year's more powerful engine choices correct the Ford F-150's one big former flaw, Edmunds.com editors say. And it can be configured to meet just about any need, making it one of Edmunds.com's favorite pickup trucks.
Review: 2011 Ford F-150, Editors of Edmunds.com
The auto editors of ConsumerGuide.com conduct a comprehensive road test of the 2011 Ford F-150, testing all available engines and offering insights on acceleration, fuel economy and ride quality, as well as steering, handling, braking, quietness and comfort. Editors love the power and capability of the top-of-the-line Raptor version, but they find the more fuel-efficient lower-level versions a better value.
Review: 2011 Ford F-150: Road Test, Editors of ConsumerGuide.com
5. Truck Trend
Motor Trend's Truck Trend track tests all four available engines in the 2011 Ford F-150. There's no winner; rather, Allyson Harwood explains what types of jobs each engine does best.
Review: 2011 Ford F-150 Comparison: V-6 vs. V-8, Allyson Harwood, Aug. 2011
ConsumerReports.org tests two versions of the 2011 Ford F-150 -- the 5-liter V8 and the twin-turbo, EcoBoost V6 -- to see which one is faster, more fuel efficient and better at towing. This review includes a short video and clear buying advice. ConsumerReports.org also includes both versions of the F-150 in its pickup-truck rankings, available only to subscribers.
Review: Test Complete Video: 2011 Ford F-150 -- To EcoBoost or Not?, Tom Mutchler, Aug. 3, 2011
This thorough road test evaluates nearly every aspect of the 2011 Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew (fitted with the 5-liter V8 engine), from price and fuel economy to interior room and cargo convenience. Zach Bowman tests it both empty and loaded with 800 pounds of mulch. He finds very few drawbacks and says it's not surprising the F-150 perennially outsells other pickups.
Review: 2011 Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew, Zach Bowman, May 18, 2011
After driving all four 2011 F-150 engine choices at a Ford media event, Sajeev Mehta says most people will actually prefer the base 3.7-liter V6. Mehta says the 5-liter V8 is a nice step up, but the big 6.2-liter V8 is overkill, and he predicts the turbocharged EcoBoost will wear out early under usual pickup truck usage.
Review: Review: 2011 Ford F-150 (3.7 vs. 5.0 vs. 6.2 vs. Ecoboost), Sajeev Mehta, Oct. 4, 2010
FuelEconomy.gov lists mileage estimates for the 2011 Ford F-150 and other full-size pickups. Rear-wheel-drive F-150s with smaller engines land in the top third for fuel economy, but four-wheel-drive models fall to the middle of the pack, and the biggest-engine F-150 -- the 6.2-liter Raptor -- is the least fuel-efficient pickup you can buy.
Review: 2011 Standard Pickup Trucks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy
This chart shows overall crash-worthiness for large pickups. The Ford F-150 aces all Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests (rear, side, offset front and rollover roof strength).
Review: Large Pickups, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
This searchable database shows the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash-test performance and ratings for the 2011 Ford F-150. Rollover avoidance ratings vary (between 3 and 4 stars out of 5) depending on whether you choose rear- or four-wheel drive, but otherwise all versions of the 2011 F-150 earn identical scores: 3 stars for frontal-crash protection, 5 stars in side crashes and 4 stars overall.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration