Handling & Ride Characteristics – JD,”I can’t seem to drive it well!”
Trucks require more precision driving. You can’t just throw the thing into the corner, and expect it to turn immediately. You have to feather it, and be linear and gentle with the inputs which basically a necessity in driving anything with wheels on it. Only you won’t be penalized in a normal vehicle. But in a truck, if you apply rapid steering, first of all it does not react as quick, secondly, the magnitude of the movement can be overexerted and upsets the balance of the massive chassis. At the limit, the F-150 can generate respectable 0.7 lateral g-force in the 300′ diameter skidpad.
Ford’s AdvanceTrac traction with Roll Stability Control can be disabled via a conveniently located button on top of the center console. It permits the tail to slide for some slow speed drifting action. It also saved us from JD’s heavily rapid yet unnecessary inputs.
The suspensions in a pickup truck are tuned for both heavy, and light load conditions. When properly equipped, the F-150 can tow from 7,700 to 10,000 lbs. It also has 1,700 lbs payload capacity. It is like designing two different vehicles on the same set of springs and shocks. Heavy load requires stiffer springs, and shocks. But under light load condition with stiff springs, the ride can be overly jittery, resulting in harshness and reduction in ride quality. Or too softly sprung, the heavy load will cause the truck to sag, and bottom out which affects safety.
With 4 adults on board, and the bed filled with camping gears, the ride quality is superior. On the road, the ride is smooth and stable. There’s no difference in ride quality than a well-sorted full-size sedan. It soaks up pavement irregularities much better than the previous F-150 where it is busy with hops, bops, and rattles the body-on-frame chassis.
Supporting the new fully boxed frame chassis are the independent coil-on-shock on long-spindle double-wishbones with anti-roll bar suspension in the front end, while the rear features Hotchkiss-type leaf spring live axle with outboard mount shock absorbers. The mono-tube shocks do a good job in keeping the heavy live rear axle in check.
In tune with the performance rated powertrain, the F-150’s responsive handling impressed us even at our standard handling evaluation test route in the tight mountain roads meant for sporty cars.
Understeering is ample when going into the corner too hot. The front outside tire squeals for mercy. The, front wheel drive sedan like, 57% front and 43% rear curb weight distribution explains this attribute. A gentle throttle input to transfer some of the weight to the rear alleviate the squeal. The F-150 does feel more planted and better balanced with some cargo loads in the bed.
The squeal from a set of P265/70R17 Michelin LTX A/T all-terrain light-truck tires are communicative. The LTX are the go-anywhere type of tires. They are commercial rated for long wear and fuel efficiency on both on/off road terrain with low noise, and vibration for everyday use. These are good tires for the F-150. They have much better lateral grip than anticipated for its light-trunk rating.
Despite the thick tire sidewall, we found the electric power-assisted steering precise with good feedback, and on-center feel. The Nexteer Automotive supplied rack-and-pinion steering that features rack mount electric motor with 20:1 steering ratio is well-weighted, and properly mounted in front of the axle.
To educate JD, we lectured him that to drive well how one need to be in unity with the vehicle. As to how to feel the car, how to to pay intimate attention to the sensations between the hands and the steering wheel. You’ve got to lick it, before you stick it.
Brake Performance & Feel – In speaking of feel, JD starts to remove his shoes and socks.
JD found himself braking more often, maybe excited by the new found sensations, or just trying to maintain the desire speed from his new exposure to the awesome power and handling.
Strong brake is a must for a full size truck. The mass, and its forward momentum of the truck will force the vehicle on level surface maintain coasting speed longer than a typical car. In the decline, its momentum increases, even more so when towing and hauling a load.
Just in case JD decided to get one before perfecting the art of driving such as looking ahead, creating the 2-second rule of frontal buffer zone. Integrated to the AdvanceTrac is 4-wheel ABS with electronic force distribution brake system. The supporting hardware consists of dual-piston calipers on 13.8” x 1.35” vented disc in the front, and single piston on13.7 x 0.98” vented disc in the rear.
The brake pedal is intuitive to modulate, and weighted properly with communicative feedback. These are the attributes car enthusiasts are craving for and is a bit too sharp for JD who are used to stepping on sponges through these years.
Under JD’s heavy footed braking, ABS kicks in sooner than expected. Perhaps, it is adjusted for the lightness of the rear end since truck has minimal weight in the rear, and tends to lock up the rear first. Nose dive is more pronounced unladen. The F-150 stops from 70 mph in lenghty 194′.
Features & Technologies – “JD,” I yelled, “why are you stripping naked?” JD,”I want to experience the cockpit feel!”
We could only applaud JD’s willingness to learn.
Situated in the center of the attractive instrument cluster is Ford’s “Productivity” LCD screen. The graphic through its 4.2-inch, 480×272 pixels resolution display, is visually pleasing. The screen is access through the five-way button on the steering wheel. It responses to user input promptly with intuitive interface.
The screen displays vast amount of vehicle information (insert pics), and contains the vehicle setting menu. The feature that we found interesting is the offroad truck apps, where it shows pitch and bank angles, front wheel direction and drivetrain mode. A trailer app is available when a trailer is hitched. The app can be set to recognize the trailer, and stores brake controller setting. The term apps and live axle co-exist in one article can be mind bothering for some but both works excellently here. We also appreciate the oil pressure and transmission temperature analog gauges in the instrument cluster.
The steering wheel has only adjustment for rake however with the height adjustable pedals, we have no problem finding our ideal driving position. The turn signal is European inspired 3 consecutive blinks with half engagement pull on the blinker stalk. The switchgear are legible and intuitive to use.
Enveloping JD’s now bare bottom is the comfortable front seat that lacks lateral support for those drive it like an ultimate handling machine. Outward visibility is good but the reverse sensing sensor is the much appreciated feature for backing up as the rear bumper is 9′ away from the driver.
The center console under the armrest is wide and deep. It holds a couple of laptops at ease. It has integrated slots for file hangers. Plenty of small storage bins throughout the cabin as well to store JD’s clothing.
At freeway speed, road noise from the C-pillar when sitting in the backseat is more apparent in a cabin that is generally as quiet as any luxury vehicle. Thus offers an great environment to enjoy lively, strong bass sound from the standard 6-speaker audio system.
The rear seat flips up and out of the way delivering a 57.6 cu-ft interior cargo space. The flat rear floor also makes cargo loading a breeze. The backseat is not reclinable, and the seating position is a bit straight. Leg room is limousine like.
The interior is nicely assembled, and aesthetically pleasing with good material quality. Much better than the Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri, also builds the Transit, would suggest. AC is superior to cool down the roomy cabin in the intense 95-degree weather. The electric powered sliding back window is a lovely feature. With it open when driving it really removes the stagnant hot air in the cabin. The back window also provides another channel to enjoy the addicting exhaust notes.
The only drawback we noticed may only be the halogen reflector-style headlights that do not have enough spread angle for attacking twisty mountain roads in pitch darkness.
Powertrain Performance & Refinement
Handling & Ride Characteristics
Brake Performance & Feel
Comfort & Workmanship
Features & Technologies
Will I buy one factor
My recommendation factor
Lamzgarage factual ratings. Dollar-to-Horsepower: $116.51/HP, Dollar-to-Trunk Space: $975.47/cu-ft.
Afterthought – As long as JD has one, we are all good.
To ease JD’s concerns when drawing comparison between his soccer mobile and the F-150. We’ve made him a simple chart.
With 4 person on board, the fuel economy in the F-150 is quadrupled which makes it greener than the put-puts hybrids with solo occupant. For non-commercial use, trucks are good if you haul and tow things that other can’t handle.
For $41k, I would personally save up few more pennies for the 2014 Alfa Romeo 4C. As long as JD has a F-150, I will be his best friend forever. Friends with benefits has other meanings. End