2018 Ford F-150 Lariat and XL First Test: Excellence in All Forms


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The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for many years, and its heritage spans over half a century, with the F-Series lineup having been around since 1948. The 2018 F-150 is a refresh of the current-generation model, the first to feature an all-aluminum body to save weight and improve overall efficiency. As part of its midcycle update, the F-150 gets a revised exterior design, an updated engine lineup, new interior colors, updated active safety features, and an updated Sync 3 multimedia system. How do all of these changes affect an already solid lineup of trucks? We took two F-150s from both ends of the spectrum, an XL and a Lariat, for a spin to find out.

We tested the updated 2.7-liter EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 and the new base engine, a 3.3-liter V-6. The turbocharged engine came paired to a new 10-speed automatic transmission co-developed with General Motors, but the 3.3-liter V-6 is coupled to an older six-speed automatic. A major update to the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 is that it now makes 400 lb-ft of torque (up from 375 lb-ft), which you feel every time you’re behind the wheel. Although it only makes 325 hp, the generous amount of torque gets the truck moving swiftly. The 10-speed automatic works well with the turbocharged mill with its snappy shifts and ability to skip multiple gears when up- or downshifting. However, editor-in-chief Ed Loh observed that with 10 speeds to choose from, it did have a tendency to hunt for gears, and it gets more noticeable on grades.

The 3.3-liter V-6 in our base F-150 XL isn’t as powerful, but it’s acceptable considering it has 290 hp and 265 lb-ft on tap. You’ll immediately notice the lack of torque compared to the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 because the less powerful mill needs more revs to produce its power. On the move, however, we found it smooth and responsive. The six-speed automatic isn’t as quick to shift and hesitates to downshift. Multiple editors commented that the transmission needs quicker downshifts, especially on the highway. Gear hunting is also an issue with the six-speed, especially in Normal mode, but Sport and Tow modes solve the issue by holding on to lower gears longer.

On the track, the F-150 Lariat 2.7-liter twin-turbo V-6 hit 60 mph in 7.0 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.5 seconds at 89.5 mph.  The less powerful F-150 XL with its 3.3-liter V-6 did the 0-60-mph run in 7.6 seconds before finishing the quarter mile in 15.9 seconds at 88.2 mph. Not bad for the base engine. Where the F-150 Lariat separated itself from the base XL is in braking, stopping from 60 mph in 119 feet. The base F-150 XL stopped from 60 mph in 129 feet, 10 feet longer than the Lariat. On the figure-eight course, both trucks produced 0.59 g average, but the F-150 Lariat finished its run in 28.4 seconds versus the XL at 28.6 seconds, putting them neck and neck on the handling course. They also produced nearly similar lateral acceleration at 0.76 g for the Lariat and 0.75 g for the XL.

The F-150 rides and handles well for a truck, even with the larger alloy wheels on the Lariat, thanks to its excellent chassis. Road test editor Chris Walton was most impressed with the Lariat’s steering, which he deemed “shockingly precise and even provides some feedback.” Ride comfort isn’t sacrificed in favor of handling, thanks to the truck’s chassis, which gives it a level of balance that wouldn’t feel out of place in a car with a premium badge. The base XL is also smooth, but it’s slightly harsher than the Lariat on rough pavement. News editor Alex Nishimoto found that there’s a lot more vibration through the steering wheel and that the XL’s suspension bounces a bit more and takes a little more time to settle down.

Interior quality in the F-150 Lariat can easily pass as a luxury car, with plenty of soft-touch plastics and padding everywhere, including the dash. Nearly every place your arms fall is padded with something nice and cushy. The front seats offer plenty of adjustability, so getting comfortable is easy. There’s real wood trim on the doors and dash, giving the cabin an upscale ambience. The crew cab variant offers plenty of space in the rear seats, thanks to its expansive headroom and legroom.

In the F-150 XL, the interior is nearly all vinyl, hinting at its main function as a work truck. SuperCab variants have rear small doors that open all the way, making it easy to get in and out of the car. Nishimoto, however, noted that the rear seats are cramped with three people back there. The numerous small storage spaces and small cubbies further hint at the F-150 XL’s main mission as a work truck, giving it more utility and flexibility. Material quality is clearly lower than in the Lariat, and it shows in the dash and door panels, which are mainly hard plastic and lack the soft padding found in more expensive trims. The front seats in the F-150 XL feel flat and lack the adjustability of the seats found in the more luxurious F-150s.

Ford’s Sync3 multimedia interface is easy to use, with its quick-responding touchscreen, straightforward layout and integration of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The truck’s voice command system understands your speech better than some rival systems and doesn’t require extremely specific phrases. The B&O Play audio system in the F-150 Lariat is one of the better units available, with crisp sound and minimal distortion at higher volumes. In total, there are four USB ports and two 120-volt outlets in the F-150 Lariat, so charging devices shouldn’t be an issue.

A less comprehensive version of Sync is standard on the F-150 XL and even that has a surprising amount of features including Pandora and Spotify streaming capabilities. Despite having a screen that’s smaller than modern mobile phones, the rearview camera is clear, comes with guide lines to help you position the truck better, and even has a zoom feature that proved helpful when connecting trailers, which Loh found impressive. However, there’s only a single USB port in the base XL trim, which means it isn’t as mobile-friendly as the more comprehensive Sync3 interface found in more expensive F-150 models.

From work truck to luxury truck, the 2018 Ford F-150 has you covered, and it offers solid choices for all kinds of needs. Sure, the Lariat might only be the “lower level” luxury trim, but the interior quality and level of comfort in that truck is worthy of a premium badge. The XL work truck, on the other hand, delivers on its utilitarian promise with useful features that should come in handy in a work site from folding center front seats, an array of small cubbies, vinyl floor and seat upholstery that won’t get destroyed easily, and a SuperCab variant with rear doors that open wide. Add to that a slick and user-friendly multimedia system, and the F-150 becomes an even stronger proposition, even as a back-to-basics work truck. Ford’s bread and butter full-size light duty pickup is capable yet refined, making it an excellent all-around vehicle that can take on a wide variety of roles from work vehicle to a luxurious truck.

2018 Ford F-150 Lariat 4×4 (2.7 EcoBoost SuperCrew) 2018 Ford F-150 XL (4×2 SuperCab 3.3L)
DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD Front-engine, RWD
ENGINE TYPE Twin-turbo 60-deg V-6, iron block/alum heads 60-deg V-6, alum block/heads
VALVETRAIN DOHC, 4 valves/cyl DOHC, 4 valves/cyl
DISPLACEMENT 164.3 cu in/2,693 cc 203.7 cu in/3,337 cc
POWER (SAE NET) 325 hp @ 5,000 rpm 290 hp @ 6,500 rpm
TORQUE (SAE NET) 400 lb-ft @ 2,750 rpm 265 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
REDLINE 5,800 rpm 7,000 rpm
WEIGHT TO POWER 16.2 lb/hp 15.7 lb/hp
TRANSMISSION 10-speed automatic 6-speed automatic
AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO 3.55:1/2.25:1/2.64:1 3.55:1/2.45:1/—
SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs Control arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar; live axle, leaf springs
STEERING RATIO 17.4:1 17.4:1
BRAKES, F; R 13.8-in vented disc; 13.2-in vented disc, ABS 13.8-in vented disc; 13.2-in vented disc, ABS
WHEELS 8.5 x 20-in cast aluminum 7.5 x 17-in cast aluminum
TIRES 275/55R20 113T (M+S) Goodyear Wrangler 245/70R17 110T (M+S) Michelin LTX M/S2
WHEELBASE 145.0 in 145.0 in
TRACK, F/R 67.6/67.6 in 67.6/67.6 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 231.9 x 79.9 x 77.2 in 231.9 x 79.9 x 75.5 in
TURNING CIRCLE 47.1 ft 47.1 ft
CURB WEIGHT 5,265 lb 4,564 lb
WEIGHT DIST, F/R 59/41% 57/43%
HEADROOM, F/R 40.8/40.4 in 40.8/40.3 in
LEGROOM, F/R 43.9/43.6 in 43.9/33.5 in
SHOULDER ROOM, F/R 66.7/65.9 in 66.7/65.8 in
CARGO VOLUME 51.9 cu ft 31.6 cu ft
PICKUP BOX L x W x H 67.1 x 65.2 x 21.4 in 78.9 x 65.2 x 21.4 in
PICKUP BOX VOLUME 52.8 cu ft 62.3 cu ft
PAYLOAD CAPACITY 1,690 lb 1,840 lb
TOWING CAPACITY 7,600 lb 5,000 lb
0-30 2.5 sec 2.8 sec
0-40 3.7 4.1
0-50 5.3 5.8
0-60 7.0 7.6
0-70 9.2 9.7
0-80 12.2 13.0
0-90 15.7 16.8
0-100 20.3 21.5
PASSING, 45-65 MPH 3.7 3.7
QUARTER MILE 15.5 sec @ 89.5 mph 15.9 sec @ 88.2 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 119 ft 129 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.76 g (avg) 0.75 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 28.4 sec @ 0.59 g (avg) 28.6 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)
TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH 1,550 rpm 1,600 rpm
BASE PRICE $48,265 $32,760
PRICE AS TESTED $60,475 $36,285
AIRBAGS 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain 6: Dual front, front side, f/r curtain
BASIC WARRANTY 3 yrs/36,000 miles 3 yrs/36,000 miles
POWERTRAIN WARRANTY 5 yrs/60,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE 5 yrs/60,000 miles 5 yrs/60,000 miles
FUEL CAPACITY 26.0 gal 23.0 gal
REAL MPG, CITY/HWY/COMB 14.9/23.2/17.7 mpg 18.7/23.1/20.5 mpg
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB ECON 19/24/21 mpg 19/25/22 mpg
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 177/140 kW-hrs/100 miles 177/135 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.93 lb/mile 0.91 lb/mile
RECOMMENDED FUEL Unleaded regular Unleaded regular

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