The 2018 Ford F-150 pickup has just the right balance of capability, comfort and convenience to make you feel that what you want is what you need. That is the success story of America’s bestselling vehicle for nearly four decades: to convince the market that want and need are the same.
I know I’m not alone in this not-need. “Daddy, I want a truck,” says my daughter, all the time. The guys in the neighborhood give trucks the thrice-over much more thoroughly than any luxury sports cars I’ve tested.
There are plenty of people who actually need a pickup for work, but Ford and other manufacturers know it’s the millions of undecideds who move the needle on these higher margin rigs. I’m a suburban-living office-commuting father with enough home projects and weekend warrior parenting duties to want the uncompromising capability of a pickup, even if it doesn’t fit in my garage. We fit five easily in the heated luxury of the Supercrew cab, and threw hockey bags and other gear in the 5.5-foot bed without the regard you’d have for other enclosed vehicles. If other rides feel like a Swiss Army Knife in their functionality, then the F-150 is the entire tool shed. And when the season’s worst snowstorm blanketed the area, this beast’s 4x4 capabilities came in handy.
Just like that, I have a need.
Turning a want into a need really depends on the specific iteration of truck in a seemingly endless list of styles and options. But let’s start with what’s changed across the seven trim levels in Ford’s plan to stay ahead of the redesigned 2019 Chevy Silverado and 2019 Ram 1500.
The midcycle refresh streamlines the grille into two bars instead of three, and those two bars stretch more broadly over the fascia, connecting the revised headlights in line with the superduty truck designs of Ford’s heaviest lifters. It looks more commanding, and in rearview mirrors, more bullying. The taillights have more LED flair, and the gate is stamped with the trim level, which was Platinum in our case.
The Platinum Supercrew is second only to the Limited luxury trim. It came with 20-inch wheels, which come in six different styles because selecting a truck is like mixing and matching from the world’s coolest Lego bin.
All the engine offerings are enhanced for 2018 thanks to two fuel injectors per cylinder. The free-breathing 5-liter V-8 engine in the tester gets 10 more horsepower to 395 hp and a boost in torque to 400 pound-feet, affirming its best-in-class 3,270 pounds of payload capacity, or the stuff it can haul in the bed and the cabin. That’s more than a hockey team and gear.
The V-8 rumble is present but insulated by the comfy cabin. Feed the throttle and it reacts immediately, sublimely. The 10-speed automatic transmission that replaces the six-speed has more work to do, but it’s not as noticeable as the increase in fuel efficiency. We averaged 18 mpg combined in our week with the Platinum, which is outstanding for a 4X4 vehicle of this size.
The inside is where the Platinum trim really shines, and further blurs the demarcation between want and need. The tester came with the $1,295 twin-panel moonroof, which wasn’t as cool as the power rear window that comes standard. The heated rear seats also fold up for that Costco run in the rain or to let Fido have access to stuff a snout out either window.
Up front the controls are durable and glove friendly, and the voice-activated navigation as well as the suite of steering wheel controls render the 8-inch touch screen as a mere display screen. This is a good thing. Visually, the small screen in the large F-150 is the only compromise in the truck — the vents dwarf the thing, but the functionality is pretty good. The broad 8-inch vehicle info display in the instrument cluster, which Ford calls a “productivity screen,” is excellent for accessing even more info than housed in the touch screen.
The convenience technology is complemented with safety tech, of course, including the $2,540 preferred equipment group, with adaptive cruise control and start/stop technology. That grouping also includes the step bar in the tailgate. Put down the gate, press a button, and the step comes out, along with a vertical bar to use as a handle. The handle part is overkill, but it’s all part of the $63,000 package. I still prefer the fender step in the Chevy Silverado.
Despite the conveniences and luxury elements such as the standard power running board, the F-150 is still a bang-around truck. You just can’t get that supreme durability and capability, all while ensconced in a cabin full of creature comforts, in other vehicles. The only compromise you’ll have to make is with your garage space, which may better define the line between want and need.