2015 Ford F-150 King Ranch 4X4 SuperCrew Review
by Randy Stern
For the past 37 years, this is the best-selling automotive product in the United States of America.
This vehicle symbolized this country by doing what it does best. It has brought food to the market and on to the table. It has hauled bales of hay to feed the horses on the farm. It delivered materials and workers to a construction site. What it has done to build the backbone of the country reflected on the volume of sales every year and the high level of customer loyalty it has yielded for more than three decades.
The key to its success lies in what it does on its time off. It has towed boats to the lake, snowmobiles to the cabin, and race cars to the track. It also helped bring home the summer project.
In case you have not figured it out, “it” is the Ford F-150. No other vehicle in the world has sold as many per month than any other – anywhere.
I know…it’s another truck driven by a San Fernando Valley-born Minnesotan because he is surrounded by them in his adopted state. Have I gone “country?” Heck, have I gone insane?
You see, this F-150 is all-new. The most significant change is what the bed and cab is made of – aluminum. No one has ever built a truck with aluminum before. Luckily, Ford kept the frame of steel construction, but the naysayers were not impressed when Ford tried to convince us that the two materials can co-exist in a truck. Aluminum construction would save hundreds of pounds of curb weight, Ford said. Laughable, yes, but I needed proof.
I need to know if the 2015 Ford F-150 is tough enough to claim a 38th year of sales leadership now that the cab and bed are made of aluminum. To do so, I did not just get any old Ford F-150. Oh no…I got the King Ranch trim in a SuperCab, a six-and-a-half foot bed and a massive 158-inch wheelbase. If you must test a truck – you have to go big!
By changing the cab and bed construction to aluminum, Ford decided to give the F-150 a completely new look. Gone are the days of the angular cab. Instead, there is a blunter front end with an “industrial” 45-degree angle shape seen in various places. Each grade has a different grille finish and texture. It would either be a three horizontal bar set-up or a simple set of horizontal lines, as in the XLT. This King Ranch tester shows off a chrome three-bar design with horizontal inserts. This is augmented by a complicated, but effective headlamp arrangement with a semi-block splitting the upper and lower lenses. The King Ranch features a chrome bumper and fog lamps to finish up the nose.
Heading rearward, the familiar glasshouse from the previous generation F-150 was carried over, with a bit of a rear cant towards the end. Having the front lower “dip” helps in greater outward vision at the A-pillars. The bed design is a bit more three-dimensional now, with some folds to make it more stylish and providing continuity with the cab. The tailgate has a bit of a spoiler effect at the top and another fold/line never seen on any Ford pickup before – in the same 45-degree angle theme. In all, the F-150’s look yielded mixed reviews from many observers, yet one cannot argue that is a huge advance in full-sized/half-ton pickup design.
The most compelling part of this King Ranch tester is the extra embellishments that make it one of the top models in the F-150 lineup. Satin chrome is evident from its badge and tailgate trim – all spelling out one of the most prestigious ranches in Texas. Bright chrome twenty-inch aluminum wheels provide the crowning touch to one of the most luxurious trucks available – the epitome of the “cowboy luxury” set. It makes one want to be a ranch owner somewhere between Brownsville and Corpus Christi.
While you are traversing your ranch property…or commuting to work…you are probably enjoying the view from inside the huge SuperCrew. Just when I thought I saw some huge rear seat spaces, the new SuperCrew offers a huge space. The seats are pretty comfortable and there’s leg room that would embarrass a Hyundai Equus or Kia K900. Let’s just say that the leather is very nice with a grade that sits in-between the most prestigious automobile son the planet and something more useful for ranch ownership.
It is up front where the F-150 has improved. Material quality is up on the instrument panel and there are some compelling shapes to make it distinctive – including plenty of 45-degree angles found on the exterior. The cowl may seem a bit low, but it is positioned for even tall drivers to manage the 8-inch touch screen for MyFord Touch/SYNC. The biggest improvement is in the instrument cluster, anchored by an 8-inch Productivity Screen showing many functions of the F-150, including trip and fuel consumption information. You could also monitor trailer settings, see the health of the engine and other readouts using a multi-function set of buttons on the steering wheel. All buttons are familiar to those driving the latest Ford (and Lincoln) products, which are very good to the touch and operation.
Front seats are plenty huge. They are comfortable and offer support with some bolstering available. As stated before, the leather on the King Ranch is exceptional. The bucket seats up front are split by a huge console housing a huge storage area underneath the armrest. Along with the shifter is another cubby hole housing the USB and auxiliary connections. It would be appropriate to say that the driver’s area is truly fit for the king of the ranch.
Though some have not given good marks to the MyFord Touch/SYNC system, there had been some improvements to make it better. Bluetooth pairing and phone connection were quick. The navigation, climate and audio functions are familiar – and quite good. Sony provides twelve speakers of excellent sound throughout the cab.
Ford has been promoting the power-efficiency advantages of their EcoBoost engines. Their application on the F-150 came with some mixed reactions. However, no one would deny what the EcoBoost engine has done to raise the bar on the F-150’s credibility. The King Ranch came with the 3.5liter version of the twin-turbocharged V6. It comes with 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. This EcoBoost was attached to a six-speed automatic transmission with Tow Haul and Sport modes. There is the added bonus of the FX4 package on top of the two-speed four-wheel drive system connected to the 3.5Liter EcoBoost/automatic transmission driveline.
With this configuration – the SuperCrew with the 6-1/2 foot bed – the towing capacity is 10,700 pounds with a payload of 2,010 pounds.
One thing the F-150 has been known for is having one of the smoothest rides in the full-sized pickup business. That part is true – the F-150 offers a smooth, well-balanced ride. Like most pickups, rougher roads reveal some fight with the suspension system. The F-150 works hard to absorb the worst conditions. Even the best suspension systems try their best to manage roads that are simply falling apart. Handling is soft, but balanced through the curves. Lean and roll is minimal, thanks to an improved front suspension set-up.
Pickup trucks are burdened by a big steering wheel and a large turning radius. Though true in the F-150, thanks to a 156.8-inch wheelbase, the action and effort from the wheel is very good while reaction and response is on-point. On-center feel is excellent with no looseness at the wheel. Brakes are good, with nice pedal reaction. Though long in distance, normal and panic stops are solid and linear.
The thing about turbocharged engines is when you have a vehicle with a one or two on board, you expect to fill the tank with a premium-grade fuel. Not in the Ford F-150. You use regular fuel instead. That helps on the pocketbook, especially when this King Ranch SuperCrew 4X4 turned an average fuel economy figure of 15.4 MPG. This King Ranch model came with the “small” tank – just 23 gallons. Though it may mean less fuel to pump for the money, it also means more fuel trips for those who like to drive long distances.
The F-150 lineup starts with a base price of $25,800. For that money, you get a base XL trim in a regular cab with a 3.5liter V6, an automatic transmission and a few standard amenities. To get the King Ranch with the 3.5liter EcoBoost V6 – I would have to read the sticker very carefully to believe that it read $63,170. Think about it: $63,000 for a full-sized half-ton pickup?!?
Why This Ride?
– First, to the matter of the F-150 – it is a good truck. The advances Ford made on aluminum cab and bed construction and integrating with a rolled steel frame are definitely felt with a lighter feeling from the wheel. That may be the key point about the F-150, but it forces the issue of whether this is the future of the pickup truck or not.
– There is one issue to address on the F-150. Yes, body work will be a more expensive while working with aluminum panels and construction, but the National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration gave the F-150 a Five-Star overall rating based on their crash testing. That is indeed good news for a truck that still starts debates and stirs its loyal base towards considering it when it is their turn to replace their current truck.
– Is the King Ranch too much truck? In some markets, they would instantly get a solid take, since “cowboy luxury” trucks are desirable. In Minnesota, I was one of a few on the road. The fact is that most F-150 buyers would get a XLT trim with a sticker price of below $50,000. You get plenty of the technology, engine, driveline and payload options as in the more expensive trims (Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum), but with a more durable cloth interior amenable for all kinds of work and play.
– In my humble opinion, the King Ranch represents what Ford has to do to bring customers to the aluminum-cab/bed F-150. It is the king of the showroom, but many buyers would balk at the price – akin to a BMW 535i xDrive, a Cadillac CTS Vsport, a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat (without options, that is), or a Mercedes-Benz M-Class. This is the reality of the truck business where the more you pour into a truck, the higher the sticker price.
– Bottom line: The 2015 Ford F-150 is a good truck. It will continue to sit on the top of the sales charts for quite some time. Loyal buyers will look past the higher pricing and aluminum cab/bed and get one of these when it is time to replace their old one.
Photos by Randy Stern