2018 Ford F-150 Lariat Review - Big and Boosted
We drive a locally imported and converted Ford F-150 that’s powered not by the usual V8 but rather a boosted V6. Does the cylinder reduction reduce its appeal?
Kiwis now have a good selection of full-size American trucks from which to choose, thanks to Walkinshaw Vehicles turning out RHD Rams and Silverados for local consumption. But what if you’ve a hankering for something else, like a Ford F-150?
NZ’s conversion industry is still alive and well, meaning the world’s best selling vehicle can be had here in its many guises. Auckland’s Corporate Cars, better known for its inventory of UK-sourced Euros, also has a range of RHD F-150s for sale.
The F-150 model line-up is mind wobbling and there is a near-infinite list of options. Here we investigate a mid-spec Lariat double cab, powered by the optional 3.5-litre Ecoboost. Lariat starts at $41,400 in the US ($NZ62,000) and comes standard with a 240kW/540Nm 2.7-litre V6 Ecoboost. Optional engines include the 295kW/540Nm 5.0-litre V8, a 186kW/595Nm 3.0-litre turbodiesel or this, the 3.5 twin turbo V6. With a turbo boosting each bank, and fuel directly injected, the 3.5 musters 280kW and there is 640Nm of torque flowing at 3500rpm.
It pairs with Ford’s 10-speed auto, and optioned for this truck is the 4x4 set-up. Delving into Ford’s online configurator and ticking the boxes in order to get a truck up to a similar spec as this, the price ballooned to over $US63,000 or just over $92K Kiwi before any consideration of delivery and destination charges and conversion.
Trucks, you see, don’t fit the requirements for the special interest LHD permit here so a certified conversion is needed before it can be onsold. Which helps explain the big price tags they carry here, this truck listed at $169,980.
That’s somewhat more than the Ram 1500 Laramie offered by FCA NZ, though the scale of its conversion business would bring cost advantages while this Lariat is a more highly specified rig.
But you’re thinking, surely a Hemi V8 beats a V6 anyday? While the power numbers are similar, the turbo-bred torque handled by the 10-speed auto gives this F-150 an advantage with a bulk load of low-end urge. An idle/stop system refires the engine smartly and the turbos are spinning quickly so there’s no waiting around for the torque to arrive.
At 50-60km/h the V6 maintains speed with just 1200rpm dialled in, while it’s pulling 1500rpm in 10th at motorway speeds, the shifts through gears seven to ten almost imperceptible. It’s all too tempting to dig deeper into the reserves, and when worked, it’s hard to pick the cylinder count of this engine. As it starts to pump through the midrange, the exhaust note isn’t too dissimilar from an eight, no kidding.
It’s a good trick, though as it starts to peak, the gruffer tones of a six become more evident. And this is well and truly done by 5500rpm. Yeah, it’s no revver, being all about midrange torque maximised by the closely stacked ratios of the 10-speeder. And it really can haul. Unfortunately we can’t tell just how quick it is, as our GPS performance recorder just wouldn’t uplink on the day; perhaps the Russians were disrupting the satellites again?
US motoring outlets put the sprint time to 60mph around 6.5sec, so this is quick, and feels it too. Given the usual workout over the reference hill road, we thought the auto’s operation was a little sluggish, until we discovered the Sport mode, the button being disguised from view on the left side of the lever. This gives the V6 added enthusiasm for the throttle and the auto is more forthcoming with the ratios, helping move things along smartly. Ford’s 335kW/690Nm Raptor must be a riot.
This F-150 runs the usual live rear axle located via leaf springs. So lacking the support act of roll bars or trailing arms, it can shimmy over those mid-corner bumps while the unladen ride also detects a road’s imperfections. The Nitto aftermarket rubber has some fairly serious tread blocks going on and while these are quiet on road, they might be guilty of corrupting some of the steering feel, though this has no trouble negotiating bends.
It’s just a weight riding high thing, and American pick-up brakes are only ever adequate for the task. The engine can drink too, up into the 20L/100km area at one stage, but can also get into the mid-teens on the motorway. You’d have to be mindful of the throttle if there’s a hope of replicating the 19mpg (15L/100km) quoted fuel figure.
This F-150 uses a selectable 4x4 system switching between rear-wheel drive, an AWD mode that hooks up the fronts automatically when needed, a locked 50/50 4x4 setting while there is a low-range with a rear diff locker too. It’s quick to hook up in AWD mode, with no slipping on gravel, while it also adds a more grounded and connected feel on tarmac, ensuring none of the torque is wasted when pressed.
The F-150 adheres to the big-is-good mantra, delivering an expansive cabin that is some 1800mm wide. You could almost park a Suzuki Swift inside this thing. All five seating positions are roomy, those in the rear with basketballer leg room though the seat back is a little upright for ultimate comfort. There are seat heaters, USB chargers and a 110V power outlet present also. When not in use, the seat bases can be flipped up to create a large, flat storage area.
Up front, there’s the usual towering driving position, the seats are a mix of leather and not, but are wide and sumptuous, heated and ventilated. There’s decent driver seat adjustment and with an electric handbrake, there’s no awkward footbrake in the pedal box.
While there’s no driver’s foot rest, the foot well isn’t cramped while the pedals feature power adjustment. Being a truck the bulk of the plastics are shiny and hard but there is a load of kit on board with lane departure and blind spot warning, self parking, smart key, B&O sounds, and a trailer backing system along with a brake controller.
Ford’s Sync system is present and while it lacks a NZ map for the sat nav, it has CarPlay and Android Auto. There are a few clues to this being a convert, the manual selector being on the wrong side of the lever, the keypad combination lock on the passenger side, but the dash has a symmetrical design about it, helping the switchover.
Some of the panel fit around the console could be better while the stitching on the dash isn’t quite as straight as the factory-sewn seams but otherwise it has been robustly reconstructed.
The big glasshouse allows for unimpeded outward vision while the side mirrors have a decent depth of view and rearwards manoeuvres are helped by a back-up camera, a 360-degree monitor and sensors. The large dimensions bring with them a big turning circle but the steering is light at crawling speeds, with just over three turns between the locks.
While this has the ‘small’ 5.5-foot cargo box, that still gives you a 1.7m long tray with 1285mm between the arches. The tailgate has a remote release function, lowering in a controlled manner, and is fitted with the rear step and stripper pole, helping you get a leg up into the tray.
There’s plenty of capability here to go with its large presence and despite the ‘small’ engine, the 3.5 Ecoboost doesn’t disappoint in terms of go and noise.