There’s no denying that pickups are the dandies of our nation’s auto buyers. Ford’s F-150 has been the top selling vehicle in the U.S. for 37 years now and Chevy’s Silverado pickup has been No. 2 most of that time. Chrysler’s Ram pickup is No. 3 now, just a sliver behind the Chevy.
That’s right, the top 3 best-sellers are all pickups, and the Ford by a wide margin, nearly 2 to 1 vs. the Chevy and the Ram.
There’s also no denying that pickup prices have gone a bit crazy the past 10 years as America has commuted from being sedan buyers to truck buyers. Naturally car makers are going to follow the money, sinking more energy and resources into their pickups.
That dedication to moving the bar higher is evident in that Ford, Chevy and Ram refreshed, or remade, their pickups for 2019. The F-150 is the last one I’ve tested and functionally the best was saved for last.
I was wowed by the new Ram, which is the Cadillac of pickups if luxury is your primary desire. But if you need a tough ol’ pickup to haul the entire family and a heavily loaded trailer, this latest F-150 is the answer, which is why it remains No.1.
While there are about a billion variations, I can’t imagine a more civil and useful one than the turbo diesel-equipped F-150 Lariat 4x4 SuperCrew that I tested. It was near perfect in that my only complaint was a somewhat bouncy ride (typical truck ride) on our rough Wisconsin roads.
This refined beast is big and roomy and comfy. It will pull up to 13,200 lbs. of trailer, and has a spray-in bedliner where you can haul dirt, rocks or lumber without damaging the bed’s surface. And isn’t hauling what a truck is for?
While a strong 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 that creates 325 horsepower is standard, for $4,000 extra the gorgeous Velocity Blue test truck added a muscular 3.0-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel that creates 250 horsepower and a mighty 440 lb.-ft. of torque.
You’d never know this was a diesel, as it is whisper quiet, no growl, grumble or even a whiff of blue smoke. The truck starts and runs virtually like a gasoline-powered unit and is mated with Ford’s exceptional fuel-saving 10-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are as smooth as any luxury sedan.
Properly equipped, the F-150 will tow up to 13,200 lbs. if gas-powered, while the diesel maxes out at 11,500 lbs., still best class among diesels.
Handling was surprising as I’m used to most big pickups being a bit sloppy to steer with a fair amount of steering wheel play. Ram improves on that, but the Ford delivers firm wheel feel and the most precise steering of the Big 3 pickups. Even in a parking lot I found the F-150 easy to maneuver and park, while on the highway it was an excellent cruiser and easy to keep planted in its lane.
Ride, as mentioned, is trucklike. The pickup bounces and jiggles on potholes and uneven pavement. That’s not to say the ride hasn’t improved each generation, but this is not the family minivan or sedan as far as ride comfort.
Braking is strong and all the expected safety features are included on Lariat, save the handy 360-degree camera that helps in parking lots and when trailering. It adds $1,195 to the price tag.
This Lariat came with four-wheel drive, adjusted simply via a dash knob. Blind-spot warning, smart cruise, and lane departure control are all standard. Oh, and a reverse sensing system is part of the $7,050 Lariat series package that includes remote start, LED side mirror spotlights, a fancy Bang and Olufsen sound system, heated steering wheel and heated rear seats, plus a trailer monitoring system. Activate this when towing and the camera and rearview sensors see into the blind spots behind the trailer to help you avoid cutting off, or running into, a vehicle in the trailer’s blind spot.
If you tow trailers regularly you’ll also want the $995 Trailer Tow Package with all the proper electrical hookups and such, plus Ford’s new Pro Trailer Backup Assist that helps a driver back up an attached trailer more easily. With this assist on you simply turn a dial on the dash in the direction you want the trailer to go and the system automatically steers the truck and trailer for you as you adjust the knob. Brilliant!
There were many other options here, roughly $20,000 worth, although there is a $2,000 discount on them.
A few of the add-ons include a giant twin-panel sunroof ($1,495) that allows sunlight to both front and rear seats, voice-activated navigation system ($795), an FX4 off-road package including skid plates ($905) and a tailgate step for $375. The step is a bright idea. It hides in the tailgate and with the press of a button there it pops out as the tailgate is lowered, helping you climb aboard the tall pickup.
Oh, and there’s one other essential option, power running boards that fold down from the pickup so you can climb aboard. Unless you’re 6-foot-4 or more you’ll need these. They run $995.
As for the interior, well the Lariat has leather seats. The test truck’s were black with gray stitching, same as the dash. Trim is matte silver on the wheel’s hub, door handles, air vents and console trim with a vertical carbon fiber-look strip by the door handles.
Standard also is a power tilt/telescope steering wheel and power pedals so drivers of all sizes can get comfy behind the wheel and still reach the accelerator and brake pedals.
Seats are roomy and comfy and the driver’s seat includes 3 memory buttons and power lumbar support. Front seats have three-speed heat and cooling while the roomy back bench also is heated. Leg and headroom are monster in that rear seat.
The dash is well laid out with big radio volume and tuning knobs, plus six buttons for pre-set channels. The touchscreen is an 8-incher and the Sync3 infotainment system is standard. Dual temperature controls are handled via two dials and there are plenty of plug-in spots front and rear for your electronics.
I also particularly like the notched side windows on the F-150 because a driver, or passenger, can actually rest an elbow on the window sill. That’s something us older folks enjoy when we put down our vehicle’s windows.
Outside that window are giant split-view mirrors that can be extended for better trailer viewing.
I probably should remind you too that a couple years back Ford started using military grade aluminum in its F-150 bodies to cut weight. Hundreds of pounds were shed and gas mileage has improved. This diesel was extraordinary. I managed a stellar 22.7 miles per gallon in a mix of city and highway driving. The EPA rates the truck with diesel power at 20 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Price is another matter.
You can get a base regular cab 2-wheel-drive XL model for about $30 grand and the next level up XLT for $35,655. But all higher levels, including the Lariat, feature the larger SuperCrew cabs that will hold five adults. That means more length and more features and that equals a higher price.
Lariat starts at $49,580, including delivery, but that’s before the $7,050 Lariat Series equipment group and all the other goodies here, including the diesel engine. With all that the test truck clocked in at $68,100. That’s a lot of cash for a pickup.
Still, you could spend that, or more, for a top-level Limited, and yes there’s the Raptor performance version with a 450-horsepower twin-turbo V6 too. But we’ll save that for another day.
Hits: Big, roomy, comfy with excellent power and smooth acceleration and shifts. Firm, responsive handling, giant sunroof, power running boards, heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, notched side windows allow elbow resting, step in tailgate, lined bed, power tilt/telescope steering wheel and pedals, plenty of safety bits and good diesel mpg.
Misses: Somewhat bouncy ride and pricey.
Made In: Dearborn, Mich.
Engine: 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6, 325 horsepower
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Weight: N.A. lbs.
Length: 231.9 in.
Wheelbase: 145.0 in.
Tow: 9,000-13,200 lbs. (11,500 lbs., diesel)
Bed: 56.0 cu.ft.
MPG: 20/25, 22.7 (tested)
Base Price: $49,580 (includes delivery)
Major Options: 3.0-liter V6 turbo diesel, $4,000
Power running boards, $995
Twin-panel moonroof, $1,495
Voice-activated nav, $795
Trailer tow package (includes Pro Trailer Backup Assist), $995
Power telescope folding mirrors, $250
FX4 off-road package (skid plates, tailgate step, floor liner), $375
20-inch 6-spoke plated aluminum wheels, $1,295
Integrated trailer brake control, $275
Tech package (360-degree camera), $1,195
Lariat sport appearance package, $300
Spray-in bed liner, $595
Test Vehicle: $68,100
Sources: Ford, Kelley Blue Book
Editor's note: Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.