Photo by Kimberly Pham.
You can buy a basic 13-ounce hammer with a wood handle and grooved claw for removing nails for less than 10 bucks that's perfect for most jobs around the house. For $20 or $30, you can buy the 20-ounce version that includes a pry bar and rubberized grip for demolition work. And for $200, you can buy a hammer with a shock-absorbing titanium handle, angled face, and ergonomic grip for longer jobs such as roofing.
Like a hammer, a pickup truck functions as a tool for commercial and government fleets. Ford's F-150 has been the top-selling pickup in the U.S. in part because it offers a seemingly endless number of variants and takes this idea of tailoring the tool to the job to the nth degree. With all the trim, cab, engine and other options, there are millions of combinations of the F-150 available for purchase.
The F-150 returned for the 2018 model year with increased payload and towing capability, higher fuel economy enabled by more efficient engines, as well as new safety and convenience features such as a collision alerting system, adaptive cruise control, automatic stop-start, and an electric parking brake. Such is the nature of the highly-competitive pickup segment that truck manufacturers can't stand pat.
We tested the base work truck — the F-150 XL SuperCab with the naturally aspirated 3.3-liter V-6 that delivers power to the rear-wheel drivetrain through a six-speed automatic transmission. A 6.5-inch box sits over the 145-inch wheelbase, and the truck rides on 17-inch wheels.
Photo by Kimberly Pham.
The 3.3L PFDI V-6, which is also available on the XLT trim, replaces the non-turbo 3.5L. It increases horsepower (plus 8 to 290 hp) and torque (plus 13 to 265 lb.-ft.), while also bumping fuel efficiency up to 20 mpg (from 18 mpg) on the highway. The new engine uses port and direct fuel injection with a higher compression ratio and reduced internal friction, according to Car and Driver.
Ford's transmission tuning has been stellar in recent model years, and this six-speed effectively manages RPM revving to help save fuel use. The taller lower gears let the engine power the truck enough for towing and lower speed driving.
The truck offers much to like for a fleet manager. The absence of carpeting allows fleet maintenance personnel to hose down the floors after a dirty job. And an optional spray-in bedliner protects the bed from dents and dings.
We've watched the evolution of the F-150 since it arrived for the 2015 model year with an aluminum-body; added Pro Trailer Backup Assist in 2016; and offered a 10-speed automatic transmission in 2017.
Editor's note: Watch a video walkaround of the truck here.