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A choice of four engines with loads of towing power, not to mention three cab styles and bed sizes, some spiffy and techno-laden cabins and a number of special-edition trims, help to keep Ford’s mega-selling F-150 pickup at the top of its game for 2012.The Bad
A few things Ford has to work on in its F-150: these bad-boy pickups don’t come cheap, fuel economy is dubious, at best, and ride comfort is less plush than much of the competition's.
The CarGurus View
Ford has a lot to be proud of in its 2012 F-150 lineup. Comfort and convenience are never sacrificed for utility, the choice of powerplants ranges from potent to awesome and styling remains elegantly masculine…though girls like it, too. All in all, don’t look for anything to take its place at the top of the full-size pickup market any time soon.
At a Glance
Had Henry Ford known the best-selling vehicle his namesake conglomerate ever produced would be a full-size pickup truck, he’d have bagged the original Model A and started with the F-150. The 2012 version of this most popular of trucks, though besieged by throngs of pretenders over the years, offers so much to so many different people that the only thing seemingly capable of stopping its consistent market-topping performance would be Armageddon. With a troika of cab styles and bed lengths, four engine choices, available on-demand 4-wheel drive (4WD) and 10 distinct trim levels, this heavy-duty hauler has something to satisfy any craving…and it looks good besides. Though accused of complacency of late, Ford, the only one of the Big Three domestic automakers to remain solvent through the Great Recession, has a winner in its F-150 lineup and, by actually listening to customers and media critiques, appears unwilling to rest on its laurels.
Anyhow, to business. Beginning with the base XL, the F-150 lineup progresses to the agile STX, the uber-popular XLT, the rear-wheel-drive-only (RWD) FX2, the entry-level-luxury Lariat, the sporty FX4, the western-themed King Ranch, the posh Platinum, the terrain-busting SVT Raptor and the downright decadent Harley-Davidson. The XL and XLT can be delivered in all three cab variations: the 2-door, 3-passenger Regular cab; the 5/6-passenger SuperCab with rear-opening back doors; and the 5/6-passenger SuperCrew with its 4 independently opening doors. The STX comes only in Regular and SuperCab variations, while the FX2, FX4, Lariat and Raptor are delivered in either SuperCab or SuperCrew editions. The King Ranch, Platinum and Harley-Davidson trims are, as is traditional, available only in SuperCrew garb.
To somewhat simplify the maze of configurations a bit, bear in mind that Regular-cab trims are generally available with either the 6.6- or 8.1-foot beds, with SuperCab and SuperCrew cab trims generally sporting either the 6.6- or 5.6-foot bed. Of course, there are exceptions, with the Raptor and Harley-Davidson trims toting only the 5.6-foot bed.
Though offering an almost perfect blend of durability, performance, style and comfort, this mega-star isn’t perfect. Reviewers complain that fuel economy in the larger engines, a somewhat hefty base price, issues with rear visibility and those pesky “suicide doors” in the SuperCab trims keep this otherwise well-wrought pickup from attaining sainthood. Moreover, Dodge’s Ram 1500 is touted by some to offer a smoother ride and a touch more luxury in its high-end trims, while Chevy’s Silverado lineup and GMC’s Sierra 1500 clan offer a tad more agility for a bit less money. Both Nissan and Toyota with their Titan and Tundra trims, respectively, are making undeniable inroads into the U.S. truck market as well. However, despite a few glitches, Ford’s entry-level full-size workhorse looks to remain on top for the foreseeable future.
One would think that the variable-valve-timed (VVT) 3.7-liter, ethanol-capable Flex Fuel V6 that constitutes the base engine in the F-150 series might be just a shade underpowered. Not so, say the majority of reviews. Mated with the standard 6-speed automatic transmission with brake hill holder, this mighty mite boasts 302 hp at 6,500 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, good enough for a 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds in at least one test. Look for an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/23 highway in RWD trims and 16/21 in 4WD versions, with towing maxed out at 6,100 pounds with properly equipped RWD variants. The base XL, as well as the STX and XLT, are all delivered with this competent six-banger, standard.
The EcoBoost 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 powerplant is available to all trim levels except the STX, Harley Davidson and Raptor. This recently introduced V6 again mates with the 6-speed automatic for 365 hp at 5,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. Properly equipped EcoBoost-powered RWD trims can tow 11,300 pounds of trailer, tops in the lineup and certainly impressive for a V6. Trims equipped with RWD are expected to get 16/22, and with 4WD versions look for 15/21. One test had this over-achieving, blown six-banger going from 0-60 in a class-leading 6.5 seconds.
Thinking about the FX2 or FX4, the Lariat, Platinum or King Ranch? Standard power for those trims is the more traditionally truck-like 5.0-liter Flex Fuel V8. Boasting 360 hp at 5,500 rpm and 380 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm, again with the 6-speed automatic, this hefty V8 tested from 0-60 in a tolerably quick 7.2 seconds. Towing, meantime, maxes out at 10,000 pounds with the proper equipment, while mileage, despite VVT, is in the vicinity of 15/21 for RWD trims and 14/19 in 4WD variations. This potent if not particularly efficient V8 is, by the way, optional in the XL, STX and XLT.
Finally, both the rock-climbing Raptor and the brawny Harley-Davidson are delivered with an over-the-top 6.2-liter V8 that pounds out 411 hp at 5,500 rpm and 434 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm when mated with the traditional 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission. Despite VVT, mileage dips to an estimated 13/18 in RWD trims and positively plummets to 11/16 in 4WD versions. Testing, meanwhile, had this titan running from 0 to 60 in an average of 7.1 seconds. Note that the Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum levels are all eligible for this hefty powerplant.
The 4WD systems in all trims boast a mechanical center differential, manual or electronic high-lo gear selection, depending on trim, and auto-locking hubs. The Harley-Davidson, FX4 and Raptor trims additionally sport a rear limited-slip differential as standard 4WD equipment. Finally, all 2012 F-150 trims can be beefed up with various available axle ratios for more demanding tasks.
Ride & Handling
For the 2012 F-150 lineup, the standard chassis entails a double wishbone front independent suspension, live rear axle and a stabilizer bar both front and rear. The off-road-designated FX4 and the mountain-taming Raptor, meanwhile, boast standard all-terrain-oriented shock absorbers, struts and springs for that needed edge when taking a short cut through the Rockies. Ride comfort, while not a strong suit of this hefty pickup, is nonetheless acceptable, according to most reviewers, with even the rugged Raptor performing capably on those infrequent occasions when it enters civilized society.
Lower trims and Raptor variants sport standard 17-inch steel or alloy wheels, while both FX trims, as well as the Lariat and King Ranch, mount standard 18-inch alloy wheels, with the pair of FX trims boasting all-terrain tires. The F-150 Platinum rolls on 20-inch alloy wheels, while the Harley-Davidson rocks proudly on standard 22-inch polished alloy rims with all-season tires.
Reviewers note that smaller bumps in the road are well modulated in all trims, though trims with beefed-up suspensions or larger tires will jolt occupants noticeably more jarringly over rougher roads. Steering is heavy-handed and truck-like, obviously, but no more so than other large pickups, according to virtually all reviews, while rear-end hop with an empty bed will continue to plague the breed well into the future. Brakes in Ford’s entry-level full-size truck are described by the majority of reviewers as average, at best, with some minor issues concerning pedal modulation. Many reviwers are quick to point out, however, that stopping these hefty Fords is no more or less difficult than halting virtually all others of their ilk.
Cabin & Comfort
Over the years, pickups in general, and the F-150 in particular, have evolved into feature-laden everyday commuter and family vehicles. Base trims in Ford’s popular truck lineup, especially the XL starter trims, however, continue to remain pretty Spartan. In this entry-level edition, expect vinyl upholstery, tilt-wheel steering, air conditioning and 2 (regular cab) or 4 (SuperCab, SuperCrew) speakers oozing out tunes and talk from the basic AM/FM stereo. SuperCab and SuperCrew versions of the XL additionally sport split-folding rear seatbacks.
Moving up to the STX trim level begets cloth upholstery, cruise control, remote power door locks, power windows and power outside mirrors, with an MP3-capable single-CD player thrown in for good measure. The XLT, meantime, tosses in chrome bumpers, carpeted floors, floor mats and rear privacy glass.
In the pair of FX trims, look for such added bling as premium cloth upholstery, front bucket seats with a 6-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, keypad entry, side steps, tow hitch and wiring, and a trip computer. A USB port and satellite radio are added to the audio system, and Bluetooth hands-free communications technology also comes standard in this sporty trim. Furthermore, the 4WD-only FX4 boasts further practicalities like standard skid plates to protect vital mechanisms.
Entering the world of the quasi-plush Lariat, we find standard leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, heated power-adjustable front seats, power-adjustable pedals, heated outside mirrors with an auto-dimming driver’s side mirror and a power sliding rear window. Meantime, the truly plush King Ranch adds in a rear obstacle detection system, power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, upgraded upholstery, heated rear seats and a rear-view camera. Then there’s the standard Sony 700-watt stereo system, universal remote garage door opener, step running boards, remote engine start and a trailer brake controller to further relieve the stresses of a long work day…or of rounding up the polo ponies.
The 2012 F-150 Platinum edition layers in standard aluminum interior trim, power-retractable running boards and polished aluminum wheels, while the flagship Harley-Davidson trim level tosses in a hard-drive-based navigation system, power sunroof, HD radio and unique interior and exterior trim and badges. Finally, the SVT Raptor comes equipped much like its FX4 sibling, but adds roof lights, descent control, ultra heavy duty tires and an even more rugged all-terrain suspension.
Lower trims are eligible for many of the features found on their more well-off kinfolk, while these same lower trims, the so-called “work” trims, can be equipped with Ford’s available Work Solutions Package with its in-dash computer, internet access and Tool Link tool tracking and management system, as well as the equally well-regarded Ford SYNC Applink Smartphone-applicable technology, directions and audio selection, all integrated with Bluetooth hands-free communications wizardry. Cargo management systems, stow-away bed extenders, a dash-mounted trailer brake controller and premium audio components are available to the SXT and above trims, while further amenities available to the Lariat and higher trims include a 6-CD changer, power-folding outside mirrors and rear-seat DVD entertainment. Finally, a spray-in bedliner is available throughout the lineup.
Reviewers rave about the techno-gadgets found in the higher trims and describe SuperCab and SuperCrew interiors on all trims as notably roomy, comfortable and graced with adequate storage. Gauges are described as easy to read, if appearing a bit small in such a large dashboard, while the LCD vehicle information screen that’s standard in the Lariat and higher trims garners praise for its readability and information. Climate control and audio controls, alas, are once again judged to be just out of convenient reach for most drivers, while the orange interior trim accents available to the higher trims are a matter of some contention among reviewers, with some in favor, others not so much. Seats, meanwhile, are described as adequate in the lower trims and downright plush in the high- end versions.
For occupant safety, the 2012 F-150 relies as much on its size as it does on standard and optional safety equipment. Nevertheless, all trims boast standard 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS) with electronic brakeforce distribution, traction and stability control, front (and rear in Extended-cab trims) head airbags and dual front side-mounted airbags, along with a post-collision safety system. STX trims and above sport a remote antitheft alarm, with the XLT and higher trims boasting front fog/driving lights and dusk-sensing headlights. The King Ranch, Platinum and Harley Davidson trims additionally carry turn-signal-integrated mirrors (optional in all other trims with the Max Trailer Towing Package) and a rear obstacle detection system that are optional for the FX2 and FX4, as well as the Lariat, while trailer brake control is standard for the King Ranch and above, while again optional for the XL, STX, XLT and both FX trims. Finally, Ford’s highly touted My Key system, which can be programmed to govern top speed and volume control when sis or junior uses the truck, is standard in the STX and above and optional in XL trims.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2012 F-150 4 stars for overall safety, with a 3-star rating for frontal crash protection in the SuperCab versions, 4 stars for Regular cab and SuperCrew versions. Five stars are awarded for side-impact protection across the lineup, while rollover protection is rated at 3 stars for 4WD trims and 4 stars for RWD iterations.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), meanwhile, gives the SuperCab versions of the 2012 F-150 a Top Safety Pick award, and bestows its highest rating of Good on all trims in front-offset and side-impact crash testing, as well as for roof strength.
What Owners Think
Owners of the 2012 F-150 find fault with its generally poor gas mileage, though all concede that fuel economy is the least of their considerations in purchasing a full-size pickup. Further owner complaints include a somewhat steep base price, some issues with a few techno-gizmos and the fact that the automaker still refuses to install courtesy lights under hoods and in gloveboxes. Finally, owner pleas for a 4WD system that can be left engaged on dry pavement have, yet again, gone unresolved.
Most owners are, on the other hand, effusive in their praise of this big truck’s numerous standard features, well-wrought powerplants, work and towing abilities and Flex Fuel capabilities. Furthermore, the turbocharged EcoBoost V6 garners its share of kudos for its down-and-dirty power combined with surprising fuel efficiency. Handling is considered acceptable by most owners, and overall styling, both inside and out, is often a deal-maker in the minds of a great majority of owners. The consensus is, at bottom, there’s no question that Ford’s F-150 lineup will continue to rule the roost.CarGurus https://www.cargurus.com
Have Laptop. Will Travel. I'm retired and travelling the country in a 34' motor home. I'm really digging meeting people . . and sometimes their cars . . . getting a sense of what makes this nation tick. The plan is to visit all the national parks in the continental US, then cruise to Alaska to visit Denali, and to Hawaii to check out Haleakala and the Hawaii Volcano's national parks. Anyhow, when I'm not horsing the motor home around the roadways, I'm tooting around in the 2012 Ford Focus that we tow behind, or making runs to Home Depot and various malls with the 2004 F-150 that just won't die.
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