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2013 Ford F-150 Test Drive Review
The 6-speed automatic transmission worked flawlessly, upshifting rapidly to conserve fuel under normal driving conditions, letting engine revs climb when accelerating hard, and holding a lower gear for hill ascents and descents.
The 2013 Ford F-150 proves that pickup trucks are no longer simple work tools offered with a few extras that make a Saturday night on the town more comfortable. Modern full-size trucks provide all the amenities offered on passenger cars and more, and in the F-150 lineup, Ford offers the most diversity of any light-duty pickup. If truck buyers can’t find a 2013 F-150 that meets their requirements, they’re not looking closely enough.
Look and Feel
Choice is the name of the game with the 2013 Ford F-150. This full-size pickup truck is offered in 3 cab styles and 3 bed lengths powered by one of 4 engine choices. Ten different trim levels are available, ranging from the base XL to the luxurious F-150 Limited.
Among them, the F-150 SVT Raptor variant serves as a factory-built off-road performance truck. For 2013, the SVT Raptor offers optional beadlock-capable wheels, and this model can be painted in a new color called Terrain. The Raptor’s new HID headlights and MyFord Touch infotainment and navigation touchscreen system, which includes redundant hard keys for drivers who might be wearing gloves, are available on other versions of the 2013 F-150. Additional changes for 2013 include subtle modifications to the F-150’s front styling and interior, fresh paint colors, revised trim selections and new wheel choices.
A new F-150 Limited model also debuts for 2013, sitting at the top of the truck’s lineup. The F-150 Limited is based on the Platinum trim level, adding unique interior and exterior trim, a power sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, polished 22-inch wheels and a standard turbocharged EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6 engine. For this review, we drove a 2013 F-150 SuperCrew 4WD with XLT trim, a short-bed cargo box, and an EcoBoost V6 engine. Our test sample wore a sticker price of $43,900, including a $995 destination charge.
Dipped in Kodiak Brown paint and encrusted with chrome trim, our F-150 XLT wasn’t as appealing to our eyes as some of the truck’s trim levels, but lots of pickup buyers like shiny trim, and we hear brown is coming back as a popular vehicle color. In any case, the F-150’s squared-off design wears it well, and while this truck’s styling is aging, the Ford still looks rugged yet refined, ready for work or play. The only change we might suggest would be to tone down the enormous grille.
The F-150 was last redesigned for the 2009 model year and is due for its next significant revision for the 2015 model year. The Ford Atlas Concept truck that debuted at the 2013 North American International Auto Show gives a good look at where the automaker is heading with the next iteration of the best-selling F-150.
Four engines are offered in the 2013 F-150, ranging from a 302-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine generating 278 lb-ft of torque to a 411-hp, 6.2-liter V8 good for 434 lb-ft of torque. All are paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel or 4-wheel drive. Depending on the truck’s configuration, the F-150 can tow up to 11,300 pounds of trailer and haul as much as 3,120 pounds of payload. Our test truck came equipped with the engine that can tow all that weight, the optional twin-turbocharged, direct-injected 3.5-liter V6. This popular upgrade, dubbed EcoBoost by Ford, delivers 365 hp at 5,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. Maximum payload capacity for the EcoBoost V6 is 3,100 pounds.
Our test truck’s twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 provided plenty of power. When accelerating with more than a light foot on the throttle, there was a hint of turbo lag, lasting the first third of the way through an intersection. Then the torque kicked in and the truck leaped forward. The 6-speed automatic transmission worked flawlessly, upshifting rapidly to conserve fuel under normal driving conditions, letting engine revs climb when accelerating hard, holding a lower gear for hill ascents and descents, and providing a Tow/Haul mode had we attached a trailer.
Admittedly, the EcoBoost’s exhaust note isn’t pleasing. Whereas a V8 rumbles with authority, the twin-turbo V6 bleats more than anything, which might be why Ford has done an impressive job of quieting and suppressing engine noise. Nevertheless, there’s no shortage of power, and the turbocharged engine almost certainly feels stronger than the rest of the F-150’s engine offerings in places like Denver or Salt Lake City, where altitude robs a normally aspirated engine of oomph.
If you haven’t driven or, for that matter, ridden in a modern pickup truck, you might find yourself astonished at how well they ride and handle. That is definitely the case with the 2013 Ford F-150, even with our test truck’s stiffer off-road-ready suspension and all-terrain tires. Remarkably refined and composed, our test truck’s stiffened off-roading underpinnings proved firm over bumps, ruts and lousy pavement, yet there’s no denying that modern pickup truck ownership comes with fewer compromises than ever. As might be expected, though, the P275/65R18 Goodyear Wrangler SR-A tires, which dug capably into the dirt, offered relatively low levels of grip on pavement if the truck was tossed into a turn with too much speed.
The F-150’s electric steering provided excellent heft regardless of the pickup’s velocity, and because this is a truck, it’s characteristically slower off-center than a typical passenger car. Also, because this is a truck, city maneuverability proved challenging on a regular basis, such as when negotiating parking lots, parking garages and the like. On an afternoon jaunt to a favorite restaurant, we had to drive to the top floor of a city parking garage just to find a space large enough to park the beast, which cleared the roof by little more than a couple of inches.
As befits a truck designed for towing, the F-150’s brake pedal is firm and responsive, yet easy to modulate. The optional trailer brake controller is located on the dashboard to the right of the steering column, where it is easy to see and reach. Outward visibility is excellent, particularly with the wider towing mirrors present on our test truck, which offered separate blind-zone mirrors on the bottom. Let it be known, however, that wind noise erupts around the mirrors at 45 mph. Below that speed, the cabin is almost silent. On the freeway, above 65 mph, and especially heading into the wind or a crosswind, it gets noisy in the F-150’s otherwise silent cabin, and quickly.
Form and Function
Symmetrical, modular and industrial in appearance, the 2013 F-150’s dashboard is rendered in hard plastic with a bold, almost elephantine, pattern stamped into its topography. There is no shortage of storage trays, slots, cubbies or cupholders, and the partitioned front door panel bins help improve organization. Our test truck had an enormous optional center console storage area, too.
The F-150’s front bucket seats are comfortable, and our XLT test version included rugged, high-quality fabric. Climbing aboard isn’t easy, making the optional side step rails and standard roof pillar grab handles especially useful, but once situated behind the steering wheel, the wide, firm seats and broad, flat armrests are excellent for longer hauls. Our test truck included power adjustable pedals that made it even easier to get comfortable.
The F-150 SuperCrew’s rear seat legroom can only be described as massive, but the seat itself is mounted too low for comfort, incapable of providing thigh support for taller occupants. The door panel armrests are hard rather than soft, and as is true of the front seats, entry and exit would be quite difficult if not for step rails and assist handles. Making matters worse, the rear doors have weak detents and easily flop into neighboring vehicles if unattended. On a positive note, the rear bottom cushions offer a 60/40 split and flip up with one hand to provide a flat load floor and up to 55.4 cubic feet of covered and locked cargo space. There are even plastic bag hooks to secure groceries.
In the F-150 XLT, numerous buttons surround a small 4.2-inch LCD screen in the center of the dashboard, underlined with unmarked function keys that correspond to commands shown on the bottom of the screen. Beneath this is a stereo with large power/volume and tuning knobs and a climate system with large fan speed and temperature knobs. A USB port and auxiliary audio input jack reside inside a storage bin at the bottom of the dashboard.
If there’s an ergonomic flaw with the F-150’s interior, aside from certain function buttons that are likely to prove difficult to use while wearing gloves, it’s the combination turn signal/wiper stalk design. First, the stalk is canted at an angle that suggests the right-turn signal is already activated, which it is not. Second, the stalk returns to center after engagement, making it hard to shut off if making a lane change or a soft turn onto a different highway.
Our test truck’s short 5.5-foot cargo bed offered a cab-mounted light, a spray-in bedliner, 4 tie-down hooks and an optional tailgate step with a grab handle that proved quite handy.
Like other Ford products, the 2013 F-150 is equipped with Sync Bluetooth connectivity, which is optional for the XL and STX trim levels and standard for everything else. Several versions of the F-150 can be outfitted with Ford Work Solutions technology, which is designed for fleet operators who need to keep tabs on vehicles in the field from a remote workstation and for truck owners seeking to maximize productivity on the work site. The F-150 SVT Raptor is exclusively offered with an optional front- and rear-view camera system to assist maneuvering in difficult off-road situations.
Purchase a Lariat, SVT Raptor, King Ranch, Platinum or Limited, and the F-150 is equipped with a MyFord Touch infotainment system. This system can be upgraded with navigation, which is standard for the Platinum and Limited trim levels. In a curious twist that reflects a realization of certain touchscreen limitations, the F-150’s MyFord Touch technology is enhanced with buttons and knobs, which makes it easier for a person wearing gloves to use the system’s functions.
The F-150’s MyFord Touch is a second-generation version of the system, and it’s easier to use than the original recipe. Either that, or touchscreen control panels are becoming so common in modern vehicles that we’ve acclimated since our last round of frustration with the technology.
Ford equips every 2013 F-150 with 6 airbags, a 4-wheel disc antilock braking system, traction and stability control systems, roll stability and trailer sway control systems, and an SOS Post Crash Alert system, which automatically sounds the horn and activates the flashers following a collision. Additionally, all trims except the base XL are equipped with MyKey technology, which allows the truck’s owner to program seatbelt usage warning alerts, vehicle speed alerts and limits, and stereo volume limits, to name just a few of its functions. MyKey also makes it impossible to deactivate the traction and stability control systems.
Safety-related options for the 2013 F-150 include rear parking assist sensors, a reversing camera, and Sync with 911 Assist service. With Sync 911 Assist, when a paired cellphone is aboard the vehicle and the airbags deploy, vehicle occupants are put in touch with an emergency operator to help speed rescue following a collision.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), all versions of the 2013 F-150 receive an overall crash-test rating of 4 stars, which reflects a 5-star side impact rating, a 4-star rollover resistance rating for 2WD trucks, and a 3-star rollover resistance rating for 4WD trucks. The NHTSA reports, however, that F-150 SuperCrew versions get a 3-star frontal-impact rating, while the regular cab and SuperCab versions receive a 4-star frontal-impact rating.
It is a bit simpler to understand results from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which calls the 2013 F-150 a Top Safety Pick.
One of the inferred benefits of the F-150’s optional EcoBoost V6 is improved fuel economy without any sacrifice in horsepower and torque. Our 4-wheeler test truck’s EPA ratings were 15 mpg city/21 highway, with a combined rating of 17 mpg, 1 mpg better than the 5.0-liter V8. We averaged 16.5 mpg in combined driving, from tackling mountain trails to scaling downtown parking structures. That’s right in line with the EPA’s projections. For comparison, a Chevy Silverado 1500 or a GMC Sierra 1500 with a 5.3-liter V8 engine is EPA-estimated to get the same fuel economy as our F-150 EcoBoost. The Ram 1500 with a V8 engine shaves 2 mpg off both the city and highway ratings, and both the Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra are thirstier yet.
Ford prices the F-150 in line with its primary competition, and usually offers substantial rebates to sweeten deals. The F-150 does not hold its value over time as well as the Toyota Tundra, but matches or bests other competitors. Reliability is expected to be average, and the F-150’s powertrain warranty is not as good as those provided by Chevrolet, GMC and Ram.
Christian Wardlaw has nearly two decades of experience reviewing cars, and has served in editorial leadership roles with Edmunds, Autobytel, and J.D. Power and Associates. Chris prefers to focus on the cars people actually buy rather than the cars about which people dream, and emphasizes the importance of fuel economy and safety as much as how much fun a car is to drive. Chris is married to an automotive journalist, is the father of four daughters, and lives in Southern California.
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