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2016 Ford F-150 Test Drive Review
It might not wear a Lincoln nameplate, but the 2016 Ford F-150 Limited is a genuine luxury vehicle in all but name.
Look and Feel
Form and Function
Looking for a luxurious pickup truck? Ford has the answer in the new 2016 F-150 Limited, which is loaded with extras and has lots of tasteful trimmings. Combine these upgrades with what is arguably the best full-size, light-duty pickup you can buy, and this truck looks like a value despite a high price.
Look and Feel
You can always judge the health of the American economy by observing the full-size pickup truck market and the people shopping for trucks. For example, suspension lifts, big tires, aftermarket exhaust systems, and roaring V8 engines are increasingly common in my part of the country, signaling that people are enjoying more expendable income and suffering less concern about gas prices.
Luxury-themed trucks are increasingly common, too, and the 2016 Ford F-150 is offered in a brand-new Limited trim level that has a starting price of more than $60,000. Ford is not alone in offering this level of luxe in a pickup designed for both work and play. Every truck builder makes an upscale version its full-size pickups, perhaps most successfully GMC with its Denali lineup.
Clearly, the F-150 Limited is designed to go head-to-head against the Sierra Denali, but you need not spend a small fortune on Ford’s popular full-sizer. Grab a Regular cab version in XL trim equipped with 2-wheel drive (2WD) and the standard 3.5-liter V6 engine, and you’ll part with $27,735, including the $1,195 destination charge.
Upgrades include SuperCab and SuperCrew cab styles, a longer cargo bed, 4-wheel drive (4WD), and a choice between two turbocharged V6 engines or a V8 engine. In addition to basic XL trim, Ford also offers the F-150 in XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trim levels, and for 2017 the Baja-ready Raptor will return to the lineup.
For 2016, Ford’s big news is the F-150 Limited, which is priced from $60,080. My test truck was loaded with 4WD ($3,425), a Trailer Tow Package ($895), White Platinum paint ($595), a spray-in bedliner ($495), active park assist ($440), a tailgate step ($375), box side steps ($325), and wheel-well liners ($180), bringing the sticker price to a whopping $66,810.
Featuring standard 22-inch aluminum wheels and satin-finish accents, the F-150 Limited is a great-looking truck that attracted lots of attention in my area of suburban Los Angeles. Better yet, unlike GMC with the Sierra Denali, Ford’s approach results in a clearly upscale but not ostentatious appearance. The F-150 Limited’s design detailing doesn’t scream for attention like the ostentatious Sierra Denali does.
Inside, caramel-colored Mojave leather and genuine eucalyptus wood decorate the interior, and in combination with real aluminum trim accents, a black dashboard and carpets, and Mojave-piped mats, this version of the F-150 is decidedly luxurious.
Ford’s twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is standard for the F-150, delivering 365 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 420 lb-ft of torque starting at just 2,500 rpm. Towing capacity measures 11,800 pounds, the F-150 Limited can manage up to 1,720 pounds of payload, and the EPA says this truck should return 17 mpg combined. I got 16.7 mpg on my test loop.
Matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual shift control and a Sport driving mode, the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 is terrific, producing plenty of power and emitting a throaty rumble under acceleration.
Sitting on 22-inch Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, the F-150 Limited is proof that big, sticky tires can make anything handle admirably. Ripping down Southern California’s Mulholland Highway, the twin-turbo F-150 Limited inspired trust and confidence, reminding me a bit of the lost but not forgotten SVT Lightning that I tested on the same stretch of road many years ago.
This dynamic acumen extends to city, suburban, and freeway driving, too, where the truck’s cornering grip and blasts of acceleration allow the F-150’s driver to take advantage of holes in traffic, merge effortlessly onto freeways, and negotiate intersections with a smile. At all times, the aluminum-bodied F-150 Limited feels lighter, smaller, and more nimble than you’d ever guess by its dimensions.
Those big wheels and tires produce a ride quality that is occasionally choppy, depending on the pavement surface, but at the same time they easily steamroll over cracks, holes, and other evidence of our nation’s fatigued infrastructure, helping to contribute to an overall amenable ride quality.
Drivers may need to acclimate to the somewhat heavy steering and sometimes sticky brakes. At first, each put a frown on my face, but after a week behind the wheel, they felt natural to me. The brakes do an admirable job of resisting fade, remaining stout even after miles of downhill abuse, while the steering feels resolute on-center and proves responsive when bending the truck into a curve or a corner.
Form and Function
Power retractable side steps make it easy to climb aboard or disembark from the F-150 Limited, and after darkness falls this model’s standard approach lighting illuminates the ground on each side of the vehicle. Plus, this truck is equipped with super-cool LED spotlights mounted to each side mirror.
Heated and ventilated front seats provide 10 ways of power adjustment and a standard massage function. While it takes a few trips to remember to activate it each time the driver starts the truck, this massaging feature will no doubt prove itself a huge selling point for dealers seeking to separate truck buyers from 60,000 of their hard-earned dollars.
As is true of all F-150 SuperCrew models, the F-150 Limited’s rear seat is as comfortable as a limousine's and equipped with standard heated cushions that provide excellent thigh support. Rear air-conditioning vents contribute to comfort levels, and a 3-prong electrical outlet matches the one on the dashboard.
Although certain interior materials are obviously designed for duty in a lower-priced truck and the industrial design themes don’t necessarily lend themselves to a luxury vehicle, the Ford F-150 Limited is undeniably plush. From its soft leather to its real wood and aluminum trim, this cabin is a work of art compared to those of other pickup trucks, easily beating the GMC Denali at its own game.
Controls are logically laid out, easy to find and use, and the switchgear is of good quality. More impressive is the breadth and depth of the data offered by the 8-inch driver information display, which Ford calls a “productivity screen.” Intuitively controlled using buttons on the steering wheel, this feature allows the driver to configure various settings, reference specific information related to towing and vehicle performance, and more.
Plentiful in-cabin storage includes a large glovebox and sizable center-console bin. A covered media bin sits forward of the transmission shifter, and a slot to the right of the shifter is perfect for holding smartphones. Door panels offer stacked bins and trays, and there is a tray atop the dashboard.
Flip the rear seat cushion up to create a huge storage area, one that protects valuables within the F-150’s locked and weatherproof cab. Even if passengers are along for the ride, there is storage room beneath the rear seat.
Loading the cargo bed is easier thanks to the optional side box steps and Ford’s terrific tailgate step. Equip the F-150 with a spray-in bedliner, however, and it is difficult to slide objects across the bed’s surface.
For 2016, Ford makes two significant technological advances with the F-150.
First, the old MyFord Touch infotainment system is replaced with the automaker’s next-generation Sync 3 setup. According to Ford, it responds to inputs faster, benefits from improved voice recognition, and includes a capacitive touch display screen with swipe capability and integrated Siri compatibility. Navigation is an option, complete with pinch-to-zoom capability, and Ford can update the software via Wi-Fi in order to keep the technology up to date.
Based on my experience, Sync 3 is better than the system it replaces, bringing the F-150 up to par with some competitors. I had no trouble pairing my iPhone 6 or making voice-command calls, and the graphics are terrific. But hell if I could determine how to get Apple CarPlay launched. It also seems like a truck of this caliber deserves a better sound system than a 10-speaker Sony stereo.
Second, Ford introduces Pro Trailer Backup Assist for the 2016 F-150. Using a knob on the dashboard, the driver can “steer” a trailer while the F-150’s available autonomous parking-assist technology handles all the wheel work. If you’ve ever struggled to reverse with a trailer attached, you’ll love this new technology.
In addition to these new features, the F-150 is available with several useful technological upgrades, including a 360-degree camera system, a remote tailgate release system, dynamic hitch assist, and a number of safety-related features.
Ford’s Sync system includes free access to the F-150’s 911 Assist technology. Pair a device to the Sync Bluetooth connection, and if it is aboard the vehicle during an accident in which the airbags deploy, the 911 Assist feature will automatically dial out to emergency responders in order to speed rescuers to your location. This service, unlike similar ones offered by Chevy, GMC, Ram, Toyota, and Nissan, does not require a monthly subscription.
Additionally, Ford offers the F-150 with an adaptive cruise control system including forward collision warning and brake support. Brake support is not the same thing as automatic emergency braking. The latter will apply the brakes automatically to avoid a collision, while brake support does not. Instead, brake support is designed to deliver maximum braking power when the driver steps on the brake pedal in conjunction with a forward-collision warning alert.
A blind-spot warning system with rear cross-traffic alert is also available, as well as a lane-keeping system that alerts the driver to unintended lane departure and can also prevent lane departure. During my testing, the lane-keeping system emitted false warnings when roads expanded from one to two lanes or contracted from two lanes to one. Additionally, when set to its normal level of sensitivity, the forward-collision warning system also emitted occasional false warnings.
As far as crash-test ratings are concerned, the Ford F-150 excels, especially now that Ford has upgraded protection levels in the SuperCab and Regular cab models. Last year, immediately following the F-150’s redesign for the 2015 model year, only the SuperCrew versions were specifically reinforced to provide optimum protection.
For 2016, the federal government says the F-150 provides a 5-star overall rating combined with a 4-star rollover resistance rating for both 2WD and 4WD models. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) calls the F-150 a Top Safety Pick, but without an automatic emergency braking system, the truck is ineligible for the Top Safety Pick+ rating.
If you’re concerned about cost effectiveness, you’re probably not shopping for the new F-150 Limited, Ford’s most expensive version of its light-duty pickup truck.
Aside from the starting price, there’s nothing particularly “eco” about its EcoBoost engine. That previously stated 16.7-mpg average on my regular test loop matches what I’ve gotten in a GMC Sierra equipped with a 5.3-liter V8 engine.
Furthermore, ALG (Automotive Lease Guide) rates the Toyota Tundra as the full-size truck with the best residual value, and J.D. Power reports that the Chevrolet Silverado enjoys higher quality ratings than does the Ford. As far as Consumer Reports is concerned, the F-150 rates better than average for reliability.
Deals are almost always available on full-size trucks, and the F-150 is no exception. Choose the right combination, and you can save thousands of dollars off the sticker price. When it comes to the F-150 Limited, though, rebates and incentives are not quite as generous.
Nevertheless, when it comes to full-size pickups, the F-150 Limited is my current favorite. Stacked up against most trucks, its value is difficult to discern. Compared to a typical midsize sedan or SUV wearing a luxury badge, however, it is easy to see how this pricey pickup is a relative bargain.
It might not wear a Lincoln nameplate (Ford has obviously learned lessons after the Blackwood and Mark LT debacles), but the 2016 F-150 Limited is a genuine luxury vehicle in all but name.
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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