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2020 Ford F-150 Test Drive Review
The modern pickup truck has to play the role of commuter car, grocery-getter, long-haul road tripper, and children's shuttle bus. And yet, these trucks still have to tow and haul whatever and whenever you need. The 2020 model year Ford F-150 answers that call by providing an accommodating and modern interior, comfortable road manners, and a lineup of engines that provide the power and torque to help it hold its own at the worksite.
Look and Feel
Given the demands made of modern trucks, there are only so many places where design can be expressed. Rivals such as the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 lean into more aggressive, abstract designs. But there’s more restraint on the part of Ford designers, and the F-150 is better off for it. The clean lines and blocky grille exude confidence without ever insisting upon itself. The current F-150's styling proves how trucks benefit from designs that lean less into the trend of the moment. This truck still will look good when it's on its third owner.
Inside is a straight-forward, mechanical-looking dash. It can be cold and unwelcoming before startup, but then the dash and infotainment screen come to life. The F-150 puts form ahead of function. Lower-tier and upper-level trims are bathed in hard plastics. The more luxurious trims add some soft-touch materials and leather to the mix, but it still lacks the luxury feel of the rival Ram 1500. The Ram elevates its interior beyond what may be necessary for a pickup. The F-150 delivers good enough fit-and-finish while focusing on durability. This cabin looks as though it could take a beating.
Trim levels for the F-150 are XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. The XL trim is your tried-and-true work truck. Standard features aren’t plentiful but include steel wheels, air conditioning, an AM/FM radio, manual locks, and a 2.3-inch driver information display. It also provides standard forward automatic emergency braking. The XLT adds 17-inch painted aluminum wheels, chrome bumpers and grille, cruise control, SYNC 3 infotainment, and a WiFi hotspot.
The F-150 Lariat trim bridges the gap between the workingman’s truck and the more luxurious trims. It adds push-button start, leather-trimmed seats, heated power-folding side mirrors, an 8-inch color driver information display, dual-zone climate control, and power heated and cooled front seats.
The King Ranch has a unique Western vibe with saddle-leather upholstery and special “King Ranch” stitching in the seatbacks—in case you forget what you’re driving. Other features on this trim include a Bang & Olufsen premium sound system, heated rear seats, and a remote release tailgate.
The Platinum adds unique chrome badging, body-color bumpers, LED bed lighting and fog lamps, and a remote release tailgate. Inside, the Platinum adds two wall-style power outlets, blue ambient lighting, and Ford’s Multi-Contour Active Motion seats. Branding aside, let’s call these what they are: massaging seats. And they are fantastic.
The Raptor takes things on a far less luxurious route. It has big fenders, a wider body, a menacing grille, and a host of specialized off-road running gear.
The F-150 Limited trim raises the bar for how comfortable a truck can be. It features satin aluminum exhaust tips, grille, and door handles, as well as 22-inch polished aluminum wheels. It also boasts premium leather upholstery and a dual-panel moonroof.
Ford offers a handful of powertrain options under the hood of the F-150. The XL and XLT come standard with a 3.3-liter V6 engine making 290 horsepower, and 265 pound-feet of torque. These trucks are also available with a 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V6, making 325 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. If you prefer more cylinders, Ford offers a 5.0-liter V8 making 395 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque.
Other engine options include the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, making 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque—the most powerful in the lineup. Ford also offers a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6. This engine puts out 250 hp and 440 lb-ft of torque.
The XL and XLT trims come with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The rest of the lineup receives a 10-speed automatic transmission. The 10-speed is accompanied by a Drive Mode selector with Normal, Tow/Haul, Snow/Wet, EcoSelect, and Sport drive modes. Both transmission options are capable of sending power to the rear wheels or an available 4-wheel drivetrain (4WD) with low-range gearing.
When properly equipped, F-150 can tow up to 12,300 pounds, making it the leader for towing capacity in the light-duty truck segment. This figure requires selecting the XLT SuperCrew rear-wheel drive (RWD), the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, 20-inch tires, and the Max Trailer Tow Package.
The base V6 engine will get up and motivate the F-150 in daily driving scenarios, but it's not designed for the same work as the rest of the engine lineup. The V8, turbo Ecoboost V6s, and turbodiesel engines are all designed for towing and hauling. When not under load, they deliver serious acceleration and can even spin the tires.
Drivers may be surprised to find the F-150 is a full-size pickup that manges to handle and ride like a smaller vehicle than it is. Steering is responsive and the turning radius is manageable. The ride is refined over highways, back roads, and main streets.
The F-150 Raptor is a completely different beast from the rest of the lineup. In addition to the wider body and flared fenders, it sports a lifted suspension with special Fox Racing Shox with live valve technology that can adjust the system in real-time. The Raptor has a Terrain Management System with Normal, Baja, Rock Crawl, Sport, Mud/Sand, Wet/Snow, and Tow/Haul drive modes. These modes alter the shocks as well as the throttle response and mechanically locking 4WD. The Raptor also provides enhanced skid plates for the engine, transfer case, and transmission. While the Raptor is the preferred vehicle for off-roading, most versions of the F-150 are capable of getting off the beaten path when needed.
Form and Function
There are three cab sizes and three bed sizes, offered in various combinations. Cab options are Regular Cab, SuperCab, and SuperCrew. Bed sizes include 5-and-a-half-, 6-and-a-half-, and 8-foot. The Regular Cab is a traditional single cab. The SuperCab is an extended cab with rear half-doors. In order to open the rear half-doors, you need to open the front doors. So, if you have kids or need to access the rear seats often, those rear half-doors could become a nuisance. If you need to get in and out of the back often, look to the SuperCrew, Ford’s full 4-door crew cab option. All body styles provide plenty of front-row space, but the SuperCrew is the standout when it comes to overall cabin space. The SuperCrew offers an incredible amount of backseat legroom, and the rear seats flip up, providing a large load floor if you need to store something within the cab.
The F-150 provides plenty of cubbies and cupholders throughout the cabin, as well as deep in-door pockets. The center console storage bin is large enough for most laptops and can easily hold some hand tools. If you need to get into the bed, the F-150 also provides a bed step that extends from the top of the tailgate when opened. While helpful, the integrated corner bed steps on GM trucks accomplish the same task and lack any moving parts that could break over time.
The XL trim has a basic AM/FM radio with an auxiliary audio input jack. This stereo provides four speakers on the regular cab and six speakers on the SuperCab and Super Crew. The SYNC infotainment system is optional on the XL and adds a touchscreen, USB ports, and voice recognition.
Moving up to the XLT adds the SYNC 3 infotainment system. Housed in an 8-inch touchscreen, SYNC 3 provides Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, enhanced voice recognition, pinch-to-zoom functionality for map interfaces, and a pair of smart-charging USB ports. SYNC 3 also shines thanks to its simplicity of menu navigation. Buttons and fonts are large and easy to read; there are helpful dock buttons at the bottom of the screen. There is also a home button for whenever you get lost. In 2020, advanced technology shouldn’t require a master's degree to operate, and SYNC 3 packs a ton of features in a way that is incredibly easy to use.
XLT-and-up trims also feature FordPass with a 4G WiFi modem that can pair up to 10 devices. FordPass also uses an app on your mobile device so you can remotely start, lock and unlock, and locate your vehicle. It also allows you to check various vehicle statuses. FordPass also lets you schedule a time to remotely start the truck, helping you optimize your morning routine.
The XL and XLT trims are available with a Kicker subwoofer to enhance the stereo. On higher trims, the available B&O sound system by Bang & Olufsen packs seriously crisp sound and provides 10 speakers and a subwoofer.
Standard safety features include a full array of front- and side-impact airbags, curve control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control. It also comes with rain-sensing activated headlights, an anti-theft system, and the SOS post-crash alert system.
As driver assistance technology goes, Ford makes pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking standard on the F-150, including the XL trim. A reverse sensing system is available on the base XL. A number of driver-assistance features are available or come standard on higher trims as part of Ford Co-Pilot360. This suite of technology includes automatic high beams, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control.
The F-150 is also available with the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which takes the hassle out of towing. Typically, backing up a trailer required turning the steering wheel opposite to normal operation to position the truck in a way that directs the trailer where you want it. With the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, you can simply turn a knob on the dash to direct the trailer exactly where you want it to go. The truck makes all the calculations and steering inputs for you.
In terms of crash tests, the 2020 Ford F-150 SuperCrew trucks received 5 out of 5 stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but the SuperCab and regular cab managed just 4 out of 5. Similarly, the SuperCrew F-150 received top marks from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in its various crash tests.
When it comes to fuel economy, the most efficient version of the F-150 is the turbodiesel with RWD, returning 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. But diesel fuel costs are typically higher. According to the EPA, your annual fuel cost would be lower if you went for the XL or XLT with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 and RWD. It returns 20 mpg city, 26 highway, 22 combined. The V8 returns 17 mpg city, 23 highway, 19 combined. The least efficient version of the F-150 is the Raptor, which returns fuel economy of 15 mpg city, 18 highway, 16 combined.
Base MSRP for the 2020 Ford F-150 is $28,745 for an XL trim. The XLT starts at $34,760. CarGurus recommends the Lariat, which starts at $43,250. The Lariat offers plenty of creature comforts without breaking the bank. Speaking of breaking the bank, the King Ranch starts at $52,990, and the Raptor starts at $53,455. The range-topping Limited starts at $67,735.
The F-150's pricing is in line with the rival Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra, while the Ram 1500 costs a few thousand more but offers better cabin quality and superior road refinement. Still, the F-150 delivers both of those attributes, just less of each. And, of course, it does so while providing class-leading towing capability.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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2020 Ford F-150 Top Comparisons
Users ranked 2020 Ford F-150 against other cars which they drove/owned. Each ranking was based on 9 categories. Here is the summary of top rankings.
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Insturment Panel On My 2020 F150 Is Dim
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