You’re looking at the new 2016 Ford F-150 Limited, a pricey pickup truck built for work, for play, and for luxuriating.
3.5-liter EcoBoost V6
365 hp., 420 lb.-ft. of torque
You work hard. You play hard. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to do both at the same time. Working hard and playing hard sometimes requires the transport and use of heavy, bulky gear. For that, nothing else matches the functionality of a full-size pickup truck, and no other light-duty pickup matches the breadth and depth of the 2016 Ford F-150 lineup.
That’s the opinion, anyway, of one easily drawn after spending a week behind the wheel of the new luxury-themed F-150 Limited, which priced out at $66,810.
Sorry. Didn’t mean to make you choke, or spit out whatever might have been in your mouth.
While that might be a kingly sum, keep in mind that Ford offers the F-150 in a seemingly endless array of cab styles, bed lengths, and powertrain choices. A basic F-150 XL with a regular cab, a short bed, and rear-wheel drive starts at less than $28,000, including the $1,195 destination charge. The ritzy Limited version stands at the opposite end of the F-150 spectrum and is, for all intents and purposes, a luxury vehicle.
Still, despite its layer of luxe, the F-150 Limited retains the essential function and utility that defines a pickup truck. Even without all of the extras, and by both my own evaluative yardstick and the relevant numbers, any F-150 in any form has what it takes to beat the competition.
Design: 9.0 rating
Decked out with 22-inch wheels and satin finish trim, the F-150 Limited unmistakably resides atop the F-150 trim level ladder.
In many ways, designers of pickup trucks have a simpler task than those penning other kinds of vehicles. Trucks need not boast saucy curves or sharp creases, nor must they project an air of speed and affluence. Pickup trucks simply need to embody an image of strength and toughness, while burnishing a brand’s image.
The latest Ford F-150, redesigned for the 2015 model year, manages to hit all the right stylistic notes, equipped with an enormous, monolithically constructed façade amplified by my test vehicle’s standard 22-inch aluminum wheels. The Limited trim level also wears a multitude of satin-finish trim elements that whisper the clear dialect of sophistication.
Inside, most of the F-150 Limited’s materials were prettily wrought. Rich, caramel-colored leather complemented by matte-finish eucalyptus wood trim looks terrific, and aluminum accents and piped floor mats add further flair to the cabin.
Though clearly upscale, the F-150 Limited is no precious snowflake. Aside from the surface trimmings, the interior materials look and feel tough, built more for durability than for luxuriance. While the ambiance is different from that of a lavish SUV or sedan that is built mostly for sybaritic pleasures, there’s no denying that the F-150 Limited’s cabin is deluxe.
Comfort: 9.5 rating
Covered in Mojave leather, which describes the color and not the material, the F-150 Limited’s front seat are heated, ventilated, and contain massagers that are perfect for long road trips.
Despite the rough-and-tumble purpose of a pickup truck, the 2016 Ford F-150 proves remarkably civilized for running everyday errands in a suburban setting.
While its high ride height and tall ground clearance makes getting inside a bit of a task, thanks to its power deploying running boards my two young kids were able to clamber into the cabin with quite a bit of satisfaction. At night, ambient lighting illuminates the ground beneath the doors, so it’s easy to avoid stepping in something unsavory.
Once you’ve climbed aboard, the Limited model’s standard SuperCrew cab configuration provides a cavernous interior. Settle in to the nicely bolstered and supportive front bucket seats, equipped with 10-way power adjustment for an ideal perch. Limited models come with standard heated and ventilated seats, and both the driver and passenger are pleased to discover their multi-contour massaging function. Three adults can easily ride abreast on the rear bench seat, and room for legs, feet, shoulders, hips, and elbows is quite generous. Air conditioning vents, a three-prong power outlet, and heated outboard seats make calling “shotgun” a needless exercise.
Controls: 9.0 rating
Clearly upscale yet rugged and ready, the F-150 Limited’s dashboard provides a simple, logical, and easy-to-use control layout.
Pickup trucks must convey strength and rugged capability both inside and out, and despite the F-150 Limited’s layer of luxury fittings, the dashboard’s bold and bulging if wonderfully symmetrical design elements are a success.
Through that symmetry, it is obvious that Ford put quite a bit of thought into the F-150’s control layout. They are easy to find. They are easy to understand. And they are easy to use. If I question the company’s approach, it would be with regard to sizing and arrangement of some secondary functions, which do not appear to be operable while wearing a set of work gloves.
Perhaps best of all, for the 2016 model year, Ford has done away with the oft-criticized MyFord Touch infotainment system and replaced it with a new Sync 3 setup. Other touches that owners are sure to appreciate include a button near the rearview mirror that operates the power sliding window behind the rear seat, and an available tailgate release system to better facilitate loading and unloading.
Utility: 9.5 rating
Optional cargo bed step deploy just forward of the F-150 Limited’s rear wheels, making it easier to secure cargo.
Planning a move? Doing a little furniture shopping? The first person you call for help is the one with the pickup truck.
Should that person show up driving a Ford F-150, especially one wearing “LIMITED” lettering on the hood, you can trust that it can tackle up to 1,720 pounds of payload inside of its short, 5-foot 7-inch cargo bed. Optional cab side steps and an integrated tailgate step will make loading and unloading even easier. Alternatively, connect a trailer and haul almost six tons of weight thanks to the 11,800-lb. trailer rating*.
Aside from traditional truck capabilities, the F-150 Limited supplies an incredible amount of storage inside the cab. The center console accommodates a laptop computer and then some, and the glove box is huge as well. You’ll find plenty of storage areas in which to keep your phone and other belongings, while water bottles and other detritus can be placed within the stacked bins and trays embedded into the door panels.
If you need a sizable amount of covered, locked, weather-proof storage, flip the SuperCrew’s rear seat cushion up and slide bulky cargo into the rear of the truck’s cab. Ford has also designed the rear seat to accommodate smaller items beneath the bottom cushion when they’re in use by passengers.
Technology: 8.0 rating
In the 2016 F-150, Ford offers a new infotainment system called Sync 3. A new Pro Trailer Backup Assist system is also available, seen here as the knob directly below the 4WD system controls to the left of the climate system.
As previously reported, the F-150 gets a new Sync 3 infotainment system for 2016. Ford says it is faster, easier to use, more modern in terms of its appearance and functionality, and is designed to accept easy software updates via an external Wi-Fi source. Launch the navigation system, and Sync 3’s capacitive touch display screen allows you to swipe and zoom the map to your heart’s content.
Ford’s claims of improvement are accurate, and I find Sync 3 to be far superior to the old MyFord Touch system. I especially appreciate the Siri Eyes Free compatibility. However, what’s missing is smartphone projection technology in the form of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. After my test drive and before this review was published, Ford officially announced that these features would be offered for 2017, and can retroactively be installed in older models with Sync 3 as long as the owner buys a hardware upgrade and performs a software upgrade.
Ah, remember the good old says, when a transfer case shifter was the most confusing thing about your truck?
Another new technology for 2016, the available Pro Trailer Backup Assist system is designed to help F-150 owners to reverse a trailer. It works in conjunction with the F-150’s available front and rear parking sensors and autonomous parking assist steering technology in order to simplify the process of getting a trailer backed in to where you want it to go. The driver twists a knob on the dashboard, using it to “steer” the trailer in the intended direction, and the hands-free steering assist takes care of the rest.
Another parking assistance feature, a 360-degree, top-down camera system with a split-view display, is also available for the F-150. It stitches together images gathered from four cameras located at each corner of the truck in order to create a top-down view of the F-150 and its surroundings. The driver can also use the forward cameras to “see” around blind corners, such as when exiting an alleyway.
Especially as pertains to the F-150 Limited, we’ve just scratched the technological surface here. Rest assured that the F-150 is one of the most technologically advanced vehicles in its segment.
Safety: 8.0 rating
Once Ford offers an automatic emergency braking system for the F-150, it will ace all crash tests. In the meantime, know that this modern pickup truck has been engineered for top crash protection.
Because Ford does not offer an automatic emergency braking system for the F-150, this full-size truck just misses top safety ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It does earn high marks across the board from the NHTSA.
Almost certainly, the company will take steps to rectify this omission for 2017. I mean, the F-150 already has an available forward collision warning system, allowing it to qualify for a “Top Safety Pick” designation. The problem is that the F-150’s brake support technology applies full braking force only when the driver actively uses the brake pedal. It is not an automatic braking system, which is required to earn a “Top Safety Pick+” rating.
As far as other driver assistance systems are concerned, I was happy to see the inclusion of a reversing camera, a blind spot warning system, and a rear cross-traffic alert system. Even with its humongous windows and oversized mirrors, the F-150’s blind spots are sizable. Other than a brief fling to see how it worked (fine, by the way), I did not keep the truck’s lane departure warning and lane keeping assist systems engaged.
With Sync Bluetooth connectivity, Ford also includes an emergency 911 Assist feature as standard equipment. It does not require a subscription. All you need is a paired smartphone to be aboard the truck at the time the airbags deploy, and to have the 911 Assist feature turned on. Meeting those two qualifications provides an automatic alert to rescuers following a crash.
Discussed previously, additional driver assist technologies include the F-150’s availableActive Park Assist and Pro Trailer Backup Assist systems. I used neither, but can understand how they are useful and appreciate their availability. Your mileage may differ.
Power and Performance: 9.3 rating
People who do not believe that a twin-turbocharged V6 engine can tackle the same workload and deliver the same acceleration as a traditional V8 simply have not test-driven a Ford F-150 with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6.
Haters gonna hate, and there were plenty of doubters when Ford announced that some of the most capable versions of its iconic full-size pickup would be motivated by a twin-turbocharged V6 engine. Naysayers, you shall be silenced if ever you exercise your right foot upon an accelerator pedal connected to the F-150’s 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6.
Tromp on the gas, and its 365 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 420 lb.-ft. of torque starting from 2,500 rpm is immediately evident, revealing no traceable turbo lag. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, a four-wheel-drive system is optional, and whenever you accelerate, the engine and exhaust notes are a delight.
Is it quick? Oh yes. In fact, independent publications have pegged this engine to move the F-150 from zero to 60 mph in just over six seconds.
Of course, the more you exercise the truck, or take advantage of its towing and hauling capabilities, the lower your fuel economy results will be. Still, despite regularly engaging in the thrill of stabbing the go-pedal, I managed to extract 16.7 mpg during testing, nearly matching the EPA’s official estimate of 17 mpg in combined driving.
Ride and Handling: 9.0 rating
Equipped with a powerful engine, huge wheels and tires, and a stiff chassis, the Ford F-150 Limited is great to drive no matter the situation.
By the very definition of their purpose, pickup trucks have higher centers of gravity and are tuned to account for vast differences in payload and weight distribution, depending on the task at hand. I will be honest. Aside from driving this truck with up to five people aboard, I did not use the F-150 as God and Dearborn intended.
As such, and keeping in mind the truck’s giant 22-inch wheels and tires, I found the F-150’s handling impressive. The connected ride, heavy but precise steering, and responsive brakes provide a level of handling capability unusual for this type of vehicle.
Unloaded, the F-150’s ride was occasionally choppy, depending on the road surface. With five adults aboard, things smoothed out a bit. Either way, nobody would characterize the F-150 Limited as a buckboard.
Even when traveling the serpentine canyon roads on one portion of my test loop, the F-150’s driving dynamics supplied uncanny composure and encouraged unrivaled confidence. Obviously, this big truck is not a sports sedan, and you can’t toss it into a corner with wild abandon. With that said, the F-150 Limited manages a series of switchbacks with a minimum of drama.
Driving along the clogged arteries also known as Southern California’s freeway system, as you look down at the relatively miniscule crossovers and minivans ahead and in adjacent lanes, you realize how big, tall and wide the Ford F-150 is. Still, in cramped urban parking situations, this truck is easier to wheel and more nimble than you might expect.
Meryl Streep is renowned because she’s an exceptional actress and works hard at her craft. “Game of Thrones” is popular because it tells an undeniably compelling story. And the Ford F-150 is America’s best-selling truck because tows, hauls, and performs like no other in its segment. Better yet, this Ford pick-‘em-up also proves eminently enjoyable to use and drive on a daily basis, especially when it’s decked out in sumptuous F-150 Limited specification.
Total Vehicle Score:177/200 points
Overall Vehicle Rating: 8.9