With “FX4 OFFROAD” emblazoned on its bed sides and the new 5.0-liter V-8 sitting beneath the domed hood, you might expect the Ford F-150’s character to be limited to a rugged, mud-slinging brute. That’s true, in part, but the 4×4 SuperCab test truck also has a notably refined driving character, upscale interior and sophisticated electronics to make it a civilized workhorse.
Base priced at $36,625, the 2011 FX4 SuperCab pickup is upgraded with a $2,950 FX Luxury Package, giving the F-150 a drive-out price of $40,550 after tacking on $975 destination charge.
This 144.5-inch-wheelbase model has a 6.5-foot cargo box — one of three box lengths that also include 5.5- and 8-foot sizes. The imposing-looking test truck is painted in Blue Flame Metallic, which is one of seven color choices. The greatest visual pop comes with a special Red Candy Metallic, which adds $250 to the price tag. Tuxedo Black Metallic is another fitting color for the F-150’s refined and macho character blend. Coupled with the FX4-standard tall, gray billet-style grille with body-color surround, the cool factor is pushed a notch higher.
FX4 models are poised on P275/65R-18 Goodyear Wrangler all-season tires, wrapping machined-aluminum six-spoke wheels with painted inserts. Twenty-inch premium painted six-spoke aluminum wheels are a $755 option.
Power to these wheels is via Ford’s 5.0-liter V-8 — one of four new powertrains — that is a version of the 5.0 planted in the 2011 Mustangs. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, it cranks out 360 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 380 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,250 rpm.
Fuel economy for 4×4 models is 14 miles per gallon city and 19 mpg highway. Fitted with a standard 3.73 rear axle, maximum towing is 9,400 pounds and payload capacity is 1,680 pounds.
The 5.0’s power is just right for most consumers’ needs, handling typical work duty and providing ample on-tap acceleration for city and highway driving. More muscle — with a better 15/21 fuel economy — is available with a $2,370 upgrade to the 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost. With twin-turbocharging efficiency, it propels the F-150 with 365 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and, more importantly, 420 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,500 rpm. This hefty torque, coupled with a 4.10 rear axle, gives the F-150 the grunt to tow 11,300 pounds and tote a payload up to 2,080 pounds.
Inside the SuperCab, the well-insulated cabin prevents much of the engine and road noise from entering the cab. Ride quality also is surprisingly good for a 4×4 pickup. The suspension is a coil-on-shock, independent type up front and leaf springs with outboard shocks in the rear.
A new engineering refinement is the F-150’s class-exclusive electric power-assisted steering. EPAS draws power only when needed versus the conventional hydraulic system that runs continuously off the engine. This system contributes to improved fuel economy.
Another advantage of EPAS is that its tuning is software-based, so it can be custom-tuned in sync with the truck’s powertrain, wheelbase and other factors. With EPAS the F-150 gains on-road feel and provides less effort to maneuver in parking lots.
Along with engineering refinements, the FX4 test truck offers luxury and convenience pluses, making life pleasant for long treks. Among the extras offered with the available FX Luxury Package are: powered and heated leather-upholstered front captain’s chairs; automatic temperature control; power-adjustable pedals; power-sliding rear window; premium audio system with six-disc CD changer and MP3 capability; rear-view camera; and a reverse-sensing system.
Standard on the FX4 is Ford’s Sync system, allowing for voice-activated hands-free calling and selection of songs from the music collection on your digital music player, mobile phone or USB drive.
Also standard is a 4.2-inch LCD productivity screen, centered in the instrument cluster, which provides selections from several categories: Gauge Mode; Trip A/B; Fuel Economy; Truck Apps; Settings; and Information. I particularly like the Truck Apps, which assists those who are towing a trailer with a checklist of questions to help ensure the trailer is connected properly.
Truck Apps also provides information for off-roaders: angle of ascent or descent; pitch-and-roll, which shows the angle of surface incline, the degree of tilt and steering angle; and off-road gear selection, if the vehicle is in 4×4 high or 4×4 low and if the E-locker is engaged. With the electronic shift-on-fly 4×4 system, electronic locking rear differential and skid plates, the FX4 is outfitted to handle the challenges of the rough stuff. And of course, this rugged F-150 is equally at home in the city or cruising smooth stretches of highway. – (Tim Spell is editor of the Houston Chronicle InMotion section.)
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011