100 years of innovation

A sneak peak at the 2018 Ford F-series

August 30, 2017
by Howard J Elmer

For 2018, just three years after the last restyle, the F 150’s look is changing again to bring the entire line into one styling family. Image: Howard J Elmer

From the August 2017 print edition

If you do anything long enough, significant anniversaries will start to pop up. So it goes with Ford trucks. Just this past July the company reached the 100th anniversary its first factory assembled pickup. This model—known simply as the TT—debuted in July of 1917. This first pickup was a basic model T with a cargo box added to a modified car body. It was an instant success and Ford has been building trucks ever since. However the real boom in pickups came after WWII with the introduction of the first F-series truck (what we could call a modern truck) in 1948. From then on its sales grew each year and by the 1970’s the trucks had established sales dominance. In fact, they have been the sales leader in Canada for over 50 years straight and 40 years in the States. Why?

In with the new
In a word, it’s due to innovation—or as Ford likes to say, “constant innovation”. While that sounds like just a marketing buzzword, when applied to Ford’s trucks it does ring true. The company’s push to add content, meaningful content, to its F-series is an annual exercise. They don’t wait for generational changes to release updates. Instead, year in and year out, Ford changes mechanicals and add tech as it’s needed, responding to its customers’ wants. For example, in 2015 switching the body to aluminum was a major update; so you’d expect them to ride that way for several years.

The truck has added a dozen driver-assist technologies that make this F-series that much easier and safer to drive. image: Howard J Elmer

However, in 2016 they made powertrain changes and added features like Pro-Trailer backup assist. Then, in 2017, the SuperDuty F-series was not only updated but adopted the same body as the F-150 along with all its new electronics. Now, for 2018, just three years after the last restyle, the look is changing again to bring the entire line into one styling family. But past this cosmetic change they have also added three new interior décor packages, six new rims for wheels 18 to 22-inches, and brought back the mesh grille (last found on an 2008 Ford).

More important, the truck has added a dozen driver-assist technologies that make this F-series that much easier and safer to drive. A couple of these are: Adaptive cruise control with Stop/Start—meaning this system will bring the truck to a halt and then start it up again as traffic begins to move, all without disengaging. The BLISS system, which is a blind spot warning system that can now also be programmed to include the length of a towed trailer. Pass a vehicle and the blind-spot indicator will stay on until the trailer has safely cleared the passed vehicle. Auto stop/start is also a new standard feature on all 2018’s. So, while not new the fact that it’s now standard is. Frankly, these systems work so well now that I doubt anyone wouldn’t want it. The upside of stop/start with no input from the driver is a fuel savings of up to five percent annually.

All about choice
So while this mantra of constant innovation makes perfect sense—the other Ford trait that has won over (and kept) so many truck buyers for decades is choice. Choice, as it applies to trims, wheelbases, cabs, box lengths and powertrains. This last one in particular is key. No one offers as many powertrain choices as Ford and they don’t intend to lose that distinction. For 2018, the base engine in all F-150’s will be the 3.3L V6 PFDI (Port Fuel Direct Injection) with a six-speed transmission. It makes 290hp and 265lbs-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 9.4 kilometres per litre (kpl) combined (EPA approved numbers). The other PFDI engine in the line-up is the 5.0L V8. It makes a respectable 395hp and 400lbs-ft of torque. Fuel economy is 19mpg combined.
Then we get into the EcoBoost engines. The 2.7L V6 is surprisingly powerful with 325hp and 400lbs-ft of torque, which comes on at a very low rpm of just 2,750. Also it gets 9.4kpl combined.

The 3.5L EcoBoost V6, which first debuted in 2011, is now in its second generation and is rated at 375hp and 470lbs-ft of torque with a fuel number of 8.9kpl combined.

Ford’s first truck, known simply as the TT, debuted in 2917. Image: Howard J Elmer

The fifth powertrain is exclusive to the F-150 Raptor (for now anyway) and is a 3.5L EcoBoost HO version that bumps up the V6’s output to 450hp and 510lbs-ft of torque. Fuel economy dives to 16mpg combined.

An innovation that was introduced late in 2017 was the all-new 10-speed transmission. With the exception of the 3.3L V6 base engine all others are coupled to this 10-speed. This tranny is non-sequential, meaning it jumps from gear to gear (whichever is called for) without having to bump up or down through every other gear. It’s really quite something to see the indicator go from tenth to fifth as you punch the throttle. This transmission features a high-speed one-way clutch, improved kinematics, a tow/haul mode, Gen II high effciency filtration and an internal start/stop oil pump that works with that standard auto start-stop feature that is found on all 2018 F-series trucks.

Just as an aside—no one talked about the diesel engine that Ford announced last winter. It was supposed to be here by now, but it’s late. Word is that it will now be offered in spring of 2018. Well, at least it’s still coming.

So, no truck introduction would be complete without some bragging about the “new” capabilities. Ford has never been shy about this and for 2018 they have once again pushed the boundaries and are claiming new best-in-class numbers. These are 13,200lbs for towing. For payload they have posted a 3,270lbs figure and based on the larger axles that this F-series sports a Max GVWR of 18,500lbs. All this on what we still refer to has a half-ton. Perhaps we should rethink that label as we left half-ton territory many, many years ago.

Pricing for the base 2018 F-150 will start at $30,499 rising to a price of $71,399 for the SuperCrew Raptor. Trucks should start arriving at dealers in October.