The Limited I drove cost around $65,000 and will almost certainly represent the minority of 2018 F-150s on the market. But the XLT and Lariat I drove after my stint in the Limited were hardly penalty boxes. Each had a solid and durable feel to their materials—cloth upholstery in the XLT, and a less premium leather in the Lariat—while all three trims had excellent seating positions and comfortable, supportive chairs. The Limited felt like it offered more support, but I'd happily wile away hundreds of miles behind the wheel of either of the lesser models.
More power, many more gears
While the 2018 F-150 is a thorough refresh compared to last year's version, and gets a bunch of aesthetic tweaks, Ford has made some impressive powertrain moves. Ten-speed automatics replace 6-speed autos on the F-150's top three engines—a new, second-generation 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6, the venerable 5.0-liter V-8, and the popular twin-turbo, 3.5-liter V-6—while the 3.3-liter V-6 is an entirely new and smaller replacement for the F-150's old base engine. The result is more efficiency, more power, and more capability.
Available only in the most affordable trims, the XL and XLT, the new 3.3-liter, direct-injected V-6 performs smoothly and will be fine for work trucks and buyers that just want a new pickup. There's 290 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque here—8 more ponies and 12 torques more than the old 3.5-liter base engine—and despite high peaks compared to the pricier turbocharged engines, those figures feel accessible. The 3.3-liter is responsive off the line and delivers its power linearly as the revs increased. It's not the best sounding engine, though, but as the base V-6 is more beast of burden than thoroughbred, we doubt the dulcet tones will bother its customers.
The base V-6 is the only F-150 powertrain to hang onto its 6-speed automatic, and like the engine, it's merely fine. Shifts are quick enough and there's a minimal amount hunting under hard acceleration. This transmission also holds its gears happily, and is quick enough to engage off the line. I'll also give it some bonus points for its old-school, column-mounted shifter.
Ford doesn't limit XL and XLT customers to the 3.3-liter V-6, of course. Both the second-generation, 2.7-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 and the old-school 5.0-liter V-8 serve in these base trucks (as well as the well-equipped Lariat). While I didn't drive the V-8—it pumps out 395 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, a 10-hp and 13-torque increase, while gaining at least one mpg across the board—we did sample the Lariat with the 2.7-liter and its new 10-speed automatic.
The 2.7-liter V-6 has been competent in the F-150, and it's even better for 2018, gaining 25 lb-ft of torque for a total of 325 hp and 400 lb-ft, while gaining 1 mpg in city, highway, and combined stats in four-wheel-drive trim and 1 city mpg in two-wheel-drive form. There's very little turbo lag, and with peak torque at just 2,750 rpm, the power is accessible enough that even a vehicle the size of an F-150 feels quick and willing.