When the new Ford F-150 was unveiled in 2015, it was the world's first aluminum pickup truck, an innovation that General Motors and Ram still haven't caught up with. Combined with a pair of twin-turbocharged V-6 engines, Ford's perennial best-seller pushed the art of the truck into an important new chapter.
Consider the 2018 Ford F-150 a key paragraph in that chapter. This truck takes the pioneering efforts of the 2015 model and addresses a shortcoming that's evolved over the past few years—a now old-fashioned 6-speed automatic—while improving on the style with a brutish new look inspired by its tougher big brother.
Super Duty style
The 2018 F-150's most obvious upgrade, of course, is how it looks. When it debuted in January, it was clear that there was a lot of the latest F-Series Super Duty in the new F-150's look—after the Super Duty borrowed the styling of the 2015 truck, of course—but the big truck's looks work better on the smaller truck's proportions. The Super Duty is tall and squarish, but adding the key details of its fascia—the so-called C-clamp headlights and the twin-bar grille—has the effect of widening the smaller F-150. A set of dual C-clamp taillight signatures tie the back end together.
But it's the way that Ford lets owners customize their trucks that makes the 2018 stand out. Take the popular XLT in a SuperCrew—Ford speak for the big, four-door body—with the 3.5-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6. There are four separate grilles to choose from, including sporty mesh or black twin-bar, a chrome twin-bar, and the standard twin-bar. There are seven wheel options ranging from 17 to 20 inches in diameter, four side step options, and 13 exterior colors. And that's just one trim, in one body style, with one engine—the 2018 F-150 offers three body styles, three bed lengths, five engines (if you count the Raptor), and seven different trim levels (again, including the Raptor). In other words, there is an F-150 for any owner, from the blue-collar worker to the white-collar urban cowboy to the baja racer.
But while the exterior adopts the Super Duty's looks and adds an overwhelming dose of customization, the cabin doesn't fall into the trap of being too brutish or uncomfortable. In fact, taking a spin behind the wheel of the range-topping F-150 Limited—which was how I spent a fair chunk of my day of testing—furthers the notion that some American pickup trucks can stand toe-to-toe with traditional luxury sedans and crossovers.
Ford lathered the Limited in beautiful leather hides, while the fetching Navy Pier color scheme would look at home on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe. One of four new color schemes spread across the XLT Sport, Platinum, King Ranch, and Limited, Navy Pier's blue leather and pale, matte wood trims looks like something Ford should be selling in a Lincoln, let alone a pickup truck. Not only is the leather on the seats—where you'd most expect it—but it's on the dash, doors, and center console, which gets a special plaque on the top, just in case you forget what kind of F-150 you're driving. It looks and feels fantastic.