But the 2.7-liter's problem is its twin-turbocharged big brother, the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, which is better in every way and doesn't make much of a fuel-economy sacrifice. The 3.5-liter was my next destination, where it provided the thrust for the range-topping F-150 Limited. And it's here that Ford's overarching efforts with the 2018 F-150 are most enticing.
The 3.5 remains a dynamite engine, blessed with a sound that doesn't feel appropriate for a pickup truck. The brawny V-6 is smooth and loud enough, but it avoids the occasionally bizarre growliness of the Raptor. But my favorite thing is the way the two turbos whistle. In a touch that feels more appropriate in a Ford GT, digging into the throttle elicits a delicious turbo whistle that you can hear from initial spooling to blow off. It's a stupid sound for a mainstream truck—it's present in the Raptor, too—but I don't care, because it's a fun, sporty touch. And real performance backs that noise up. With 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, this is the engine for speed freaks. Power is always available, be it at a standstill, at low speeds, or at medium and highway speeds. It's just a damn quick truck.
The new 10-speed automatic feels fantastic with either of the turbocharged engines. Upshifts are quick and constant, but they're easy to ignore, particularly if you turn up the available B&O; Play—it's like Bang and Olufsen's take on Beats by Dre—audio system to drown out the engine. On downshifts, the 10-speed's constant action carries on, which was reassuring.
With so many gears to choose from, I was concerned that calling for sudden downshifts would leave the transmission paralyzed by indecision. Instead, the transmission happily drops multiple cogs at a time, and then drops a few more if you dig in. And then for good measure, it switches another few. Busy.
Too much? Not really.
But if you ignore the ever-present movement of the gear indicator on the left side of the instrument cluster's center display, it's difficult to notice the frenetic transmission. Ford managed to attach its most ambitious automatic transmission yet to its most popular vehicle without any real impact on the driving experience—the 2018 F-150 with its new 10-speed automatic drives just as well as last year's model.
That Ford did this while making comprehensive improvements to three of its four engines and improving the exterior styling deserves a tip of the cap. The 2018 F-150 is a textbook refresh that not only improves what needs improving, but creates a more attractive pickup truck and an impressive evolution on a revolutionary vehicle.