DRUMHELLER, ALTA.?It?s a long way to go from Ontario to Alberta to look at a new grille and some HID headlights.
Ford says it?s ?revealing? the new 2013 F-150 here, but there are only a few trim items to differentiate it from the 2012 model. That really isn?t the point, of course; it?s all about the ferocity of competition ? and marketing ? in the light-duty truck segment.
GM has recently unveiled its completely new 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, while the 2013 Ram 1500 has a new V6 and upcoming diesel engine, and Toyota is updating its Tundra for 2014.
So Ford is taking this opportunity to remind us that the F-150 has been the best-selling truck in Canada for 47 years. Yes, almost half a century!
And, for the last three years, it?s been our best-selling vehicle overall, car or truck.
Those are some pretty serious bragging rights.
Starting at $19,999 for a regular cab, $31,899 for the SuperCab (extended cab), and $36,099 for the crew cab, the pricing is aggressive, but, of course, you can go much higher.
The Raptor, the steroid-enhanced off-road model, starts at $56,599, and, for the first time, offers factory beadlock-capable wheels for those who truly go off the beaten path.
There?s also a new limited trim line, in 4×4 SuperCrew configuration, which now sits at the top of the luxury models. It starts at $64,799.
As before, four engines are available: a 3.7 L V6, a 5.0 L V8, a 6.2 L V8, and the turbocharged 3.5 L EcoBoost V6. All engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
Introduced for 2011, the torque-rich EcoBoost accounted for 41 per cent of the 2012 model?s sales. The idea is that it runs in six-cylinder economy when you don?t need a lot of power, but gives you the strength of a V8 when you need it, including up to 11,300 lb. (5,100 kg) of towing capacity.
It?s a great engine to drive, but controversy is swirling around it. There are lawsuits in the U.S. from owners who say they?ve experienced stalling and power loss when accelerating. I had the same thing happen to me when I was towing with one at another event. It was definitely a computer, not mechanical, problem, as restarting the engine solved it.
Ford is going to have to fix it if this otherwise-excellent engine is going to continue inspiring consumer confidence.
If you?re not into turbo, my next choice would be the 5.0 L V8, which is smoothly powerful, relatively bulletproof, and cheaper, too. Depending on the trim line, it?s priced anywhere from $1,350 to $1,750 to upgrade to the EcoBoost V6 from the 5.0 L V8.
The changes for 2013 are minor: a new grille that riffs off the Super Duty?s front end; available HID xenon headlamps, and, on models equipped for off-road, an electronic locking rear differential and a hill-descent control system, which lets you head down steep hills slowly without having to apply the brakes.
The interior design remains the same: ruggedly handsome, roomy, comfortable, and with a flat rear floor, which you don?t really appreciate until you try to put something big onto a truck floor that has a hump in the middle.
A new option for 2013 is MyFord Touch, which controls the climate, phone, stereo and navigation systems through a central touch screen. I?ve never been a fan of it. It can be hard to hit some of the screen spots accurately when you are driving, and it can be slow to react to your input, especially in cold weather.
Most of the controls are also accessible with buttons, or you can just talk to the system and tell it what to do. Three forms of control for one function really seems like overkill.
For the overall driving experience, I like the F-150 best of all the full-size trucks. It?s just as large as the others, but it doesn?t ?drive big,? and it feels surprisingly nimble and responsive.
It tows confidently and stays firmly planted with a heavy load, and the feel of the brake pedal is good, which allows for smooth, linear stopping. The trailer harness pins are still located under the bumper. Some of the other trucks have them above, where it?s much more convenient to hook them up.
There is an all-new F-150 coming, but Ford won?t say when. It will likely draw some of its features from the Atlas concept truck, introduced at the Detroit auto show earlier this year. The Atlas showcases such things as a next-generation EcoBoost with start-stop; integrated racks and ramps, and new fuel-saving features. Using technology from cars that park themselves, Atlas can even back up a trailer.
But while you?re waiting for that, the current F-150 remains a solid competitor in this segment.
Even if there?s very little new for this year, I can see it racking up Year 48 at the top of the charts next December.
2013 Ford F-150
Price: $19,999 (Regular), $31,899 (SuperCab), $36,099 (Crew)
Engine: 3.7 L V6, 3.5 L V6 EcoBoost, 5.0 L V8, 6.2 L V8
Power: 302 hp/278 lb.-ft., 365/420, 360/380, 411/434
Fuel consumption L/100 km: 12.5 city/8.7 hwy.; 12.9/9.0; 14.2/9.7; 16.5/11.0
Competitors: Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra
What?s best: Easy to drive, handsome interior, torque-y V6 EcoBoost engine.
What?s worst: That EcoBoost may need some high-tech tweaks.
What?s interesting: Available built-in liftgate ladder and side step to get into the box.
- 2013 Ford F-150 - photo by Jil McIntosh - for Wheels