2018 Ford F-150 First Drive

Posted on Aug 15 2017 - 5:41am by Lisa Chan

Ford took a big gamble three years ago when it introduced its all-aluminum F-150 and it paid off…bigly.

2018 Ford F-150

The automaker’s engineers, dealers and loyal customer base all came through, and sales have been going up ever since production of the next-gen pickup ramped up to full steam.

Nevertheless, the full-size pickup segment remains highly competitive and Ford isn’t ready to rest on its lightweight laurels, so it updated the F-150 for 2018.

It’s far from a new vehicle, but is a significant refresh that I had the opportunity to check out in lovely Dexter, Mich., before it goes on sale nationwide. Here’s the most important stuff you need to know:

It has stronger bones

The F-150 equipped with its 375 hp 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged V6 and max trailering package can now tow 13,200 pounds. That’s a 1,000 pound increase over 2017 and 700 pounds more than the top Chevrolet Silverado 1500 can manage. It’ll even beat a bunch of F-Series Super Duty configurations. The extra strength can be chalked up largely to a thicker-gauge steel frame that comes with the package, but there are also suspension modifications and a reengineered steering system to help you handle the extra weight on the move.

Ford’s engineers say the aluminum body has performed as expected, so there were no major structural alterations for 2018. They did make a pretty significant change to the suspension, however, by switching from twin-tube to monotube dampers, which deliver a better ride. On the road, and a short off-road course Ford set up for the launch, the new trucks felt to me like they were more polished, even before I knew about the new shocks. That was true whether they had empty beds, were carrying a half-ton payload or towing trailers that weighed several tons.

Aside from a couple of new trim colors, the interior of the F-150 remains the same, but you can now fill it with crystal clear sound from new 10-speaker B&O Play audio system, at least on high end models.

The most expensive of those can run well over $60,000, but the starting price for a good old fashioned stripped F-150 work truck is $28,675, which is less than three hundred bucks more than last year.