► America’s most popular vehicle tested
► The US’s best-selling truck for 39 years
► Ford’s 360bhp, 2.5-tonne, £42k 4x4 pick-up
This might well be one of the least consequential product reviews in history. Ford doesn’t sell the F-150 in the UK, and in territories in which the truck is on sale the opinion of some know-nothing limey matters not a jot. Ford knows the F-150 is good because of the numbers.
Those numbers include a 39-year run as America’s best-selling truck. To put that into perspective, the F-150 was at the top of the charts when the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, opened late last year, and it’s been there since the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, was released in 1977.
Every 41 seconds someone, somewhere on this planet buys an F-series truck. Which of course means Ford builds them at the same rate. Such is the scale of the industry behind the truck that when the F-150 moved to an aluminium body for 2015, Ford had to set up plants specifically to meet the demand for the material. The global price of aluminium was also affected.
But what’s this icon like to drive, and should you be bothering your nearest American import specialist?
What on earth’s a Platinum 4x4 SuperCrew?
The F-150 range is vast, stretching from the humble £18,000 XL to this kind of thing, a Platinum version, with switchable four-wheel drive, tonnes of tech, XL seating for five and towing performance to move mountains.
Specified thus the F-150’s price more than doubles to some £42k on the current exchange rate, but then the Platinum really is loaded: 360bhp EcoBoost V6, roll stability control, extended-range 30-gallon (UK) tank, 360° camera with dynamic hitch assist, lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise and running boards that deploy when you open the doors and stow themselves away again when you close them.
The view from the throne?
Pretty epic. Guys and girls who grow up driving these things must find curios like the Honda Jazz hilarious. The seats are vast, the driving position towering and the view over that enormous lantern-jawed ‘hood’ is like surveying some limitless aluminium prairie.
The cubbyhole between the two front seats could hold a couple of roast chickens. Legroom for the three rear-seat passengers is beyond that offered by the new long-wheelbase BMW 7-series. And beyond that there’s a load bay to swallow a Fiesta.
Let’s get truckin’
The F-150 is simplicity itself to drive: an automatic gearbox, great visibility (the side mirrors are the size of paving slabs) and electronics to try to stop you wheel-spinning away from every set of lights (easily overcome).
The cockpit’s mostly neatly styled, with an appropriate chunkiness that echoes some of the Mustang’s interior cues, but material quality is suspect: given a tough life you get the feeling the F-150’s cabin would be on its knees while the powertrain and chassis were just getting started.
On the move acceleration is spritely, the thumping petrol V6 hoiking the truck up to speed like it weighs nothing. Of course, the move to aluminium means the F-150 does weigh less than it used to (Ford saved around 160kg on the body with the switch in material) but this is still a leviathan to steer, a task made more alarming by ultra-light steering.
Indeed, the relationship between most of the controls and the truck’s oily bits feel distant at best but if matters not when you’re rolling on the highway, elbow on the door, soda on the go, 12.7mpg (converted UK gallons of course) on the display... This is a monumentally comfortable thing in which to cover miles, the only distraction a slightly unsettling floaty/wallowy/boingy sensation from the leaf-sprung rear when the load bay’s empty.
There are similarities to driving a large van in the UK but the big difference is in the level of equipment. Where vans tend to be Quaker-sparse in spec, with mean cloth seats and tinny stereos, the Ford feels more like an executive saloon blown way out of proportion on some insane photocopier.
In context the F-150 is a mighty thing, combining the kind of luxury that’d make mincemeat of any interstate drive with the work capacity (slip this one into 4x4 and it’ll drag 5.5 tonnes) and all-terrain performance to tackle anything, from recreational off-roading to a spot of gold mining.
But it only makes sense in a land of big skies, cheap fuel and wide-open spaces. In the UK, an F-150 would be little short of a liability, in so many ways. While there’s much to admire, we don’t need the F-150. And the Ford F-150 certainly doesn’t need us.