RawAutos becomes RawTrucks for a week with the 2011 Ford F-150 King Ranch while we see what life is like a few extra inches above the ground. Just in time for winter, too!
Coming from an all GM family I’m kind of the outcast at family functions being a Ford guy these days. I tend to speak more highly of this brand than the other two American companies. Also, coming from a GM family, I’m very much used to the Chevy, GMC and Cadillac pickup and SUV line. So this, I feel, gives me a better understanding of living with GM and Ford trucks.
When looking at the King Ranch I’m reminded of -and sometimes hummed- “King of the Road” by the late, great Roger Miller. And driving it does the same thing to me. If I’m honest, I love Ford trucks. I was on the Ford press launch for the 2009 F-150 back in the day, and testing it against everything from GM, Dodge -not yet Ram at the time- and Toyota just made me see the amount of extra quality of workmanship Ford puts into their vehicles, especially the F-150.
So since I had nothing to tow, haul or really do with the King Ranch -it was sunny and hot each day I had it- most of this review will draw from the experiences I had with the F-150 on its product launch for the new 2009 model, which is the same one today. However, I will add in bits about driving this actual King Ranch and what its comfort levels and ease of use are like.
To start off with what the F-150 is like against its competition, we put in some pretty hard work with it at Ford’s proving grounds in Michigan, otherwise known as the MPG, or Michigan Proving Grounds.
We towed 7,500 lb closed trailers around Ford’s truck testing area of the Michigan Proving Grounds, which starts at a stop sign that forces you to turn left and floor it up a very steep hill. This is to test the speed from a stop while towing, but as I learned, much more about the gearing of the truck. The Ford F-150 pulled and pulled and pulled with gusto. Then came time for the other trucks. The Chevy Silverado was easily the second best, but just not nearly as good. The Dodge Ram was so quick off the line, with ridiculous pulling power. Then came the shift to 2nd gear, and that’s when the Ram started hurtin’. It built up speed nice and quickly, but once that shift came in, you felt as if it were going to started rolling backwards, because it had lost so much of its power and torque. The Toyota Tundra wasn’t too bad off the stop sign, but not great.
After the uphill battle came a long sweeping left-handed bend. They told us to make sure we tried to carry the same speed with each truck, to give ourselves an accurate test of which was actually better. Fair enough. Except for the fact that the Ford F-150 inspired so much confidence that I was rolling at 110 mph in the middle of the bend when suddenly I saw a turkey and was forced to make a complete stop at that speed, while towing 7,500 pounds… Not much could have felt easier. The brakes grabbed and pulled me down and, well, saved the front of the F-150 from thousands worth of potential damage. The other trucks couldn’t keep the same pace, some barely being able to handle 70 mph without a decent amount of trailer sway.
That’s the thing, the Ford F-150 was the only one of the trucks that could do everything with ease. We even had 750 lbs of hay thrown in the bed and had to handle a slalom course and coned off track. The Ford was brilliant, feeling confident and proud; you could almost have figured it to be a sports car. Not kidding, either. The thing that makes the F-150 confident in these situations is its chassis and suspension setup. Ford goes through a lot to ensure that each truck rides and handles well on the road, whether you have cargo or not. It rides a little rougher than most trucks, but once everything breaks in, you’ll notice a softer ride, not in a bad way, though. The Ford F-150 never loses its trucking ways, just becomes a little easier to live with, which is always nice.
The 2011 Ford F-150 King Ranch I had was a beautiful Dark Blue Pearl Metallic with a gold-like two-tone finish. And because it was a King Ranch, it came with the signature Adobe leather and King Ranch sewn into about 500 different areas of the interior. The standard 18-inch wheels are nice, but I’d opt for the nicer looking 20s, myself.
Our test truck had the 5.0-liter V8 making 360-horsepower at 5500 RPM, and developing 380 lb-ft of torque at 4250 RPM. A pretty substantial amount, even though the truck’s weight is around 5,700 lbs, give or take. That’s a lot, obviously. However, with that weight, and typically the McDonald’s loving driver, the King Ranch’s 5.0-liter had no problems getting going, or providing the right amount of power on highway passes.
Gas mileage is rated for about 14 city and 19 highway, I was averaging around 16 mpg driving around town and on the highway. Which leads me to believe that the King Ranch, and any Ford F-150 with a 5-liter V8 in general, isn’t the worst thing on the road, seeing as which I had a heavy foot, but there’s no doubt I could have done at least 2 mpg better with the EcoBoost V6. Still, the amount of thrust this motor produced in all driving situations, coupled with its 36-gallon fuel tank, you’re guaranteed to always be the one moving the traffic along.
Also, with a little over 9,000 lbs of towing capacity, the 5.0-liter King Ranch is more than up to the task of any wintery weather around the world. I remember when I was 8 years old, the great ice storm of 1994 hit North Carolina pretty bad. It wouldn’t have been much of an issue, except the I had pneumonia, and my parents had to call 911 because I felt like my chest was caving in. So here comes the ambulance… only to realize the ice wouldn’t allow it to move out of our driveway to get me to the hospital. Out of nowhere comes a neighbor in his F-150 to tow us out and through the neighborhood. This is the mid-’90s, mind you, when four-wheel drive had very little technology attached to it. The F-150 now has sensors for traction and stability galore. So imagine this truck in the north east or mid-west during the recent freak snow storms. It’ll be your new best friend, even if you are a tree hugger.
Uh, let’s see here. Whenever you think of “style”, a pickup truck doesn’t exactly come to mind, now does it? Except, in my humble -and by humble, I mean always correct- opinion, the Ford F-150 is a proper looking truck. It’s not trying any gimmicks by lookin’ all tough, only to find out it can’t take a punch or even hit back. No, it’s a classy, but rather rough style. It looks as if it hunts wild animals while you’re sleeping in your bed at night. Remember, the F-150 doesn’t drive on the road, the road constantly moves around it…
The Ford F-150 is one of the few trucks on the market with a fully integrated, factory brake controller, as well as special countermeasures to trailer sway. Toyota does not offer one -only the wiring to add one yourself, Ram comes standard with a brake controller on all but base models (same with Ford), and GM only offers with this feature on its Heavy Duty line of trucks. Ever tow something and feel it push or pull against you when try to come to a stop? Well the F-150′s system allows you to accurately program the brakes of the trailer on the fly. The trailer sway is what happens when anything drives past you and forces wind to move the trailer. The truck measures this and automatically brakes certain wheels a tiny bit to keep the trailer in check and make sure it doesn’t sway too much, making your drive that much safer.
Some of the options that came equipped on the Ford F-150 King Ranch that I had were moonroof, 700-watt Sony sound system with navigation and backup camera, Ford Sync, heated and cooled front seats with heated rears, 12-volt and DC power adapter plug-in for rear passengers, the box side steps shown above (one on each side), 6.5-foot bed (base bed is 5.5-feet), and an off-road package which adds a 3.73 electronically locking rear axle and skid plates. All of this for a total price of $49,620 with a $1,000 Lariat Premium Discount. Don’t ask me what that means, because I don’t know… One of those things car companies are always doing to entice you to buy the vehicle, I’d guess.
I know from first hand experience what more than 25 and 30,000 miles can do to a General Motors pickup or SUV. They become so soft that the suspension just crashes over any rough surface. The ride is so soft and cushy for the first year or so of ownership, and then it just all rides like a boat on rough seas. It settles in way too much. The F-150 can be rougher at first, but settles into a nice relaxed ride over time.
With cargo in the truck, as I said before, you’ll feel a rough ride, but it’s tolerable and feels taught and firm like a good sports car. So it’s not horrible, just firmer than some other trucks in this class.
Driving the Ford F-150 King Ranch is a different story. As I’ve said before, the F-150 feels like a proper sports car made into a truck. The steering wheel feels right, the steering in general allows such a big truck to be pretty nimble, and the braking is top notch. I think you could actually stop the world from turning with the brake power of an F-150.
I do have a complaint; not with the riding or driving so much, but the getting in and out of. The King Ranch comes with a choice of hard plastic or metal tube side steps to aid you getting into the truck. However, on the F-150 Platinum, you only get automatic fold-out aids, which are so much better. The standard choices on the King Ranch force you to have to bend down to get in the truck once you’ve stepped on them. The auto fold-outs come down lower and really help older people getting in and out, as you are at the perfect height to just slide in. So Ford, the Platinum costs around the same amount as the King Ranch. Can’t we have the good side steps? Do it for the oldies, guys.
One of my favorite features of the Ford F-150 is the rear seat space; it’s like a 750Li back there. More so, there’s no transmission tunnel hump in the rear passenger area, so you can now fit a T.V. box of up to 50-inches or so in the back part of the cab. Way to go Ford.
When looking around at the interior fit and finish you’ll notice some nicer aluminum looking plates, along with some interesting wood pieces, which aren’t my favorite. Although the interior still looks nicer than what GM offers on their pickup trucks, and much cleaner and more efficient than the gigantic interior pieces of the Toyota Tundra. The leather is soft and supple, leading to a great driving position and overall comfort no matter how long the ride. The buttons on the steering wheel, along with Ford’s Sync and Bluetooth audio streaming, keep you always working with some good tunes. For most of my trips I stuck to Howard Stern on SiriusXM, of which I have to listen daily.
Which leads me to the Sony 700-watt sound system: Strong in its ultimate delivery, I could use a little more oomph at higher volumes. Because the cabin is so large, the sound tends to get lost at times. I want to feel like I’m at the concert when I’m driving down the highway, feeding off the energy of the music I’m listening to. At normal volumes for less odd people, the system is powerful enough and provides good clarity.
I also love the new LCD display in the gauge cluster; featuring all of the information you’ll need throughout your drives. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much use for the navigation system, but having used Ford’s nav before, I can tell you it’s easy to use, gets you where you need to go, and rarely has any hiccups.
My biggest complaint, though, has to do with the actual Sony subwoofer. It sits directly under the right rear passenger seat and can get in the way when loading cargo. I’d recommend Ford move it, but I honestly don’t know where else it could go. So, uh, let’s forget about that one for now.
In The End
More than anything I’ve said, the Ford F-150 is just one great truck to drive and/or ride in. Having finally convinced my GM obsessed father to get rid of his GMC Denali pickup and get an F-150, he’s more than happy with it. He loves it so much that he’s trading in his used ’09 Platinum for a brand new 2012 Platinum with a 36 gallon fuel tank, which is the same size tank our Ford F-150 King Ranch tester had. It’s a great everyday vehicle for any person, being easy to drive around small towns, great on long highway runs, or just loading up some cargo and towing a double wide. It’s always up for the job, which stands up to Ford’s saying, “Built Ford Tough.” It works, and I like it.
The 2012 Ford F-150 King Ranch is, without a doubt,my favorite truck on the road today. It’s good looking, has a very unique interior color combination, mixed with the pedigree of being a real man’s truck, having a 6.5-ft bed to haul pretty much your whole life, the towing capacity to pull an ambulance out of snow and ice, and the interior space to have Christmas dinner.
And hey, anything that makes me look more manly is obviously one hell of a vehicle.
[Photos by Corey Privette and Ford]