If you’re a fan of Ford’s F-150 you’ll quickly spot some changes for 2018, starting with the new “C-Clamp” headlights and updated grille and taillamps.
But that’s just where things start for the upcoming model-year, according to the Detroit automaker. The new F-Series line-up will get a big boost in power on two of its five powertrain options, while increasing fuel economy across the board. There are also an array of new and updated features that, Ford is betting, will help keep momentum building as it gains market share at the expense of key competitors Chevrolet and Ram.
“The 2018 F-Series is even tougher, even smart, even more capable,” boasted Todd Eckert, Ford’s truck marketing manager, during a background media briefing on the updates to what has been, for four decades, the best-selling pickup on the U.S. market.
Demand for pickups nearly collapsed during the Great Recession but has been coming on strong in recent years. Ford, in particular, delivered about 820,000 of its full-size trucks last year, including the mainstream F-150 and various Super Duty models, making it the pickup line’s fourth-best year ever.
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Even as the overall U.S. new vehicle market starts to slip after three record years, Pickups have been defying gravity, especially Ford’s F-Series. Through July, volume was up about 34,000 over the same period in 2016, to 494,327, an 8.3% increase. Meanwhile, the Detroit maker nabbed a 38.1% share of the U.S. full-size pickup market during the first seven months of 2017, a 1.6 percentage-point increase.
It helps, noted Eckert, to have more variants, like the Raptor, in the F-150 line. And sales clearly benefited from last year’s move from steel bodies to an aluminum-intensive design for the Super Duty models. That came two years after the debut of the aluminum F-150 range. All told, Ford has now sold over 2 million of its aluminum pickups.
With the F-150 family, that shift helped shave as much as 700 pounds of mass compared to older, steel-bodied Ford pickups. The maker chose to strike a balance between increased capabilities and improved fuel economy. It is taking a similar approach with the 2018 line.
Depending on the model and powertrain package, a customer can order a 2018 F-150 capable of towing as much as 13,200 pounds, or 1,000 lbs more than before. At a maximum 3,270 lbs, Ford also claims segment-best cargo capacity.
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Despite cheap gas, industry research shows mileage still matters to truckers, especially fleet buyers who can watch profit margins come or go with a couple mpg difference. So, one of the big announcements is that all variants, no matter what engine, body style, cargo bed or other options, will get “at least 1 mpg better mileage,” revealed Peter Dowding, director of Ford Powertrain.
That runs from 15 mpg City, 18 Highway and 16 Combined with the 3.5-liter High Output EcoBoost V-6 4×4, to 20/26/22 with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6. The 2.7-liter engine gets an extra 25 pound-feet of torque for 2018, while the new base 3.3-liter V-6 – downsized for 2018 from the old 3.7-liter displacement – now makes 290 hp and 265 lb-ft, up 8 hp and 12 lb-ft, respectively.
Along with the design and powertrain updates, the 2018 F-Series will be offered with an array of tech features, including a 4G WiFi system capable of pairing with up to 10 devices, the Sync3 infotainment system, an audiophile B&O sound system and an advanced Active Cruise Control System capable for detecting pedestrians as well as other vehicles. It also can come to a complete stop in traffic and then automatically restart within 3 seconds.
The jump in F-Series demand has certainly been good news for Ford’s otherwise challenged bottom line. Also helpful has been the overall increase in average transaction prices, or ATPs. Last month, the typical Ford F-Series rolled off the dealer lot for $44,900, a $2,400 year-over-year jump.
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A base F-150 now starts at around $27,000. But premium, fully-loaded models like the 2018 F-150 Limited will now push up into the $60,000 range. In fact, if you are looking at price alone, the F-Series is the highest-selling luxury vehicle in the entire Ford line-up, handily outselling any Lincoln models.