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DRIVE

How to build an $80,000 pickup

Ford F-150.

The Ford F-150 King Ranch, blinged to the max

The Ford F-Series is nothing less than a phenom – the 800-pound gorilla of the North American automotive landscape.

Even in a market where monster pickups are mainstream, the F-truck's sales stand tall above all others. Ford sold 145,000 of them in Canada last year, outselling its closest competitor (Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra combined) by more than 50 per cent. In a market comprising almost 300 nameplates, the F-Series accounted for one of every 13 vehicles sold in Canada. It also represented almost two-thirds of Ford Canada's total car and truck sales – including Lincoln – last year.

And to think some people thought Ford had lost its marbles when it switched the F-150 over to an aluminum-body structure for 2015.

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There is no sign of Ford resting on its laurels. Already, it has announced the F-150 will get a diesel option for the 2018 model year. Meanwhile, the 2017 model has significant powertrain upgrades of its own. A Gen-2 redesign of the available 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 adds 10 more horsepower (to 375) and a meaningful 50 lb-ft bump in torque to 470. Equally significant, a new 10-speed automatic transmission (developed in a joint venture with General Motors) is standard across the range.

When we borrowed a 2017 model, we were impressed by the new powertrain. It's a V-6, but it sounds like a big ol' rumbling V-8 – perfect in a big pickup. Nor does it feel like a turbo – power is there right from the get-go.

With no practice and no special techniques, we measured zero to 100 kilometres an hour in 6.6 seconds. The 10-speed is seamless, using all the gears with no sense of frequent-shifting busy-ness, and the auto stop/start is minimally intrusive. But despite the downsized engine and aluminum body, fuel consumption is still ugly. Over the full week of mixed driving: 15.8 L/100 km.

Performance aside, what really got our attention was its window sticker. This example of North America's ultimate "everyman's car" carried an as-tested price of $80,769 – before freight and taxes. According to ford.ca, the starting price for a Ford F-150 is slightly more than $26,000. How do you get the sticker up to $80,000 and change? For starters, you choose – as 85 per cent of Canadians do – a SuperCrew cab plus 4x4 drivetrain: Already, you're beyond $40,000, even with the basest available trim (XLT) and engine (non-turbo 3.5 V-6).

Upgrade to the King Ranch trim with the 3.5 EcoBoost/10-speed powertrain and you're up into the mid-$60,000 range. The King Ranch is lavishly appointed, with amenities that include two 10-way power seats, heated rear seats, navi, leather, LED exterior lighting and power-adjustable pedals and steering column.

Want more? There are still two more trims, topping out with the Limited for about $73,000. Or you could stick with the King Ranch and go berserk on the option boxes. Picture by picture, see how it grows to more than $80,000.

F-150 Exterior, as tested

The window sticker opening-bid MSRP for the King Ranch SuperCrew 4x4 was $66,699. That gets you a lot of vehicle for the money, but hardly the exclusivity of, say, a Jaguar XF sedan or Porsche Cayenne SUV.

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Exterior2

Oddly, the standard paint treatment is two-tone, and you have to pay $250 extra for the monochrome paint package – but then the chrome appearance package is mandatory, which adds another $1,000. Platinum White or Ruby Red paint costs extra, too.

Exterior3

Standard wheels are 18 inches, while the test truck's 601A Equipment Group upgrades to 20-inch rims, either machined aluminum or, as on our truck, finished in "Chrome-Like PVD" to match the chrome appearance package.

FX4 Logo

For $750, the FX4 Off-Road package gets you skid plates, hill-descent control, off-road-tuned dampers and electronic locking axle. Standard axle ratio with the 3.5 engine is 3.31, but a 3.55 was on the test truck.

Engine

Even in the high-spec King Ranch, the 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 with auto stop/start is a $750 option. The standard engine is a 5.0-L V-8.

Transmission gearing

With a 3.55 axle, the 10-speed isn't exaggeratedly long-legged. A 120-km/h cruise shows just fewer than 2,000 rpm in 10th – revving higher than some vehicles with only seven or eight gears. But that also means the 10th gear is actually useable.

Fuel economy

Ford doesn't claim any fuel-economy gains for the powertrain combo. This 72-km highway trip netted 15.9 L/100 km for the outbound trip, net uphill and against the wind. The return trip – downhill and downwind – gave us 11.6 L/100 km.

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Tailgate step

The pop-out tailgate step is part of an oddly eclectic $2,500 Equipment Group 601A that also includes inflatable rear seat belts, blind-spot information system, multicontour front seats, automatic high beams, rain-sensing wipers and 20-inch wheels.

Power deployable running boards

The decadent upside of this $950 option speaks for itself. But, after you close the doors, they retract with a loud and disconcerting "clunk!"

Twin-panel moonroof

All that real estate on the SuperCrew roof makes space for a supersize skylight. The $1,750 twin-panel moonroof provides "a more expansive opening of the sky for all passengers," Ford says – although only the front half actually opens.

Box side-step

Deployable box side-steps are worth having at $300 for the pair.

Max trailer tow package

This $950 option goes to town on towing necessities: 3.55 electronic locking axle, four-pin/seven-pin wiring harness, Class IV hitch receiver, Pro Trailer Backup Assist, trailer brake controller, plus chassis and cooling-system upgrades.

Trailer-tow mirrors

For $570, these all-singing, all-dancing power folding mirrors combine regular and wide-view mirrors plus puddle lamps and built-in spotlights, and they power telescope in and out.

Active Park Assist

For $550, Active Park Assist will identify a suitable parallel parking space and then automatically steer the truck into it while you control the accelerator and brakes.

Technology package

Ford asks $1,250 for this package that bundles a 360-degree camera with split-view display and Dynamic Hitch Assist, and an active lane-keeping-assist system.

Wheel-well liner

The $180 liners (also available as retrofit accessories) are designed to help cover and shield body-coloured parts and assorted underpinnings within the rear wheelhouses.

Spray-in bed liner

F-150 offers a choice of drop-in plastic bed liners or the $550 spray-on type, as on the test truck. Note also the bracket for the BoxLink interface system that can secure various Ford and aftermarket accessories such as ramps, storage bins, dividers etc.

Adaptive cruise control

For $1,500, the Ford F-150 is the first pickup to offer adaptive cruise control; for 2018, it will add stop-and-go capability and automatic emergency braking.

Pro Trailer Backup Assist

Backing up a trailer around a corner can be a challenge. This feature, bundled with the Maximum Tow Package or as a stand-alone option, helps automate the process via a dial on the dash.

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