The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling pickup in the United States for 46 consecutive years. It has been the best-selling vehicle of any type, south of the border for 41 years.
It has an even-greater record in Canada! Best-selling pickup 58 years in a row and best overall for 57 years.
Those remarkable records are unmatched in a very competitive industry.
Obviously, Ford has earned a spot in the minds and pocketbooks of new vehicle buyers on both sides of the 49th parallel. That it has retained that achievement year after year shows an ability to not only keep up with the times, but in most cases set the new standard for others to try to match.
I’ve been reviewing vehicles for more than four decades, thousands of vehicles, including dozens of F-Series pickups.
The ultimate test: The Great White North in a Ford F-150 in the late 1970s
My first extended and very special exposure to the F150 was in the late-seventies when an adventuresome Ford PR person came up with a plan to explore the great white north in an Explorer – a Ford F150 Explorer as it was known then. The idea was to spend several days testing the latest version of the F150 in severe conditions.
Severe? I’m talking the true North, in February!
The Dempster Highway had been opened the year before. Running for 750 kilometres on the open tundra (great name for a pickup!) from Dawson City, Yukon, crossing over the Arctic Circle en route to Inuvik.
The Dempster opened up the north to vehicular traffic. We travelled that distance and continued over mostly unfinished ice roads a further 200 km to Tuktoyaktuk, on the Shores of the Beaufort Sea.
A half dozen of us made some lasting memories that week!
The 2023 Ford F-150 Limited is as far from the 1979 Ford F-150 as it could be
Those memories surfaced as I got behind the wheel of the subject of this review, a 2023 Ford F-150 Limited. It could not have been further separated from that Arctic truck. That one was a bare bones model with a straight-six engine and manual transmission.
The new F-150 is a $108,915 luxury vehicle on steroids.
It features a lengthy list of standard equipment, most of which had not been invented when I drove that earlier F-Series: Power-operated perforated leather seats, pedals, and running boards, tilt and telescope steering wheel, heated power mirrors, 30-cm colour infotainment screen, over-the-air updates, Bluetooth connectivity, and automatic climate control to name but a few.
How far have we come? The new truck had a built-in 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot that allowed up to 10 devices within a 50-foot radius to connect to the internet.
In the old truck, a thousand miles from the nearest radio station, we used a cumbersome device for communication between vehicles, but most commonly, due to the signal bouncing off the ionosphere, reaching shrimp boat fishermen off the coast of Mexico.
On a few short occasions, we picked up a weak AM signal from CBC North played through a pair of speakers.
The new F-150 boasts an 18-speaker B & O Unleashed audio system punching out more than 1,000 watts! This tester also boasts a 7.5 kW onboard power source with a pair of 120-volt, 20-amp outlets in the bed that could probably power one of those old remote radio stations.
The tailgate of the old one flopped down with a resounding BANG. The new one, thanks to silicone and other assistance slowly and smoothly lowers to the open position. Once there, it can be used as a work surface with provision for clamps to hold down the lumber you might be cutting with the saw plugged into one of those outlets.
Ford F-150 Engines 45 years apart
Both vehicles had a six-cylinder engine. The old one a 4.8 litre inline unit producing a meagre 117 horsepower. It had a three-speed manual gearbox with a lengthy shifter sticking through the floorboards.
Fast forward four and a half decades. The latest six is bent with three cylinders on each side of the V. Thanks to a pair of turbochargers and a mild hybrid assist, it produces a whopping 430 horsepower.
That power goes to all four wheels thanks to a sophisticated computerized system that determines how much goes where.
The old truck also boasted power to all four wheels. But, to do so, you had to get out, go to the front wheels and engage the axles – on each side.
Remarkable Pro Trailer Hitch Assist and other modern features to love
That old truck was capable of towing, but it certainly was not rated for 12,400 pounds like the new one. It also did not offer the Pro Trailer Hitch Assist on the new one. This remarkable system employs cameras and technology to control steering, throttle, and brakes to take away the worry about hitching up a trailer.
The only opposing traffic we saw during that cold week up north was snow clearing equipment and a local driving a clapped-out old Corolla with the top chopped off and a 45-gallon drum filled with burning wood for heat where the rear seat used to be.
The new truck might have identified that as a probable threat with the forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems.
The lane keep assist would not have worked on the Dempster as the gravel road, mostly covered by a layer of snow and ice, would not have lane markings.
Obviously, the adaptive cruise control would have been welcome, but the stop-n-go function frustrated by the lack of traffic. Evasive steering Assist might have come into play with the caribou crossing the road, but the Intersection Assist would have remained unused.
The LED headlights of the latest F-Series would have been a huge advantage over the dim, yellow tungsten units in those long dark nights and roads filled with wildlife that had not yet become accustomed to two-legged animals driving fuel-powered vehicles across their terrain.
There have been 14 generations of Ford F-Series light duty pickups on the market since 1948. The latest model is available in 35 configurations spreading over a $60,000 price spread.
No wonder so many consumers have found one to suit their needs!
FACTS & FIGURES – 2023 Ford F-150 4X4 Limited
As tested: $108,915 including freight
30-cm infotainment screen, B & O audio system, navigation
LED projector headlights, blind spot information system with cross traffic alert, evasive steering assist, Ford Co-Pilot 360 Active 2.0; reverse brake assist,
360-degree camera, Boxlink cargo management system, power signal mirrors, LEDs in box, power deploy running boards, power tailgate, power sliding rear window with defrost, zone lighting, power heated and cooled front seats with memory, heated rear seats, adaptive cruise control, power adjustable pedal set with memory, premium leather seating, twin panel moonroof, intelligent access with push button start, wireless charging pad, 22-in polished aluminum wheels, 7.2 KW onboard power source, OnBoard scale with smart hitch
Azure gray metallic tri-coat paint, $800; spray-in bedliner, $600
Twin-turbo 3.5 litre V6, 430-horsepower, 570-lb.ft. of torque, hybrid assist, regular fuel. 10-speed automatic transmission, two-speed automatic 4WD system with neutral towing capability, NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway):10.5/10.4
Length, 5,885-mm; wheelbase, 3,693-mm, width, 2,430-mm; weight, 2,250 kg