All that glitters is chrome
THE GOOD
  • Well-matched engine and transmission
  • Supportive seats with massage feature
  • Good looks
THE BAD
  • Needlessly oversized
  • Expensive options
  • Turbo engine is really thirsty when towing
2020 Ford F-150 King Ranch Review

The Ford F-150 isn’t just the best-selling pickup truck in Canada but the top-selling vehicle, period. An all-new version is coming for 2021, with updated styling and some tweaks to its engine lineup, but for now I’m piloting the outgoing 2020 model.

You can pick up a single-cab, rear-wheel-drive F-150 starting at $32,339, but I’m in a much higher snack bracket with this King Ranch crew cab, which comes only in 4x4 and starts at $73,199. My tester had a considerable number of options attached to it, and they brought it to a cool $81,769 before freight and taxes.

Styling: 8/10

All full-size pickup trucks are ridiculously oversized these days, and designers then work hard to make them look as imposing as possible. Even so, the F-150 wears its styling cues well, and I like the smooth curves over the wheel wells, and trademark beltline dip in the front doors. There was a lot of chrome on my King Ranch – named for the largest cattle ranch in Texas, founded in 1853 – thanks to a $1,000 Chrome Appearance Package, but with this trim it’s more about luxury than labour.

The cabin’s design has been around for a while but it still works, with chunky controls and an oversized centre stack. The leather-heavy King Ranch interior is over the top or just right, depending on your taste, but I’d prefer the trademark “Running W” cattle brand on the centre console be stitched in flat. Instead it’s cut into the cover, which can be uncomfortable if you’re resting your arm on it.

Safety: 9/10

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the F-150 its top five-star overall rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives it the top “Good” rating for crashworthiness. The latter rates it “Poor” for its headlights – although I found them fine on my dark rural roads – and “Marginal” for the child seat anchors’ ease of use.

The King Ranch includes emergency front braking, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring, along with the rearview camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles. My truck was further optioned with adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, and a Technology Package that added a 360-degree camera view (with a pop-out washer nozzle for the front camera) and active park assist.

Practicality: 8/10

You’d think I’d give a truck 10 out of 10 for practicality, because that’s the whole idea of a truck. But the F-150 – again, like all others – is so big and tall that it’s awkward. Unless you’re a basketball player, you’ll want my tester’s optional power-deployed running boards, along with the kick-out side step for reaching over the tall bed sides.

But I still give Ford high marks for its cabin’s flat load floor, where some competitors compensate for the driveshaft hump with a chintzy fold-out floor panel. The trailer plugs are alongside the licence plate – the standard for all brands these days, but I remember when most put them, very inconveniently, below the bumper. Ford advertises a maximum towing capacity of 5,988 kg (13,200 lb) for the F-150, but my particular truck pulls 4,853 kg (10,700 lb), according to Ford. Configuration, engine, and axle ratio are all part of maximum capacity, so be sure you’re getting the truck you need if towing is important to you.

User Friendliness: 9/10

Most of the F-150’s controls are designed for winter-gloved hands, and so the dials are big and knurled for ease of use. The King Ranch’s dual-zone climate control buttons are a bit smaller, but they’re still straightforward. The infotainment system is also easy to figure out, with simple menus and large icons.

This is as good a place as any to talk about Pro Trailer Backup Assist. In its advertisements, Ford shows a driver neatly tucking a trailer into its spot by using the dial. In reality, there’s more to it than that. First you must stick a special decal onto your trailer, and calibrate the truck to it. When you turn the knob left or right, the steering wheel automatically spins the right way. It’s similar to the old trick of holding the wheel at the bottom. The system does work well for that, but you still need skills Pro Trailer doesn’t provide, such as knowing where to position the truck and trailer before you back into a spot, or if turning right or left will put the trailer where you want it. If you’re a novice, don’t expect Pro Trailer to make you a trailer pro your first time out.

Features: 8/10

The base XL trim level is just that – vinyl floor, manual locks, AM/FM, a bench seat, and steel wheels – but it all escalates pretty quickly from there. My King Ranch included dual-zone automatic climate control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, a 110-volt power outlet, rain-sensing wipers, power-adjustable pedals with memory, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirror, heated steering wheel, Bang & Olufsen stereo, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, power-folding mirrors, and power-release tailgate.

And the King Ranch can still be stocked up with options. I had quite a few, and few of them for the cheap-at-heart. A spray-in bedliner was $600, and wheel well-liners were $200; among others, it was $1,000 to slather on my tester’s extra chrome, $1,750 for a twin-panel moonroof, $950 for my power running boards, and $500 for the side steps to help me reach over those too-tall bed sides.

Power: 8/10

There are six engines across the F-150 lineup, with availability depending on the trim. The King Ranch comes standard with a 5.0L V8, making 395 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. But it can be swapped at no charge, as my tester was, for a 3.5L V6 – turbocharged, known as EcoBoost in Ford-speak – making 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, mated to a ten-speed automatic transmission. The King Ranch’s other option is a 3.0L Power Stroke V6 turbodiesel.

My tester’s engine was more than enough to move this big beast around, and the ten-speed did a great job of smoothly swapping gears and keeping it in the sweet spot. The idea behind EcoBoost is that you get smaller-engine displacement for fuel efficiency, but the turbo provides bigger-engine power when needed. That’s true, but choose wisely if you plan on towing a lot, because the boosted engines are thirsty when they’re worked hard. If there’s always something on the trailer hitch, you’ll probably want to think V8 or diesel.

Comfort: 9/10

With sedans losing popularity, upper-trim trucks have become the luxury liners of the road, and the King Ranch delivers. The leather-clad seats are supportive, and with ten-way power adjustment and power-adjustable pedals, I had no difficulty finding a comfortable seating position.

Those seats are also heated and ventilated, and while I’m one of those oddballs who does not like cold air blowing on my back, my Designated Passenger thought it was just the thing on a hot day. Mind you, he doesn’t appreciate massaging seats but I sure do, and my King Ranch had those as well, which are really nice on a long drive to work out any spinal kinks.

Driving Feel: 8/10

Despite the F-150’s bulk, its smooth steering and relatively quick response to input makes it feel a bit smaller than it is. It takes corners confidently, and visibility is good.

The ride is big-car comfortable, and despite its four-wheel prowess, it has decent on-road manners for the daily commute.

Fuel Economy: 8/10

The 3.5L EcoBoost V6 is officially rated at 14.6 L/100 km in the city, 10.9 on the highway, and 13.0 in combined driving. I averaged 13.5 L/100 km, but that was a week of hauling air, with neither a load in the bed nor a trailer on the hitch. As mentioned earlier, if you plan on working your F-150 hard, give some consideration to a non-turbo gas engine, or to the diesel, which is rated at a combined 10.0 L/100 km.

Value: 7/10

It’s hard to put $81,769 and “value” in the same sentence, but on the other hand, the King Ranch has luxury features that you’d expect in a premium-brand sedan, but configured for truck fans. Of course, that’s the case with all truck brands these days, and there are still three F-150 trim levels – XL, XLT, and the nicely equipped Lariat – with much lower starting prices.

The Verdict

Everybody makes a decent truck these days, and for many people, the choice still comes down to brand loyalty. The F-150 comes by its popularity honestly: it’s a smooth-driving truck with good looks and lots of features. And with that new 2021 on its way, there might even be some clear-out dealer prices to make it even sweeter.

All that glitters is chrome 7/30/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 3.5L   Model Tested 2020 Ford F-150 King Ranch 4x4
Engine Cylinders V6   Base Price $73,199
Peak Horsepower 375 hp @ 5,000 rpm   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 470 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm   Destination Fee $1,900
Fuel Economy 14.6/10.9/13.0 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb   Price as Tested $83,769
Cargo Space (5.5’ box) 1,704mm (67.1 in) length; 1,495 L volume  
Optional Equipment
$8,570 – Power-deployable running boards, $950; Twin-panel sunroof, $1,750; Adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, $1,750; FX4 off-road package, $750; Box side steps, $500; Technology Package, $1,070; King Ranch chrome appearance package, $1,000; Wheel well liners, $200; Spray-in bedliner, $600