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Winter F-150 road test

Our cold-weather review of a Ford 2018 Platinum pickup

Extreme cold weather is hard on vehicles. And this winter has been extreme. So rather than stay inside with a hot cup of coffee and watch afternoon movies, Grainews decided there was no better time to take advantage of Mother Nature’s cruel side to see just how it affects the average farm pickup. So we grabbed one of Ford’s newest F-150 pickups to see how it handles the abuse. It was also our first chance to get some wheel time in one of Ford’s 2018 models — and one at the high end of the options spectrum at that.

Our test truck arrived as a 2018 F-150 Platinum, four-wheel drive, four-door edition with a 5.0 V-8 under the hood. The V-8 delivered torque to the 275/55R20 wheels through an electronic 10 speed automatic transmission. We found that combination gave the truck pretty good acceleration and ample power in typical on-road driving.

At the back, the truck had a 3.31 rear axle ratio and it was rigged with the brand’s trailer towing package, giving it a 7,000-pound (3,181 kilogram) GVWR rating.

Tow hooks were a nice feature, but the valance below the bumper would be prone to damage in deep snow or off-road driving.
photo: Scott Garvey

So those are the nitty gritty mechanical specs. But our objective was to see how the truck coped with the extreme cold weather, and we were blessed — so to speak — with an ample helping of it during our weeklong review. On the first day of testing, temperatures dipped well below -20 C and stayed there for a while. We left the truck outside on its own the entire time without the aid of a block heater or any other such comfort.

Initially, during the coldest days, the F-150 racked up a fuel consumption average according to the onboard computer of 18.9 l/km (about 15 m.p.g.) in city traffic. On the highway cruising at 110 km/h, that dropped to about 15.6 (roughly 18.1 m.p.g.).

As the mercury rose to near zero by the end of the week there was a noticeable difference in fuel economy. The combined city-highway mileage numbers rose to 13.9 l/100km. (20.3 m.p.g), clearly showing the dramatic affect of very cold, more viscous lubricants that sap horsepower in extreme temperatures. And along with the milder weather came shorter idle times.

As you’d expect with a modern fuel-injected engine, it started easily in the cold, although the starter spun the engine over a little slower than usual, which is also to be expected. So no problems there — and no surprises either. The transmission continued to shift smoothly even during the very cold temperatures without much warm-up time before setting off.

The dual, power folding heated mirrors stayed clear through all the weather to help see around the truck. With the trailer-towing package, the test F-150 had the large mirrors that included a smaller convex mirror as well. They were pretty helpful navigating a truck this size through city traffic. The driver’s side mirror had an auto-dimming feature to reduce glare from headlights on vehicles behind the truck at night, and a blind spot warning feature that signals when there is a vehicle in the driver’s blind spot. Manually checking the driver’s side blind spot is a little awkward due to the location of the B pillar.

Large, heated, retractable mirrors that are an option available with the trailer tow package helped the driver keep tabs on traffic around the truck.
photo: Scott Garvey

The 360-degree camera view on the dashboard screen was great for squeezing into tight parking spaces. But although the rear backup camera was also great for backing in tight quarters — and almost an essential feature on a vehicle this big — in the slush on the warmer test days, the rear camera lens was mostly obscured and became essentially useless. (We noticed the same problem when driving on wet gravel roads in a previous Grainews review of a 2016 F-150.)

On warm days, slush and road spray obscured the rear view camera lens.
photo: Scott Garvey

To make things a little more comfortable, the F-150 had heated front seats and dual-zone climate control, so the passenger and driver can set the heat to their own desired comfort level. And the heated seat feature was handy to warm up the leather buckets relatively quickly. Without that, the leather seats would definitely have been a drawback during cold weather.

The body style of the 2018 F-150 looks essentially the same as the 2017 model; there are no major changes to talk about there.

Interior and exterior body styling on the 2018 is mostly the same as on the previous model year.
photo: Scott Garvey

The Platinum edition also offers a host of digital features including a Wi-Fi hotspot that can accommodate up to 10 devices within a 50-foot radius of the truck. We didn’t spend any time trying to sync up digital devices to a truck we were only going to have for a week. So we have to take Ford’s word on how capable these features are.

We found a couple of things to nitpick, as you might expect, such as the composite valance below the front bumper that would likely disintegrate if you hit a big snow drift on a rural road. We expected a more capable design there, especially considering this truck had the FX4 off-road package with skid plates.

Overall, though, the Platinum was a nice truck to drive, and it tackled the extreme cold weather driving easily. Of course, with an MSRP on our test truck of $80,499 plus taxes, it should.

Retractable side steps improve access to the box.
photo: Scott Garvey

About the author

Machinery Editor

Scott Garvey is the machinery editor for Grainews.

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