June 15, 2018

Ford, Ram Haul Pickup Battle Into The Streets

Ford’s F-150 pickup is the best-selling vehicle in America, but it’s about to get some unfriendly company from Ram, Chevrolet, and GMC – all of which are launching new pickups for 2019.  We recently drove the 2018 Ford F-150 Platinum and 2019 Ram Big Horn to get a hint at the battle that’s rolling into the streets.

Ford F-150 Earns Platinum

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In Platinum trim, you’re essentially looking at the Lincoln of pick-ups. It takes familiar style and capability, but adds luxury unexpected in a light-duty pickup. 

Aluminum Body Saves 700 Pounds

Despite a plethora of technology beneath and within the skin, Ford designers keep a consistent exterior design.  Flanking the bold chrome grille up front are LED headlamps and foglamps, which glisten in C-shaped signatures.  The stepped side windowline hints at Super Duty models.  White Platinum metallic paint, power-folding mirrors, and 20-inch wheels dress it up.  Around back, LED bed lights, spray-in bedliner, and deployable tailgate steps add convenience.  All that almost makes you forget the truck employs aluminum body panels that save 700 pounds.

Open the door, step on the power-deployed running board, and climb inside.  Dark Marsala red leather and real black wood trim make a beautiful first impression – as do heated/cooled front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel.  Crank up the sweet B&O audio system, power open the twin panel moonroof, and press another button to whisk open the rear window for a relaxing drive.  A long cab provides ample rear seat legroom.

Look a little closer and you’ll find an array of technology.  Navigation, power pedals, automatic parallel parking assist, and in-dash trailer brake controller are swell.  Keeping everybody safe are blind spot warning, adaptive cruise, forward crash mitigation, lane keep assist, rear cross path detection, and 360-degree camera systems.

Old School V8 Delivers Ample Power

Ford made a big deal out of its turbocharged six-cylinder engines, but our truck rolls old-school with a 5.0-liter V8 delivering 395 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque.  Not so old school is the 10-speed automatic transmission and auto stop/start, which help boost fuel economy to 17/23-MPG city/highway.  That’s with four-wheel-drive and the largest Super Crew cabin.

There are a lot of gears in that transmission, and they’re not always shifted smoothly, but power comes in the right doses at the right time.  Step into the throttle and the truck scamps away quickly.  Bumps can unsettle the rear suspension, but no worse than most competitors.  Put the truck into a corner and you can definitely tell there’s less weight to man-handle as the truck feels more athletic.  On the road, four people travel in divine luxury.

Ford must pay attention to fend off the vultures that will be landing this year, but it doesn’t have terribly much to worry about.  From familiar design to saturating luxury and substantial capability, F-150 earns its Platinum status in truck sales.  Base F-150s start at $27,705, but our top-flight hauler landed at $63,055.

2019 Ram Aims Big Horns At Ford

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Ford will not give up its lofty position easily, but redesigned virtually from the ground up, Ram comes to win. Between base and premium models, Big Horn editions offer all of the features most buyers want.

Suave Design Is Aerodynamically Efficient

A buff new body is more aerodynamically efficient, but continues the dropped semi-style front fenders that have been hallmarks of Ram since 1994.  Gone is the crosshair grille, replaced by chrome emblazoned with RAM.  LED headlamps, foglamps, bed lamps, and taillamps brighten dark nights.  Crew Cabs are 4 inches longer, stretching rear legroom.  A taller bed allows unimpeded bodylines front to rear, accentuated by swelled fenders.  Unlike Ford, aluminum is reserved for the hood and tailgate.

Within the larger cab, passengers savor luxury and technology.  Our truck came with cloth seats, but dressed up with heated front seats and steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, power pedals, and power sliding rear window.  There’s a new 12-inch split-screen touchscreen available, but ours came with the smaller screen that’s super easy to navigate.  While our truck skipped Harman Kardon audio, you’ll never miss it because the stereo still thumped, made easier to connect with Bluetooth plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.  Simplifying driving, controls for four-wheel-drive and auto stop/start are placed in the same pod as the rotary gear selector.  In-floor cubbies and flip-up rear seats add stowing convenience.

A HEMI Under The Hood

For now, we can only buy the Ram with a 5.7-liter HEMI V8 delivering a whopping 395 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque, but that’s just the opening salvo.  Diesels arrive in 2019, but before that, Ram will add 5.7-liter V8 and 3.6-liter V6 engines with eTorque – a light hybrid that adds 90-130 lb.-ft. of torque and optimized fuel economy.  Expect a 10 percent improvement over non-hybrid models; our truck is rated 15/21-MPG city/highway.  Power routes to the four-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

So, what can Ram accomplish?  Well, it can tow up to 12,750 lbs. or haul 2,300 lbs. in payload.  Variable displacement enhances fuel economy, but often causes vibrations to travel through the frame and into the cab.  So, engineers also conjured up active frame-mounted modulators to detect engine vibration and electronically cancel it.  The rear suspension is class-best, able to absorb rough pavement without dancing.  Power-deployed front spoiler and grille shutters further enhance fuel economy.

If Ram had any hope of drawing loyal truck buyers from class-leader Ford, not to mention heading off new GM pickups, it needed to develop a truck that’s both kinder and stronger.  Mission accomplished.  In Big Horn trim, the HEMI V8 lays down ample power, rear legroom is ridiculous, and there’s enough luxury to satisfy most truck owners.  Ram starts at $31,695, rising to $49,120 for our ride.     

Storm Forward!

View Casey’s videos of the Ford F-150 and Ram 1500; follow him on YouTube @AutoCasey.

2018 Ford F-150 Platinum

  • Five-passenger, 4WD Pickup
  • Powertrain: 395hp 5.0-liter V8, 10-spd auto trans
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Solid axle
  • Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc
  • Must-have features: Luxury, Performance
  • Fuel economy: 17/23 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Dearborn, MI
  • Base/As-tested price: $27,705/$63,055

2019 Ram 1500 Big Horn

  • 6 passengers, 4WD Pickup
  • Powertrain: 395 hp 5.7-liter V8, 8-spd auto trans
  • Suspension f/r: Ind/Solid axle
  • Wheels f/r: 20”/20” alloy
  • Brakes f/r: disc/disc                  
  • Must-have features: Style, Capability
  • Towing Capacity:  12,750 lbs.
  • Fuel economy: 15/21-mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly: Detroit, MI
  • Base/as-tested price: $31,695/49,120
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