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    • A few months ago I began looking for a beefy vehicle to replace by dying Subaru outback. I want a vehicle to take me off-road camping which a lot of enthusiasts have not dubbed "overlanding". The F150 landed at the top of my list after numerous searches, spreadsheets, and test drives. I wanted to further explore the truck, so I rented a 2019 F150 Ecoboost 3.5L 4x4 Supercrew and went to Moab. Here I will distill my experience down into a review.

      You're probably wondering, why Ford? I was convinced the Wrangler, Tacoma, and 4Runner are the only true offroad overlanding rigs. No one drives an F150 on dirt. It's a contractors truck. Long ago I fell in love with Jeep and Toyota's iconic designs and the adventurous ephemera they built. I owned a 4Runner before my current Outback, and I have friends with Wranglers and Tacomas who I often travel with. All other SUV's and trucks were out of the question. I had to have one of these.

      It was only when the compromises I'd have to make with comfort, performance, and safety set in that I realized maybe there's something better than the Jeep and Toyota options. Do they really make the best affordable offroad vehicles? I was victim to great marketing. I put dozens of 4x4 SUV's, trucks, trims and engine variants from all the big auto manufacturers on a spreadsheet, and a properly configured F150 quickly emerged as the best overlanding rig. At least on paper.

      We rented a 2019 F150 Supercrew Cab 4x4 Ecoboost 3.5L engine and took it offroading in Moab, UT. We followed our rental agency's rules. We had permission to take it on US forest service, BLM, and National Park dirt roads, but it wasn't clear if harder Jeep trails Moab is famous for were allowed, so we avoided them. We were also cautious, and traveled with another 4x4 vehicle to avoid expensive recovery towing should anything go wrong.

      We put it through the paces on Shafer Canyon Trail, high clearance dirt roads of Arches National Park, and numerous poorly maintained BLM roads.

      Here's my report:

    • Initial Reaction

      My stoke was high for getting in this vehicle, but the experience was dull. Stepping into the bland interior was a bit of a letdown. The cloth seats, bulky design, bland steering column, and grayish tan colors had me confused. The interior of a 2019 F150 felt as if it could be 2009 F150. Nothing stood out as being new or innovative except the Sync 3 display. I felt that I was in a work truck, not a cool hip truck to adventure in Moab.

      But... the throttle brought a smile to my face. I was blown away. I went nowhere on the green light. Pedal to the metal had the tires burning out. Once 4x4 was engaged, I was doing sub 6-second 0-60 mph in Salt Lake City. A mile above sea level where vehicles are sluggish due to reduced oxygen at altitude.

    • Performance

      How could a tiny 3.5L V6 truck engine pack so much punch? Its high compression turbocharged engine delivers better overall performance than its V8 counterpart, at 375 HP and a whopping 475 ft-lbs torque. The 15 PSI boost at sea levels gives the 10:1 ratio engine an effect compression ration of 20:1, high but just low enough to run on 87 octane. It suffers less powerless at altitude than naturally aspirated engines, which we realized is a big win for climbing steep grades of Moab.

      The insane torque output of 475 ft-lbs of torque is immensely helpful for many things. It lends itself to high tow capacities, topping out at 13,200 lbs on US roads, but the Ford manual in the glove claims 19,000 lbs towing is possible but is not allowed on the road due to its gross weight rating.

      In four-wheeling, the crawl ratio is everything. It is all about transferring as much torque as possible to the wheels at low speeds to get over obstacles and safely climb steep grades. And that our F150 did. For every time the wheel turns once, the engine turns 41 times. Here's the calculation.

      4.17:1 (1st Gear Ratio) * 2.64:1 (4-Lo transfer case ratio) * 3.73:1 (Differential Ratio)  = 41.1:1 Crawl Ratio

      In the 4x4 community, that's a competitive crawl ratio. Stock Toyotas and Jeeps are below 40. Combine that with its best in class 470 ft-lbs of torque, and the torque to wheels in 4-LO blows Jeeps and Toyotas out of the water.

      This truck had 31-inch tires. At peak torque RPM, 3500, the truck moves at 11 miles per hour, and delivers 152 ft-lbs of torque per ton, about 40% more than the Tacoma. At 5 miles per hour, it delivers 111 ft-lbs of torque per ton. That's some beastly performance that lends itself to larger tires. If I buy one, I'm putting in 35-inch tires, which it can take stock with a leveling kit.

      We found the torque extra nice on the steep switchback turns of Shafer Canyon Trail:

      We felt so secure driving up 20-degree switchbacks on Shafter Canyon Trail.

      The switchbacks were so tight, we even hard to reverse. I'd be shaking in fear doing this in my Subaru, but in the F150, it's no problem starting and stopping on such steep terrain because it delivers so much torque a low speed.

    • Fuel Efficiency

      We averaged 23.9 MPG on the highway, and 20.9 MPG overall for the 800 miles we drove. I was very surprised how good it was. I was thinking we'd get more like 17 MPG average, but we drove 60 MPH on the highway because @mendoza followed us in his landcruiser, and he refuses to take it over 3000 RPM. Thanks @mendoza for saving us money at the pump.

      Combined MPG reported on Fuelly.com:
      2019 3.6L Wrangler Rubicon 4x4: 16
      2019 3.5L Ecoboost Super Cew 4x4 F150: 17
      2019 3.5L Tacoma TRD Offroad 4x4: 17
      2019 4L 4Runner Offroad 4x4: 17

      The much bigger F150 gets the same or better MPG as its smaller competitors for three big reasons. First, the Ecoboost has direct injection which gives more control to how much fuel is put in each cylinder which creates a leaner burn. Second, the Ecoboost turbo allows for a smaller displacement while still providing high HP and Torque output. And third, the F150 is made of an all aluminum body which is much lighter than the other steel-bodied vehicles.

      The F150 we rented weighed 4917 lbs, while the much smaller Tacoma weighs 4425 lbs. The F150 delivers 20% more horsepower per ton than the Tacoma.

      Us Californian's were stoked with how cheap gas was in Utah:

    • Comfort

      Cabin comfort is a big show stopper for me on the 4Runner, Wranger and Tacoma. I rarely travel with less than 3 people and a dog. Sometimes I pack 5 people into my Subaru. It's just not comfortable. Rear legroom is the killer. I thought the Subaru was bad until I saw how it stacked up.

      Rear Legroom (Inches)
      2019 Tacoma Double Cab    32.6 in
      2019 4Runner              32.9 in
      2019 Jeep Wrangler 4 door 35.7 in
      My 2012 Subaru Outback    37.8 in
      2019 Ford F150 Supercrew: 43.6 in

      There was so much space back there in the F150. The three of us riding in the F150, @xelanil, @joseph_hsieh and I, switched off sitting in the back. At 6' tall I could completely stretch my legs straight. Hip room, shoulder room, headspace, were also great.

      Look at the distance between @joseph_hsieh's legs and the front seat:

      The truck is 5 inches wider than a Tacoma. There's spacious void between a shotgun passenger.

      We all get car sick, so we tried out the font middle seal. To our surprise, it wasn't bad. The big downside is the transmission hump has your knees above your belly button. But it's better far better than a minivan's 3rd row, which got me think who needs an SUV when you have a 6-seater truck cab and a huge bed?

      Obviously, protecting your cargo from the elements is a battle with an open bed truck. The rental lacked a tonneau cover, so we found ourselves contact moving our cargo between the bed and cab, until we realized @xelanil is a Tetris master who can pack all our gear into the cab, and still have space for the three of us.

      If I eventually buy a truck, probably the F150, it will be top priority to build a gear management solution. I really like the idea of building truck drawers that pull out.

    • Payloads

      Speaking of gear, payload capacities are often an overlooked spec. Being well under the payload capacity is vastly important for the safety and longevity of the vehicle.

      This is my primary reason for seeking a beefier vehicle. I'm frequently above the limit of my Subaru Outback. Overloading a vehicle degrades suspension performance, making you more susceptible to roll over. And in crashes, it's far more dangerous because there's more inertia that can force objects through crumple zones. Also with overloaded vehicles, the transmission, brakes, suspension, and even the engine wear our faster.

      As a weight benchmark for comparison, a common road trip configuration in my Outback:

      5 people @ 150lbs....750 lbs
      Allie................42 lbs
      10 gallons water.....83 lbs
      Firewood.............50 lbs
      Gear 75 lbs/person...375 lbs
      Total: 1300 lbs

      Payload capacities: * Disclaimer payload capacities vary based on individual trims and equipment options. These are the advertised capacities I can find.

      '19 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4x4..892 lbs
      '19 Tacoma Double Cab TRD 4x4..1175 lbs
      '12 Subaru Outback.............1196 lbs
      '19 4Runner 4x4 TRD............1550 lbs
      Our '19 Ford F150 Supercrew....1850 lbs
      '19 Ford F150 Supercrew Max....3270 lbs

      I was overload the heck out of my outback. 😱😱😱😱😱

      I was so disappointed and surprised that the Tacoma has an even lower payload capacity than my Outback. In my mind, the Tacoma is a less comfortable outback. The F150 far surpasses all other light truck and SUVs on the market.

    • Wow...xlt report Kevin on so many levels...and, Moab is the Blue Ribbon of testing grounds, even for non-radical 4x4 riding.

      My stoke was high for getting in this vehicle, but the experience was dull.

      I love your opening line....and, relate. I love to get weak knees with a rig, but, maybe features trump that in the long run.

      Thanks for the report.....I am rarely more than ONE, so this is too much rig for me but your engineering analytics indicate that the Ranger might be a good alternative for my lifestyle.

    • Technology

      The F150 we rented had Sync 3. We all really enjoyed using Apple Car Play and Android Auto for playing music, navigating and even making calls.

      The F150 we rented had frontal pre-collision detection but not pre-collision avoidance. So, if the truck thinks you're going to rear-end someone, it will alert you but will not brake for you. I floored the truck to pass a car on a two-lane highway, and the pre-collision alarm activated. I think it's useful, and might prevent a crash, but not as well as if it would brake before a collision is inevitable.

      This is where the Tacoma shines. The Tacoma comes standard with pre-collision avoidance, so it'll break for you too. No front crash prevention is available in the 4Runner and Jeep Wrangler. The F150 comes standard with pre-collision detection, and in the higher trims, like the Limited, it comes with pre-collision avoidance.

      In terms of crashworthiness, the Wrangler and 4Runner have "Marginal" marks which make them the least safe of vehicles of the vehicles being compared. The Tacoma has an "Acceptable" mark. The F150 is safest all around. From iihs.org:

    • Ranger is an excellent option too, but I found it to be too small for my needs. It is an awesome truck all around, especially for parking.

      The biggest downside of the F150 is parking. The turning radius is much poorer than I anticipated, so it makes parking the 80-inch wide beast a pain. We had the short bed, the 5.5' box, and it was a long for a lot of parking spaces. Ideally I'd want the 6.5' box for more cargo area, but I can't imagine parking it.

      You can get a 360 degree pano camera as an option. My brother has one on his F350, and it makes parking a breeze. The backup cam alone isn't enough.

    • They have two options: a standard 23 gallon and an extended range 36 gallon. The one we rented had the 23.

      I would love the extended range.
      20.9 avg MPG * 36 gallon = 752.4 miles.

      Dang! I'd forgot it needs fuel! That would be so so nice for offroading adventures. No need for jerry cans.

    • Many Cake users contributed to my search. Thank you! I ruled out great contenders like the Nissan Armada, @vegasphotog suggested, because of its high price tag. Man, such an excellent vehicle though. I limited my assessment to sub-$50k vehicles (though the F150 is pushing it, but used they are a good deal). @bstrong's Ram 1500 suggestion also came out on top, but the F150 had a slight edge on it due to it's the light aluminum body and EcoBoost engine. @Pathfinder, an owner of the F150, inspired me to look very closely at the F150.

    • My 2018 F150 4x4 SuperCrew came with the optional 36 gallon tank and I love it. I have the 3.5L Eco-Boost V6 Kevin used, and my milage per tank runs somewhere between 500-700miles - usually around 600+. depending on my speed, prevailing winds, how fast I'm travelling etc. I love having that kind of range; I can use GasBuddy to help me shop for cheaper gasoline along my route as I travel. I don't usually drain the tank dry until I'm running on the sand in the bottom of the tank, but usually begin to think about refueling at 3/8ths or less tank remaining - that is why I reported ranges less than 700+, even though at 60mph I am certain I can average 20mpg unless I am climbing up and gaining elevation. I typically get around 18-19mpg locally at 550 feet above sea level at 70-75mph on the highway, which is very similar to my 2015 4Runner, but my F-150 accelerates faster.

      Kevin - as to drawer system I have been looking at Decked.com very seriously - they offer a pair of roll out drawer for the 5.5 foot bed starting at $1249.99. I already have added an ARE bed cap ( https://www.4are.com/product/z/ ) - looks fine and keeps the rain out - don't know about desert dust yet. Not cheap though.

      I am still on the fence about bigger tires - I didn't lift my 4Runner and it has taken me some amazing places with the stock suspension and good AT tires - I ran Cooper AT3s for 40,000 miles with good success.

    • One other question, Kevin, did you try the various Drive Modes available on the 10 speed transmission - On the shift knob to the drivers right, under the knob is a push button labled DM, and pressing it allows the choice of several drive modes which are displayed in the dash board - Normal Mode, Tow-Haul mode, Wet Rain or Snow mode, ECO-mode and Sport Mode. These modes shift the trans shifting curves and make fairly dramatic changes in the performance of the truck...

      While driving to Denver last January in heavy snowfall I began to feel my rear wheels break loose from the asphalt and slip ~15º sideways - countersteering brought that back under control, but switching to Wet Rain or Snow Drive Mode and it no longer occurred. Maybe the snow was lesser ( it was ) but I think it really helped. When I was drivng to Dallas in absolutely torrential rains in March ( the kind of rain one should really pull off the road for), I had no issues with hydroplaning in Wet Rain Snow Mode. So I am a fan of the transmission and the Drive Modes.

      Tow Haul will help you get off the line faster with a heavy load, and I expect it to offer better speeed control when descending mountain roads with a trailer as well.

      My truck came with Hankook DynaPro AT tires with a M+S ( mud and snow ) rating so that may have helped. They are quiet on the highway but seem adequate in the snow I encountered.

      You can also manually shift the transmission gear by gear with the +/- knob on the gear shift lever too. And the rear dif locks electrically in the FX4 package.

      Your truck was white - a great choice for a desert truck - mine's white too. Not quite so a great a color in a blizzard perhaps....... 🥺

    • In the boxes for the test results of the Wrangler, 4Runner, Tacoma, and the F150 I see the box for headlights for the F150, the 4Runner, and the Jeep are all marked Poor - Does this mean they fair poorly in a crash ( not very surprising ) or does it mean they don't light up the road very well?

      I do think that neither my 4Runner nor my F150 offer great lighting with their high beams at night - both have Halogen lighting systems. Compared to the HID lights I had on my BMW 3 series they are very weak candles especially the high beams - which I admit rarely get used these days to the traffic densities on interstate highways - but I am eagerly looking for better highbeams for my F150 and am looking for suggestions from any readers who know of better high beam headlights for the F150 (which is even worse than my 4Runner) .

      Did you happen to notice this in the desert with your rented F150? Or am I just a cranky driver?

    • I am eagerly looking for better highbeams for my F150 and am looking for suggestions from any readers who know of better high beam headlights for the F150 (which is even worse than my 4Runner) .

      There are aftermarket quality (read --> $$$) bulb replacements including HID and LED versions. I think they are worth it for the safety factor they provide. I have run Phillips LEDs for few years now in my motorcycle and they are much better than the regular halogens, not to mention I haven't had one burn out yet, like the halogens do. I bought mine at Xenondepot. Baja Design is my go to place for auxiliary lights, they do it with real science research.

      Man, this conversation is having me totally lusting for a truck I don't really need right now.. okay maybe just a Ranger?!

    • Xenondepot.com looks very interesting and like it has what I need for my F-150 and for 2013 F-350 as well. HID vehicle specific lighting kits and reasonably priced to boot!

      Thanks @Dracula - You're the MAN!

    • I didn't know if I'd like the 10-speed transmission, but I hardly noticed it shifting on the highway. I did try various drive modes, but I didn't drive in enough conditions to test out Rain / Snow and Tow-Haul. The differences between Sport, ECO, and Normal were huge. The truck felt like a lead brick in ECO mode. It barely goes anywhere when you step on it. The Sport mode was the exact opposite. I turned Sport on when I was making unprotected turns.

      This truck we had did have auto start-stop. I didn't mind it. There was a 1 second-ish lag for the engine to start after turning off at a stop. I did turn it off when making unprotected left turns, because it did go off after creeping into an intersection.

      I almost exclusively used manual shifting when crawling in 4-LO. I found the 10-speed constantly shifting even though my speed was only changing by a couple of miles an hour at a time. I found the +/- knob to be really annoying ergonomically but got used to it after a couple of hours of driving on dirt. I thought paddle shifters on non-sports cars like my Outback are a gimmick, but this Ford made me miss them.

      We didn't need a locking diff on our trails, but it's definitely something I'd purchase if I buy an F150. My logic is: why buy a 4x4 with two open diffs? It's almost equivalent to a 2 wheel drive with one locker when wheels are slipping. Now it would be really cool if you could get lockers in both the front and back, but sadly they don't offer that.

      I like white vehicles. They're hugely helpful in keeping them cool on hot days. And I've seen data that light colored vehicles are safer because they are more visible (except in blizzards 🤪).

    • Yeah, the decked drawer system looks really cool. My only criticism is that the design seems pretty bulky. There's a lot of structure that minimizes cargo space, but I couldn't design a better system. And still, one of those has more cargo room than most SUV's.

      My Subaru has the same clearance as the F150, 9ish", and I have some serious undercarriage damage. The FX4 has better undercarriage protection than the Subaru. Besides the diffs, the F150 seems like it has far more than 9" all around except for the front bumper skirt. I think the front bummer goes down low to improve fuel economy. I wonder if many people take it off.

    • When I was shopping for a truck I could find Raptors and Chevy Colorado Z2Rs - always in candy apple red or black and I always laughed - I mean really, for desert use those are the least desired colors I could think of - they look great on new mall cruisers, when they are clean and polished, but after a few days in the desert backcountry its gonna take hours and hours to make them look new again. White, flat silver or desett tan just work so much better in the desert. White is much much cooler too, as you pointed out, and doesn't really show dirt that bad.

      When we drive along interstates we always see the signs for "Authorized Vehicles Only" - you know on the shortcuts between east and west bound lanes used by the LEO,s and power company white trucks. My spouse and I always joked that we wanted our next truck purchse'd to be an "Authorized Vehicle". Well, now it is Authorized Vehicle White at least 🥺👍🏻

      I need a square foot magnetic sign to put on the doors of my truck that say "Authorized Vehicle". - authorized by me any way.

      The front bumper skirt is for air flow, there are also winglets in the grill and front of the truck to control air flow at highway speed also for fuel economy .

      I don't notice the start/stop to be an issue in normal driving - it kills the engine ( after it warms up ) when I first roll up to a stop at a light, but restarts immediately when my foot comes off the brake pedal. There is a defeat switch on the dash, and I would defeat it off road or in 4 Lo for sure. Tow Haul mode defeats too.

      The drawer system is nice because I can order it and have within a few days. Or one can build one out of lumber and plywood - I helped my older son build a drawer system for his 4Runner - but it does take several day to accomplish, and one really needs a table saw and a good set of hand tools to do it. And the wood and parts cost him about ( this is a guess not a fact ) $300-400 bucks - but he did use very nice 9ply finished birch plywood. But it comes in 5x5 foot squares so one has to be able to reduce that to size - My son knew I own a full size panel saw system..... which most folks don't have access too.

      I use Eco Mode on the highway sometimes on the interstate when I am cruising, but not in town - I just use Normal mode in town.

      One can get a very fancy interior in an F150 in a Lariat or Platinum version, but those are 10-20 grand more than my truck.

    • It looks like the headlights are rated for crash prevention, i.e. lighting the road enough to help the diver avoid obstacles.

      I think it's a really hard problem for automakers to solve because the only cheaper solution is to blind other drivers, but that's against the law. I think the ideal systems is to have fancy lenses with adaptive controls, like turning the lights as the steering wheel turns.

      Did you happen to notice this in the desert with your rented F150? Or am I just a cranky driver?

      I did find the headlights were poor for lighting the unlit desert roads. Though, I found the auto highbeam setting to be responsive and useful on the two-lane highways.

      I think the cheapest solution is to buy high lumen LED non-DOT approved high beam bulbs, like 9000 lumen, and vow never to use them on near other cars. Otherwise, high output fog lights / light bar with good lenses is probably your best bet.