January 17, 2013
2012 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge
Review by Chris Chase
Ford redesigned the ubiquitous F-150 into its twelfth generation in 2009. It was a design that put Ford right back at the top of its game, according to Jil McIntosh’s first drive.
The 2009 F-150 was larger, and boasted a stronger, lighter frame, but it was under the hood that the more significant changes were found. The V6 that served as the base engine in 2008 was gone, as was the slow-selling manual transmission. A carryover 4.6L V8 (248 hp/294 lb-ft) was the new entry-level motor, paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. A similar engine with three-valve cylinder heads (292 hp/320 lb-ft) was the next step up, paired with a six-speed automatic. Finally, a 5.4L V8 (320 hp/390 lb-ft), also matched with the six-speed, was the top engine for the light-duty F-series.
Fuel consumption figures for 2009 were 14.7/10.6 L/100 km (city/highway) with the base 4.6L and four-speed auto; the upgraded 4.6L was a little more efficient, at 14.4/9.8 L/100 km. Figures for the 5.4L were 15.1/10.5 L/100 km. All of these numbers are for rear-wheel drive trucks; adding four-wheel drive also added to fuel consumption.
Updates for 2010 were numerous (including the introduction of the SVT Raptor), but for most truck buyers, more significant changes came in 2011, with a slew of new engines.
Six-cylinder power was back, with a 3.7L engine (302 hp/278 lb-ft) serving as base powerplant. Next up was a 5.0L V8 borrowed from the Mustang (360 hp/380 lb-ft). A turbocharged “EcoBoost” 3.5L V6 (365 hp/420 lb-ft) was an extra-cost option, and the top choice was a 6.2L V8 (411 hp/434 lb-ft).
Rated at 12.9/9.0 L/100 km, the EcoBoost engine was supposedly as efficient as the base V6, in spite of boasting more torque than the 5.0L, rated at 13.9/9.7 L/100 km. The 6.2L’s figures were 16.9/11.4 L/100 km (all numbers, again, representing rear-wheel drive).
2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge
Ford made another slew of trim changes for 2012 (you can afford to make this many minor updates when a vehicle is as profitable as the F-150); the 2013 model introduced the F-150 Limited, a truck loaded with luxury and powered exclusively by the EcoBoost V6.
A cylinder head design that was (apparently) changed for 2008 models means the 5.4L V8 should no longer have this problem of spark plugs breaking off in the head.
Ford issued a service bulletin to address a driveability problem in EcoBoost trucks, caused by condensation on the intercooler (a sort of radiator for the high-pressure air being forced into the engine by the turbocharger). Read about it here and here.
Read here to find out why some EcoBoost owners don’t like changing the oil in their trucks.
Posters in this thread talk of noisy steering that clunks when the truck is driven over uneven surfaces. In some trucks, a replacement steering rack fixes the problem, but in others, the replacement is just as bad as the original part.
Other things to watch for include transmission leaks (addressed through a service bulletin that advises the replacement of a transmission fluid pump and oil pan gasket), bad catalytic converters, and the already noted poor EcoBoost performance, which Ford apparently knows about and addressed with a service bulletin.
Many drivers complain of poor shift quality from the six-speed automatic transmission, especially when shifting from first to second, and vice-versa. A thunk/thump sound at take-off is caused by an inadequately lubricated driveshaft slip joint.
The centre brake light is the known cause of a water leak into the cabin.
2012 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge
This thread discusses what sorts of noises are considered normal in the F-150′s 4WD system.
Here’s an interesting thread about F-150s that, if allowed to coast, will maintain 15 mph (about 25 km/h) on a flat road, instead of slowing to crawl speed.
Crash test performance was strong: the F-150 scored a “good” rating in the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) moderate overlap front and side impact tests, while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave this truck its five-star ratings all around (up to 2010; the F-150 hasn’t been tested under updated test procedures introduced by NHTSA in 2011).
Ford builds a good pickup, and this latest F-150 is no exception. The EcoBoost V6 has had some teething problems, so, while it’s a great engine, it’s worth approaching a used one with a certain amount of caution. If a 4WD truck is on your radar, be aware of the mechanical complexity it adds, and the related potential for mechanical problems, as well as its negative effect on fuel economy. Shop for a truck that comes with complete service records, and take any truck for a thorough test drive to see if you notice any of the quirks noted in this review.