2007 Ford F150 King Ranch

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The F-series pick-up is one of the few things going well for Ford (along with the Mustang) right now. And it’s not hard to understand why the big truck is a perennial best-seller. Like the Mustang, it is a better all-arounder than most of its competitors — who may shine slightly better in one area or another but can’t do the “package totale” the way the F-truck can.

Part of this is due to the sheer range of possibilites with F-truck — body and bed styles, options packages — that make it almost a full vehicle lineup unto itself.

Where other brands that sell large trucks have your basic configurations — short or long bed, extended or regular cab — the F-truck comes in three cab styles (regular, extended or “supercrew”) and can be ordered in standard XL, XLT, STX, FX2 and FX4 trim lines, with both Harley Davidson and King Ranch special editions available, you choice of 2WD, 4WD, 5.5 or 6.5-foot or 8-foot bed lengths. You’ve got three engine choices, too — one V-6 and two V-8s.

With so many possible set-ups, you’re sure to find an F-truck that’s just what you want — whether it’s a cowboy Cadillac or a basic work truck.

I spent a week with a King Ranch model — the cowboy Cadillac — which is basically a loaded for bear Lariat Styleside equipped with everything on that model plus unique, “rawhide-style” tan leather trimmed captain’s chairs, woodgrain trim plates, running boards and two-tone exterior paint unique to this model. The King Ranch can be ordered in your choice of bed lengths and with either 2WD or 4×4 (fully automatic/part-time, with a knob on the dash and three settings: 2WD, 4WD High and 4WD Low). Base price is $35,365 for the short-bed version in 2WD; $38,665 for the version with the longer 6.5-foot bed and the part-time 4×4 system.

The King Ranch I test drove had a sticker price of nearly $45k with the optional GPS and Audiophile Package, 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, electric sunroof and power sliding rear window. That’s more than twice the cost of a “work truck special” F-150 XL (or even a mid-priced XLT) but for those who own the ranch as opposed to working on it, nothing less will do. (And for motorcycle fans, Ford is still offering the Harley Davidson version of the F-truck, which like the King Ranch is basically a loaded-up Lariat loaded up even more — only in this case, with standard 22-inch rims, black leather on the inside and solid, “monochromatic” exterior treatment.)

Ford continues to improve the biggest weak point of the F-trucks relative to the competition — underhood gumption. Compared with the mighty Hemi-powered Dodge Ram 1500 series pick-ups and the Corvette-sourced “Vortec” V-8s used in the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado (not to mention the Nissan Titan’s standard 5.6 liter, 317-hp V-8), the F-trucks weren’t exactly varsity lettermen, their impressive towing numbers notwithstanding. The overhead cam 4.6 and 5.4 liter V-8s Ford went with when the old pushrod-series 5 liter and 5.8 liter V-8s were dropped several years back didn’t have the low-end grunt of the larger displacement, pushrod V-8s Chevy and Dodge had massaged into absolute powerhouses.

While the ’07 engine lineup hasn’t completely caught up, the gap is closing. The 4.6 liter V-8 now rates 248 horsepower — a 17-hp uptick. It is now actually more powerful than the Ram 1500’s step-down V-8 (the 4.7 liter, 235-hp “Magum”), though still a distant second to the Nissan Titan’s standard 5.6 liter, 317 hp brute and the Silverado’s smaller (4.8 liter/295 hp) Vortec.

However, the F-truck’s optional 5.4 liter V-8 (standard in the King Ranch) comes in at an even 300 hp. While the Dodge Hemi, GM Vortecs (and Nissan’s V-8) still out-muscle the F-150, it’s not by very much (15-17 hp) and so is more a question of bench racing and bragging rights more than real-world function. An F-series with the 300-hp 5.4 V-8 and optional 3.73 rear axle gearing runs to 60 in about 8.5-8.7 seconds, so just a few tenths off the pace of the Chevy and Dodge V-8s and certainly not “slow.” And it can tow 10,500 pounds (more than the Chevy, Dodge or Nissan) and carry some 3,000 pounds in its bed — or about the weight of a medium-sized passenger car.

So it has plenty of gumption — even if it’s not at the absolute pinnacle of power. And bottom line, it remains a better all-arounder than the Dodge or the Nissan — neither of which offer anything like the variety of options, equipment, trim and layouts you can get with the Ford.

Right now, the just-redesigned Chevy Silverado and its sister, the GMC Sierra are the F-truck’s toughest rivals in the overall package department. The GM trucks have become real players — with handsome interiors and quiet, comfortable road manners that, for the first time, pose a real threat to the F-150’s dominance in these areas.

Still, it’s not likely the F-truck’s quarter-century run as the best-selling large pick-up in the country will end anytime soon. There’s too much to like — and not enough to dislike — to change loyalists’ views.

And there’s more than enough to keep drawing in new prospects, who won’t care about having the mightiest V-8 on the block if they can get the nicer over all truck.

And can have it just the way they want it.

Throw it in the Woods?

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