The price for all this swankiness is $74,575. Shocking yes, but the F-150 King Ranch I dropped a half-ton of rock into last summer was only $280 less. It had virtually all of the Limited’s feature content, albeit added as $20,000 worth of options, plus the $3,000 Power Stroke Diesel engine that makes for a questionable value proposition given its meh capability and fuel economy. The Limited, on the other hand, is the only F-150 besides the Raptor that comes standard with the High-Output 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 that cranks out 450 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. And to reiterate, it costs basically the same as the 440-pound-foot diesel.
So it’s the H.O. V6 that makes the F-150 Limited stand out. It has a profound acceleration advantage over the most powerful Ram 1500, which I drove the week before, moving well beyond “capability” into the realm of indulgence. This thing moves. It pairs the smooth, effortless, low-end power of the lesser 3.5-liter turbo V6 found in other F-150s with an even greater wallop of thrust and a wicked snarl from the unique dual exhaust that never gets old. It’s cool without being obnoxious. The EPA also says it’ll get 19 mpg in combined driving, which is the same as the standard 3.5-liter EcoBoost and only 3 mpg lower than the Power Stroke diesel. I managed 17.7 mpg.
The F-150’s 10-speed automatic once again shines, downshifting smartly without drawing much attention to itself, even when traversing Mt. Hood on the winding Highway 26 in Oregon. It’s also a boon while towing, which with the H.O. V6 and four-wheel drive, has a capacity of 9,400 pounds. There was, however, the occasional rough engagement from the drivetrain with initial throttle tip-in. The automatic stop/start system also isn’t as smooth in its operation as the Ram’s V8 that’s aided by the eTorque mild hybrid system.
In general, though, it’s wonderful (and fairly bad-ass) that Ford chose to put such a performance engine in a non-performance variant, much like in the 1960s when it would put the Mustang’s optional big-block V8 under the hood of a luxury model like the Ford Thunderbird. Just because you want max power, it doesn’t mean you want max-attack handling and a crummy ride.
Which is why it’s not wonderful that Ford chose to make the Limited standard with 22-inch wheels. The resulting ride is quite simply atrocious. Over patched pavement, manhole covers and potholes, the F-150 Limited is constantly tiresome and even punishing. At least the body doesn’t jiggle and shimmy like the Toyota Tundra does — the F-150 is still quite a rigid thing with a capably tuned suspension — but the King Ranch rode on 20-inch wheels and didn’t suffer so. Furthermore, the difference between the coil-sprung Ram 1500 is even more profound, underlining that truck’s general superiority.
If the 22’s were optional, the only way you’d buy them is if you like punishment, you didn’t take them on a test drive, or you exclusively drive on freshly paved roads. Unfortunately, they’re standard and they shouldn’t be. They create a huge tradeoff for getting the H.O. V6 and the Limited.
Worse, it’s not like they sharpen the driving experience. The F-150 Limited holds the road capably enough, as its Ram and Silverado rivals do, but it ultimately feels more truck-like. The steering wheel itself is a bit bigger and the effort is less linear and consistent, feeling more like an older hydraulic system than the almost crossover-like steering system found in the Chevy. You feel like you’re piloting the F-150 rather than driving it. That said, it’s perfectly reassuring on the highway, demonstrating excellent stability.
Now, as for the Limited’s other raison d’etre, swankiness, the interior really is a lovely place to spend time despite the following nitpicks. The “Camelback” leather unique to the Limited is indeed a slight step up from what is otherwise perfectly lovely leather in the King Ranch, but everything else seems roughly on par. Yes, there’s an abundance of luxury car features, but they aren’t always of the highest quality. For instance, there are massaging seats, but they only operate from three lumbar bladders and loudly whir while in operation. Also, the swankiest Ram comes with ventilated reclining rear seats and the giant vertically oriented touchscreen. There’s also a far cleverer center console design, but that goes for every trim.
Ultimately, choosing the Limited rather than a loaded King Ranch or Platinum comes down to the H.O. V6. And if you’re spending more than $70,000 on an F-150, why wouldn’t you get the biggest, baddest engine currently in a production truck? Well, the 22-inch wheels, for starters, but besides that, I’ve got nothing. The real question, though, is whether all that leather and fancy-pants features are worth the $20,000 premium any of these swank trucks seems to command. Frankly, the answer seems to be “no.”