This truck is as long as a Kansas freight train. Also almost as high. Climbing into the cab, he briefly hangs on the steering wheel and twists his finger rings. Although mechanically similar to the Expedition, the F-150 offers a longer wheelbase, a different weight bias, and a suspension better suited to jumping rocks. Off-road, the F-150 is to the Expedition what Dale Jarrett’s racer is to Aunt Hattie’s rented T-Bird.
The F-150 has an advantage. Actually, all fours up. Its colossal 9.0-inch ground clearance is equal to the Land Rover Defender 90 and a full inch better than the Expedition. And, as we all know, an inch doesn’t seem like a lot, but it almost immediately leads to some street talk that we don’t want to get into right now.
This full-size pickup, which limited Hell’s Steps, was a dervish. Why so good? Partly due to the wheelbase (138.8 inches), easily the longest in this group. Usually we could drive through a hole or rock with one shaft while the other pulled or pushed from a more or less flat and stable land. The F-150 often straddled terrifying things. “The rear leaf spring suspension kind of flexes and articulates much better than the air suspension on the Expedition,” noted Mark Williams. Throughout, the throttle rise was smooth; The F-150 was a breeze to roll over rock the size of typing tables. Traversing the dunes, it was just as easy to keep the 4.6-liter V-8 moving within its power band.
As the rigors of our day three rock trail intensified, eventually turning into something of a bridge-building Camel Trophy festival, the F-150, Wrangler, and Defender were the only vehicles so casually competent that they were entrusted to the fans among us. Indirectly, it’s hard to compliment an off-roader more.
However, there were some complaints. “In the dunes,” said John Stewart, “this is affected by a transmission that doesn’t give you the gear you want. Not right away anyway. It often gets stuck in gear too high. Expedition does the same thing. “Off-road, the potential consequence of being in the wrong gear at the wrong time is like missing a gear during an F1 qualifying lap. Also, on downhill backcountry we would have preferred a lower low range ratio, even with the transfer case locked low. Headed down, the engine compression alone wasn’t enough to slow the F-150 to a pleasant speed, and we handled the brakes like Sun City recalls, hoping not to lock a front wheel when steering was most urgent.
Not surprisingly, the F-150’s exterior dimensions sometimes worked against it. It is the widest vehicle of this group, as amply demonstrated by a large set of scratches inflicted by tree branches on its two formerly pristine flanks. On the trails, making U-turns with the F-150 required a chainsaw. Stepping back required a prayer from the Sisters of Mercy. And we quickly learned not to lean behind this brute either. With its iron-stiff suspension and towering ground clearance, the F-150 showed a penchant for throwing stone bombs backward once it dug into dry stream beds. The Ford F-150 XLT review is based on material from the Auto Repair Guide blog.