If there is one thing that will surprise you about the F-150 FX4, it's this: it comes with a 136 litre fuel tank. Ironically, it's also the least important thing to learn about the F-150 FX4. Because if there is an EcoBoost engine underhood, and a long rear gear in the back, chances are good you'll never need the range that particular fuel tank provides. Witnessing an average of just 13.8 litres per hundred kilometres throughout my test, even a solid week's worth of driving never brought me close to requiring the nearly 1,000 kilometre range the truck was capable of. And that was just the tip of this truck's practical iceberg.
See, if the Platinum and Harley Editions are intended for those buyers desiring a useful, but luxurious daily driver, the FX4 is the proper choice for those that prefer practicality over luxury. In fact, as the FX4 badge denotes the burliest of the non-SVT prepared F-150 offerings, perhaps the more telling feature found on the FX4's spec sheet is the inclusion of a standard electronic locking rear differential; the only such differential found as standard equipment on any regular F-150. Although a feature usually reserved to slightly more off-road ready vehicles such as Toyota's FJ Cruiser or Jeep's Wrangler Rubicon, the FX4's rear differential means that regardless of whether or not your work demands you traverse the backwoods dwellings of British Columbia's forestry industry, Alberta's oil patch, or the rugged bedrock of the Canadian shield, you won't be left stranded. And it's also a great indicator of precisely how much thought has gone into the design and equipment of this truck.
Take, for example, that aforementioned and largely superfluous fuel tank. Costing just shy of $200 to fill up with Vancouver's ridiculously overpriced regular gas, it's something that raises the average eyebrow, especially when paired up with Ford's ridiculously thrifty EcoBoost V6. After all, who really needs a truck that can go from Vancouver to Calgary on a single tank? And the answer, of course, is no one. But who wants a truck that doesn't need to be topped up every few days? Well, that answer's just as easy: anyone that needs to work with one. Because when you're billing by the hour, and your gas gauge never seems to see the high side of a half tank, it doesn't take long for the time spent going from gas station to job site to gas station to start adding up.
So too it is with the extremely practical interior. With Ford's Sync system handling everything from text messages to navigational duties, and the twin-turbo torque monster under the hood making even the steepest of ascents feel easy, it's easy to relax behind the F-150's well-trimmed wheel. After all, although it might be the quintessential work truck, there's no rule that says driving a work truck needs to feel like work. And although some might say that the 6.5' bed is a wee bit too small for real work duties, there's a lot to be said for the expansive interior that the four door SuperCrew cab affords. Easily capable of seating four larger-than-average men in absolute comfort, there's tons of leg, head, elbow, and shoulder room in every seating position, and the 60/40 folding rear bench bottom and completely flat floor ensure that it's equally up to the task of hauling goods. However, it should be mentioned that any would-be buyers looking to really maximize the cargo-swallowing capabilities of their F-150's interior should be aware that the optional Sony stereo places a large subwoofer enclosure below the rear passenger seat, which does reduce the available floor space by an unfortunate amount.
Although the familiar powertrain and interior are both features of the F-150 that I've certainly complimented in previous reviews, the FX4 is horse of a slightly different colour when it comes to the ride. Fitted with smaller wheels and more aggressive 275/65R18 all-terrain tires, it feels substantially softer on the road, and is quite far removed from the almost car-like ride provided by the 20"-wheel equipped Platinum and 22"-wheel equipped Harley edition. Feeling less nimble and a bit less responsive, the overall effect of the taller sidewalls and softer suspension isn't overly terrible, but did conspire with the longer wheelbase of my 6.5', SuperCrew tester to make for a slightly ungainly vehicle in urban settings. That said, when redirected at a variety of mid-construction pathways and dirt roads, the FX4 quickly proved that for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction, because it more than made up for any loss in urban-dwelling confidence it might have suffered with a more than equal boost in off-road ability. Bounding over undulations and smoothly crossing potholed logging roads with ease, I never once found myself worried about pinching a sidewall or scratching an overly-large wheel, while the big all-terrain tires, longer wheelbase, and soft, comfortable suspension all worked in concert to provide the softest ride possible.
Which is precisely what this truck is about. Although trucks like the Platinum, Harley Davidson Edition, and SVT Raptor might make for more scintillating conversation, it's trucks like the FX4 that make up the foundation of the F-150's reputation. Using modern technology like twin turbocharging and electronic locking differentials to augment the most important features that we've come to expect from a work truck, it's no surprise that the FX4 has been a perennial favourite among F-150 owners for some time, and if this latest one is any indication, it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon.
|Test model||2012 Ford F-150|
|Trim level||FX4 4x4 Super Crew cab (6.5')|
|Price range||$20,099 - $58,799|
|Price as tested||$58,369|
|Warranty (basic)||3 years / 60,000 km|
|Warranty (powertrain)||5 years / 100,000 km|
|Options||Metallic paint EcoBoost Engine Package Optional all terrain tires Power moonroof Max trailer tow pack FX Luxury Package Sony Navigation Radio Remote start Pickup box extender Box access steps Tailgate step Rearview camera|
|Competitive models||Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, RAM RAM 1500, Toyota Tundra|
|Fuel consumption||Given the power output and torque, it's absolutely awesome.|
|Value for price||It's not cheap, but just try to find the same features for less in another vehicle.|
|Styling||It's the quintessential pickup truck... and it looks like one too.|
|Comfort||The off-road capable suspension is also somewhat akin to that of a '90s Cadillac...|
|Performance||Depends on where you're measuring it, and what surface you're on!|
|Overall||Just a great truck for the average guy.|