Our first look at the Australian spec 2023 Ford F-150

By Toby Hagon 13 Min Read

So you reckon you need a large American pick-up truck? Well of all of them currently available – and coming soon – it’s the Ford F-150 that is the biggest seller in its homeland.

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It’s the one that the Chevrolet Silverado, RAM and Toyota Tundra all target in the US.

And while smaller companies have been selling locally-converted F-150s in Australia now for years, Ford itself is now getting serious with its global top-seller.

Ford has commissioned an extensive – and expensive – factory on the northern fringe of Melbourne to essentially strip apart left-hand drive F-150s and turn them into right-hand drive cars for the Aussie market.

Factory spec

So, why bother?

American pick-ups are getting more popular Down Under and it seems Ford wants in on the action.

The conversion is also done to a much higher level than any of the previous conversions done by independent companies.

That’s because Ford has set a target of ensuring those F-150s converted by RMA Automotive are at least to the same standard as when the cars rolled off the Detroit production line.

That has involved fitting a new tow hitch (to meet ADRs), mirroring all the controls in the cabin (so the brake controller and 4×4 selector are closest to the driver and the PRNDL display is on the driver’s side) and even tweaking the software on the centre screen and ensuring the electrically adjustable seats function as they should.

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It’s a big job, and that’s before you get to the big ticket items, such as adjusting the beam of the headlights (which involves using a five-axis machine tool), fitting the Ranger Raptor’s steering system and restamping the firewall.

It’s a huge job, but one that has resulted in a car as close to factory spec as possible.

Plus it gets the same five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty of other Fords.

Pairing up

The F-150 has a vast model range in America, but for now there are only two trim levels available in Australia: basic LXT and more luxuriously appointed Lariat.

Both do without the diesel power Aussies favour and instead use a petrol-fed 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6.

Each can then be had in short wheelbase form (which at 3694mm is 30 per cent longer than a LandCruiser 300-Series!) or for another $995 a 300mm longer wheelbase, all of it added to the length of the tub.

The XLT ($106,950 plus on-road costs) gets 20-inch alloys, powered driver’s seat, partially powered passenger seat, smart key entry, tyre pressure sensors and a tow kit with a 70mm towball, associated wiring and a brake controller. There’s only an 8.0-inch touchscreen, which looks a tad puny across the expansive dash. But at least it’s loaded with tech, including FordPass remote app connectivity.

Plus Ford Australia has added some kit that doesn’t come standard in the US, in part because it helped with the conversion to right-hand drive. Snazzier LED tail lights have been fitted, for example, because they have the orange indicator flashers as standard, whereas the cheaper ones have the American red flashers. Plus there is a push button start to save awkwardly twisting the key on the left side of the steering wheel.

More lavishly appointed Lariat models (from $139,950 plus costs) add more chrome, partial leather, ambient lighting, wireless phone charging, panoramic sunroof, power sliding rear window, memory settings for the driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, 360-degree camera and an 18-speaker Bang & Olufsen sound system. It also gets a fully digital instrument cluster and a 12.0-inch centre screen.

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4×4

There’s also another key difference between XLT and Lariat.

The XLT gets a part-time four-wheel drive system with a column gear shifter (along with ridiculous manual override buttons).

The Lariat gets a selectable system that allows it to run in full time four-wheel drive. There’s also a T-bar gear selector in the centre console (with equally silly manual override buttons on the side).

That said, there’s still a 2H setting, although for plenty of people they’ll no doubt leave it in 4A and let the car sort out where to send the drive.

In either model there’s a locking rear diff.

More for the road

But don’t expect the F-150 to be as capable as a Ranger in the rough stuff, at least in standard guise.

It’s more overlander than true off-roader, even if it does have drive modes such as Slippery, Deep snow/sand and Mud/ruts.

The lengthy wheelbase makes it more likely to get hung up on obstacles, even if the ground clearance is a generous 239mm on ‘short’ models and 225mm on the long wheelbase (we asked why there’s a difference and no one at Ford could explain it). The side steps are ready to catch on things, too.

Underneath there’s some basic thin metal protection up front, but there’s also plenty of hardware ready to be snagged. And the lengthy fuel tank down the passenger side only has a plastic shield protecting it, something that won’t cut it against an angry rock.

If you’re looking to get serious, some proper underbody protection would be a good start.

Up front there are recovery hooks on each side but none on the rear. Obviously the tow hitch receiver can form the basis of some recovery hardware.

While the F-150 runs 20-inch wheels – Hankook Dynapro AT2 on the XLT and Pirelli Scorpion on the Lariat – the spare is different. It’s a Maxxis Bravo 771 in an 18-inch diameter and is 10mm narrower than what’s on the car. So it’s better than a typical space saver but still not as good as a matching tyre.

It’s also housed in an open well under the rear load area so could easily accommodate a full-size spare for those who’d prefer the real deal.

Heavy hauling

The F-150’s real party trick is towing. It’s rated to lug up to 4500kg, a full tonne more than most utes.

We tried it with almost three tonnes out the back and the 3.5-litre V6 made it look pretty easy, to the point where in rear-drive mode it was triggering the traction control as it scrabbled for grip. In the Lariat you can engage 4A to solve that problem.

While it’s ‘only’ a V6, a pair of turbos gives it V8 levels of thrust – or better. That’s because the full 678Nm kicks in at just 3100rpm.

So it’s pulling strongly when you need it and the 10-speed auto does a decent job of plucking the right ratio.

Claimed fuel use is 12.5 litres per 100km and it’s rated to run on regular unleaded. A 136-litre fuel tank means 1000km-plus touring ranges.

We spent plenty of time on country roads and freeways and found it easy (when unladen, at least) to get below that claimed average.

Obviously it’d be a different story when towing.

Keep in mind, too, that as with its key rivals the F-150 doesn’t have a great payload. It ranges from 685kg to 794kg depending on which variant you buy.

So if you’re turning to the aftermarket for accessories you need to be aware of the limitations – or do a GVM upgrade to accommodate.

Also keep in mind that the payload will be between 235kg and 344kg when towing the full 4.5 tonnes. It’s not much.

Big and comfortable

Of course the big appeal with the F-150 is its sheer size. You sit up high and there’s a lot of metal around you.

Despite its heft, though, aluminium panels means it weighs about the same as a Ranger; the kerb weights range from 2451kg to 2555kg.

Naturally you need to be aware of the extremities of the vehicle, because it’s a big beast.

Inside, though, that means loads of sprawling space, with acres of rear legroom, albeit with a high-ish floor.

The cabin is wide, too, and comfortable, although some of the plastics and finishes look a bit old school. And we’d love some overhead grab handles instead of the ones that are more of a lean away on the pillars.

Under way the suspension is relatively supple, which teams with the long wheelbase to dispose of big lumps and undulations effortlessly.

It’s less convincing on repeated imperfections – such as corrugations – where there’s some jiggling and shimmying.

Horses for courses

All of which adds up to a big truck that does the big truck things convincingly.

It’s vast and spacious and big on the road, while offering a degree of comfort that makes big adventures easier.

The V6 engine is also a winner.

And the effort that’s gone into the right-hook conversion makes the F-150 a classy companion.

Just don’t get too adventurous, unless you’re looking to get some aftermarket gear on it to ramp up the capability in the rough stuff.

Ford F-150 short wheelbase

On sale: Now

Price: From $106,950, plus on-road costs

Body: Large pickup truck

Length/width/height/wheelbase: 5884mm/2030mm/1995mm/3694mm

Kerb weight: 2451kg (XLT), 2535kg (Lariat)

Gross vehicle mass (GVM): 3220kg

Gross combination mass (GCM): 7720kg

Payload: 769kg (XLT), 685kg (Lariat)

Tow capacity: 4500kg

Engine: 3.5-litre V6 twin turbo, 298kW/678Nm

Fuel tank capacity: 136L

Transmission: 10-speed auto

4WD system: Dual range part time

Tyres: Hankook Dynapro AT2

Tyre size: 275/60 R20 (265/70 R18 spare)

Ground clearance: 239mm

Approach angle: 24.3 degrees

Rampover angle: 20.0 degrees

Departure angle: 25.3 degrees

Ford F-150 long wheelbase

On sale: Now

Price: From $139,950, plus on-road costs

Body: Large pickup truck

Length/width/height/wheelbase: 6184mm/2030mm/1995mm/3994mm

Kerb weight: 2471kg (XLT), 2555kg (Lariat)

Gross vehicle mass (GVM): 3265kg

Gross combination mass (GCM): 7765kg

Payload: 794kg (XLT), 710kg (Lariat)

Tow capacity: 4500kg

Engine: 3.5-litre V6 twin turbo, 298kW/678Nm

Fuel tank capacity: 136L

Transmission: 10-speed auto

4WD system: Dual range part time

Tyres: Pirelli Scorpion

Tyre size: 275/60 R20 (265/70 R18 spare)

Ground clearance: 225mm

Approach angle: 24.0 degrees

Rampover angle: 19.0 degrees

Departure angle: 26.3 degrees


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