The 2013 Ford F-150 is America's favorite workhorse, and while a lot of ink is devoted to covering the high horsepower luxury trucks that are now commonplace in certain zip codes, it's important to remember that it's the XL, STX, and XLT models that make up the backbone of Ford's full-size pickup sales. With that in mind, I spent some quality time behind the wheel of a 2013 Ford F-150 XLT featuring as few frills as possible to get an idea of what makes this particular model such a compelling choice for truck buyers.
We've come a long way from the headliner-free stripper models that used to define the bottom end of the truck market, and while those trims are still available to contractors and fleet managers (like Ford's XL with its vinyl seats and basic AM/FM stereo), the 2013 Ford F-150 XLT is far more representative of what most entry-level pickup shoppers are going to drive home. The vehicle I sampled was a SuperCab, which meant a small pair of rear-hinged back doors and an extra bench seat to go with the three-abreast configuration in the front, and it included standard features such as the company's Sync system for managing mobile devices over Bluetooth, cruise control, a CD player, folding side mirrors, power windows and door locks, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, fog lights, and a few chrome touches on the vehicle's exterior.
I also benefited from option package 301a (vehicle info screen in front of the driver, power adjustable pedals, satellite radio, leather-wrapped steering wheel, larger radiator, and a transmission cooler), along with a few other niceties that come grouped with the startling number of 'special packages' that both form a part of the universe of incentives used to move full-size metal out of the door and also make it hard to provide an accurate final price estimate on these vehicles. My four-wheel drive truck had a starting MSRP of $35,470, and after adding $1,850 worth of options it ended up costing $35,820. That's the kind of accounting that will get you three years in Lompoc, but that's how the truck business works.
Comfortable, Yet Rugged
Driving the 2013 Ford F-150 XLT was defined largely by the detached smoothness one feels when piloting such a massive, heavy automobile through traffic. Bumps in the road are absorbed without complaint by the truck's suspension system, as long as they don't happen mid-corner when they run the risk of disturbing the truck's live axle setup and sending the empty cargo bed skittering to one side or the other. Power was good if not overwhelming from the truck's base 3.7-liter V-6, which serves up 302 horses and 278 lb-ft of twist in a somewhat noisy but reliable fashion. It's far from the sexiest motor in the F-150's lineup - that honor falls to the turbocharged EcoBoost mill - but if you're not towing there's really nothing to fault the truck's standard six-cylinder engine. I didn't get the chance to explore the limits of the Ford's low-range four-wheel drive system, but the six-speed automatic transmission was smooth even under heavy acceleration.
It's definitely a pain to mosey a large pickup through a major city, especially if your parking access is like mine and requires you to make your way down a narrow alley and twist around a tight corner before engaging in a six-point turn before backing into your garage. All was forgiven, however, when the 2013 Ford F-150 XLT helped me transport a new chair for my living room that would have had difficulty fitting in anything other than other than a full-size SUV. I used the truck's optional bed extended inverted against the closed tailgate to hold the chair in place, which worked like a charm in the absence of the tie-downs I had left hanging on the wall at home. Sometimes, you just need a truck, and the F-150 came through big-time when it was my turn.
Nice Price, If You Avoid The Options
Starting at less than $30k, the regular cab edition of the 2013 Ford F-150 XLT walks the line between offering the right mix of comfort and convenience features and pricing itself out of the entry-level market. As a daily-driven truck, I can't find much to fault this very useful and affordably priced model, and with 17-mpg city and 23-mpg highway listed as its EPA rating it's far from the most expensive edition of the F-150 family to run.
The value starts to drop off when you consider the extra costs associated with adding four-wheel drive and a four-door body style to the equation, but for some families there's no getting around the need for more passenger room. If you must have a dual purpose work/family ride, then the XLT SuperCab will get the job done, but if you can leave the truck in the corporate parking lot at the end of the day you'd be wiser to opt for a mid-size, five-passenger crossover.