Ford is greeting the 2012 model year with a little more function and style across its F-150 line of trucks.
Starting at the upper end of the F-150 lineup, Ford has replaced last year's electronic shift-on-the-fly with a two-speed automatic 4x4 system for Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels. The system still offers four high and four low modes, but now also gives drivers the option of a 4x4 auto mode. This keeps the truck in a standard rear-wheel drive bias, but if the system senses a loss of traction, it immediately transfers torque to the front wheels.
A nice new feature for those who live in mountainous terrain is Hill Start Assist. As the name suggests, the system helps keep the truck from rolling backwards at an inclined stop. What is particularly unique is that the program requires no driver input. If the sensors detect the vehicle is on a slope, the system is automatically activated. Brake pressure is held in the braking system, and the truck remains stationary on the slope for up to two seconds after the driver releases the brake pedal.
Other new features for 2012 include the addition of neutral tow capability on all 4x4 trucks, so these pickups can be flat towed. An available electronic locking rear axle replaces most of the limited-slip offerings on the 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter engines. It is now available in a range of axle ratios so that customers have more control over their traction and performance.
Ford has also upgraded the fuel tank on the F-150 EcoBoost 4x4 to 36 gallons. The company gives the truck a range of 756 miles. In playful observation of the competition, Ford claims this truck can now be driven from Sierra, California, to Ram Lake, Oregon, with 355 miles to spare, or from Silverado, California, to Tundra, Texas, with only one fill up along the way.
Purely for visual appeal, Ford is now offering a new appearance package on the FX2 and FX4 trim levels. Outside the FX appearance package adds 20-inch six-spoke wheels with a flat black paint, a matte black bodyside decal, chrome exhaust tip, black finished grille, and blacked-out headlamps and tail lamps. The F-150 badging is also black with red lettering. Inside the theme continues with red stitching on the black leather steering wheel and seats. Other minor interior touches include black painted dash accents, brushed metal surfaces, and satin accents including the shifter knob, door handles and air conditioning vent bezels.
Other trim updates include light-duty SuperCab 163-inch-wheelbase option on XL and XLT; heavy-duty payload CrewCab 157-inch-wheelbase option on XL, XLT and Lariat; and electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive is now standard on 4x4 XL to FX4 trim levels.
Ford revamped its engine lineup in the F-150 last year, so the all the motors options carry over into 2012. This consists of the 3.7-liter 302 hp/278 lb-ft V-6, the 5.0-liter 360 hp/380 lb-ft V-8, the 3.5-liter 365 hp/429 lb-ft EcoBoost V-6, and the 6.2-liter 411 hp/434 lb-ft V-8.
In total, the 2012 F-150 offers a little more aggressive appearance and some new capability under the skin. In a year where no one is producing an all new full size truck, these updates from Ford may prove to be worthwhile to some consumers.