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Consumer Reports Tests Show the 2019 Ford F-150 Still Needs Improvement

The Ford F-150 may still be the best-selling truck in the US, but its position on top has gotten shaky. In combined sales, GM managed to beat Ford out. And with Ram overtaking Silverado, the FCA pickup brand is gunning for the F-150’s seat. Even though the Ford pickup has a lot to offer, its record has never been perfect. The truck has been plagued with recalls throughout its lifetime. And recent Consumer Reports testing suggests the 2019 Ford F-150 might still need some work.

2019 Ford F-150 Braking

The full-size 2020 Ford F-150
The full-size 2020 Ford F-150 | Courtesy of Ford.com

Sure, towing and payload capacities are important for a truck—but so is stopping all that cargo in time to avoid an accident. And with how often trucks are used as family vehicles nowadays, good braking performance is critical. Which makes Consumer Reports’ and other publications’ reviews of the Ford F-150’s brakes rather confusing.

2019 Ford F-150 | Ford
2019 Ford F-150 | Ford

Consumer Reports found the F-150’s brakes “mediocre”, quoting long stopping distances on both wet and dry pavement. However, both Car and Driver and J.D. Power had good things to say about the F-150’s braking performance. Car and Driver found that unladen, the F-150 stopped faster than the Chevrolet Silverado, whose 175-foot stopping distance the magazine called “impressive.” But Motor Trend has had some issues with F-150 brakes. Although the Ford pickup was the best stopper unladen, when towing the MT team found the brakes lacked bite. And laden up with sand—to simulate a real-world ‘overload’ scenario—the brakes were even worse compared to the Ram and Silverado also competing. It is worth noting that Motor Trend was the only reviewer testing braking while loaded-up.

Braking Rebuttal

But looking at F-150 owner reviews, braking never appears as an issue. The J.D. Power review may explain both the owners’ experiences and the CR results. J.D. Power found the F-150’s brakes good for a truck the size of the Ford. CR may have found the braking mediocre compared to something like a passenger sedan, which would naturally have a shorter braking distance. And truck owners will likely expect trucks to take longer to stop, so braking performance isn’t an issue for them.

Suspension Performance: Emergency Handling and Ride Quality

2019 Ford F-150 Limited
2019 Ford F-150 Limited | Ford

A truck’s brakes may slow it down to avoid an accident, but quality suspension and steering design can, as well. Testing both is done through performing swerve tests and running the truck over potholes and other road blemishes. And Consumer Reports also found issue with the F-150’s emergency handling and ride quality.

CR found the truck was “predictable and secure” in the avoidance maneuver test, but the vague and slow steering meant the truck didn’t respond quickly to driver inputs. For avoiding suddenly-oncoming obstacles, that’s not ideal. CR also criticized the F-150’s ride comfort, calling the pickup “jumpy and unsettled”.

A Ford F-150 Crew Cab Limited in a harbor
A Ford F-150 Crew Cab Limited in a harbor | Ford

Here, again, there are some disparities. Roadshow’s recent F-150 test found the truck had accurate steering. J.D. Power also found the steering good, albeit “for such a large vehicle.” And the F-150 is a pickup, not a sports car: steering feel is not a priority.

On the other hand, CR’s critique of the ride quality is repeated elsewhere. Autoblog found the F-150 Limited’s ride “atrocious”, although that may have partially been due to the large 22” wheels. But Motor Trend tested an F-150 with 17” wheels, and without weight in the bed, the ride was very bouncy. Both MT and Car and Driver found the ride improved significantly when towing or loading up the bed, although the MT reviewer reported feeling uneasy about how unsteady the rear felt.

2019 Ford F-150 Fuel Economy

Fuel efficiency is a big concern for pickup truck owners, especially those who use their trucks for work. The introduction of turbocharged EcoBoost engines to the F-150 was supposed to provide drivers with the fuel efficiency of a small engine, but the power of a large one. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Ford F-150.

Both Consumer Reports and Car and Driver reported fuel economy numbers lower than the EPA ratings. CR tested the 2.7-liter turbocharged gasoline V6, and Car and Driver the 3.5-liter version. And owner reviews back up these results. Reviews on Edmunds repeatedly feature EcoBoost owners complaining about their trucks using more fuel than they should be. Ford is at the moment undergoing a lawsuit about their F-150 and Ranger fuel economy tests. Although the specific engines aren’t mentioned, the Ranger only comes with a turbocharged EcoBoost engine. Which means the lawsuit is most likely about Ford’s turbocharged truck engines.

2018 F-150 Power Stroke Diesel
2018 F-150 Power Stroke Diesel | Ford

It is worth noting that while Motor Trend’s testing saw an F-150 achieve mileage better than the EPA’s ratings, that truck had a naturally-aspirated gasoline V6. Autotrader has noted that it’s common for turbocharged engines to deliver poorer fuel efficiency in the real-world than in EPA testing. These fuel economy issues also don’t appear to apply to the diesel F-150, which Motor Trend record higher-than-EPA numbers for. CR has not tested a diesel F-150.

Ford has steadily improved the F-150 over the years. However, based on these reviews, Ford’s pickup still has some work to do.