Review: 2011 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson [w/video]
"Wooing With Big Power, Questionable Bling"
It was fun to own a truck for a while, but fuel prices and a global recession eventually caught up to the recreational truck owner. Sales of the Ford F-Series came in at 413,000 units in 2009, while 2010 improved to 528,000. Combined that adds up to roughly the same amount of trucks Ford sold in '05 alone. Does the precipitous drop in truck sales mean that high-dollar pickups of the past are on the outs? Not even close.
The F-150 lineup now features Lariat, Platinum, King Ranch and particularly awesome Raptor variants, each with their own hefty price tag. The Raptor is an off-roading beast of epic proportions, while the Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch offer plush accommodations and equipment that are matched by great looks and supreme capability. And if none of those options appeal to the $50,000 truck buyer, Ford continues to offer the F-150 Harley-Davidson edition.
For 2011, Ford's brand-borrowing super truck now boasts more power, new looks and an even fancier (for better or worse) cabin. We took the reins of a fully loaded Harley-Davidson-branded F-150 to see if this pricey pickup has the right mix of luxury and performance to bring back the low impact luxury truck owner.
The first time we locked eyes with the Harley edition F-150, we were shocked by its un-truck-like bling factor. A sparkly black paint job, loads of highly reflective decals and a set of gorgeous 22-inch wheels mated to P275/45V R22 BSW performance rubber tends to do that. And if those attributes don't grab your attention, Ford adds a unique grille made of six horizontal chrome bars and enough Harley-Davidson badging to inform drivers in other counties what kind of truck you're driving.
The Harley F-150 certainly looks menacing from the outside, and the job continues inside the cabin. Again, there are loads of Harley-Davidson badging, including a ridiculous (and massive) metallic logo etched into the center arm rest. The electronics are everywhere, including power-deployable running boards that make ingress and egress a snap. In all, the cabin definitely stands out, with loads of supple leather and great-looking piano black appliques that add some contrast the F-150's monumental dash.
The Harley F-150 also scores points for usefulness. Ford went out of its way to make the back seat of F-150 SuperCrew as commodious as possible, with plenty of room for adults or cargo. If you have a large item that needs to stay away from the elements, simply fold up the seat bottoms and there's room for a couple 50 inch flat-screen TVs. If more space is needed, there's the 5.5-foot bed out back. Our tester even came with an optional bed extender ($250) to allow for items that stretch to the end of the opened tailgate. Another option our tester featured was Ford's Ingenious Step ($375), which is integrated into the tailgate. Check out the Autoblog Short Cut video below to see if it lives up to its name.
If you want to get the maximum pleasure out of the cabin, get ready to crack open the F-150's owner's manual to learn how to use the many gadgets that contribute to its $52,740 price tag. Standard features include voice-activated Navigation with Travel Link and Sony Audio, Sync, a USB port for your MP3 player or smartphone, power moon roof and backup camera. Not enough? There's also an integrated trailer brake controller, power sliding rear window and leather seats that are heated and cooled in the front row. We're particularly fond of the standard 4.2-inch LCD nestled into the middle of the gauge cluster. It's bright as the rising sun, accessed via steering wheel controls, and provides useful information like fuel economy, off-road data and towing info.
The comfortable, well-bolstered seats are also a highlight, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel feels as good as it looks, but not all that glitters is gold. And seriously, we actually see glitter on the center console, which isn't great. Any time an automaker starts with a $22,000 truck, there are going to be some hard-touch materials. The Harley-Davidson F-150 is certainly guilty, as the hulking dash is harder than a Louisville Slugger, but without any of the real wood. It also took quite a while to acclimate to this princely pickup's multitude of buttons, switches and gadgets.
We're guessing the Harley-Davidson F-150 will come with a steep learning curve for some owners, yet most will have no problem figuring out what to do with Ford's new 6.2-liter V8. That's a big motor, and it's a heavy hitter as well, with 411 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and 434 pound-feet of torque at 4,500 revs. That's more juice than nearly any other engine in the F-150 lineup, but the truck's 6,052-pound curb weight means that land speed records shouldn't be expected. Gears are swapped via Ford's six-speed automatic transmission, a smooth combination as long as you're not thrashing the throttle. We noticed that the six-speed was jerky when standing on the go pedal, but the Harley F-150 still goes like stink when prodded.
Towing is a more important measure of performance for most truck owners, but in spite of the Harley F-150's 411 ponies, an integrated trailer brake controller, towing package and Trailer Sway Control, our four-wheel-drive tester carries a max towing capacity of only 7,200 pounds. For perspective, the midsize Toyota Tacoma can tow 6,500 pounds, and the F-150 is far bigger and its engine has over 50-percent more displacement. The truck's payload is limited to 1,260 pounds as well, down nearly 300 pounds compared to the King Ranch F-150. Big wheels and tires have a lot to do with those compromised numbers, as does a lowered ride height.
At over 6,000 pounds and 75.9 inches of tall, you can imagine that there's plenty of body-roll when diving into turns, and the turning radius is slightly compromised, which is less than ideal when trying to park at Home Depot. The same holds true for most trucks in this class, and this F-150 is no different. One thing that does set the Harley F-150 apart from others is its supple highway ride. There is minimal bounciness, thanks in part to three tons bearing down on the suspension, and the 22-inch wheels don't hinder the ability to handle potholes as much as we thought they would. Braking is quite good as well, with solid pedal feel and plenty of bite.
Ford did a respectable job of making this big, heavy pig feel relatively light on its feet, but there are only so many miracles coming out of Dearborn, MI these days. The downside to all that power and pork is fuel economy, and the Harley-Davidson F-150 has a bigger drinking problem than Nick Cage in Leaving Las Vegas. The Environmental Protection Agency tells us this F-150 averages 12 miles per gallon in city driving and 16 mpg on the highway. We struggled to hit 13 mpg in mixed driving, and that's not a good thing, especially when gas is over $4 a gallon.
While we can see a bit of a split personality with regard to the Harley-Davidson F-150, we can't help but like it anyway. After all, Ford has added a slew of new technology to its truck lineup, and the Blue Oval threw everything it had at this bike-branded pickup.
The Harley-Davidson F-150 really isn't the sharpest work tool in the garage, but if a truck buyer is looking for a luxury pickup, this could be the best bet yet. Until fuel prices top out past $5 a gallon.