In the past, Ford Motor Company had mixed results with “luxury pickups.” The first, the Lincoln Blackwood, was an unmitigated disaster, so bad in fact that the prototype went for less at auction than remaining new examples sold for on new car lots. The second attempt, the Lincoln Mark LT, was better, simpler and cheaper, but it didn’t exactly set the world on fire. However, not one to give up, the folks in Dearborn are giving it another go – ladies and gentlemen say hello to the new F-150 Platinum.
|1. Platinum is the new top of the line F-150, sliding in above the popular King Ranch Edition.
2. Interior trim is some of the highest quality fitted to a FoMoCo vehicle, including Mercury and Lincoln models.
3. Retractable running boards provide easy entry/exit without compromising ground clearance.
4. The big 5.4-liter Triton V-8 makes 320 horsepower yet can achieve 20 mpg on the highway – better than most competitors.
BLUE COLLAR LUXURY
Perhaps the two words above seem to contradict each other, but Ford Motor Company has gone to town on its full-size pickup with the Platinum. The interior is one of the nicest ever seen in a full-size pickup or sport utility, yes Cadillac Escalade, that includes you.
Jumping onto the big, soft, yet supportive captain’s chairs up front is a treat. They’re finished in some of the finest quality leather seen in any Ford passenger vehicle (a Rich Stone hue in our case, though another color, Dark Sienna is also available). Not only that, but the Tuxedo stitching wouldn’t look out of place in a bespoke grand touring car. The fact that the seats have 10-way power adjustments for fore and aft, plus lumbar dash, is merely the icing on the cake. Not only is this truck comfortable to sit in, but the ergonomics are almost spot on; with a good steering wheel to hand relationship and power adjustable foot pedals that mean you’ll never have problems reaching the floor.
The massive center console dominates the entire cabin and although it eats into front legroom somewhat, it does boast more interior cubby space than that found in the old Mark LT. Acres of ripped Lacrosse woodgrain ash and brushed aluminum trim are a nice touch – particularly on the console and shift lever. The center 8-inch screen, which features a back-up camera, navigation system and radio selection, plus CD/DVD/MP3 playback capability is surprisingly easy to use – free of the complications often found on modern luxury vehicles. Ford’s much touted voice activated in car communication/entertainment system SYNC, is also a very clever idea, allowing you to perform multiple functions, like calling on the phone, changing the song on the sound system or searching for addresses, without taking your hands off the wheel. However it does seem to get a bit confused by strange accents (give it time, a few more updated versions and that should be all but a memory).
In the back, rear passengers have it even better than front riders, with plenty of room to stretch their legs (a six-inch rear cab stretch over the old LT helps) as well as plenty to keep them amused, via the entertainment screens. The premium Sony sound system with 11 speakers and amps is good in the front, but in the rear chairs gives a sensation of being in a major concert hall.
The F-150 has set the standard for full-size pickup interiors in recent years, in terms of overall fit and finish and the Platinum doesn’t disappoint. Everything has a solid, well made feel to it, from the turn signal stalk to the buttons on the center stack – even the dash looks like it was carved from a piece of granite. Somebody obviously spent a lot of time sitting in 20 year-old Mercedes-Benzes (and I mean this in a good way) while the interior was being developed.
Outside, to distinguish the Platinum from the riff-raff (we’re talking King Ranch and Lariats of course), there’s fully monochromatic exterior paint with a nice, deep luster to it, chrome beltline moldings, special id badging on the front fenders and tailgate (that also features a brushed aluminum panel), plus a unique three bar grille with fine mesh inserts. Our sample truck also featured the retractable running boards, which lower automatically, allowing one to make a proper and dignified entry or exit from the cab.
When you’ve finished playing with the interior fixtures and are finally driving on the open road, one thing becomes readily apparent – this is one quiet and refined pickup.
Engineers installed a ‘Quiet Steel’ dash and there’s a single piece of material in front of it, designed to reduce squeaks and rattles. Combine that with extra sound deadening around the door panels and rear bulkhead, plus thicker carpeting and the resulting ambience is most limo-like. There’s hardly any wind or road noise and if you’re not driving; the Platinum’s cabin is the perfect place to nod off for a few minutes or a few hours – sounds like the prefect scenario on long trips to Florida or out west with the kids.
Over bumpy surfaces, despite its leaf sprung rear suspension; the Platinum maintains composure and the steering remains remarkably steady, unlike many full-size trucks and SUVs, plus the creaks and rattles you’d be expecting from a big Ford pickup simply aren’t there.
In terms of acceleration, the big 5.4-liter Triton V-8 just gets on with the job. It pulls strongly (with a tow rating of 9,600 lbs.), building power progressively, though in the Platinum, even under load, the exhaust note is fairly muted from inside the cab. Fuel economy is also surprisingly good; we were averaging between 15-18 mpg most of the time and even got 20 on a couple of occasions.
The six-speed automatic transmission changes gears very smoothly and you barely notice the cog selection happening, even when a sudden burst of acceleration is required – read short freeway onramps. The four-wheel disc brakes are strong and even on slippery pavement the ABS is less aggressive than most – in keeping with this rig’s refined persona. Having said that, they could perhaps use a little more feel, as when you touch the pedal, it feels like nothing’s happening for the first few seconds and then all of a sudden – pow!
LOOK MA, IT GOES AROUND CORNERS!
Even though it wasn’t designed for it, the Platinum equates itself well on a handling course – the steering is brilliant – smooth, with great precision and on center feel, though at lower speeds and in built up areas a fairly wide turning circle emphasizes the truck’s not inconsiderable size.
Platinum is offered with a 4×4 system, though really it’s almost a travesty to take this thing off road and coat those gorgeous 20-inch chrome wheels and running boards in mud.
Despite a long wheelbase it goes up and down hills with aplomb, there’s always ample torque and the Platinum’s relatively high ground clearance means you really need to make an effort to get this thing wedged on a boulder on in a gulley. Naturally, like other ’09 F-150s the Platinum features a cargo box with useful retractable steps, built in stepladder for the tailgate and bed extender, even if the box is only 5.5 inches in length.
Although the concept of a luxury full-size pickup often seems like an exercise in wretched excess – something that’s looked upon with increasing vulgarity at this point in time, the F-150 Platinum challenges that notion, by view of its superior workmanship, excellent refinement, performance and standard equipment. Let’s hope it gets a better reception than its Lincoln predecessors did. At a very enticing $40,440, there’s no question it deserves to.
Outstanding refinement Top quality cabin Good ride and steering feel
Size Wide turning circle Touchy brakes