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2022 Ford F-150 review: 4x4 Supercrew XLT – The holiday drive

After a 16-year hiatus, the F-150 is coming back to Australian Ford showrooms, so we take the iconic pick-up for a family road trip on its home turf – the USA

14 Nov 2022

Regular Wheels Media photography contributor Cristian Brunelli gets behind the wheel to deliver a review of his own. A recent holiday in the US saw CB spend some time with a big ol' truck – only one of the world's top-selling vehicles – so we asked him to spin out some thoughts. And photos, of course.

Summer dreamin'

This is our first overseas holiday in more than 4 years, thanks to COVID. Finally, we could go somewhere! With the cats and dog sorted in their holiday accommodation (sorry boys), my wife and I – oh, and three kids... – loaded up the tray of our first-gen Ranger Raptor and head for Melbourne airport.

Owning a Ranger Raptor makes for a handy before-and-after comparison here, actually. The Raptor feels like a big car on Australian roads; it’s long and it’s super wide. There is, however, a bigger Ford dual-cab ute coming our way.

Actually, should I call it a pick-up? Or even a truck, maybe?

Soon, the F-150 will officially be back on sale here after a 16-year hiatus. Ford Australia will import the trucks and the conversion to right-hand-drive will be handled by Melbourne-based company RMA Automotive. We've lined up an F-150 to drive Stateside, in a very similar spec to what we will get here next year. I can’t wait to see what it’s like, compared to our Ranger.

So, at the other end of a lovely 14-hour flight to the USA (yes I actually enjoy watching unlimited movies and not having to share a screen with the kids), we land in the US of A. After collecting our many bags, I’m handed the keys to a bright 'Rapid Red', chromed-wheeled Ford F-150 XLT.

First reaction… It looks so big! The kids jump in and are immediately lost somewhere in the rear seat area. We lovingly nickname the F-150 'Big Red'.

After taking in all the chrome (someone ticked the 'make it sparkle' box), the first thing I notice is the column-mounted shifter, and of course, how much extra space there is between the driver and passenger compared to my Ranger.

It’s also rolling on 20s, 275/60 R20 to be exact.

The tray swallows up all of our gear (yes we brought a mountain bike halfway across the world). It would be nice to have some sort of lockable tray lid (like a Ranger Wildtrak), as I will have to constantly unload all of our baggage if we park anywhere. I’m sure you can option one.

We drive out of the airport parking at LAX and I nearly get taken out by a car with no headlights on. Not a great start. It takes me a few miles to get into the 'drive on the right, sit on the left' thing. Eventually, we make it to Mel’s Diner in West Hollywood for some well-deserved burgers, fries and pumpkin pie.

Checking into our Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard, I’m thankful they have a valet service that saves me from having to park this 6.3m-long beast.

I look back at Big Red before we head to our room, and it does have a big presence compared to most cars – even in the big-car centre of the world. It also blocks the view of nearly all of the other cars in the garage, which helps it stand out.

Holiday mode engaged

We're up early and head to Santa Monica beach to ride bikes and give the legs a stretch. I pull into the beach car park and look for a spot big enough to take the F truck.

The spot I find has an Australian-style Ranger parked next to it. The F truck's 360-degree camera is very handy when squeezing into a tight spot like this one. I jump out and compare the two Fords. The F-150 is at least a metre longer than the Ranger and a fair bit wider as well.

Riding and people-watching done, we head to Race Service on Venice Boulevard. I drive through some of the back streets of Venice and it’s here that you really notice the width of the F-150. Luckily our XLT is equipped with a raft of safety features including pre-collision assist with auto emergency braking and a million parking sensors. You would have to do something very silly to hit anything in this truck.

The kids are loving the fact that the rear seating area has no transmission tunnel bump, so even the middle passenger gets a lovely flat floor for their feet.

They are enjoying fighting over the rear air-conditioning controls, USB and USB-C plugs, as well as the six or so cup holders.

My wife Jennifer thinks the interior work surface (a foldable surface on the centre console to place your laptop or tablet on) is also a great feature. The rear electric opening window is also a hit with the children; they seem to be poking out of it every time we stop.

Eventually, we arrive at Race Service, which is a cross-media creative agency housed in a garage space that acts like a hub for people that share a passion for contemporary car culture. Well, that’s how they describe it. To me, it’s a place where people have turned their passion for cars and art into a day job.

My kids immediately want to work there, and so do I.

Race Service was started by James Kirkham, a former NASCAR driver who also created Donut Media. The best time to drop in for a visit is when they have their weekly Rise & Shine event on. It happens every Wednesday from 9-12 and is a cars-and-coffee type meeting with a different collection of vehicles each week.

There’s quite a lot happening here at any one time. I met the team of creatives that work on projects for car companies and brands. I checked out some of the car builds and cars there including a retro Pontiac NASCAR that belongs to James.

My favourite part of the visit was chatting to Nicolai Sclater AKA Ornamental Conifer. He is the resident artist and also the guy that creates the graphics for Daniel Ricciardo's helmet design.

It’s very cool to witness the creative process that goes into what he does. James shows me his office, which has a collection of Daniel's race helmets, most of which have messages written on them from Dan to the Race Service crew. My son William is a massive Riccardo fan, so he can’t help but do shoey with Danny Ric's old race boot.

LA is a big car town and you don’t have to go far to see its car culture on display.

Huntington Beach is a great place for car spotting, especially on a weekend. We saw everything from a ratty Baja Beetle to a fresh-out-of-the-box Ferrari SF90 Stradale.

We jump back in the F-150 and set the sat-nav for the Hoonigan store in Compton. The navigation on the Ford's Sync 4 system is very easy to use and I can’t keep but think that the screen looks exactly like the one in the new Ranger, only turned horizontal.

As we roll through Compton I worry that we may look a little like feral Trump supporters in our shiny red pick-up. Nothing to stress about, though, as we make it to the Hoonigan store just fine. Parked out front is everything from a modified WRX STI to a slammed ex-US Postal truck packing an LS1 V8.

Inside the store is like being in a real-life Forza game. We spot the 72 Napalm Nova, Scumbug Baja Beetle and Ken Block's Gymkhana Escort RS Cosworth. These cars have been immortalised on YouTube and in video games, so it’s very cool to see them up close. There’s also all the Hoonigan merch you could want including clothing, stickers and even a pair of Hoonigan Pit Viper sunglasses.

Behind the store is the workshop where the Hoonigan team works on their latest creations. We spot a brand new BRZ, which is their next giveaway car, drift-spec S13, an RX-7 and a really cool rotary-swapped wide-body Kei Truck.

Beyond the workshop is the parking lot or unofficial burnout pad. This is where they create the tyre-slaying videos for social media. Unfortunately, today was not a filming day as I would have loved to have a crack in the F-150.

There was so much cool stuff to look at here and I really wanted to take home a 1/10th scale Hoonitruck but I had to settle for some stickers instead. So we headed Straight Outta Compton (sorry but I had to).

We drive north on Interstate 405 bound for Santa Barbara.

The ride in the F-150 is really good considering it's on leaf springs in the rear. It also has lots of power (298kW) and torque (678Nm) from its 3.5-litre turbo-petrol V6 Ecoboost engine. This comes in handy when entering freeways, as it seems like nearly every Californian driver loves to accelerate hard!

The 10-speed automatic is fairly seamless and the only real negative is the lack of exhaust note – maybe they save that for the F-150 Raptor.

After around three hours of driving including a quick stop at In-and-Out Burger, we roll into Santa Barbara. Our next challenge is parking the Big Red at the Motel. I reverse into a spot and I’m pretty pleased with myself until I notice it sticks out of the parking spot by a metre or so. Luckily I didn’t try the parking spot marked Compact.

Both the rear traffic alert and reverse brake assist features saved me at least once on this trip, stopping the F-150 from going backwards into a car that appeared from nowhere. It’s reassuring for a truck this size to have so many smart safety features built in.

After a morning of checking out the Santa Barbara main street, I’m keen to explore the Santa Ynez mountains I can see behind the town. We head up Gibraltar Road, which is a classic mountain drive with lots of switchbacks and big drops.

While the F-150 is no sportscar, it actually does an okay job on the twisties.

You just have to remember how long the wheelbase is and turn in later to corners or else you may drop a wheel off the road. We stop at La Cumbre peak and take in the view, Griswolds style.

Our last stop – and a must for any car nerd visiting LA – is the Petersen Automotive Museum. Founded in 1994, it’s one of the world's largest car museums. The cars on display change regularly and they also have themed exhibitions, like the Bond in Motion collection that was on when we visited.

The Petersen also hosts events like the monthly breakfast club cruise, which is a cars-and-coffee-style meet on the museum rooftop parking space. Coffee and doughnuts are complimentary!

After driving the F-150 a couple of thousand miles around California, I was impressed by the way it swallowed up all our gear, kept us very comfortable and also safe.

It’s such a great vehicle for a family road trip. It would also make an awesome car for towing.

Getting used to its super size takes a little time but after a few days of driving, I felt like I had my head around it. If you are used to driving a Ranger or say a LandCruiser then the F-150 won’t feel that much bigger. You do have to hunt for those larger parking spots though. Even in America.

We drop the F-150 back to the parking spot at LAX. The family and I say our goodbyes to Big Red and tell the car it will love the wide open spaces in Australia.


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