Behind the Wheel: 2021 Ford F150 King Ranch

What do you do when a shiny new Ford F-150 King Ranch arrives at Expedition Portal HQ? Naturally, you hand the keys to the guy who drives a Prius and tell him to write about his experience.

I know it sounds illogical, but I’m actually in a perfect position to deliver some opinions, primarily because I’m in the process of shopping for a truck so that I can escape the low-clearance and limited cargo space blues. Taking the King Ranch out on the highway and dirt was the perfect opportunity to experience the F-150 platform and to decide for myself if a premium trim is worth the investment.

To get a good feel for this vehicle, my partner, Amanda, and I loaded our paragliding gear and our dog into the King and hit the road in search of a flying site near Flagstaff, Arizona.

 

Ford F150 King Ranch: Initial Impressions

On the Ford F-150 chassis, the King Ranch is one of the higher-end trims available (just behind the Limited edition). The King, with a SuperCrew Cab and 6.5-foot bed, starts at $56,630, but the vehicle that I test-drove included just about every available option, bringing the MSRP to approximately $72,000.

But I didn’t need to look at the Ford website to know that this was going to be a luxurious ride—the chrome accents, LED headlights, and electronic running boards which deployed from under the sides of the truck as I approached with key-fob in hand did a perfectly good job of communicating that.

And opening the driver’s door delivered a similar experience. Two-tone brown leather upholstery with the signature King Ranch squiggle (brand) assured me that I was about to be pampered. All joking aside, the exterior and interior are both things of beauty, and while they are a little bit flashy, I think that the overall appearance is well-executed.

After entering the truck, the keyless start-up displayed the familiar Ford logo on a very large touchscreen in the center of the dash. Making myself comfortable was easy, with just about every element being adjustable via electronic controls, including the seat, steering wheel, and to my surprise, the pedals.

The best way to test a truck? Take it on an adventure. Today’s objective: paraglide off the top of an extinct cinder cone.

 

Behind the Wheel of the King Ranch

Comfort

Comfort fit for a king—I couldn’t help myself there. Yes, the King Ranch delivers comfort in heaps. From the 10-way adjustable heated and ventilated seats to the leather interior, heated steering wheel, and adjustable everything, this truck shows you just how pleasant the interior of a vehicle can be. The only problem is that now my 2008 Prius feels even more inadequate.

 

Tech/Power

The 8-speaker, 640-watt Bang and Olufsen stereo sounded great, especially when I turned it up really loud. Apple CarPlay worked well, although pairing my smartphone felt like it should have been a little bit more intuitive. I found navigating the Synch 4 interface pretty straightforward using the responsive 12-inch touchscreen display in the center of the dash. The all-seeing, 360-degree vehicle camera system was also a welcome asset. The bird’s-eye view displayed on the vehicle’s screen helped me parallel park, back in, and generally, avoid hitting things. This is an extremely helpful feature for people like me who are not used to driving larger vehicles.

This truck’s Powerboost 3.5-liter hybrid V6 engine generates 430 horsepower, 570 pound-feet of torque, and has a maximum tow rating of 12,700 pounds. When I stepped on the accelerator, the truck responded promptly and felt quite fast despite its large size. Overtaking other vehicles was easy, and overall, I would describe the responsiveness and power of the King’s powerplant to be sporty and fun.

The model that we tested also had Ford’s onboard ProPower which delivers up to 7,200 watts of AC power to multiple standard 110-volt outlets, courtesy of the Powerboost engine (full disclosure, we didn’t test this feature).

 

Safety

The automatic lane-keeping sensors worked when they worked, but they didn’t always seem to work. Adaptive cruise control worked flawlessly over hundreds of miles of highway driving. I found that vehicle speed was easy to adjust on the fly via the controls located on the steering wheel and the automatic braking was responsive and inspired confidence. Warning lamps on both side-view mirrors indicated when there was a vehicle in my blind spot.

There were also some retractable steps and a handle that deployed from the tailgate to make getting in and out of the vehicle’s bed easier.

Performance

Highway

Highway driving comfort was fantastic, even after hundreds of miles on the pavement. The combination of sound isolation, adjustable bucket seats, and driving technology felt more akin to driving a VW sedan, where you glance down at the speedometer only to realize that you are doing 20+ miles per hour over the speed limit, almost too comfortably.

The 10-speed automatic transmission shifted smoothly, except when it didn’t. I experienced an isolated event where the vehicle struggled to shift into 10th gear, disengaging the clutch to up-shift only to slam back into 9th. It felt a bit like a transmission slip.

This happened on and off for approximately 20 miles or so before the transmission temperature gauge abruptly climbed into the red, resulting in a service light coming on. I pulled onto the shoulder and let the transmission cool with the vehicle running, and once it was within the safe operating limits, began driving again. The service light went away, and I didn’t experience any other issues during my test driving.

I reported this issue to Ford’s engineering team and will update this article if they provide any feedback.

 

Trail

We didn’t tackle any particularly technical terrain, but we did climb and descend a very steep and loose cinder cone which exceeded grades of 30 percent using 4WL, a task that the King handled with ease and no loss of traction. The truck’s suspension delivered a comfortable ride and allowed us to maintain speed on the loose sand, rocks, and cinders.

 

Conclusions

I am generally the type of person who is willing to spend more of my money on higher performance specs rather than vehicle trims options, but the F150 King Ranch seriously has me reconsidering the value of comfort in my next vehicle purchase.

I cannot understate how much I appreciated the massaging and ventilation provided by the seats while driving hundreds of miles on the highway. If these features were offered as a-la-carte options instead of being part of a much higher-priced trim package, I wouldn’t hesitate to add them to a new vehicle purchase.

I didn’t do any towing or technical off-highway driving, so I can’t comment on the King’s capabilities for either of those specific use-cases. But for would-be owners who want a truck that feels and drives more like a luxury sedan, this version of the F-150 is very likely to put a smile on your face.

 

Learn more on Ford’s website.

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Matt is a paragliding pilot and adventure seeker living full-time in a 25-foot Airstream travel trailer pulled by a Ram 2500. His love of the outdoors has driven him to explore remote destinations across North and South America in search of the most aesthetic peaks and beautiful flying sites. IG: @m.b.swartz