Ford has done a great job with the exhaust note on the 6.2-liter engine. There's an authoritative rumble when you fire it up and it walks the line between annoying drone while cruising and emitting a deep growl while accelerating. The soundtrack fits the Harley-Davidson theme of this truck particularly well.
I had forgotten how well Ford tuned its six-speed automatic transmission for tow/haul mode. It's been a while since I did any towing in an F-150 and I was pleasantly surprised by the transmission's shift quality as well as the timing of up- and downshifts. You get good engine braking when you want it and quick downshifts when you need to accelerate.
Without a trailer in tow or a heavy load in the cargo bed, the F-150 doesn't ride quite as well as a Ram. It handles well given the rear leaf springs, but truck shoppers who don't regularly tow or haul a lot in the bed would be more comfortable in a Ram. With a carhauler in tow, the F-150 felt great over a variety of road surfaces. After I unhooked the trailer, there seemed to be a lot more lateral motion during a turn over broken pavement. That's typical behavior for a pickup truck, though.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the F-150 to anyone in the market for a half-ton pickup. Of course, being the best selling truck for the past three decades means the virtues of the F-series aren't exactly a secret. Anyone who prefers a Milwaukee-built, air-cooled twin powering their bike will be very happy with this truck. They also won't shrug at the enormous price premium the Harley name commands.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
In an era when over half of all Ford F-150s are sold with V-6 engines, it's fun to drive a truck with the noise and character of a big V-8. Like Phil, I found the sound of the 6.2-liter engine really well suited to the bold and brash Harley Davidson-edition truck. If the 22-inch wheels and HD decals don't make an impression, the snarling engine and massive 434 lb-ft torque rating will get people to pay attention.
Unlike Phil, I didn't use the F-150 to tow, although I did move some furniture and assorted other things in the truck's bed. I love the fold-down step (it pops out from the tailgate) that makes it significantly easier to climb into the bed for loading and unloading cargo. The power-retracting running boards seem like an unnecessary frivolity, but prove their worth when driving with a short passenger who would otherwise struggle to get into the tall F-150.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
The special paint scheme, massive 22-inch wheels, and numerous Harley-Davidson logos and plaques, inside and out, are not my taste, but for those looking to make a visual statement with their pickup, few make a louder one than this F-150. Fortunately, the visual add-ons are backed up by a big, vocal V-8 and all the qualities that make the regular F-150 such a huge seller. Granted, I'd certainly hesitate to use this $53,000 pickup as a true work truck -- especially with the power-operated running boards and without the $350 optional bed liner like this tester -- but with its 9300-pound tow rating, four-wheel drive, and trailer-sway control package, the F-150 Harley-Davidson is more than capable of being a weekend warrior for those who need to pull boats, jet-skis, or other toys.
Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms
The night before I had the F-150, I thought to myself about all of the around-town running around I had to do the next evening and how the giant F-150 would be exactly the wrong vehicle. (My running around is more from dinner to drinks, not from Lowe's to Tractor Supply Company.) Lo and behold, the day of my errands, I found the keys to the 243.9-inch long, 75.6-inch tall, and 84.3-inch wide (with the mirrors folded) Ford sitting on my desk. However, the F-150 - especially in Harley Davidson trim - is a luxurious and comfortable place to spend and evening, and surprisingly easy to drive given its size. The cabin is trimmed in premium-feeling black leather and with seats, mirrors, steering column, and pedals that adjust every which way and large expanses of glass, it's easy to find a comfortable (and commanding) driving position. Thanks to a big, clear screen showing a crisp backup camera image and oversized power-folding mirrors, parking this beast becomes a non-issue. Just watch the height of your garage: the F-150 was both too long and too tall to fit in my standard-size garage. But with things like auto-deploying running boards - a necessity for even my 5'9" frame - remote start, and a growling exhaust note from the 6.2-liter V-8, this is a truck you could live with every day.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in America for thirty years, but I just can't fathom how so many people can afford to daily drive a vehicle that gets fuel economy like this. I averaged an indicated 13.8 mpg on my 44-mile commute. (EPA ratings are 12/16 mpg city/highway for a 4WD V-8 model; the new EcoBoost V-6 powertrain improves upon that figure a great deal, but the combined EPA rating for that engine is still only 17 mpg.)
That said, it's impossible to deny the usefulness of a good old pickup truck. I didn't use this F-150 for any pickup-truck tasks, but I traded a colleague for it at the last minute because there had been some severe storms in our area (tornados, heavy rains, thunderstorms, etc), and I'd heard that there were trees down and flooded roads. I figured the F-150 would have no problems getting past such obstacles. It turned out that my route home was unimpeded, but the peace of mind the truck provided was welcome.
As for the Harley-Davidson touches on this truck, I think the wheels are pretty cool but not cool enough to compensate for the tacky (to my eye) stripes and badges that adorn many parts of this Ford.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
I had to laugh when I read my colleague Rusty Blackwell's comment that "it's impossible to deny the usefulness of a good old pickup truck." I agree completely, but this fifty-four-thousand-dollar lifestyle statement is about as far from a "good old pickup truck" as a Porsche Cayenne. Okay, I exaggerate; the Ford F-150 Harley Davidson will obviously perform all the towing and hauling duties that a buyer might want a pickup to perform, and, indeed, it will perform them brilliantly. Problem is, this truck is so lavishly appointed, who would ever want to get it dirty? The black-on-black interior is very, very nice, and its materials are of high quality. This cabin cries out for a Chanel suit, not a Carhartt work jacket. Clearly, though, there are people for whom this combination of truck, Harley-inspired styling, and luxury is appealing, or the Ford/Harley-Davidson collaboration would not have been so long lasting and successful. As I say whenever I'm evaluating a vehicle that occupies a niche of the automotive market that isn't my thing: "If it's your thing, have at it, you'll love it."
Harley-Davidson trim package aside, this test truck gave me an opportunity to evaluate the F-150 for the first time in a while, and I was impressed. This truck drives quite well, with accurate steering, good ride quality, and decent body control. I had no qualms about piloting it through urban traffic.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor