DEXTER, Mich. -- The 2018 Ford F-150 is starting to arrive in dealerships, with increased capability, an updated exterior and additional convenience features.
But are the improvements enough for the F-series pickup to remain king of the hill and log 41 consecutive years as the best-selling truck in America?
Probably. But it's getting tougher. The freshened pickup enters a market in which competition is expected to significantly increase. A redesigned Ram 1500 from Fiat Chrysler is scheduled for release in January, followed by retooled Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups from General Motors in the second half of the year.
"The reality is the full-size pickup segment has always been, and will always continue to be, very competitive," said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. "We believe this will absolutely help us continue to move forward, but we don't stand still."
To help keep the F-150 in the conversation, Ford has improved key performance metrics such as payload, torque and fuel efficiency for 2018.
Horsepower on the base 3.3-liter V-6 increases by 8 to 290, and torque increases by 12 pounds-feet to 265. Fuel economy also gets boosted: by 2 mpg to 22 city-highway combined on 4x2 models and by 1 mpg to 20 on 4x4 variants.
The 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8 engines both have slightly improved power and fuel economy. The traditional V-8 adds 10 hp to 395 and 13 pounds-feet of torque to 400. The 2.7-liter adds 25 pounds-feet to match the V-8's 400. Horsepower remains 325. Both have slight increases in fuel economy, including up to 22 mpg combined for the V-6 and 19 mpg combined for the V-8.
A 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 with 375 hp and 470 pounds-feet of torque is carried over from the 2017 model-year. A high-output variant of the engine -- exclusively for the Raptor model -- also gets carried over, with 450 hp and 510 pounds-feet of torque.
For the 2017 model year, the V-6 EcoBoost engines represented about 60 to 65 percent of sales, including 35 percent for the 2.7-liter; followed by the V-8 at 25 to 30 percent; and entry-level at 10 to 15 percent, Eckert said.
Ford, according to Eckert, expects a similar sales mix for the 2018 model year.
A new 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel is expected to be available in the spring.
Other powertrain and performance improvements for the 2018 F-150 include: auto stop-start standard on all variants; a 10-speed automatic transmission standard with all engines except the 3.3-liter; increased max towing at 13,200 pounds; and increased payload at 3,270 pounds.
Also available for the 2018 model year is adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capabilities and pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection.
The 2018 F-150 has seven available trim packages -- XL, XLT, Lariat, Raptor, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited -- priced from about $30,000 to more than $65,000, including shipping.
"We continue to do very, very well," Eckert said. "We have a very strong product that continues to be fresh in the marketplace."
U.S. sales of the F series, including Super Duty, rose 8.3 percent to 499,327 through July, according to the Automotive News Data Center. That compares with a 6.3 percent decline, to 428,022, for GM's Silverado and Sierra pickups. Ram Truck sales are up 6.3 percent to 290,151 through July.