TRAVEL anywhere outside of the capital cites in Australia and you can’t help but notice the proliferation of American pick-up trucks such as the Ford F-150 on our tracks and highways.
Chevy Silverados, Ford F-Series, Rams, Toyota Tundras and even the occasional Nissan Titan are all making far more regular appearances on our roads. This is despite the fact that none of them are OE-manufactured in right-hand drive or officially sold here by the manufacturers. It’s no wonder then that import and conversion companies such as Queensland’s Performax, and plenty of others, are doing such a roaring trade in selling them.
Ford F-trucks are a big part of Performax’s business, and the company recently teamed up with one of Australia’s leading Ford tuning experts, Tickford, to create a special high-performance package for the F-150.
The package is based on the popular double-cab F-150 powered by the EcoBoost V6 petrol engine and 10-speed auto transmission, with updates to the performance, suspension and styling. The Tickford F-150 is available exclusively through Performax dealers around the country.
The V6 EcoBoost/10-speed combo is a similar package to that used in the F-150 Raptor, so it provides a great baseline to start from. In standard trim it produces 280kW and 637Nm, so that’s nothing to be sneezed at, but with the Tickford tweak it now pumps out 354kW and 780Nm.
That’s more power and torque than the high-output version makes in the Raptor, so we were keen to try it out and answer the question: would it be better with a V8? For the record, the 5.0-litre petrol V8 that is available in the F-150 only makes 287kW and 524Nm in standard trim, so the twin-turbo V6 well and truly trumps it for grunt.
The Tickford tune helps make the most of the free-flowing cat-back exhaust system, which gives the EcoBoost engine a rorty exhaust note. It’s not a sweet sound, and it can drone a bit at touring highway speeds.
The regular F-150 doesn’t benefit from the Raptor’s synthesised exhaust note that is pumped into the cabin through the speakers, so that’s not included in the Tickford truck. Aftermarket exhaust manufacturers in the US have told us that you can’t make the EcoBoost V6 sound any good, and from what we’ve heard so far we have to agree with them. It’s certainly no V8 rumble and roar.
What you can’t argue with is the performance, and the tuned V6 helps the lightweight F-truck get up and boogie. The torque is V8-like and gives the 2300-odd-kilogram F-150 the mumbo to match its tough looks. Yep, the F-150 weighs around the same or even less than many of our popular one-tonne 4x4 utes, as the latest generation of F-trucks are made using weight-saving aluminium panels to improve performance and fuel consumption. FYI, the Tickford Effie returned 12.4L/100km over our week with it.
Most pick-up truck buyers will measure performance in payload rather than zero to 100 times or fuel efficiency, and the V6 EcoBoost F-150 is rated to a 934kg payload and monster 5216kg towing capacity. Try hauling that with your Ranger or other one-tonne 4x4 ute. We only sampled the Tickford Effie unladen but have no doubt that its hauling abilities would far outshine any of the more common 4x4 utes you see on our roads.
Another area that the one-tonners can’t compete with the US pick-ups is rear seat space. Squeezing adults into the back of any of the popular utes is unhealthy, while the rear seat in this F-150 Super Cab offers heaps of leg, shoulder and head room. If that’s not enough there’s always the Super Crew Cab available on the same model. The floor in the back is high and gives the passengers a knees-up seating position, but there’s plenty of space for their legs back there so they can ride in comfort.
Not quite so comfortable is the suspension setting on the Tickford truck. The F-150 runs a conventional light-truck setup comprising IFS with coil springs and a live rear axle riding on leaf springs. Tickford has fitted Fox Racing 2.0 shocks and springs all around, and while the brand is the same as on the Raptor, the tuning is not. While the Raptors are tuned for a soft, compliant ride, the Tickford package is firmer and more on-road oriented. This setting benefits the tow and load capacities which, in the Raptor, are compromised for better off-road performance from the big truck.
In the unladen test vehicle we found the ride to be firm and jittery, traits we expect would improve with more weight on-board. The high-quality components did, however, do well to control the vehicle at speed on the rough logging tracks we drove on, and the faster we drove the better they felt.
This test vehicle is an F-150 XLT Super Cab with the optional Sport styling package. The pack gives you those red-edged badges, black grille and bespoke interior trims. It’s reasonably well-appointed with many features you’ll appreciate, but we found the absence of leather seats or climate control to be a glaring omission in a $145,000 vehicle.
To get these features, plus a whole lot more, you need to step up to the Lariat model which will cost you an extra $10K. The $145,000 for this vehicle includes the $24,500 for the Tickford enhancements. Also notably absent were Australian maps within the Ford SYNC 3 sat-nav system. Performax is currently unable to update the US system to accept local maps, but say they are working on a solution.
Aside from the performance enhancements the Tickford kit includes 20-inch wheels wearing BFGoodrich All Terrain tyres, Tickford-branded side-steps, bespoke badging and decals inside and out, and wheel-arch flares. It’s a more subdued and stylish appearance package than some of the Tickford vehicles we’ve seen in the past, and it’s a package that looks the part and attracted plenty of attention while we were driving it.
While it might cost as much as two brand-new Ford Rangers, the Tickford F-150 can safely tow five tonnes, comfortably accommodate five passengers, has far superior performance from its turbocharged petrol V6, and looks cool to boot. The price of a new F-150 might leave it off the shopping list of many a new ute buyer, but the lucky few who do get one will be justly rewarded.
2019 TICKFORD FORD F-150 SPECS
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbocharged petrol
Max Power: 354kW
Max Torque: 780Nm
Gearbox: 10-speed automatic
4x4 System: Part-time with low range
Construction: Four-door pick-up on ladder-frame chassis
Front Suspension: Coil-sprung double wishbone IFS
Rear Suspension: Leaf-sprung live axle
Kerb Weight: 2300kg (approx.)
Towing Capacity: 5216kg
Fuel tank capacity: 87L
ADR fuel consumption*: N/A
On-test fuel consumption: 12.4L/100km
Price: $145,000 + ORC
*Australian Design Rule ‘Combined-Cycle’ claim
PERFORMAX imports and converts pick-up trucks from Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Toyota and Nissan in various specifications, capacities and models to suit a wide range of buyers. Whether you’re after a heavy-duty 3500 truck for hauling a large boat or horse float across the country, you can’t live without the awesome F-150 Raptor, or you just want a stylish and spacious truck for the entire family, Performax has a pick-up to suit your needs.
The F-150 is America’s best-selling vehicle and it’s also popular here. Performax sells them in a range of variants starting with the F-150 XL from $95,000; then there’s the XLT like the one tested here from $110,000; the Lariat from $120,000; and the top-of-the-range Platinum, priced from $140,000.
Want to step up to the F-150 Raptor? That baby will set you back a cool $180,000, but being able to look down on all the Ranger Raptor drivers would make every dollar worth it.
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