We saddled up to test drive the 2007 Ford F-150 4X4 King Ranch model equipped with a 5.4-liter E85-capable flexible-fuel V-8. Ford’s covered a lot of miles since the first Model T flex-fuel engine chugged to life, one of the first capable of running on gasoline or ethanol. While the King Ranch model starts at a base price of $39,265, the Forest Green F-150 we drove included Navigation and the Audiophile 6-CD changer for a grand total of $44,945, and comes with a 3 year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. With an EPA dual fuel rating of 14 city/18 highway, we were ready to see if America’s best-selling full-size pickup for the past 29 years would be up to the alt fuel challenge.
Initial Impression: A well-kept secret
Christine: “King Ranch says it all. With insignias that look like a longhorn steer might go lumbering by any minute, I looked for alt fuel status confirmation on my first walk around the truck. But there was no visible emblem to tell of its dual fuel status—only a small white sticker on the inside of the gas cap flap. A tad disappointing, but it looked like this truck would compensate with creature comforts aplenty.”
Scott: “The emblem on the fender flanks says King Ranch, but I thought King Kong would be just as fitting. It was quite a climb to get up into this behemoth (good thing—the built-in running boards), but once inside, the view was commanding and I felt like King of the Road. And I knew the big Triton V-8 was going to gulp fuel—puttin’ a hurtin’ on our fuel budget—so I was mighty glad we’d be able to pump in much less expensive E85 when it came time to fill ‘er up.”
The Insider’s View: Plush and comfortable
The inside comes straight from the ranch—albeit a luxurious one. Seats are not only large and comfortable, they’re made of creamy buckskin leather that’s as smooth as butter—and were Christine’s favorite part of this F-150 (after its dual fuel status, of course). This model also sports Ford’s re-designed round, wide, silver louvered vents that give front and back passengers easy open-and-close choices for air- flow comfort. Combined with a stereo system that brings powerful bass through speakers set into the doors—complete with a powerful sub-woofer under the 60/40 contoured split-rear seat—we all could have traveled many a mile with 6 CDs loaded into the changer, not to mention the Navigation system to keep us on the right roads. This F-150 has all the extra-special touches that any cowhand could desire after a hard day’s work—from electric moon roof to large side view mirrors. We also liked the clean-cut white background gauges; not only stylish, the cluster is easy to read, as well as easy on the eyes. The average instant fuel economy gauge gives the all-important readout of how we’re faring on gasoline, E85 or a mixed fuel combination. And that leather-trimmed dash? Definitely a ranch-inspired touch.
Fuel-ability: The choice is yours
This F-150’s call to alt fuel fame is its dual fuel-ability—fill ‘er up with E85, gasoline or any combination thereof. The King Ranch was delivered with a full tank of gasoline, and the first miles yielded an average fuel economy of 13.7 mpg. Of course, with the digital fuel economy gauge, there’s instant evidence of current mileage and light or heavy-footedness. Gasoline will yield a range of about 411 miles.
After re-fueling the half-empty tank with E85, we tooled around on a variety of town, highway and country roads with a 50/50 mix of E85/gasoline. There was no noticeable difference in power or the driving experience. E85/gasoline fuel mileage clocked in at 13.1 mpg, with a full tank range of about 393 miles. Based on our experience with other flex-fuel vehicles, we would expect the numbers to drop a bit lower if we were running closer to 100 percent E85.
As a fuel-up price comparison, we crunched some numbers—using current prices in rural PA in June 2007: for $3.00/gallon for gasoline, it would cost about $90 to fill the King Ranch from empty. At $2.25/gallon for E85, the same from empty fill-up would ring in at $67.50. Depending upon the fuel ratio you’re running and the corresponding drop-off in fuel mileage, the numbers still tilt in E85’s favor when figuring cost per mile of fuel. That’s 22 cents per mile for gasoline, and about 17 cents per mile for E85.