On Ford's kidney-punishing durability track, the F-150 showed that its time on the course had paid off. Driven back-to-back with its competitors, the F-150 proved to be more stable and have less rattles. Credit the new 6-inch-longer leaf springs and outboard mounted shocks for the improved stability. The Silverado we drove was the next best performer, with hopping and fishtailing over the worst of the course, which was mitigated when we turned the traction control off (not sure we were supposed to do that). It seemed like too much sensory overload for the traction control to deal with. The worst performer seemed to be the Tundra, with the most interior panel vibration. The ride was so bad that the windshield wiper stalk dropped and turned the wipers on, and this was on the tamer of the two durability courses. We volunteered to ride along with one of Ford's durability testers as we took on the nastier of the two, and the F-150 held up remarkably well, tracking straight the whole time.
Off road, the FX4 package showed off its extra suspension articulation and, more importantly, its electronic locking differential as we drove it through a challenging course filled with deep mud holes, large rocks, and tight turns. We did manage to get the F-150 stuck, and we weren't the only ones, but it wasn't for lack of traction, at least going forward, it was lack of trail. Ford's test track is bordered by trees, and rather than have a grille makeover via deciduous tree, we called for backup from "Hoss," Ford's F-350 off road concept, to pull us out of a mud hole. The F-150's locker proved to be invaluable driving up a slight grade filled with loose, bowling-ball-sized rocks. We just shifted into low range, pointed the truck where we wanted to go, and eased on the throttle. For the sportsman and weekend adventurer, the FX4 package should have most scenarios covered, and it actually drives on the trail like a smaller vehicle. Granted, we're not the most experienced off-road drivers, and the trails were nowhere near rock crawling, but we were impressed with the capability.