The truck looks tougher, it’s more powerful and it’s more efficient than previous models, but Ford says its technology-packed refreshed 2018 F-150 is still all about utility.

The mid-cycle update — the most significant since the aluminum-body pickup debuted for 2015 — delivers where customers have come to expect: It retains best-in-class towing capabilities, improves best-in-class fuel economy, delivers more torque and has eight trim levels to choose from.

But Ford engineers and others who worked on the truck said they had to do more than improve the powertrain and rework the front and rear fascias for a meaner look. To keep the best-selling truck at the top, technology updates on the 2018 F-Series had to be practical.

“A truck has to be a truck,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. “We wanted to do things in a truck way.”

That means Ford offers a trailer backup assist on the new models to help drivers who might have to tow a boat a few times a year look like they’re old pros at the boat launch. Blind-spot detection can be tuned to cover that trailer, too.

Ford also offers adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go technology on the new trucks. That technology has been available on several Ford vehicles for a few years, but in this case it works when the truck is towing something.

The truck also has new safety features like automatic braking, collision-alert systems and pedestrian detection.

That technology wouldn’t be any good if customers who buy the trucks for the utility couldn’t use it, Eckert said. Some trims have optional 360-degree cameras that can be used to guide the truck along tight paths in the woods or along steep, rocky trails. The truck handles off-road just as well as on smooth asphalt.

The truck isn’t without cosmetic changes. Ford changed the front and back of the vehicle to give the truck more width and a more “aggressive” stance, according to Sean Trant, Ford truck design manager. The standard two-bar grille is “clamped” by C-shaped headlights, which are also on the back of the truck.

In addition to the seven new grille choices, the 2018 F-150 will sport six new wheel options (from 17- to-22 inch) and more interior color and material choices. All these options across five model trims — XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum.

Inside, the roomy cabin keeps a “Ford Tough” design scheme, with knobs and buttons. The vehicle has available Sync 3 systems, and a B&O Play sound system. The 2018 model will also have an available Wi-Fi hot spot that can accommodate up to 10 devices. The F-150 will come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility.

Six engines are available on the 2018 truck, including a 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel V-6. Ford expects around 60 percent of customers will opt for either the 2.7-liter or 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6. Three of the engines saw boosted fuel economy over the 2017 models. The 2018 F-150 will get an estimated 22 mpg combined.

All engines but the 3.3-liter are paired to a new 10-speed automatic transmission — co-developed with GM — that was introduced on the 2017 Ford Raptor muscle pickup. The 3.3-liter V-6 (downsized from the current 3.5-liter) will be married to a 6-speed automatic. The F-150 comes standard with stop-start technology, which turns off the engine at stoplights to save fuel.

Prices for the vehicle range from around $28,600 to nearly $64,000 for the upper trim levels. The current model starts at $28,025 for a base XL and tops out at over $64,000 in Platinum trim with all the goodies. The F-150 is built in Dearborn, Louisville and Kansas City, Missouri.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau

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