For 34 consecutive years, the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States and the best-selling truck for even longer.
Ford sold 780,354 of its F-series trucks in 2015, including models from its brawnier 250, 350, 450 and 550 lines, outpacing trucks made by Chevrolet, Ram, Nissan and Toyota.
This year, said Doug Scott, Ford?s truck group marketing manager, sales through May are 7 percent ahead of 2015.
Those numbers include all Ford?s pickups, but the bulk of the vehicles sold are F-150s, which in the heartland are the preferred daily drivers for the country?s construction workers, farm workers and cowpunchers. Like the people who drive them, these trucks are purposeful, plain and hardworking.
Until you get to the top of the trim line.
The Supercrew 4×4 Limited is about as fancy a truck as Ford makes. Sitting at the top of the spread from entry-level XL to XLT to Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited, it?s Ford?s rhinestone cowboy car.
Trimmed in leather, accented by wood paneling and fitted with the latest electronics, technology and sound systems, it?s a conspicuous consumption vehicle ? riding high in traffic, taking up every inch of its freeway lanes and gulping gallons of fuel.
Driving the Supercrew Limited around town, I started asking myself, ?Does this truck make my wallet look fat??
More than 19 feet long, 8 feet wide and almost 6 feet tall, it?s too big for some parking structures and most parking spaces. While it has enough ground clearance and gross vehicular weight to squash a Smart car or flatten a Fiat 500, doing that didn?t seem like it would increase my chances of finding someplace to leave it.
Who?s it made for? At just under $70,000, this isn?t the working person?s truck. It?s not even the foreman?s truck. This is the boss? truck.
And what is he doing with it? The Supercrew seats five and has a 5.5-foot short bed. The boss might take his lawyer and tax accountant and their spouses out for dinner, but he?s probably not hauling a load of pea gravel.
Not that the truck?s not up for that. This Supercrew came with Ford?s 3.5-liter V-6 Ecoboost engine, which makes 365 horsepower and 420 pound feet of torque. Fitted to a six-speed automatic transmission, it gets accordingly pretty poor fuel economy ? an EPA estimated 18 miles per gallon for combined city and highway driving, but about 12 miles per gallon during the time I drove it.
The Limited Supercrew also can be had with a 5-liter V-8 engine ? though Ford doesn?t offer it in a diesel configuration ? and can be ordered with a 6.5-foot or 8-foot bed.
With the standard power plant, it?s capable of carrying close to two tons of payload and towing 12,200 pounds of trailer.
On the road, the Limited is like driving a cloud ? quiet, powerful, comfortable. Accelerating from 65 mph to 85 mph or more produces no discernible increase in engine, tire or road noise.
The truck also helps keep itself in line, literally. The lane-keeping assistance will nudge the steering wheel gently if you stray ? unless you?ve hit the turn signal, and told the truck you?re changing lanes on purpose.
Off-road, it?s almost as smooth as on the pavement, with the suspension easily soaking up ruts and washboard.
The Limited line comes standard with heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, Sony stereo system, rearview camera, remote tailgate lock, tire-pressure monitoring system, a full-size spare tire and a running board that deploys electronically when you unlock the doors.
When kitted out with the optional Active Park Assist, a $440 add-on, it?ll parallel park almost by itself. With the $895 Pro Trailer Backup Assist, it will even help you park a trailer like an expert. Instead of looking in the rearview mirror and trying to remember which way the trailer goes when the steering wheel turns left, the driver looks into the infotainment screen and uses a simple knob to drive the trailer backward.
A cynical, seed-spitting farmhand might say that?s just a lot of lipstick on a pig. But this is no pig. Beneath the wood panel and leather, it?s still an F-150, which time and experience have proved durable: This is the 12th generation of a truck Ford has been building since 1948.
Of course, not everything about the F-150 ? not even the Limited ? is perfect. I was dismayed to hear the front passenger seat belt clonking against the B-pillar every time I hit a bump.
I?ve owned a 2005 Ford Ranger and a 2001 Ford Ranger, and they both did that. I can?t be the first person to notice this problem. I?m probably not the first to solve it, either ? by keeping the seat belt latched, even when I don?t have a passenger in the car.
Ford sells an entry level F-150 for $26,540. The Limited Supercrew starts at $63,100. The model we tested would cost $67,270.
There almost certainly will be more expensive F-150s coming. Scott said Ford?s research indicates there continue to be customers within the truck?s massive owner base who still would be willing to pay more money for more truck.
?We haven?t reached the ceiling, in terms of the price point or the luxury,? Scott said.
That?s still a lot of money for most consumers, and almost twice the current average transaction price for a vehicle in the U.S.
But if I needed a truck this big, and could afford it, and had someplace to park it, and had someone else paying for my fuel consumption, I might buy one. Especially if Ford can get that seat belt latch figured out.
2016 Ford F-150 4×4 Supercrew Limited
Quick take: Top model of America?s top vehicle
Highs: So capable! So cushy!
Lows: Good luck finding a parking space
Vehicle type: Four-door pickup
Base price: $63,100
Price as tested: $67,270
Powertrain: 3.5-liter V-6 engine, four-wheel drive
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Torque: 420 pound-feet
EPA fuel economy rating: 16 mpg city/22 highway/18 combined