The morning after attending the Ford Tough 225, we drove the ninth iteration of the Ford/Harley partnership back to Detroit through Kentucky’s and Indiana’s river valleys and rolling country backroads and on the highways of Ohio and Michigan.
If the Harley F-150 had been around back in the 1930s, I’m sure the trucks would have become NASCAR's premier racing league instead of the cars. The moonshine runners would have fallen in love with the big hauler’s neck snapping throttle response, walloping acceleration, and, of course, loads of room in the crew cab and 5.5-foot box to expeditiously pilot a heck of a lot of that home distilled mountain dew to the speakeasy the next county over.
But there’s an all-together different sound that emanates from the hood and twin tailpipes of the Harley compared to the free breathing, naturally aspirated roar of its NASCAR cousins.
Just as you’d expect, the supercharger wails like a skinned banshee every time you hit the accelerator. It’s paired with the specially tuned deep growl of the exhaust note, making this the most sonically threatening F-150 I’ve ever driven, but the wail and growl are aurally fatiguing over long distances.
Saleen’s engineering team has done a fantastic job prepping the 5.4-liter Triton V8’s air for combustion. With twin screws working together, they don’t need to turn as fast as a single screw to inhale the same volume of air. Lower rotational speeds are the first step in lowering air-charge temperatures to increase air density. More density means a bigger boom which means more power! After the twin screws suck in and compress the atmosphere, the squeezed air is passed through a dual-stage water-to-air intercooler that cools it down to near outside temperatures. Two gauges on the top of dash cowl tell you at a glance how much boost is being applied and the intake air temperature.
After getting off the highway to take pictures of the truck, the intake air temp rose to 130-F in 82-F weather, but back on the highway the intake air temp needle quickly fell back to its 100-F resting place. Saleen’s PowerFlash performance calibration computer ensures the supercharger is always working at optimal power levels.
Fuel economy was fair. Over almost 300-miles of 1/3 country road, 2/3 highway, the trip computer on the Harley read at 13.9-mpg. Can’t say I was easy on the pedal though, so not too bad.
The Harley F-150 has got looks to go with its performance. Call it sophisticated barbarity wrapped in ebony black paint that slyly hints at engine power unexpected from a vehicle with rear leaf springs and a live axle. Big 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, orange striping, rolled bumpers and a billet grille are the primary visual cues. But there’s also chrome scripting explicitly spelling out the Harley-Davidson name on the sides of the bed for spectators who aren’t in the know. “Cool looking, as long as you don’t orbitally wax the truck,” the beveled letters were described by a current Harley F-150 owner.
Hard to believe, but the inside of the Harley is even blacker than the outside. And there must be hundreds, if not thousands, of tiny little Harley shields all over the center console, door panels, and even on the borders of the front windshield to help block the sun’s glare. The seats are identical to the King Ranch F-150’s but instead of rich Castano leather they’re sheathed in matte black aniline skins. The meters housed in the instrument panel sport specially finished silver backgrounds that make the orange needles pop boldly as they swing around the gauges. There’s also orange Harley-Davidson font at the bottom of the speedo.