Ask 10 car guys what the term “hot rod” means, and you’ll probably get 10 different answers. However, most of these definitions will share a central theme. A hot rod is typically a mundane vehicle fitted with the largest-displacement, highest-output engine available — usually a V-8 — which is then pushed even further through the addition of performance upgrades. Some of the earliest examples of this trend came from the Prohibition Era, when bootleggers and outlaws (most notably John Dillinger) evaded authorities in gutted Ford coupes equipped with souped-up Flathead V-8s. Dry-lakebed and drag-strip racers adopted similar tactics, upping the ante with bored and stroked engines, high-octane fuel, and superchargers. In the end, the goal was to squeeze every drop of power out of vehicles that, in many cases, started life as utilitarian family cars.
A Ford F-150 is probably the last thing you’d envision when you think of a hot rod, but the 2020 ROUSH F-150 5.11 Tactical Edition is no ordinary work truck. After climbing into the cab, mashing the go-pedal to the floor, and hearing the supercharged V-8 snarl as the 5,000-pound body catapults forward with eye-widening force, I’m convinced that it fits the hot rod bill.
This truck started life as a standard 2020 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew, equipped with a 5.0-liter V-8, 10-speed automatic transmission, and four-wheel drive. Shortly after it left the production line, this truck was delivered to the Livonia, Michigan, headquarters of ROUSH Performance. That name should ring a bell for anyone who has owned and modified a Mustang — founder Jack Roush started as an engine development engineer at Ford Motor Company in 1964, and has been creating aftermarket performance parts for Mustangs and other Ford vehicles since the ’70s. This experience working with Mustangs translates nicely to the current-generation F-150, since variants of the same 5.0 Coyote engine are used in both platforms.
In order to add some muscle to this F-150, ROUSH employed a 2.65-liter supercharger, aluminum intercooler, cold-air intake, active cat-back exhaust system, and adjusted ECU tuning. The end result is 650 horsepower — roughly a 65-percent increase from the stock 395 horsepower. Torque gains are similarly substantial, jumping from 400 to 610 lb-ft. The result is a truck that’s properly fast. ROUSH doesn’t advertise an official 0-to-60 mile per hour figure for this particular configuration, but a similarly equipped SuperCrew model on street tires hit 60 mph in 4.1 seconds. That means this 19-foot-long truck can outrun a Mustang GT350, then turn around and carry five adults and all their gear up a rutted mountain trail.
Of course, all this power comes at a cost — I noticed it’s easy to dip into single-digit miles per gallon, and this truck requires a minimum of 91-octane premium fuel. But this hit to the wallet is offset by the priceless what-the-hell-was-that expression on the face of every muscle car driver left in this behemoth’s wake. The included three-year, 36,000-mile limited warranty also offers peace of mind about using all 650 horses to their fullest. I experienced occasional delayed and jerky shifting from the 10-speed automatic, especially when the truck was warming up, but acceleration and responsiveness were great aside from these hiccups. The truck was surprisingly civilized around town when I managed to keep my right foot in check.
Although I consider performance the star of this show, it’s far from the truck’s only noteworthy feature. ROUSH partnered with 5.11 Tactical to create this special-edition variant, which is limited to 150 units and intended to appeal to the “tactical market.” Based on the type of customized trucks and Jeeps I see parked at most range days and shooting classes, I’d say this’ll fit right in.
The exterior is finished in Agate Black paint with silver digital-camo-inspired graphics on the bed sides, and matte black graphics on the hood, doors, and tailgate. It also features a ROUSH grille with LED running lights, as well as fender flares that frame the 20-inch ROUSH wheels and 33-inch General Grabber all-terrain tires. The truck rides smoothly on rough roads thanks to a ROUSH/Fox 2.0 suspension kit. An optional Baja-style bed rack with two 10-inch Rigid Industries light bars is also available, but our demo truck didn’t have this accessory.
Stepping inside the cab, you’ll find special leather upholstery with quilted accents, embroidered branding, and embossed American flags on the headrests. Next to the carbon-fiber shift knob, there’s a small dial for the active exhaust valve. This allows the driver to instantly adjust volume and tone between the quiet purr of Touring mode, the aggressive rumble of Sport mode, and the thunderous roar of Offroad mode. There’s even a custom setting that can be fine-tuned via the company’s mobile app (strangely, it’s only available on iOS). Other interior features include a ROUSH gauge cluster overlay, locking Console Vault, ROUSH-branded WeatherTech floor mats, and badges with a unique serial number.
Every 5.11 Tactical Edition also comes with a Performance Gear Kit, which consists of a custom hard case with a foam insert cut for the following contents:
The standard jack-of-all-trades criticisms apply here — this truck won’t out-corner a Mustang, or handle high-speed whoops on a desert trail as smoothly as a Raptor. That said, it’s an appealing middle ground that offers many of the advantages of both vehicles. Speaking of the Raptor, some of you may prefer an old-school V-8 over the new-school EcoBoost V-6, but no one can deny the appeal of the extra 200 hp and 100 lb-ft of torque the ROUSH F-150 offers.
The biggest caveat, however, is cost. The 5.11 Tactical Edition package starts at $31,000 on top of the cost of a new F-150 — we’re told this particular truck cost about $95,000 total. That’s assuming you can snag one of the 150 units in this limited production run. If you miss out on those, it’s still possible to order a ROUSH supercharged F-150 without the 5.11 Tactical bits for a starting price of $24,000 plus truck. That price doesn’t include the ROUSH active exhaust ($1,750), premium leather package ($1,800), Console Vault ($400), or bed-side graphics ($550) that are standard on the 5.11 Edition.
The three-day weekend I spent with this truck slipped away too fast, as did the fuel in its 26-gallon tank. Even though it doesn’t resemble the classic image of a hot rod, this ordinary-truck-turned-650-horsepower monster certainly has that bold spirit, and still maintains the practicality I’d expect from a daily driver.
Engine: 5.0L V-8 with 2.65L ROUSH Supercharger, producing 650 hp and 610 lb-ft of torque
Transmission: 10R80 10-speed automatic
Driveline: Electronically controlled 4×4
Suspension: ROUSH/Fox 2.0 Performance Series
Wheels & Tires: ROUSH 20×9 wheels with General Grabber ATX LT305/55R20 tires
MSRP: Starting at $31,000 plus the cost of a 2020 Ford F-150 XLT
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