Spending a night with the world’s fastest production pickup.
No one needs the fastest, best, most expensive, or prettiest of anything. We can all get by with much less. But we silly humans, we have this obsession with taking things to 11. It’s a point of pride when something is the most beautiful or priciest, and it’s a simple rationalization to justify having the most capable thing.
It’s why stuff like the 2019 Roush F-150 Nitemare exist. It takes the question of whether you need a pickup truck and blows it out of the water by asking, “Don’t you need the world’s quickest production pickup?” And our silly animal brains tell our mouths to start drooling and our tongues to start wagging, and before we know it, we’ve signed our names on the dotted line and parked this 650-horsepower rationalization in our driveway.
A Big, Bad V8
Let's start with the engine, because that's the headline effort in any Roush product. The Ford tuner has taken the F-150's optional 5.0-liter V8 and attached a 2.7-liter Eaton supercharger. Force-feeding the engine 14 pounds per square inch of boost elevates the base Coyote from 395 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque to 650 hp and 610 lb-ft. But while the supercharger is the headliner, it's not solely responsible for the engine’s enormous gains. The Nitemare also features a huge intercooler, a cold-air intake, a revised intake manifold, bigger throttle bodies, and – to make all that stuff cooperate – a tweaked ECU. Topping out the powertrain changes is a dual-mode cat-back exhaust.
In the Nitemare's case, there's a twin-tipped exhaust sprouting out from behind the passenger's side rear wheel. It's not an especially ornate or flashy setup, as the company opts for brushed tips with subtle “ROUSH” etchings along the top. But what the exhaust lacks in visual flair, it makes up for with volume. This is an impressively loud truck, offering a muscle car's soundtrack, as our video demonstrates.
Roush goes a bit further than simply offering a cat-back exhaust, though. This particular setup features four separate modes that dictate when the exhaust switches between its two exhaust settings. The standard Touring setting makes the Nitemare only slightly louder than a standard 5.0-liter F-150, unless you stand on the throttle. Sport switches to the noisier exhaust setting as the revs climb, exhibiting the kind of behavior we expect when reading the words “dual-mode exhaust”. Off-Road opens the exhaust from a standstill, for full-throated attitude at any engine speed. Most intriguing, though, is Custom. Paired with a smartphone app and an OBD-II dongle, Custom allows users to create a specific exhaust profile. I wasn't able to test the system during my brief time with the truck, but the idea is definitely intriguing.
The downsides to this impressive exhaust setup are small. For a start, super-loud pickups seem anti-social. People expect muscle cars to be loud, but a noisy truck indicates to every other road user that you, the driver, made it that way. You took something that was relatively civilized and made it not so. While I loved planting the throttle and hearing the cat-back exhaust sing, I always felt like a social outcast afterward.
My bigger concern, though, is that the exhaust can be so loud it overshadows one of the very best sounds in the automotive universe (at least in your author’s opinion): supercharger whine. There's a huge supercharger bolted to this engine, but unless you're driving through a tunnel at low rpm, that high-pitched whine is totally obscured from the Nitemare's soundtrack. I got into this truck hoping for a Dodge Demon-like supercharger note, but it never materialized.
That small disappointment fades quickly, though, when you stab the gas. This is a darn quick F-150.
As Quick As A Dream
Yes, the Nitemare is the quickest production the road, hitting 60 in 3.9 seconds. But while you’ll never see that number on public roads, I'm certain the Nitemare will embarrass nearly any other pickup, along with a fair few sports cars, in a straight line. There's effortless, undeniably enjoyable power on offer here. But that power feels very different compared to one of Ford's factory EcoBoost efforts.
Deploy the twin-turbocharged, 450-hp V6 in the factory F-150, and there's an immense wave of low-end punch that sends the pickup surging ahead. The Nitemare and its supercharged engine are all about mid-range fury. The EcoBoost truck might nose ahead from a standstill, but in the long run, the Nitemare is easily quicker. That's doubly true if we talk about power while rolling. This truck beats the 45-to-75-mph run into submission, giving it the power to surprise other drivers who think it's just another F-150 rather than the quickest pickup on the road.
If there's a fly in this particular ointment, it comes from the 10-speed automatic transmission. We've enjoyed this co-developed Ford/GM transmission in a number of performance products, such as the Raptor and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, but somehow, the 650-hp Roush flummoxes it.
There's effortless, undeniably enjoyable power on offer here.
Repeatedly during my time with the truck, I witnessed odd behaviors from the gearbox that were unlike anything else I've felt from the Ford/GM 10-speed. Delayed or hard upshifts were common, while the gearbox itself simply spent a lot of time hunting for which one of its Huffy's worth of cogs was right for the occasion.
There's certainly a case for the F-150 Nitemare beyond its performance. Our Oxford White test truck looks darn good, wearing a host of optional exterior extras. There's a Raptor-inspired grille with accent lighting, a full graphics package that reminds us of the short-lived F-150 Tremor from a few years ago, and most noticeable, a set of 22-inch black wheels. The visual upgrades aren't as comprehensive as the powertrain changes, but it's still a marked departure from a base F-150.
If I had it my way, though, I'd pass on all of these changes except for the ever-so-subtle Nitemare fender badges. Roush balanced the visual flair, but I like the idea of a sleeper truck with a name like Nitemare.
Changes to the cabin are easier to recommend. Roush offers an optional leather interior package for $1,800 that includes black-and-red seats with “NITEMARE” stitched into the seatback. It's a very attractive setup that neatly matches the black-and-red exterior graphics. The subtle changes to the gauges are a nice touch as well, with new fonts for the tachometer and speedometer that make them look just a little more special.
What We'd Like More Of
Ideally, Roush would address the F-150's handling. This truck featured a sport lowering kit that Roush described to me as more of a leveling setup. The two-inch drop was barely perceptible, both from how the Nitemare looked and drove. This is still a big, cumbersome half-ton pickup truck, and neither a two-inch drop nor the Continental CrossContact tires can do much about that.
It also struck me as strange that, despite adding 250 horsepower, Roush neither makes nor offers any upgrades to the brakes. These are the same rotors and calipers as the standard F-150, which is to say they're fine in everyday driving, offering a pleasant pedal feel and adequate stopping power. That said, this is a seriously quick truck, and serious speed should always be married to serious stopping power. It's like the yin and yang of automotive performance.
Ticket To Ride
And that brings us to the price. Roush is asking $19,150 to turn a standard 5.0-liter F-150 into a Nitemare. That makes it the company's third most expensive modification package, behind the Stage 3 Mustang and the F-150 SC, which offers the same power upgrade in a more off-road focused package.
That’s not a bad deal for quickest pickup truck on the market, especially when you remember the Nitemare carries three-year warranty. But it's not a great deal, either. As quick as the Nitemare is, its agility and braking performance don’t complement the straight-line ability. At the same time, its price is hard to swallow when you consider the bits that make it so quick – its 650-hp supercharger kit and active exhaust – are available as standalone items for $7,799 and $1,899, respectively. There's a lot to like about the Nitemare, but when you can sacrifice some of its least effective elements to cut the price in half, the rationalization for the world’s quickest production truck starts to fall apart.