After 37 consecutive years as North America’s best-selling pickup, Ford hopes to keep that winning streak alive with the “reinvented” 2015, F-150. This year Ford became the first North American automaker to make extensive use of aluminum in a pickup truck body. But the list of design changes runs even deeper.
In creating the backbone of the new F-150, Ford engineers gave the truck’s fully-boxed ladder frame more high-strength steel to make it stronger and lighter. Sitting on that frame is that body, made for the first time of high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys — the kind used in aerospace engineering — improving dent and ding resistance and saving weight. Overall, the use of aluminum instead of steel in the body has helped lighten the truck by 700 pounds compared to 2014 models. So the 2015 version can tow and haul more, accelerate quicker, stop shorter, and drink less fuel in the process.
The idea of keeping full-sized pickup capability while improving fuel economy has become the holy grail of truck engineering, and all the major brands are now chasing it.
“More than ever before, customers want a truck that is a dependable partner, mobile office and a go-anywhere workshop,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development. “To meet the needs of our truck customers, we created smart new features and a whole new approach to using advanced materials and engines to improve capability and efficiency.”
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If the idea of all that aluminum makes you think this new lightweight “effie” is delicate compared to one with all-steel construction, Ford wants you to think again. To prove its mettle, the company claims pre-production models logged more than 10 million test miles before production began late in 2014. That testing included some tough work like cross-country towing and loaded hill climbing. The company even claims to have entered a “disguised” 2015 F-150 in the famous Baja 1000 desert race.
There is a pretty wide range of power plant options to bolt under the aluminum hood this year. At the small end of the displacement range offered by the four engine choices is the positively diminutive, new, 2.7-litre (164 cubic inch) EcoBoost with standard Auto Start-Stop. (That’s a system that shuts off the engine at a red light and automatically starts it again when you release the brake and step on the accelerator.)
If you ascribe to the notion that there’s no replacement for engine displacement, sit down before you read this: Ford claims the compact 2.7-litre EcoBoost can deliver the same power as many mid-range V8s. According to the spec sheet, this little V6 actually puts out 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque — hard to believe.
Next up in the engine hierarchy is a standard 3.5-litre (213 cubic inch) V6 with twin independent variable camshaft timing. Then there is the existing 3.5-litre EcoBoost. And finally the 5.0-litre (302 cubic inch) Ti-VCT V8, which is rated at 385 horsepower with 387 pound-feet of torque.
In the cab
You still get your choice of a regular cab, SuperCab or SuperCrew. Inside them is a totally new interior layout with an eight-inch LCD screen in the centre of the dash, which along with other functions shows images from the 360-degree view camera option. There are now hidden storage compartments under the rear seat to secure valuables.
There is no shortage of high-tech electronic wizardry either. Available adaptive cruise control allows drivers to set a cruising speed and use radar technology to monitor traffic ahead and maintain a set distance between vehicles. The lane-keeping system is designed to help avert unintentional drifting outside the lane by automatically detecting the left- or right-hand road lane markings using a camera mounted between the windshield and interior rearview mirror. The Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert uses radar hidden in the tail lamps to detect a vehicle entering a driver’s blind spot while driving or slowly backing up.
The new F-150 gets LED lights for 2015, including a couple inside the box rails. You can also opt for loading ramps built into the box to help you haul ATVs.
Ford will continue the tradition of offering the F-150 with a variety of trim levels. The five available primary trims are XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch. Chrome appearance packages are available with XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch. Monochromatic sport appearance packages are available with XL, XLT and Lariat.
And to navigate off road — or on typical Saskatchewan rural roads — the FX4 off-road package can be added to most four-wheel-drive models, improving trail capability with an electronic locking rear axle, skid plates and off-road-tuned shocks.
So, what is the new F-150 really capable of? At the lightweight end of the scale, Ford says a 4×2 with the 2.7-litre engine can manage a payload of 2,250 pounds (1022 kilograms) and a tow rating of 8,500 pounds (3,863 kilograms). That jumps to a 3,300 pound (1,500 kilograms) payload an 11,100 pound (5,045 kilograms) towing capacity with the 5.0 litre. Oddly, the 3.5-litre EcoBoost gets the highest tow rating at 12,200 pounds (5,545 kilograms).
Although there is no official m.p.g. or L/100 km rating yet on these trucks, Ford’s own figures show the 2.7 litre in a two-wheel drive model gets an average city-highway rating of 22 m.p.g. That’s six m.p.g. better than a similar 2008 F-150. The 5.0 litre will deliver an average of 18 m.p.g., two m.p.g. better than 2008. Remember, those are for the smaller U.S. gallons. We’ll let you convert those numbers to litres per 100 kilometres!