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2015F150_BS20606

FIRST DRIVE: 2015 Ford F-150

15F150towing_BS20581First Drive: 2015 F-150

A 325hp twin-turbo 2.7L V6, aluminum body, bigger frame, and refined interiors are just part of the advancements found in the new generation of Ford’s most popular pickups

By Bruce W. Smith

Pickups are the bread-and-butter tool for the working class and a necessity for those who have a passion for the active outdoor lifestyles that involves boating, RVing, ATVing, hunting and other pursuits.

The most recognized as the “American favorite” is Ford’s F-150. The first F-Series (F-1) rolled off the assembly lines in 1948, and now the 12th generation is upon us. And it’s a doozy.

Ford’s new ½-ton, with its all-aluminum body, reflects the biggest technological advancements between generations since Ford added the “F-150″ model to the F-100 line as a heavier-duty model some 40 years ago. (Ford dropped the “F-100″ designation with the 1984 model year.)

Ford uses military-spec aluminum in the new F-150 bodies. It's both stronger and lighter than the steel bodies of old.
Ford uses military-spec aluminum in the new F-150 bodies. It’s both stronger and lighter than the steel bodies of old.

Although aluminum-bodied SUVs and cars have been around the luxury world for decades, convincing many blue-blooded Ford owners that an aluminum body is better than traditional steel isn’t an easy task when aluminum has a beer-can-like strength stigma.

But Ford has put the new trucks through more than a million miles of endurance testing in the lab and field, the most ever for a Ford product, before the very first early-production models I recently drove rolled off the assembly line. And I can tell you they are strong — and nicely engineered.

I drove 2015 F-150 SuperCrew and SuperCab models in and around San Antonio, TX, towing 9,000-pound trailers, off-roading, and commuting in both city and rural settings.

From that seat time it’s clear Ford’s gamble to switch the body from steel to aluminum is every bit as good a bet as it was bringing in a twin-turbo EcoBoost V6 or building their own 6.7L PowerStroke diesel. Ford did their homework: The new F-150’s ride, handling, durability, capacities and performance are a world better than the current (2014-earlier) models.

The ride is much more pleasant, the handling crisper, the braking more robust. The cab interiors are bigger, they are quieter inside, the fit and finish nicer, and the list of safety and electronic features as long as the new truck’s towing and hauling capacities are big.

FOUR ENGINE OPTIONS

They are also more powerful and fuel-efficient, and there’re four engines from which to choose. The base is a  283hp 3.5L V-6 that’s a carry-over from the previous generation and good engine for those who just want a full-size pickup at the lowest price.

But I’d skip right past it and spend the small up-charge for the all-new 325hp 2.7L EcoBoost V-6. My eyes widened when I took a 2WD SuperCab for a drive with newest Ford V-6 under the hood. Its fast-spooling twin turbos dole out torque just like a small-block V-8 as soon as you roll into the throttle, emitting a gratifying small-block V8 exhaust note to boot.

2015 F-150 Engine Specifications. Click on image to view larger.
2015 F-150 Engine Specifications. Click on image to view larger.

Ford rates the 2.7L EcoBoost with up to an SAE-J2807-certified 8,500 pounds towing capacity and 2,250 pounds payload in some models, making it an ideal engine for those who tow boats, ATVs, smaller horse or travel trailers.

Those that need more power can step up to the 365hp 3.5L EcoBoost V-6, which has proven itself to be a tremendous performer under the hood of F-150s (and other Ford vehicles) for a couple years now.

It’s also the engine Ford gives the highest tow rating: 12,200 pounds (SAE J2807 compliant) in 2WD models equipped with the Max Trailer Tow Package. The tow package comes with a locking 3.55 rear axle, heavy-duty front sway bar and integrated brake controller.

Then there’s the venerable 5.0L V-8. But the 2015 version has some nice upgrades that give it noticeably better performance the previous version. The 385hp 5.0L Ti-VCT, new intake and variable cam timing among other changes, isn’t quite as quick to put the power down as its 3.5L EcoBoost counterpart. But once it does, it pulls noticibly stronger than the 5.0L of old.

I towed identical 9,000-pound-plus box trailers back-to-back over several miles of two-lane Texas hill country road behind a 2015 3.5L EcoBoost Super Crew 4×4, 2015 5.0L Super Crew 4×4, 2014 5.3L Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4×4, and 2014 Ram 1500 Crew Cab EcoDiesel 4×4 to feel the differences. All four trucks were equipped with weight-distributing hitches per Ford and the other manufacturer’s towing requirements.

The 2015 F-150 with the 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 was the smoothest, fastest accelerating, and most responsive of the four trucks, with both of the new Fords feeling more stable, smoother and more comfortable while towing than either the Ram or Chevy half-ton crew cabs.

BIGGER CAB, MORE COMFORT

That smoothness, comfort and towing stability are the result of Ford doing a frame-up redesign on the 2015s.

The frame is bigger, lighter, stiffer and stronger. That solid base, and the aluminum body structure sitting atop, allowed Ford designers to make the new models bigger on the inside, with noticeably more comfortable seats and quieter interior than their predecessors.

The new cabs have more headroom to the sides than the previous model, a wider interior (door panels are thinner), and on the SuperCabs the rear doors open 170-degrees, giving way to easy access to the rear seats and flat load floor.

New aluminum body F-150s are stronger, more fuel-efficient, and more powerful than the previous generation. (Ford photo)
New aluminum body F-150s are stronger, more fuel-efficient, and more powerful than the previous generation. (Ford photo)

Then there’re the new features that help make the trucks an even more productive as work tools: optional remote tailgate release; a tailgate with the step and assist handle built inside so the tailgate’s inner face itself remains flat; and Ford’s optional BoxLink storage system with cleats that can hold loading ramps and other tools tight to the bedsides.

Electronic innovations abound, as well. In the upper-trim levels (XLT-Plus and above), there’re a host of options and packages that increase safety, convenience and connectivity through just about any source one requires for commuting, work or recreational needs.

Those who tow trailers will appreciate the rear-view camera that incorporates a dotted line to show the exact path between hitch ball and trailer tongue for easy trailer connections.

Another optional convenient item is a small single-row bank of four LED spot lights in the side mirrors that can be tilted outward to serve as work lights—and an LED light under the tailgate handle that illuminates the hitch and area immediately behind the bumper.

The 2015 F-150s also have 110V, 400-watt outlets in the cab to run all sort of electronic devices from laptops to battery chargers; a must for anyone who brings along passengers with phones and tablets.

There are so many advancements and options on the 2015 F-150s that it’d take a book to cover them all in detail. The short take: I have little doubt this new generation of F-150s is going to make a lot of very happy customers — be they first-time pickup buyers or long-time F-Series owners.

2015 F-150 front

2015 Ford F-150 Shown In Detroit

Ford Shows Off 2015 F-150 In Detroit

Ford showed off their all-new Ford F-150 to the media and general pubic at the North American Auto Show in Detroit. It appears to set some new standards in the 1/2-ton pickup market.

The all-aluminum-bodied F-150 is said to deliver an impressive combination of power, capability and efficiency – from advanced materials that improve durability and inhibit corrosion, to faster processors that enhance driving performance, to breakthrough cargo management and towing solutions.2015 F-150 front

“F-150 is well-known for being Built Ford Tough. Now, it is both tough and smart,” said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company chief operating officer. “The all-new F-150 redefines the future of trucks, and it is yet another example of our One Ford plan producing vehicles that serve customers with a commitment to the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value.”

In designing the backbone of the F-150, Ford engineers improved the truck’s signature fully boxed ladder frame. It is all-new with more high-strength steel than ever – making it stronger and lighter.

High-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys – already used in aerospace, commercial transportation, energy and many other rugged industries – are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, improving dent and ding resistance and also saving weight.

Ford claims using aluminum has shaved up to 700 pounds from the current Crew Cab 4×4 F-150 so the 2015s can tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop shorter, and contributing to  better fuel efficiency.

Several groundbreaking new productivity features debut in the all-new F-150, including many class-exclusives. They include:

  • 360-degree camera view, using exterior cameras to create a bird’s-eye view of the truck to help the driver park, maneuver in tight spots and navigate down narrow roads and trails
  • Integrated loading ramps, which enable easy loading of ATVs, motorcycles and mowers
  • BoxLink, which is a combination of metal brackets and custom cleats used to secure a variety of accessories in the cargo box, from ramps to storage bins to bed dividers
  • LED headlamps and taillamps, which provide excellent nighttime visibility

    Interior of the 2015 F-150 is more refined and spacious than 2014 models.
    Interior of the 2015 F-150 is more refined and spacious than 2014 models.
  • Trailer hitch assist, a new rear view camera feature that adds a dynamic line based on steering wheel angle in the display to help customers line up truck and trailer without requiring a spotter or having to get out of the vehicle
  • Smart trailer tow module, using an all-new smart trailer tow wiring harness that helps identify and inform the driver of potential trailer connectivity issues, burned or unlit trailer marker lamps, and brake light and trailer battery faults
  • Remote tailgate, allowing for the tailgate to be locked, unlocked and released with the key fob – eliminating manual locking and increasing convenience and security. The tailgate also is damped, dropping down, hands-free, to a flat position when opened
  • High-wattage power outlets (400 watts, 110 volts) in the cab, allowing drivers to easily charge corded tools, battery chargers or mobile devices on-site or while driving
  • LED spotlights on sideview mirrors, which provide powerful, durable and bright lighting around the truck exterior
  • Latest EcoBoost® technology in an all-new, even more efficient 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine that features extremely high output and lightweight design
  • Next-generation tailgate step, which is now fully integrated inside the tailgate and virtually invisible when not in use

 Other smart innovations include:

  • New 8-inch LCD productivity screen in the instrument panel, which includes updated truck apps – from fuel economy to towing tips – and the ability to create a customized home screen for customers to access their most frequently used apps in one place
  • LED lighting embedded in the walls of the cargo box, which brightly illuminates the box interior to help customers quickly find tools or other items
  • Rear under-seat storage in F-150 Super and Crew cabs, providing hidden storage for valuables. Two storage bins also are located underneath the rear seats
  • Boxside step, now available for the short 5.5-foot box

EcoBoost V6 Added

Another change for 2015 is adding a new EcoBoost V6 to the offerings and dropping the 6.2L V8.

A new 2.7-liter EcoBoost with standard Auto Start-Stop and a 3.5-liter V6 engine with twin independent variable camshaft timing join the proven 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine features a lightweight, compact design to deliver the same power as some mid-range V8s.

Ford F-150 trucks equipped with EcoBoost engines also will benefit from standard Active Grille Shutters. Active Grille Shutters stay open when extra engine cooling is needed, such as during low-speed stop-and-go driving or while working in hot weather. They automatically close to reduce aerodynamic drag at cruising speed.

When it goes on sale late this year, the 2015 F-150 will be available in five trim levels as before: 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.

Ford has also widened the new truck inside by several inches, increasing leg and hip room front and rear. Ergonomically optimized seating for the front row positions enhances comfort, while extending legroom for rear passengers. Buttons and controls are optimized so they can be operated while wearing work gloves.

Storage options include laptop stowage in the center console, as well as quick storage solutions for cellphones, drinks, pens and business cards.

The F-150 will continue to be manufactured at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Mo.