By Steve & Tamami Laser
Americans have a long-running love affair with full-size pickups. Brand loyalty remains strong for the players in this segment, especially at Ford where the F-150 has been “America’s Best Selling Truck for 38 Years.” So when Ford decided to make a radical shift with the first-ever aluminum-alloy body and bed for the all-new 2015 models, plenty of folks took notice.
The primary reason for this paradigm shift is to save weight. The new trucks are up to 700 pounds lighter than their predecessors. Ford says the benefits include increased hauling and towing capability plus improved fuel efficiency. Ford uses “high-strength, military-grade aluminum-alloy” for the F-150 that costs more than steel.
Airplanes, rockets and spacecraft are heavy users of aluminum-alloy (plus more expensive stuff like titanium). “The aluminum alloys we’re using are very similar to what’s used in commercial airplanes,” said Ford’s former CEO Alan Mulally. (He was a top executive at Boeing prior to joining Ford.)
Ford also increased the use of high-strength steel in the new F-150’s frame from 23 to 77 percent to make it stronger, more durable and structurally more rigid while also saving 60 pounds. Ford typically sells more than 750,000 F-150s a year, so the aluminum versus steel debate will likely fade once a million or so of the new trucks are in use.
Those who still have doubts can take solace in the fact that the new F-150 received the government’s highest crash safety rating. Ford says the 2015 models are the only full-size, light-duty trucks to earn NHTSA’s top 5-star crash test rating for the driver and passenger in all crash test modes and cab configurations.
We had the chance to drive the new F-150 during a Ford media event. Five trim levels are available: XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch. Body styles include Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew with bed lengths ranging from 5.5- and 6.5-feet for the latter up to 8 feet for the former. The powertrain lineup includes four gas engines with a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 with standard Auto Start-Stop, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 plus normally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8.
While the V6 engines are expected to be popular, we tested the F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Lariat with the V8 delivering 385 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 387 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,850 rpm. It’s teamed with a 6-speed SelectShift® automatic transmission with progressive range select and tow-haul mode. EPA ratings are 15 mpg city, 21 highway and 17 combined. The F-150 fuel economy champ is the 2.7L EcoBoost rated at 19/26/22.
As we expected, the V8 engine delivered satisfying performance during our drive. The ride was smooth, quiet and sophisticated making us glance in the rearview mirror to confirm that we were driving a pickup instead of a full-size SUV.
Speaking of rugged, Ford says the new F-150 can tow up to 1,100 more pounds and haul up to 530 more pounds. The top towing rating for the Regular Cab is 12,000 pounds while payload is maxed at 3,300 pounds. Our tester was equipped with the optional 7,000-pound GVWR and trailer towing packages plus integrated trailer brake control.
Our tester was also fitted with the FX4 off-road package that can be added to most four-wheel-drive models. It’s designed to improve trail capability with an electric locking rear axle, skid plates and off-road-tuned shocks.
The 502A Equipment Group on our truck added high-tech features including BLIS (Blind Spot Information System) with Cross-Traffic Alert, remote start system with remote tailgate release, a reverse sensing system, and power folding mirrors with LED spotlights, turn signals, memory and puddle lamps. A Technology Package included a 360-degree camera with split-view display and dynamic hitch assist, plus a Lane Keeping System.
The spacious SuperCrew cabin offers plenty of room for five adults to stretch out and ride in comfort. Leather-trimmed seats included 10-way power adjustment plus heated and cooled functions for both the driver and passenger with memory for the driver’s side.
In addition to comfy seats with a big fold-down armrest, rear seat passengers gain a new “seamless” power sliding rear window. Ford says regular sliding windows typically contain three pieces of glass plus a support structure. The new window uses two pieces to reduce complexity and weight. The seamless design also conceals vertical seams that mark the edges of conventional sliding rear windows, creating a smooth opening when viewed from outside.
With its easy to use eight-inch touchscreen display, our tester’s infotainment system included a 700-watt Sony audio system with 10 speakers plus a subwoofer under the rear seat, HD Radio and Satellite Radio. SYNC® with MyFord Touch® features voice-activated communications and navigation with 911 Assist®, turn-by-turn directions, 411 business search, personalized sports scores, news, stock quotes and more. (Ford notes that SYNC services vary by trim and may require a subscription while message and data rates may apply.)
With a base price of $44,465 our tester added the options and packages that we’ve mentioned plus others like a nifty spray-in bed liner, 36-gallon extended range fuel tank, 18-inch six-spoke machine-finish alloy wheels, and Lariat Sport Appearance Package. All of these features plus destination brought the bottom line to $56,070.
Yes, that’s a lot to pay for a pickup. However, our tester was loaded with the latest features so journalists can try them out. F-150 prices begin at $26,030 for the XL Regular Cab with the 3.5-liter V6. From basic work trucks to fancy lifestyle vehicles, every F-150 is improved for 2015 thanks to Ford’s rocket science.
For more information on the F-150 visit Ford.com
F-150 Lariat 4X4 SuperCrew press fleet vehicle provided by Ford Motor Company. (Prices and vehicle information applies to models sold in the U.S. at the time of publication. All information including prices, features and specifications is subject to change without notice by the automaker.)
Story, photos and videos ©2015 CarNichiWa.com