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Testing The 2015 Ford F-150 For 17 Days & 2400 Miles

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on May 25, 2015
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We recently had the opportunity to spend 17 days with the all-new ’15 Ford F-150. During this time we piled approximately 2,400 miles on the truck throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. We loaded the truck like it was a pack mule, covered a bunch of highway miles, and ran it through a variety of off-road conditions. The goal was to determine how Ford’s 13th-generation F-150 handled a variety of tasks and how it compared to other new 1⁄2-ton trucks on the market today.

The Truck
Ford provided us with a Ruby Red SuperCrew fit with the 5 1⁄2-foot cargo box. The F-150 had the XLT trim and FX4 Off-Road package. Under the hood was the 3.5L EcoBoost turbocharged V-6 engine bolted to a 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission followed by a new-for-2015 BorgWarner two-speed transfer case that is said to be 8 pounds lighter than the unit found in the previous truck. The T-case split power to an 8.8-inch front differential and 93⁄4-inch rear axle. The rear differential was equipped with an electric locker, and both axles were fit with 3.31 gears. The truck had the F-150-norm independent front suspension (we’re told that it’s basically a carryover from the ’14 F-150 but has new tuning) and a leaf-spring rear suspension. It’s worth noting that the brake sizes and the front hub 4WD engagement system is also carryover from the ’14 F-150.

In case you haven’t heard, compared to the previous-generation F-150, the new truck has an all-new high-strength boxed steel frame that uses 78 percent high-strength steel compared to 23 percent in the previous truck. The F-150’s 6022 aluminum alloy body and box are said to shave up to 700 pounds from the overall weight of the truck. Ford touts that this weight loss contributes to a number of things, including better fuel mileage and higher hauling and towing capacities. We were provided an equipment list for our test vehicle, but no pricing, so we went to ford.com and built the truck using the “Build & Price” tool. After some button pushing it appears that our test vehicle had a base price of approximately $41,420 and an as-equipped price of approximately $51,435, which included the destination charge.

Engine/Transmission
If we didn’t know it was a V-6 we’d swear the 3.5L EcoBoost was a small V-8 based on its power. We were impressed at how well the engine pulled the approximately 4,309-pound truck and the ’plant was incredibly refined. From inside the cab, the engine sounded similar to a V-8 when under hard acceleration. The 3.5L EcoBoost pulled V-8-like strong and it far exceeded our expectations. It’s worth noting that the 3.5L EcoBoost has the highest torque (420 lb-ft) of any of the four available F-150 engines, and it peaks at a relatively low 2,500 rpm. Translation: it has decent grunt. The engine and 6R80 six-speed transmission worked seamlessly together, with no obvious glitches observed during our test. Off-road, whether in 4-Hi or 4-Lo, the engine was easily controllable and smooth throttle control was on tap, thanks in part to the programming of the drive-by-wire throttle. For all of the engine’s strong points, its exhaust sound was its detractor. The wimpy sound emanating from the tailpipe was pathetic. On the topic of mpg, we averaged 18.9 mpg during the test, with 21.9 mpg being the highest (hauling three passengers and luggage on the Florida Turnpike at 65-70 mph) and 17.3 mpg being the lowest (combination of off-road travel, a headwind, two passengers, idling during several photo shoots, and fast sustained highway speeds).

The 3.5L EcoBoost V-6 engine produces 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. That’s 20 hp less than the available 5.0L V-8 but 33 lb-ft of torque more. Note the high-mount air intake.

Exterior/Interior
Visual appeal is subjective, but we thought the exterior of our F-150 looked great. Very limited chrome and the painted six-spoke aluminum wheels gave the truck a look that we’ll call “business casual.” One of our favorite features of the exterior were the LED side-mirror spotlights. These lights, controlled by easily accessible dash-mounted switches, offer side lighting up to 8 mph. During our test, these lights were one of the truck’s features we used most. They threw bright white light to the sides of the vehicle as we crawled through the woods at night, and they lit the area around the truck as we did stuff like horse chores after sunset. Finally, a manufacturer that realizes that we need light to do more than face forward. And speaking of lighting, our rig was also equipped with LED box lighting. These lights, mounted inside the bed near the tailgate, worked in conjunction with the cab-mounted light to bathe the bed in bright light. Best of all, due to their placement, the LED lights will illuminate the cargo bed even if the rig is fit with a tonneau cover. And speaking of the cargo bed, remember when a cargo bed was just four walls and a tailgate? Those days are gone, and the F-150 is an example of a manufacturer that is addressing how we use the bed for work and play. We liked the lighting and the cargo restraint options, but most notably we liked the Tailgate Step. This seemingly simple device is easy to use and it makes physically accessing the bed with the tailgate down a breeze. Moving to the inside of the truck, the F-150’s cab annoyed us to no end. Why? We were annoyed because we couldn’t find anything blatantly wrong with it. We know, like the exterior, visual appeal is subjective. That said, aside from what we consider to be a great visual layout, the interior was superbly functional and had a quality feel. Switchgear, storage, seating, legroom, and headroom were all outstanding. If we wanted to mega-nitpick, we’d note that we wish the LED interior lighting included footwell lights.

We really like how the F-150’s instrument cluster groups important gauges along the top, and they’re easy to read at a glance. The Productivity Screen included an off-road function that included inclinometers along with 4WD and rear locker status.
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On-Road
The phrase “It rides like a truck” doesn’t apply to the new F-150. Ride quality from the IFS and leaf-spring rear suspension was ultra-smooth, and the sounds of the outside world were muted in the tight cab. Even during long trips, we never wished the trek was over due to discomfort behind the wheel. The truck’s on-road manners were far better than some cars we’ve driven. On the highway, the truck’s carlike manners made it easy to drive, and the great visibility from the driver seat added to the experience. In the twisties, the truck returned confident handling that was very un-truck-like. When it came time to scrub speed, the brakes easily reigned in the truck’s mass, and they did it with great pedal feel that wasn’t too mushy or tight. During everyday driving, the 3.5L EcoBoost engine seemed very well suited to the truck, and its manners were impeccable. If you’re wondering about turbo lag, don’t worry because the power rolls on smooth. We’ve experienced far more throttle lag driving trucks with normally aspirated engines.

We like that the Tailgate Step can be used independently of the assist handle, like when the assist handle would be in the way of flying hay bales.

Off-Road
For all of its refinement, we found that overall, the F-150 can hold its own in the dirt. It has a minimum ground clearance of 9.4 inches, an approach angle of 25.5 degrees, and a departure angle of 26 degrees. If you’re into comparisons, these numbers are better than those found in a comparable ’15 Silverado 1500 or ’15 Ram 1500, but fall short in almost each measurement compared to the ’15 Tundra and ’15 Titan. Even with the 25.5 degree approach angle, the F-150’s front air dam (a key aerodynamic component that helps the F-150’s highway fuel mileage) still dug into terrain from time to time on the trail. However, the air dam seemed to be super durable and stayed connected even after the thrashing we gave it. Four-wheel-drive engagement is electronic, by a rotary dial on the dash. The switch is easy to put a hand on, unlike the switches on some other trucks we’ve tested, and the BorgWarner T-case engages and disengages with an audible click. We dig how the rear axle diff lock is engaged by the same switch that controls the transfer case. Good thinking; less movements required. And speaking of the rear diff lock, we found the electric unit locked and unlocked with no hang-ups. We also liked the easy-to-access front tow loops. At speed on rutted and rough terrain, the F-150’s suspension absorbed all but the worst bumps, and when the suspension blew through its travel, the bumpstops did a good job absorbing the hit. This is a vehicle we think drivers at our Pickup Truck of the Year would fight over to drive at speed on rough trail. It’s no Raptor, but it is smooth and predictable.

We liked that the T-case switch is mounted in an easy-to-see-and-reach location, and we liked that the switch also engages and disengages the rear diff locker.
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Bottom Line
The F-150 is a well-rounded truck that offers great value. Its comfort makes it a great road trip vehicle and its maneuverability and great ingress and egress make it a great daily driver. It hasn’t forgotten that it’s a truck though, and it offers great features and capabilities for those who actually need a truck that can work. Ford’s obvious obsession on cutting weight on the new F-150 has helped create a truck that has higher payload and towing capacities and returns better fuel mileage than its predecessor. Time will tell how the public reacts to the truck and how successful Ford’s small-displacement, turbocharged engines are in the long run.

What’s Hot: Fuel mileage, 3.5L EcoBoost power, interior space and storage, LED side-mirror and box lighting, rear diff locker
What’s Not: Pathetic exhaust note, FX4 needs a taller front suspension and smaller diameter wheels

Quick Specs
Vehicle/model: 2015 Ford F-150 XLT FX4 4x4 SuperCrew
Base price: $41,420
As tested: $51,435 (approximate)
Engine: 3.5L EcoBoost V-6
Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 365/420
Transmission: 6R80 6-spd automatic
Transfer case: BorgWarner 2-spd
4WD system: 4-Hi, 4-Lo, Neutral, 2WD
Low-range ratio: 2.64:1
Frame type: High-strength steel
Suspension, f/r: Coil-on-shock, long spindle double-wishbone independent/Hotchkiss-type, leaf springs, outboard shock absorbers
Axles, f/r: 8.8-in centersection/9.75-in
Axle ratio: 3.31:1
Max crawl ratio: 36.4:1
Steering: Rack-and-pinion, electric power-assisted steering
Brakes, f/r: 13.8-in disc/13.7-in disc
Wheels (in): 20
Tires: P275/55R20 Hankook Dynapro ATM
Wheelbase (in): 145
Length (in): 231.9
Height (in): 76.9
Width (in): 79.9
Base curb weight (lb): 4,309
Approach/departure angles (deg): 25.5/26
Minimum ground clearance (in): 9.4
Payload (lb): 3,050 Max towing capacity (lb): 12,000
Fuel capacity (gal): 23
EPA fuel economy (mpg): 17 city/23 highway (18.9 test average)

PhotosView Slideshow
PhotosView Slideshow

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