2015 Ford F-150 First Drive - Making History

    A look at what’s new on the 2015 Ford F-150

    Ken BrubakerPhotographer, WriterFord Motor CompanyPhotographer

    Will the all-new ’15 Ford F-150 go down in ½-ton truck history as one of the most innovative and important trucks to roll off an assembly line? We recently had the opportunity to see and drive Ford’s all-new ½-ton pickup, and it’s loaded with fascinating features as well as several firsts.

    What’s New
    Probably the most interesting feature is the high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body and cargo box. Aluminum alloys have been used in a variety of defense, aerospace, and transportation applications, and automotive manufacturers have been using aluminum alloy body panels, like hoods and tailgates, for years, so it’s not a rare, mysterious material. With that said, Ford has broken new ground by using it to this degree on a fullsize modern American pickup. One of the benefits of aluminum is weight savings, and Ford says that the aluminum alloy body and box shave hundreds of pounds from the ’15 F-150’s overall weight. How much? Ford says up to 700 pounds and notes that’s the equivalent of 3 fullsize refrigerators, 20 concrete blocks, or 1 grizzly bear. Shedding weight was clearly a major goal on the new F-150, and pounds were even eliminated in the wheels and tire jack.

    Obviously, shedding weight is one of the key factors to improving fuel mileage. But what about strength? You want that in a truck, right? Well, compared to bake-hardened 280 steel, Ford says that 6022 aluminum alloy is two times stronger. Ford also notes that the great strength-to-weight ratio of aluminum alloy allows for thicker body panels to resist dents and dings while shaving off pounds. An example is the cargo bed floor of the ’15 F-150, which is 65 percent thicker than the outgoing ’14 F-150, while lighter in weight. But what about construction? Well, Ford says that advanced riveting and high-strength adhesives are used to form a continuous bond that joins multiple components to act as one long structure. Also used are hydroformed aluminum-alloy tubes that form a continuous beam from the A-pillar base, over the doors, to the back of the cab roof. SuperCrew models use innovative alloy tubes within the rocker panels that have a specially designed inner structure for added strength and protection. It’s also important to note that proprietary heat treatment increases the strength of key components prior to assembly of the body structure.

    The new F-150’s aluminum body rests on an all-new high-strength boxed steel frame, which helped integrate additional weight savings. The new frame uses 78 percent high-strength steel compared to 23 percent in the previous F-150. Ford says this shaves 60 pounds from the weight of the frame. But strength was also a priority, so, among other things, Ford designed the main frame rails taller and wider for greater resistance to bending and twisting and upped the framerail count by one for a total of eight. Other frame features include five through-welded crossmembers (this means they go through the framerails and are welded on both sides to help create a stronger structure), thicker E-Coating for corrosion protection, and new 12-corner front crush horns (these help absorb energy in a crash).

    Another of the ’15 F-150’s more interesting features is the all-new 2.7L EcoBoost twin-turbo V-6 engine, which, according to our research, is the smallest displacement engine currently available in a mass-produced fullsize pickup at the time of this writing. This engine is one of four available in the F-150, which also includes the 3.5L V-6, 5.0L V-8, and 3.5L EcoBoost V-6. The 6.2L V-8 is no longer available. The new 2.7L V-6 engine is rated at 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque and, depending on configuration, allows up to an 8,500-pound towing capacity. The engine’s features include a ladder frame-design aluminum lower block (adds strength while decreasing weight); a compacted graphite iron (CGI) upper cylinder block (Ford says it’s the first use of CGI in a gasoline engine and is the same material used in the 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel engine); a composite intake manifold and oil pan (helps to reduce weight); and offset I-beam piston connecting rods (provides strength to manage peak engine power levels while reducing weight for quicker responsiveness). The 2.7L EcoBoost also features auto start-stop technology that shuts off the engine when the truck is stopped to decrease fuel consumption and emissions.

    No matter which one of the four available engines are fit into the ’15 F-150, it’s mated to a 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission with a torque converter and tuning specific to its application. A new lighter-weight transfer case is also on tap and we’re told it’s a BorgWarner unit that was jointly developed with Ram trucks. Ford says the new T-case is 8 pounds lighter compared to the unit found in the previous truck. Depending on engine choice, most trucks get the 8.8-inch rear axle (referred to as the 8.8 Heavy). This axle has increased diameter axletubes and larger diameter axleshafts. A 9.75-inch rear axle is used in some applications. Up front, we’re told the IFS is basically carryover from the ’14 F-150. The rear suspension continues to be comprised of leaf springs, and the entire suspension has been retuned. Brake disc size and calipers are also the same as the previous model.

    The ’15 F-150 also has a boatload of class-exclusive available features, including a remote tailgate release, power tailgate lock, stowable loading ramps, Next-Generation Tailgate Step, deployable box-side steps, BoxLink cargo bed flexibility and organization system, and 360 camera with split-view display. There’s also way cool segment-first LED side-mirror spotlights that offer a way to throw light to the side of the vehicle. These optional lights are integrated into the outside rearview mirrors and are activated by switches in the vehicle. They stay illuminated up to 8 mph.

    What We Think
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we like the exterior styling of the new F-150. We also like the interior. It’s handsome, functional, has gobs of storage, and offers 2 inches more width than the previous truck. However, the F-150’s exterior is only slightly wider (a little over a ½-inch) than the previous truck, so it hasn’t gotten porky in that regard. Ford lowered the drop-down in the front side windows, so side visibility is improved. And speaking of side visibility, we’re elated to see a manufacturer offering side-facing lighting. It’s something we’ve been wanting for a while and it will undoubtedly be a huge asset to folks on the trail or jobsite at night. And speaking of the trail, we had the opportunity to pilot the truck on an off-road course. Visibility was excellent; the low range gearing offered just the right amount of crawl; and the rear electric locker in our FX4-equipped truck was easy to engage. The low stance of the truck made it feel very stable in off-camber situations but also meant dragging the belly and stuffing the low-hanging front end was commonplace. As we’ve said before, the improved aerodynamics of a lower height is the price we pay for improved mpg numbers. Official EPA numbers weren’t available at time of print, but Ford is saying the truck should see a 5 to 20 percent mpg improvement over the previous model, depending on configuration (which is the same thing Ford said in 2011 when the company rolled out the 3.5L EcoBoost). We spent a fair amount of time in a 2.7L EcoBoost-powered truck on-road and were surprised at the power. It was similar to a small V-8 and rolled on impressively smooth for a turbocharged engine. It also worked seamlessly with the six-speed transmission. With the lower weight of the new F150, the power-to-weight ratio has improved, and it can be felt. Braking also seems to be improved, probably due to the same size brakes as the previous model but with less overall vehicle weight.

    Bottom Line
    Will the ’15 Ford F-150 go down in ½-ton truck history as one of the most innovative and important trucks to ever roll off the end of an assembly line? Well, Ford is first to market with an aluminum-alloy body and box in a fullsize modern American pickup. And, for better or worse, the company has introduced the smallest displacement engine currently offered in a fullsize truck at the time of this writing. So when counting firsts, yes, the new F-150 is history making. It’s clear that one of the main goals of the new F-150 was increasing fuel mileage, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of real-world mpg numbers the truck produces. Body construction and mpg aside, the F-150 is a darn nice truck with impressive towing and hauling capability. It went everywhere we asked it to go off-road, too. We’re looking forward to getting more seat time, and we’ll report back.

    What’s Hot
    Improved power-to-weight ratio, projected fuel mileage increase, available locking rear diff.
    What’s Not
    Low approach angle, needs a front locker option on FX4 models.
    Our Take
    Gotta give Ford props for thinking outside the box.
    More To Come
    We’ve invited Ford to send a ’15 F-150 to our upcoming Pickup Truck of the Year test. If they’re able to provide a truck, we’ll be testing it for a full week in a variety of terrain, and we’ll report back with even more analysis of the truck in the May ’15 issue of Four Wheeler.

    Quick Specs*
    Vehicle/model: 2015 Ford F-150 XLT 4x4 SuperCrew
    Base price: $40,620
    As tested: $46,775
    Engine: 2.7L EcoBoost V-6
    Rated hp/torque (lb-ft): 325/375
    Transmission: 6R80 6-spd automatic
    Transfer case: BorgWarner 2-spd
    4WD system(s): 4-Hi, 4-Lo, Neutral, 2WD
    Low-range ratio: N/A
    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: 8.8in centersection/8.8-in Heavy
    Axle ratio: 3.55:1
    Max crawl ratio: N/A
    Steering: Rack-and-pinion, electric power-assisted steering
    Brakes, f/r: 13.8in disc/13.7in disc
    Wheels (in): 17 Tires: P265/70R17
    Wheelbase (in): 145
    Length (in): 231.9
    Height (in): 76.9
    Width (in): 79.9
    Base curb weight (lb): N/A
    Approach/departure angles (deg): N/A
    Minimum ground clearance (in): N/A
    Payload (lb): 2,160
    Max towing capacity (lb): 8,400
    Fuel capacity (gal): 36
    Fuel economy (mpg): N/A
    *As tested, preliminary, subject to change