Saturday Road Test – 2015 Ford F-150

Ford F-150-4

2015 Ford F-150

First Drive

Does the Aluminum Really Matter?

By Ron Amadon

FALLS CHURCH, VA. – The short answer to the question above is yes and no.

Yes it matters in terms of weight reduction and what should be improved fuel economy as Ford and all other makers deal with ever increasing federal rules.

No it didn’t matter after driving a few minutes in the leather clad heated driver’s seat in a nicely appointed upscale model. It felt rock solid rolling over pavement patch jobs, was quiet and spacious inside, with that high “King of the Road” seating position.

Before we get lost in all that, let’s deal up front with the much talked about full aluminum body.

While it depends on model configuration, Ford said the weight savings can hit 700 pounds. The body is made of what are called high strength, military grade aluminum alloys that are used in aerospace. Ford maintains that improves dent and ding resistance as well as saving weight. It doesn’t rust, is more expensive to manufacture and may be more expensive to fix after an accident. It is worth mentioning that the boxed ladder frame contains more high strength steel than previous models.

Ford F-150-1

Still unknown is the cost of repairing body damage, and finding an auto body shop that can work with aluminum. Early on that could mean the dealership. Ford maintains that smaller parts of the body may have to be replaced in minor mishaps, thereby potentially lowering the cost.

So is Ford going out on a limb on this? Hardly. GM has supply contracts with Alcoa and Novelis for its aluminum bodied trucks that we could see in the 2018 model year.

Aluminum bodies are also on the Tesla, Audi A8 and the A2. Industry wide, it is the second most used material, in percentage terms, of the total weight of many cars.

What’s new here is that aluminum is being used on a high production truck for the first time, as Ford gambles that it won’t turn off loyal customers. The F-150, after all, has been America’s best-selling truck for 37 consecutive years and best-selling vehicle for 32 years. So there is a fair amount at stake here.

I drove two models – one with the 2.7 EcoBoost V6 with 325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. The 4×2 model has a max payload rating of 2,250 pounds and a max tow rating of 8,500 pounds.

The second driver had the 3.5 liter EcoBoost with 365 horsepower and a hefty 420 lb-ft of torque. Payload capacity came to 3,180 pounds and it can tow up to 12,200 pounds, or a not yet fully grown African elephant.

The 5.0-liter V8 has a return engagement for 2015 with its 385 horsepower and 387 lb-ft of torque.

While official figures have not yet been issued, Ford projects fuel economy improvements of at least 5 percent and as much as 20 percent. EPA figures are expected later this month.

Certainly customers will not be turned off by the interior of these trucks, especially the growing number of buyers who are seeking well optioned models that contain all the bells and whistles they expect to find on upscale cars.

The Lariat version I drove had neat features such as 360-degree camera view, integrated loading ramps for ATV and motorcycles, lots of cargo box tie downs, LED lighting, and a remote tailgate recliner that also locks it.

Ford F-150-2

In the dash was a 400-watt, 110-volt power outlet for charging corded tools, batteries or mobile devices on site or while driving. Each outside rear view mirror held a LED spotlight, handy I was told, “If you are out in the woods putting up a tent in the dark.”

The instrument panel can contain a series of projected gauges that will give drivers complete information on the truck’s health and performance on a large 8-inch screen. To the rear there is a nearly flat floor and inflatable seat belts that distribute the force of an impact across a wider area of the passenger’s chest. There is more than ample room back there for adults.

A center console bin will hold a laptop and above was a panoramic sunroof giving front and rear passengers a view of the sky just in time for the first snowflakes.

With multiple seat adjustments, the Lariat was, in many ways, more comfortable than many cars. All these nice touches, of course, are dependent on the status of your bank account.

There are five models, XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch and as you work through the lineup there are Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew cab configurations. The trucks are assembled in Michigan and Missouri.

A surprise was the excellent response from the 2.7 liter Ecoboost turbo with plenty of passing power and no turbo lag. It was quick to rev and the six-speed automatic was a smooth operator. But one could not help but think back a few years when any self-respecting pickup went out of the showroom with nothing shy of a big V8.

 The F-150’s redesign brought a reduction in body shake over bumpy suburban streets and in many cases those inside might ask, “What bump?”  It just kind of swallows them up.

 

Did I mention it will parallel park itself?

 

You push a button on the center console, and then follow the instructions on the center dash mounted screen. Press slightly on the accelerator, watch the steering wheel turn itself, and in short order the test truck was tucked in nicely between two Fiestas.

A bare bones truck starts at $26,115 for the XL, increasing to $31,390 for the XLT, $38,880 for the Lariat, and a hefty $48,690 for the top of the line King Ranch.

Ford F-150-3

With the caveats that we do not know fuel economy figures or repair costs at this juncture, I feel confident about two things.

The F-150 will be named North American Truck of the Year at the Detroit Auto Show in January. Bet on it. But don’t expect large odds.

And second, the aluminum body will matter little to loyal Ford truck buyers and it will remain on top of the best seller list.

Interesting factoid: the first sports car with an aluminum body appeared at the Berlin international auto show in 1899.

 

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