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2015 Ford F-150 raises the bar and changes the market for pickup trucks

2015 Ford F-150 takes major leap to front of the segment with this new truck
2015 Ford F-150 takes major leap to front of the segment with this new truck
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Ford introduced their brand new 2015 F-150 pickup truck to the world yesterday (Jan. 13) at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit revealing two major innovations along with several other changes that will raise the bar significantly in the pickup truck market.

2015 F-150 Lariat revealed in Dallas Texas
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Nearly 20% of all Ford pickup trucks sold in the U.S. are sold in Texas (more than 2.5 times the number sold in any other state), so Ford wanted to be sure key Texas media also got a hands-on look at the new F-150 at the same time as the global media in Detroit.

With key dealers and media in attendance at a special showing in Dallas, Ford officials unveiled a 2015 F-150 Lariat SuperCrew version of the new F-150, invited their ‘first touch’ hands-on inspection and then answered questions about this new game-changing truck.

After we spent about an hour around, in and through this truck at Dallas, we can tell you that Ford is on pretty solid ground when they say that the new F-150 ‘redefines the future of trucks’.

Two major innovations for the new F-150 that make it tougher for work and play - plus more fuel efficient - are in the new materials used in the body and the new purpose-developed power plant.

High strength - military grade - aluminum now makes up the body surface, sub-surface and bed elements of the new F-150. Ford has been developing and testing this change from steel for several years and acknowledges they are taking a major gamble, but are confident that aluminum will actually perform better than the traditional steel.

To get a real world evaluation, Ford actually had some of their major mining, construction and utility fleet customers test trucks with aluminum beds installed – unbeknownst to them – and told to them to ‘drive the wheels off’ as they would their usual fleet trucks. Reviews of the performance of the aluminum components when the test trucks were returned (with tens of thousands of miles on them), confirmed that the aluminum bed withstood the rigors of the worksite better than the steel.

Most importantly, this change to lighter aluminum takes 700 pounds out of the gross weight of the truck making it more fuel efficient as well as improving its performance in acceleration, braking, handling and tow/haul capacity say Ford officials.

Aluminum (particularly these grades) will be more expensive and the new tooling and machinery specific to aluminum production will add to manufacturing costs – leading most certainly to an increase in the price of the new F-150 from current models. Ford officials, acknowledging those factors, noted that the F-150 is a very high volume product and that they expected production efficiencies at volume to mitigate some of that cost.

Our guess is that there is indeed likely an increase in the retail price of the new F-150 when it comes to market later this year, but given the new capabilities and features plus a significant increase in fuel efficiency, any increase in purchase price will be offset by lower operating costs.

A brand new purpose-built ‘smart’ 2.7L EcoBoost engine with Stop-Start and other technologies has been developed for the new F-150. Coupled with Ford's six-speed automatic transmission, Ford officials are looking for this power train to deliver around 30 mpg which pushes the F-150 to way out front in fuel efficiency for the segment.

The new 2.7L EcoBoost engine is a next generation power plant which uses more intelligent management controls to monitor and adjust performance across a full range of driving conditions. Performance figures for this engine are yet to be announced, but Ford officials say it delivers power and torque as well or better than a comparable small V8.

To be sure of the 2.7L EcoBoost engine’s power and durability, Ford covertly entered it in the 2013 Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 off-road race to test its performance and durability in the grueling 883-mile event. It needed only fresh air filters along the way to a successful completion of the event.

Other available power plants will include a new 3.5L V6, and the current 3.5L EcoBoost along with an upgraded 5.0L V8.

Some of the other new innovations and segment exclusive features that we think will get the attention of pickup truck users, both work and play, include:

• New 8-inch LCD productivity screen in the instrument panel, which includes updated truck apps plus the ability to create a customized home screen for customers to access their most frequently used apps in one place – all directly in front of the driver
• 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 – think the forward off-road camera on the Raptor and how it helps in ‘tight’ spots get the truck exactly where it needs to be
• Key fob operated remote tailgate, allowing for the tailgate to be locked, unlocked and released with the fob. The tailgate also is damped, dropping down, hands-free, to a flat position when opened
• Integrated loading ramps, which enable easy loading of ATVs, motorcycles and mowers – we saw this on the ATLAS Concept last year
• 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 and bright lighting around the truck exterior
• 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
• BoxLink – 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
• 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

For safety and driver convenience, the new F-150 will also include (or have available) second-row inflatable safety belts, Curve Control to automatically deliver more aggressive four-wheel braking when the truck is going into a corner too fast, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane-Keeping System and Blind-Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert.

The new F-150 will be available in the following trim-levels: XL and XLT which are the workhorses of the F-150 line-up, the upscale Lariat (which we inspected at Dallas), King Ranch (of course) - 40% of which are sold in Texas and the ultra-premium Platinum.

Depending on the trim-level the new F-150 will be available in Regular, Super Cab and SuperCrew configurations.

Unofficially, we were told to expect the Raptor to show up with a new aluminum body as well before too long.

Getting back to “redefining the future’ of trucks - Ford is in development of their own eight-speed automatic transmission which has been a serious fuel efficiency game changer for the competing Ram 1500 pickup. We would expect that Ford is targeting to add this transmission to the new generation lighter and tougher F-150 as soon as it is available to further improve their fuel economy numbers for this truck.

We will provide updates on the new Ford F-150 as it moves into production and then the market including our first drive impressions.

Source: Ford