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Ford F-150 revolutionizes truck design with new materials and powerplants

This review was first published in The Spokesman-Review.

2015 Ford F-150 exterior

This year, Ford innovates in a big way, replacing steel body and bed panels with aluminum. The move cuts curb weight by as much as 700 pounds.

Sometimes, a crown looks a lot like a target.

Ford’s F-150 has been the country’s best-selling vehicle for 32 years in a row. It’s been the best-selling pickup for 43 years.

Pickups represent a big piece of the new-car market. They are also more profitable than cars. Ipso facto, every maker in the segment wants a bigger slice of Ford’s market share.

No product dominates the way the F-150 does without innovating. This year, Ford innovates in a big way, replacing steel body and bed panels with aluminum. The move cuts curb weight by as much as 700 pounds.

2015 Ford F-150 interior

Cabins are finished in high-quality materials. Muscular-looking dash and door panels feel solidly built.

Lighter trucks are more efficient and, since cargo and tow limits include the truck’s weight, they can handle greater loads proportionate to overall poundage.

Ford leverages the F-150’s weight advantage by offering a new six-cylinder engine that tows like an eight. The 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engine makes 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque and can tow up to 8,500 pounds.

Acceleration and efficiency gains are impressive. The 0-60 sprint happens in shade over 6 seconds, and estimated mileage for 2WD trims is 19 mpg combined/22 mpg city/26 mpg highway. Four-by’s are rated at 18/20/23.

Other engine options include a 3.5-liter V-6 (7,600-lb. tow capacity) that makes 283 horsepower and 255 pound-feet of torque. A 5.0-liter V-8 engine (11,000 lb.) is rated at 385 hp/387 lb-ft and a turbocharged 3.5-liter six (12,200 lb.) makes 365 hp/420 lb-ft.

Standard equipment on the base XL ($27,285, including destination) includes air, cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40-split front bench, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, manual mirrors and windows, manual locks and a four-speaker sound system with 4.2-inch display.

A top-line Platinum trim 4×4 stickers at $55,000 and options can add another 10 Grand.

At $44,460, with options, my 4×4 XLT tester split the difference. Key options included the 2.7-liter engine and an XLT appearance package with 18-inch machined-aluminum wheels.

Cabins are finished in high-quality materials. Muscular-looking dash and door panels feel solidly built. Seats are large and comfortable and the MyFord Touch infotainment system grows more user friendly, with the addition of redundant buttons and knobs for oft-used functions.

The standard six-speed automatic transmission makes smooth, unobtrusive shifts. In certain conditions, power delivery can have an on/off quality as the transmission and turbocharger negotiate roles to maximize pulling power (critical, when towing) and efficiency.

Built to handle heavy loads, trucks ride best carrying ballast. Loaded, the F-150 rides and handles like a smaller truck. Unloaded, it feels light on its feet, a sensation amplified by a steering system calibrated to present a light feel. My empty Supercab 4×4 jittered on choppy surfaces at speed, but settled in nicely on the freeway.

The F-150 can’t be expected to ride as smoothly as a sedan on city streets, a complaint easily offset by its overall high levels of comfort and quality.

Good as it is, the 2015 F-150 won’t be less of a target to its rivals. And that augurs well for all truck buyers.

Contact Don at don@dadair.com.

2015 Ford F-150 4X4 Supercab
Vehicle base price: $26,030
Trim level base price: $37,005
As tested: $43,460
Options included 2.7L EcoBoost engine; satellite radio; rearview camera; remote start; LED side-mirror spotlights; tailgate step; integrated trailer brake wiring; LED box lighting; XLT Sport Appearance package; 110V/400W outlet; spray-in bed liner.
Maximum tow rating: 8,500 lbs
EPA ratings: 20 combined/18 city/23 highway
Unleaded regular fuel specified

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