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A blog about the cars I drive

Over the road in an F-150

 

2015 Ford F-150

This is what trucks are meant for. Who wants to help me stack firewood?

I get that under normal circumstances no one drives an unloaded full-size pickup 385 miles, just because. Pickups are meant to be loaded up, with firewood, topsoil or the odd refrigerator on its way to the landfill. Or to be used to tow heavy weights such as farm equipment, horse trailers, boats and RVs. Casual transportation is not a pickup’s highest and best use.

Because they’re subject to heavy loads, full-size trucks use body-on-frame construction and solid rear axles. But these same qualities that make a truck strong and durable, tend to produce lousy ride quality and poor handling characteristics. A few years ago, Dodge replaced the solid rear axle in its Ram trucks with fully independent rear suspensions. Ride and handling improved, but Ram has the lowest tow ratings of the full-size domestic trucks.

As always, it’s all about tradeoffs.

2015 Ford F-150: The new 8-inch LCD productivity screen in the instrument panel of the all-new Ford F-150 includes updated truck apps --€“ from fuel economy to towing tips --€“ and the ability to create a customized home screen for customers to access their most frequently used apps in one place.

2015 Ford F-150: The new 8-inch LCD productivity screen in the instrument panel of the all-new Ford F-150 includes updated truck apps –€“ from fuel economy to towing tips –€“ and the ability to create a customized home screen for customers to access their most frequently used apps in one place.

Regardless, I had to drive to Portland Tuesday for the press launch of the 2016 Lexus RX crossover and Ford’s F-150 was waiting in the driveway.

In truth, it was a great opportunity to get familiar with a rig that has stirred a good deal of controversy. In the interest of efficiency, Ford reduces the F-150’s weight by as much as 600 pounds, using aluminum body panels instead of steel. Critics say the use of aluminum will complicate repairs.

The other piece of heresy lives under the hood, where Ford adds a new six-cylinder EcoBoost engine to the lineup. Displacing just 2.7 liters, the twin-turbocharged engine makes 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. It earns an impressive 20 mpg combined EPA rating (19 city/23 highway) and can tow up to 12,200 lb.

I wasn’t towing anything though. Nor was I carrying a load of topsoil, so I experienced the naked truck, as it were.

The first thing you notice about the new six is how quick it is. A 4×4 SuperCrew runs the 0-60 sprint in just 6.4 seconds. There’s plenty of power throughout the range for passing, as well. On the two-lane Hwy. 14 that runs along the north bank of the Columbia River, I easily blew by slower traffic.

The engine is mated to a six-speed automatic that makes quick and nearly transparent shifts.

Ride quality was generally not bad, though the jitters and bounces typical of trucks sometimes made tricky work of passing semis. Steering feel is quite light, which in tandem with the truck’s height — amplified the sensation that it could be better planted. Two things to note:1)  this would not be the case were the truck loaded and 2) familiarity would ease one’s awareness of the sensation.

Ford has gone to a good deal of trouble to reduce cabin noise and this is, indeed, a quiet cabin. Minimal wind and road noise find their way inside.

I’ll post my formal review in The Spokesman-Review on Oct. 10. Watch this space.

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