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2015 Ford F-150: Lose Weight, Gain Power

By Frank A. Aukofer, December 20th, 2014

You must both gain weight and lose weight to become stronger and more efficient. That, in essence, is what the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck is all about.

It's the first full-size pickup to be built almost entirely of aluminum. There are chunks of high-strength steel in the box frame and the firewall between the engine and passenger compartments, but the body and the cargo bed are crafted of what Ford describes as "military grade" aluminum.

In pickup terms, it is a coup. Ford says it has wrung 700 pounds out of the F-150, which has been the best-selling vehicle of any kind for 32 years and the best-selling pickup for 37 years.

Because truckers classify their trucks by Gross Vehicle Weight, that weight loss has translated directly into a weight gain: additional cargo carrying capability, to as much as 3,300 pounds. That's an eye opener considering the F-150 is classified as a half ton, or 1,000 pounds.

Gross Vehicle Weight is the total of the truck's curb weight and its cargo capacity, or payload. Lose pounds out of the curb weight and you can add it to the payload and stick to a target GVW. For example, the 2015 F-150 XLT SuperCrew 4x4 model reviewed here had a curb weight of 4,806 pounds and a maximum payload of 2,160 pounds, or more than a ton.

That compares to the 2014 steel-bodied F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 model, which weighed 5,731 pounds with a payload of 1,560 pounds. (Numbers don't compare exactly because of equipment differences.)

For 2015, Ford also added a new powerplant, bringing engine choices to a total of four. The new one is a 325-horsepower, 2.7-liter turbocharged V-6 EcoBoost. It delivers 375 lb.-ft. of torque, or low-rpm twisting force, which is essential for towing or hauling heavy loads. On the tested four-wheel drive SLT, the towing capability was rated at 8,400 pounds.

It also exhibits strong acceleration without a load, thanks to the quick-shifting and unobtrusive six-speed automatic transmission.

Given the lighter weight and the added efficiency of the EcoBoost engine, Ford says fuel economy improves by up to 20 percent over previous models. The estimate here is that the 2.7-liter XLT should deliver city/highway ratings of about 18/23 mpg.

But these big pickups don't come cheap. With the aluminum body and many additional features, including such items as stop-start technology on the 2.7-liter models, adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning, prices on the 2015 models have increased between $395 and $3,055, depending on the model and additional standard equipment.

The tested XLT had a base price of $40,620, including the $1,195 destination charge. It rose to $49,770 with options that included Ford's SYNC and MyFord Touch connectivity, navigation, rear-view camera, remote starting, power sliding rear window, dual sunroof, blind spot warning, plastic bed liner, plus a Class IV trailer tow package for towing 5,000 pounds and higher.

Notable options include Ford's tailgate access, which consists of a drop-down step and an assist handle, along with fold-out steps on the flanks to access the cargo box from the sides.

Sturdy cloth upholstery covers roomy and comfortable seating for five. Even the center rear passenger gets an adequate -- though slightly less accommodating -- seat with a flat floor and plenty of knee and head room. Other models get leather or a mix of leather and vinyl upholstery.

One shortcoming on this $49,770 trim level: it does not come equipped with automatic climate control, which to this reviewer would be preferable over the dual-pane sunroof.

The lower-weight aluminum body translates directly into a lighter, though solid, feel and better handling on the highway. This is, after all, a giant pickup truck, so no one should expect it to attack curving roads like a sports sedan. But the tested F-150 holds a confident line as long as it's not pushed too aggressively.

A jouncing ride on rough roads is familiar to pickup owners, but the F-150 is supple and controlled. Suspension system modifications improve the ride and largely eliminate the tendency, without a load, for the rear wheels to skip around corners under acceleration.

All pickup manufacturers in the U.S. build capable full-size trucks. Ford's new aluminum F-150, for now, has lapped the field.

Specifications

Base price $40,620 (as tested: $49,770)
Curb weight 4,806 lbs.
Displacement 2.7-liter
Engine type EcoBoost V-6 w/SDI
Epa mileage rating 18 mpg city, 23 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 36 gal.
Horsepower (net) 325 at 5750 rpm
Overall length 231.9 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 375 at 3000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5/6-passenger full-size 4x4 pickup
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