New Ford F-150 gets lighter, smarter

Published On: Apr 22 2014 05:58:23 AM HST
2015 Ford F-150

It's not every day that the best-selling vehicle in the country gets a full redesign, but that's exactly what Ford is planning for the 2015 F-150 pick-up truck.

Like any redesign, the new truck gets new headlights, tail lights and slightly different body panels.

However, for 2015 Ford is making a drastic change that you can't see just by looking at the truck. All those body panels on the new truck are made of aluminum instead of the more conventional steel.

While the frame of the truck is still high-strength steel, the new aluminum alloy for the cab, bed and other body panels help the 2015 truck shed a lot of weight.

"We're taking 700 pounds of weight out of the 2015 F-150," said Doug Scott, Group Marketing Manager for Ford Trucks. "What that means for the customer is not only a much more fuel-efficient vehicle, but we're able to reinvest that weight in more towing, more hauling capability and better vehicle dynamics."

Scott said the lower weight also translates into better acceleration, quicker stopping and a more maneuverable and nimble ride. "It just will have a totally different feel, a more planted feel, so less body roll," Scott said.

Such extensive use of aluminum is a first for a full-size truck like this, but it's not the first time Ford has used the material in its trucks. "We've had an aluminum hood on F-150 since 1997. So we've used aluminium extensively for quite a period of time," Scott said.

To help deal with challenges of repairing aluminum, Ford is now in the process of training body shops at dealerships and independent body shops on the differences in working with aluminum.

Beyond better gas mileage and better handling, Ford managers say all that aluminum has another benefit. "Aluminum is infinitely recyclable -- 75 percent of the aluminum ever made is still in use today," Scott said.

Other eco-friendly touches on the new F-150 include cloth and foam in the seats that are made of recycled materials, and much of the material inside the dashboard is also produced from recycled products.

Multiply those touches by the staggering number of Ford trucks that are sold each year and you end up with a large environmental impact. "Last year we sold over 760,000," Scott said. "But when you take that kind of volume and you produce the kind of fuel improvement we will here, there's a great sustainability story."

Inside, the new truck will be available with technologies that are starting to become common on cars, like blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system.

A back-up camera will be available on some models, but Ford takes the camera concept even further. "We have a camera in each of the exterior mirrors, a camera in the grille and a camera in the tailgate and we're able to stitch together those four images," Scott said. "If you were backing into a tight parking place, you could literally just look at the center console and back right in there and see if there are any obstacles on any side of the truck."

That camera display screen can also superimpose lines over the image to take some of the guess work out of hooking up a trailer. "I don't need a spotter. I can back right in there, hitch up my trailer and then quickly I'm on my way," Scott said.

Other clever little touches include things like LED spotlights in the mirrors to illuminate a campsite or work site, two regular 110-volt power outlets in the cab and a front camera that can give you a wide view of obstacles that may lurk around a corner. "You'd normally have to inch out because you're uncertain whether there was traffic coming from either direction. This actually gives you that panoramic view so that you can you can pull out with confidence," Scott said.

Engine choices on the new truck range from a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 to a 5-liter V-8. In the middle are two 3.5-liter V-6 options. Power numbers from those engines have not yet been announced.

That 2.7-liter V-6 is an all-new design for Ford, but it's no stranger to hard work. Ford actually ran that engine in a disguised 2015 truck in the 2013 Baja 1000, which is a grueling off-road race through the desert of Baja California.

Prices and final fuel economy ratings will also be released closer to the time that the new truck goes on sale this fall.


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