September 4, 2015

Ford F-150 Is A Better Truck - At A Price

Ford F-150 Is A Better Truck - At A Price

It's safe to say no full-size pickup has ever employed so much new technology in one swoop.  From aerospace materials to the latest electronics and creature comforts, the Ford F-150 defends its substantial turf with more than just reputation.  The truck's calling cards are turbos and aluminum, but it's more than that.  It just might be a better truck - at a price.

Glancing at the outside, sporting Blue Flame Metallic paint and 18-inch chrome wheels, the F-150 looks as fresh as a facelift.  It's handsome with a big grille, step bars, and streamlined appearance.  A flip-down tailgate step and LED bed lights help with the heavy lifting.  The bedliner is already sprayed in.  And you'll recognize Ford's stepped windowline, but you won't immediately notice, without tapping nails to metal, the military-grade aluminum body panels - the big story for this truck.

Replacing steel, aluminum panels save up to 700 pounds to enhance fuel economy and towing capacity.  The truck still rides on a stiff steel frame, so don't worry about its ability to carry and tow heavy loads.  Ford claims the aluminum panels better resist dents, but some owners will not be convinced.  And, to be honest, insurance companies believe they will cost marginally more to repair.  Still, doubters should remember the original Hummer and Boeing 777 are made of aluminum.  Also keep in mind Ford owned Jaguar and Land Rover when they were pioneering aluminum-intensive bodies.  This is no longer rocket science; Ford knows what it is doing.

You can get the F-150 with non-turbocharged, 385 horsepower, 5.0-liter V8 or 282 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engines, but that's not what people buy.  A majority of these trucks leave factories with the optional 3.5-liter EcoBoost (turbocharged) V6 that kicks out 365 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque.  Our truck relied instead on a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 that delivers 325 horsepower, 375 lb.-ft. of torque, and 18/23-MPG city/hwy (with all-wheel-drive).  All engines match with six-speed automatic transmissions.

That's about the smallest engine you're likely to find in a pickup truck, but the numbers and time behind the wheel show it's plenty of power for weekend chores and daily commuting.  Plus, the F-150 is significantly lighter than before, allowing it to match performance with a smaller, more efficient engine.  Max towing capacity of 8,500 lbs. and payload up to 2,250 lbs. should do it.  If not, pick one of the F-150's other engines.

Climbing inside, the F-150 is a pleasant place to work and play.  Our extended cab with rear-hinged doors has enough space for a couple of kids in the back or adults on short hops.  Up front, twin buckets, deep consoles, and USB ports work with glove-friendly knobs for audio and climate control.  Sirius Satellite Radio and leather-wrapped steering wheel add pleasure while the rearview camera makes backing easier.

All nice, but there are features our F-150 doesn't have.  Forget about automatic climate control, heated leather seats, sunroof, or touchscreen.  There's no navigation either.  Gears are selected the old-fashioned way with a column shifter.  Beige canvas seats and hard plastic on every surface will wear well, but do nothing to give the truck an upscale feel.  It's pretty basic.

None of that would bother me given a bargain price, but Ford is asking $43,085 as-tested.  You can buy an F-150 for $26,030, but forty-three large is pretty steep for a fairly basic truck with 4x4.  However, it offers an aluminum body and powertrains the Chevy Silverado, GMC Sierra, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan can't match.  So far, that's kept the better F-150 on top of the sales chart.

Storm Forward!

Be sure to check out Casey's video review of the F-150 and follow him on Twitter and YouTube: @AutoCasey 

2015 Ford F-150 Supercab

  • Five-passenger, 4WD Pickup
  • Powertrain:  325hp 2.7-liter turbo V6, 6-spd. auto trans
  • Suspension f/r:  Ind/Solid axle
  • Wheels f/r:  19"/19" alloy
  • Brakes f/r:  disc/disc
  • Must-have features:  Interior, powertrain
  • Towing:  8,500 lbs.
  • Fuel economy:  18/23 mpg city/hwy
  • Assembly:  Dearborn, MI
  • Base/as-tested price:  $26,030/43,085
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