By Kevin Harrison
A pop can.
That was the inspiration for Ford’s new F-150. Well, sort of. Ford used the stuff pop cans are made of as a key player in setting their most popular truck apart from the competition.
In case you’ve never held and empty pop can before, in which case you should really learn to live a little, it is extremely light weight. Aluminum is also very malleable. That’s when the Ford had their lightbulb moment.
Weight is the enemy of mostly any sort of vehicle, but for the purposes of a pick-up truck, it really does hurt fuel consumption numbers.
As a result, the F-150 underwent a massive diet and depending how you spec out your F-150, you could be saving anywhere from 500 to 700 pounds which should in theory translate into fairly noticeable fuel savings.
Has Ford’s new approach done the trick or does it take away the essence of what a pick-up truck is meant to be? I drove one for a week to find out.
Ford took the opportunity to update the F-150′s design and for the most part, the look is pretty decent, though it would be difficult to screw up the design of a pick-up. My tester is was the second highest trim level possible, the Platinum, and had distinguishing features such as LED daytime running lights and headlights, LED tail and signal lights, 20 inch wheels, a unique grille, retractable automatic side steps and the word “Platinum” stamped against silver trim on the tail gate. No matter how you spec out your F-150, chances are you’ll end up with a pretty decent looking truck, however this author still thinks the Ram 1500 has the rest of the competition beat looks-wise.
Ford also took the opportunity to update the interior. The new steering wheel design features a big and thick rimmed wheel, while the updated centre stack still unfortunately houses Ford’s MyTouch system which isn’t the most intuitive interface. If you are looking for an updated version, it’s entirely likely that Ford will fit the 2016 model year with their updated Sync 3 system which critics are already calling it miles ahead of the current system.
Interior passenger room is cavernous and that really is an understatement. My tester featured ‘Super Crew’ seating which essentially means that the rear passengers are treated to limo-like levels of leg room. I honestly still can’t believe how much room their is in the back which can go even more if you flip the bottom seat cushions upward making it possible to clean up at your local garden centre’s clearing event.
The seats themselves are decently comfortable offering up both heated and cooled settings. But perhaps the biggest news is they can be equipped with seat massagers. While they aren’t as good as the ones Audi make, they still do the trick and did quite a happy number on my lower back. Passengers rated the massaging seats anywhere from really cool to awkward and uncomfortable. I will admit, the massager for your buttocks consistently dug my wallet located in my back pocked right into me, but luckily you can turn them off and just let the back massagers do the work. I’m not sure how many truck people would actually want or need this feature, but I suppose it is a nice option to have, especially after a long work day.
And if that work day consists of a lot of ‘truck stuff’ then the F-150 is only too happy to make things a bit easier for you with the aforementioned automatic side-step bars along with a tail gate that not only features soft drop opening but it can now be opened remotely with the key fob. On top of that, Ford features a step that pops out from the tailgate. Put the step down and erect the two-step handle bar and voila, you’ve got yourself a system that helps to alleviate any embarrassment or awkwardness of hoping into the bed of a pick-up truck. This was easily the favourite feature for my nephews who rather enjoyed walking in and out of the bed. My only criticism would be that the handle bar seems like it could get in the way if you’re trying to load large, wide objects such as plywood. There’s also side steps that pop out for easy access, and my tester came with a bed extender for longer items.
When it comes to the F-150′s engine bay, choice is the name of the game as Ford offers four engine choices in the form of two turbocharged V6′s, a regular V6 and a V8. My tester came with Ford’s bigger displacement turbocharged engine (known as the EcoBoost in Ford speak). The 3.5 Ecoboost is rated at 345 horsepower and 420 pound feet of torque. There really is no other way to say it, this engine is brilliant. Aside from the 2.7 which could also be an interesting engine, the 3.5 EcoBoost is likely the best bang for your buck since it offers V8-like performance but promises non V8-like fuel consumption numbers. I’m not even sure why Ford offers the non-turbocharged options, that’s how good this engine is. If you wanted to, you could definitely give the likes of a BMW 328i a run for their money at the lights.
But street racing is not only douchy, it’s also very illegal so maybe putting the F-150′s off-road abilities to work seems like a better idea. My tester featured the FX4 off-road package which gives you an electronic locking rear axel, hill descent control, tuned shock absorbers and off-road tires. I did some medium off-roading and the truck expectedly handled all situations just fine. Back on the pavement, the truck feels pretty big because, well, it is, but it also isn’t too bad in the corners which is likely another gain from the weight loss. Unfortunately the off-road tires didn’t produce as much grip as I would have liked and they did provide a fair amount of road noise.
So let’s see if all that aluminum made any difference with fuel consumption. With the 3.5 litre Ecoboost is rated at 14.7 L/100 kms city and 10.7 L/100 kms highway with a combined rating of 12.9 L/100 kms. My real world, mostly city driving returned 15.9 L/100 kms. Not too bad considering there were times when I was heavy on the throttle and the off-road testing doesn’t help with fuel efficiency. But considering the GMC Sierra with the 6.2 litre V8 that I tested a few months ago returned 17.9 L/100 kms the F-150 seems miserly. So I suppose it depends on if you want V8 grunt or a turbocharged V6 providing V8 grunt without much of a penalty at the pumps. I know which I would take.
And ultimately it’s that kind of innovation and forward thinking that’s the reason why F-150′s are so popular. They are consistently top ten sellers in our market and it isn’t hard to see why. The thing is, this particular version of the F-150 is close to $15,000 more expensive than the GMC which negates any gas savings you may have gotten from the Ecoboost engine. However, if you’re smart about how you option out your F-150, you could easily cut down that price difference. Massaging seats are nice, but I would bet that gas savings are more appealing.
F-150 Base Price: $25,299
F-150 Platinum Base Price: $66,999
Price As Tested (includes delivery and PDI): $77,249
- Updated exterior and interior
- Insanely spacious, especially rear leg room
- V8 performance from a V6
- Decent bed accessibility
- Innovative aluminum body
- Pushing $80 grand
- Handle may impede bed loading
- A bit cumbersome around town
- Off-road tires are loud, affect fuel consumption
- Chevrolet Silverado
- GMC Sierra
- Nissan Titan
- Ram 1500
- Toyota Tundra