EDITOR WES RAYNAL: Maybe my expectations were too high after all the aluminum hype. Maybe I’m missing something. Whatever it is, I come away from driving the new Ford F-150 thinking that structurally it’s not in the Ram/Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra ballpark. I get the aluminum represents a huge weight savings (though from what I’ve read nowhere near Ford’s claims). But I can’t shake the notion that Ford has a lot of catching up to in terms of structure and ride quality. This truck shakes and shimmies over potholes and such. It’s quite noticeable, but as I said maybe my expectations were just too high. It is quiet on the freeway, though I also got to say the steering is too light.

I do dig this engine. It’s the 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost and works well here. There’s plenty of power and torque, smooth shifting six-speed gearbox; all good. Again, however, with all the aluminum hype, why doesn’t this V6 powered truck get better mileage? The EPA ratings have it 1 mpg within the V8 powered Ram. Why the fuss -- where’s the advantage? 

 

The 2.7-liter EcoBoost also features all-new engine logic that adjusts operating parameters on the fly to provide the best efficiency and performance for the environment and workload.PHOTO BY FORD

 

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: After finally driving the much-hyped aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150 it’s hard to shake this “running just to stay in place” feeling. That’s probably a little bit unfair to Ford: Customers are demanding the creature comforts of a luxury sedan coupled with ludicrous tow/haul ratings, all for trucks that will rarely see a speck of mulch in the bed, while looming fuel economy standards have engineers bending over backward to shave off every spare gram and squeeze each and every last mile out of a gallon of gas.

And yet the resulting product can’t be too different from what buyers are used to because change is, as we all know, scary.

So you end up with this new F-150, which, despite its groundbreaking use of aluminum body panels and a really good 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, still feels a lot like last year’s Fords. Like the new Mustang, it comes off as a conservative move despite a laundry list of significant advancements.

Consider the 2.7-liter. I thought the 3.5-liter EcoBoost was impressive -- and it really is -- but this little motor manages to put down 375 lb-ft of torque all while burning regular gasoline. That’s really neat! Less impressive, perhaps, is the fuel economy: A stated 20 mpg combined. That’s hardly bad for a full-sized pickup, but hardly headline-making; as far is improvements go, we’re dealing with inches, or maybe kilometers, here -- not miles. Guess there’s a reason Ford is touting its new truck’s capability rather than its frugality…well, that and relatively cheap gas.

Inside, pervasive hard plastics feel more like something out of the GMC Canyon or Chevrolet Colorado than what we’ve become accustomed to finding on higher-end full-size pickups. Woodgrain accents near the interior door handles (cleverly designed to allow operation when wearing heavy work gloves) comes off as cheap -- why not design within the budget rather than adding touches that have to be faked in to meet a price point? The center console retains its beefiness, with lots straight lines and angles. Climate and audio systems get much-welcomed knobs for control, and there’s tons of storage everywhere. It’s functional, and it’s quiet. 

 

The F 150 Lariat is available with the following driver-assist technologies: adaptive cruise control, smart towing module, multi-contour seats, active park assist and 360-degree camera system.PHOTO BY FORD

 

DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: Man, you guys are hard-core. I enjoyed this new F-150 thoroughly; maybe it’s not the quantum leap we all expected from the alloy wunderkind, but it brings the F-150 right up to the levels of quiet and comfort I’ve come to expect from our downright luxurious long-term Chevrolet Silverado, and it manages to feel just as powerful with nearly half the engine displacement. In mixed driving with a light foot, I averaged 19.1 mpg (indicated) over about 40 miles in the F-150, while I’ve never averaged anything north of 15 mpg in the 6.2-liter Chevy.

As my colleagues note, there are various concessions to the mythical work-glove-clad roughnecks who populate pickup truck commercials, including large, real knobs for audio and climate control, the handy squeeze-pulls for opening doors and seemingly oversize everything… including the rear seats. There’s a ton of space in the second row of this crew cab pickup, and a family could easily use it like an SUV with a bed (essentially what it is).

So what of the much-ballyhooed aluminum body? Well…it looks and feels pretty much the same as a steel body. The only seemingly tangible difference is that the doors feel significantly lighter, though that could be due to a hinge change or something else. Otherwise I dare you to find any indicator that things have changed (put down that magnet).

My only real complaint centers around the column shifter on our truck. The detents are such that it’s nearly impossible to hit “D” on the first try; instead, the shifter naturally stops at “M,” a fact that’s easily missed until the engine is roaring at 5,000 rpm in first gear. It wasn’t an isolated instance of fat-fingering, either -- every time I drove the truck I ended up in “M” before finagling the lever into “D”…and I was wearing city boy winter gloves, mind you.

So where’s the revolution? It’s there…you just have to squint a little. After all, this is the next generation of the best-selling vehicle in America. That Ford completely changed the body structure then stuffed the smallest engine ever in an F-series, and then made the whole thing look, drive and feel like an F-150, is a remarkable accomplishment.    

 

CAR REVIEWS

Gallery: 2015 Ford F-150 Lariat Supercrew

 

SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: I’m on the same page as Andy, for the most part. When you move three-quarters of a million F-series a year, that makes for a LOT of profit -- and a potential loss of a lot of profit should you screw anything up.

But, while there is a lot of revolutionary stuff going on in the truck -- as Andy said, a whole bunch of ground-breaking parts that add up to a very familiar-feeling whole -- I have to admit that much of my focus was stolen by little things that had nothing to do with aluminum bodies (on which I couldn’t help but rap my knuckles every time I walked by) or small-displacement/big-output engines (LOVE the 2.7 EcoBoost V6!).

I can’t stand the design of the interior door releases, for one. I’ve heard people argue otherwise, but to my mind, their big bottom-hinged flat-paddle design is super inefficient, relying on the strength of just the fingertips to release the door rather than the whole arm. No, it doesn’t require a lot of effort, not on a brand-new truck with a hundred miles on the clock, but after a few hard years on the farm, that might change.

Also, I’m a bit surprised by the overall layout of controls. I love the big knobs, and the Sync/MyFordWhatever is usable, if still a bit of a messy overload of text/visuals, but the overall feel is of clutter. There’s the four-wheel-drive knob here, the trailer sway control there, various USB/jack inputs on the other side, two separate four-way toggles on the steering wheel, yada yada. But the most irritating feature is that the fan speed control is a little rocker switch at the very bottom of the stack, and given my seat position (close to the steering wheel), I had to bend my wrist at a somewhat odd angle to manipulate it -- a maneuver made more difficult given our test truck was a six-seat model with a center front passenger seat that doubled as a console when in its folded-forward position, blocking easy access to the HVAC controls.

So while I don’t have the same gripes as others for the truck’s same-ol’ same-ol’ feel, I did walk away thinking that Ford could’ve done with a little more attention to ergonomic detail.  

 

The engine produces 325 horsepower and 375 lb.-ft. of torque – improving the power-to-weight ratio of the 2015 truck by 15 percent over the 2014 5.0-liter V8-equipped F-150 with similar torque output, thanks to vehicle light-weighting.PHOTO BY FORD

 

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: Well, the 2015 Ford F-150 definitely feels like an F-150, as Andy says above. There’s no huge improvement to the way it rides or wild changes to the exterior or interior appearance. It felt familiar, which is probably a good thing because if sales figures are any indication, Ford knows what its customers want. They want an F-150 and that’s exactly what they’ve been given with this all-new generation truck.

The build-up to its release was huge with news of its aluminum construction, which is obviously noteworthy. Lightening things up was imperative to Ford to help improve fuel economy. But it’s not hard to see why expectations for the truck in every area would seem high and that’s probably why Wes and Graham appear to be slightly underwhelmed by it. And I think it’s fair to say that I was initially lukewarm on the truck, too.

For some reason, the hubbub had me thinking there were going to sizable improvements all around, but instead it’s just incremental updates inside the cabin, which still features a lot of hard plastics and a ride quality that is still “trucky.” I’m thinking that the interiors of the Ram 1500 and Chevrolet Silverado have spoiled me some with surroundings, which are darn nice. The Ram is also responsible for altering my pickup truck ride comfort expectations because that vehicle offers downright plush riding for this segment.

But after stepping back and thinking things over some more, the fact that this new Ford F-150 feels like an F-150 is exactly what was needed here. You’re not going to find stronger brand loyalty than in the pickup segment. Ford guys will usually always be Ford guys, Chevy people are going to stick to their Chevy, the Ram faithful are going remain with a Ram. Ford is the king of the mountain with the F-150, so why should they go and make some crazy drastic changes to things like the styling, cabin and ride behavior? They have a proven formula that only requires some slight improvements here and there as far as how it operates and feels to drivers. Hence the new truck’s familiar interior feel and ride will keep all the Blue Oval guys quite happy, I’m sure.

I do have to say that, like Graham, I’m impressed by this small 2.7-liter turbocharged V6. Delivering 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque from the displacement its working with is pretty good. It feels lively off the line and gets the truck moving along just fine with enough grunt to get you up to speed on the expressway. It would be interesting to see how well it would fare with the bed loaded down or pulling a trailer, though. The engine stop/start function is fairly smooth, but I still don’t like the feeling of sitting in the middle of the street with the engine off so I deactivated it most of the time with a hit of the button at the top of the center stack.

As I already said, it rolls down the road in a trucky manner bouncing over larger bumps; but again, the truck was unloaded and things probably would get smoother with some cargo weighing it down.

I’ll have to copy Natalie’s complaint, too, about the tiny fan speed button at the bottom of the center stack. All of the other buttons for choosing defrosters and air-vent options are nice and big, but fan speed is oddly small.

So it doesn’t feel like a groundbreaking redo, but Ford performed a redo to its best-seller that’s perfectly fitting. Seems like the buying public supports that fact, too: Sales have been brisk so far, and average transaction fees are up.  

 

PHOTO BY FORD

 

Options: 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost payload package ($1,695); rapid spec 501A Lariat series including blind spot information system, cross-traffic alert, remote start system with remote tailgate release, reverse sensing system LED side-mirror spotlights, power-folding power glass sideview mirrors with heat, turn signal, memory, auto-dimming feature, high-intensity LED puddle lamps with body-color skull caps, 110V/400W outlet, 40/20/40 seats, universal garage door opener ($1,500); voice activated navigation ($795); Sony single CD player, HD radio ($525); trailer tow package including 4-pin/7-pin wiring harness, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, class IV trailer hitch receiver, smart trailer tow connector, upgrade front stabilizer bar ($495); spray-in bed liner ($475); ruby red metallic tinted clearcoat paint ($395); integrated trailer brake controller ($275); caribou accent ($250).

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