Test drive: the 2015 Ford F-150

By Allen Penticoff
Columnist

This week’s column will look at an American staple – the 2015 Ford-150 pickup truck.

The F-150 has a long pedigree dating back to the F-1 of 1948. Ford’s F series has been in continuous production since then and lays claim to being the best selling vehicle in the United States for 32 years and 42 years as the best selling pickup truck. In 1953 the F1, F2, and F3 models (1/2 ton, ¾ ton and 1 ton) trucks became the F-100, F-250 and F-350 respectively and until 1980 when the F-100 was dropped and the F-150 which was essentially the same, but somewhat heavier duty, became the lightest pickup available from Ford.

In 1959 Ford began offering in-house four-wheel drive versions of their trucks and in 1965 their famous front “Twin I-beam suspension” appeared. This suspension was standard on the F-150 rear-wheel drive trucks until 1996. The F-250 & F-350 still use this suspension on RWD trucks. 1986 was the last year an F-150 could be had with the 3-speed manual column shift, popularly known as “three on a tree.” It was also the first year that buyers could opt for power windows, mirrors and locks.

We’ll now zoom ahead to 2015, which marks the beginning of the 13th generation of the F series Ford truck. And it is this generation that has attracted Mr. Green Car’s attention. The new truck, has a very high content of dent resistant aluminum in the body and the frame is 78 percent high strength steel (up from 23 percent) adding up to a total weight reduction of 700 pounds. Combined with the smallest engine, the 2.7 liter turbocharged EcoBoost – the Regular Cab F-150 can turn in a very impressive 19 city/26 highway mpg.

It is available in several body styles and trim levels to suit many tastes and budgets. The base price for the two-door “Regular Cab” is $25,420. There is no upcharge for any of the four engines in any body style. Most popular seems to be the four-door crew cab with short bed as a family hauler like I tested at Bryden Ford in Durand, Illinois. Sales representative Nate Adams helped with questions. Bryden Ford did not have a 2.7 liter EcoBoost 2015 F-150 for me to drive, but I was allowed to drive a 2014 model with the 3.5 EcoBoost engine. It’s trip meter showed 24,000 miles with a mpg average of 14.2. If you want the super gas mileage, you’ll need the all aluminum 2015 and the small EcoBoost engine to get it, but all models will benefit in mpg gains from the loss of weight – up to 20 percent.

The 2014 I drove and the 2015 I inspected on the lot have much in common. They both require a climb to get into the cabin, but once you are there, they are enormously comfortable. Front and rear seats are comfortable and can be had with a bench front seat that holds three adults with good legroom. The center of the backrest folds down to be an armrest/compartment. Rear seat legroom is big enough to conduct a hockey game. The two-door pickup trucks have no back seat, but a full 8-foot length bed. While the “extended cab” with small rear doors and seats can have either a 5.5-foot or 6.5-foot cargo bed. While I question the utility of the small cargo bed – most folks don’t haul things in their trucks anyway, so it doesn’t matter to them. They are good for towing however; the 2.7 engine F-150 is rated at 8,500 pounds towing capacity and 2,250 pound maximum payload.

Electric power steering and a peppy engine made for quick acceleration with precise and car-like handling. The F-150 did not feel ponderous. The 2015s will be even better on acceleration, handling and load hauling due to the reduced weight. Ventilation controls were excellent. Knobs and buttons are convenient, with many on the steering wheel. Instrumentation was bright and easy to read analog displays with digital secondary information. Infotainment comes via the Ford Sync system.

Trucks are about power. Here are the present options for the F-150 ( L=liter, EB=turbocharged EcoBoost, NA=normally aspirated and horsepower/torque): 2.7L V6 EB 325/375; 3.5L V6 EB 365/420; 3.5L V6 NA 282/253; 5.0L V8 NA 365/420. The standard transmission is a six-speed automatic. Note the smallest engine is quite powerful and should meet most people, stuff and towing needs.

This long lasting truck is built in newly refurbished facilities in Dearborn, Michigan and Kansas City, Missouri. Over 800,000 were built in 2014. The Kogod School of Business of American University, Washington D.C. found the F-150 and Chevrolet Corvette to have tied for “The Most American” ratings of 87.5 out of 100 points in their 2014 Kogod Made in America Ratings (search this for the full rating of vehicles and how they are judged).

Errata: In my last column (written with limited internet access) I said that Nissan had an assembly plant in Smyrna, Mississippi. It is in Smyrna, Tennessee. They also have a U.S. assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi (explaining my confusion). Nissan has community education assistance programs in both areas.

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