The biggest car reveal at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week was a truck — Ford’s new aluminum body F-150 pickup.
Building a truck with lightweight aluminum shaves about 700 pounds off the previous generation F-150 and will improve fuel efficiency, but it raised eyebrows inside and outside the automotive industry. Aluminum is a more expensive material to work with, and some wonder if truck buyers won’t yearn for the rugged reliability of trusty steel.
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We sought out truck experts — people who have a real passion for the big vehicles — and asked them to critique the new F-150 for 2015. Here’s what they said.
Bruce W. Smith, senior editor of Hard Working Trucks, Equipment World and Total Landscape Care
I think those buying 2014 F-150s are going to be as upset — the refinements and advancements between the next model year is significant enough to make you not want to take the “old” model.
Ford is playing smart with the 2015 F-150. Offering two EcoBoost engine options gives them a performance edge over both GM and Ram Truck in both the small-displacement power and MPG battle. While Ram and GM pickups seem to be getting heavier, Ford jumped on the automotive Weight Watcher diet by shunning steel.
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An all-aluminum body is a huge advancement in pickup technology. The F-150’s lighter body brings with it more load carrying and trailer towing capacity and contributes to the significant improvements in the new truck’s fuel economy numbers.
The new F-150 can also compete with Ram 1500s on interior space now that it has a wider interior, and competes well with GM 1500 Double Cabs because the new F-150s’ rear doors now open backward almost flush with the cab.
But the interior is also where I feel Ford missed the mark on the premium level. While Ford utilizes wood inlays and premium leather seats, there’s still too much hard plastic on the dash and doors for what you pay. The interior just doesn’t give you that “rich” sense when you look forward and to the sides. It’s not as well done as Ram’s Longhorn or Silverado High Country.
Mark Williams, editor, PickupTrucks.com
The look and feel of the new truck is definitely more modern and angular than their previous model, but not so much to be off-putting. The front grille and headlight design is pretty dramatic and high-tech to make it modern, but the wheel arches and greenhouse are unmistakable and classic.
Probably my favorite aspect about this truck is the strong attention on the most important part of the pickup truck — the bed. New detachable tiedowns that can convert to dividers or snap-in storage bins is just the kind of flexibility and versatility that truck customers bought a pickup for in the first place. Better backup cameras and bed lights and tailgate steps and side steps all combine to make truck guys believe these Ford guys actually understand what they need.
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Bottom line: Ford has done a nice job these past several years making small changes and improvements to their current-gen F-150 as Ram, Chevy, GMC, and Toyota have come to market with significantly better trucks, but this looks like the bar has been raised in a way that the competitors will not only change the types of options they offer, but they might have to change the way they manufacture their vehicles. In several ways, this new F-150 is a revolution with a series of class-leading evolutions following close behind.
But, of course, it ain’t perfect. Some will wonder why a turbo diesel was not announced. And why no major changes to the suspension.
Trevor Dorchies, associate editor, Kelley Blue Book
There are a few things Ford designers and engineers did right with the 2015 F-150 including the use of high-strength steel for the frame and aluminum body panels. The F-150’s signature ladder frame is now rated up to 70,000 psi, which is stronger than some competitors’ heavy-duty truck frames.
Then there’s the aluminum body paneling, which reduces weight by 700 pounds and, in turn, is expected to boost fuel economy. Besides cutting weight, Ford has introduced a 2.7-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine, which should help fuel economy grow, too. Ford also did the right thing by opting to go with the chiseled exterior styling that reflects the popular Atlas Concept.