It’s hard to be revolutionary with a pickup. After all, there’s a hood, and engine compartment and a bed. How hard is that? There have a whole catalog of different configurations close but not quite a pickup, and while many have had some degree of success, none have supplanted the original idea.
Well, guess what, the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup doesn’t change the primary thesis. It’s still hood, cab and bed. But the extensive application of aluminum—“high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys,” Ford says—and the use of high strength steel in an all-boxed perimeter frame have decreased the weight of the F-150 by as much as 700 pounds, depending on cab, engines and drivetrain. In a field of engineering where ounces are sweated, a third of a ton is, well, a lot.
The 2015 Ford F-150 combines that with the first truck application of a new 2.7-liter Ecoboost V-6 engine that combines turbocharging and direct injection. Oh, what, yes, that’s not a typo. Two-point-seven liters in a full-size pickup. Ford will still sell you a 3.5-liter naturally-aspirated V-6. It’s the base engine available only on lower trim vehicles, a shrunken version of last year’s 3.7 liters.
The 5.0-liter V-8 continues. It’s a mainstay at Ford. For 2015, however, the big 6.2-liter V-8 goes away, making the five-liter the biggest engine. And there’s also a 3.7-liter Ecoboost V-6.
But again, a 2.7-liter engine in a full-size pickup? Isn’t that a size more appropriate to a mid-size sedan…or say the 2.7-liter four in the Toyota Tacoma midsize pickup?
No, not really. At least this new engine is tuned to deliver for the F-150. The bottom line is 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. That’s a lot of power from a small engine.
The engine’s not just a turbo but a twin-turbo, with the turbochargers mounted directly to the exhaust manifolds cast into the cylinder heads. The proximity of the turbos to the exhaust ports helps get the turbine spinning quicker, eradicating the phrase turbo lag. It also gets the catalysts working sooner on startup.
The torque peak of the 2.7-liter comes at 3000 rpm. It feels lower, as the engine responds low in the torque curve. That’s due in part to the variable valve timing, 30 degrees on intake and exhaust, which also allows the engine to run without exhaust gas recirculation.
The high specific output of the engine requires an engine block using advanced compacted graphite iron (CGI), the same stuff used in Ford’s 6.7-liter diesel. The special iron is significantly stronger than conventional cast (“grey”) iron, allowing a thinner block, and the design is actually based on the diesel engine’s rather than that of the 3.6-liter V-6.
Auto stop-start is also standard with the 2.7-liter Ecoboost—though not with other engines with the F-150—helping to improve fuel economy in urban and suburban driving, and for highway driving Ford improves aerodynamics with radiator shutters that close when extra cooling air at highway speeds.
All this stuff can’t be seen, of course, so Ford went to pains to make the 2015 Ford F-150 look better, and they succeeded in making it distinctive, which a huge C-shaped headlight clusters and a broad and tall horizontal-bar grille, ready for different surface treatments for different trim levels. The entry-level 2015 Ford F-150 XL, for example, has a work-proof matte black bumper and grille on a truck that lists for $25,420 entry price. On the other end, the $50,960—before options—F-150 Platinum has an over-decorated grille that says I-spent-a-lot-of-money-on-this-truck. Between those bookends, the F-150 is available in XLT, Lariat and King Ranch trim. Our test truck was a Lariat.
Of course, being a pickup truck, in addition to the trim the F-150 is available with different cab configurations, including the regular cab, the extended SuperCab with behind-seat storage and occasional seating, and the SuperCrew, a true four-door, with seating for five or six, depending on front seat choice. Or tester was a SuperCrew with actual three-across front seating, with an individual seat for the driver and right front passenger and a middle bench seat 40/20/40 layout. With two for the front, the middle position seatback folds for an armrest with cupholders, a place for a small fries, and a storage bin. In the Lariat, leather-trimmed seats are standard, with ten-way power adjustability and heated/cooled seats for the driver and front passenger.
The Lariat is well equipped, with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, 8-inch touch-screen display with rearview camera, power sliding rear window, satellite radio, power-folding exterior mirrors, Ford’s MyKey and more. Our truck had optional blindspot detection, remote start, reverse sensing system, LED mirror puddle lamps and a 110-volt AC power outlet.
There are more ways to accessorize and add options to a pickup truck than perhaps any other vehicle, and the F-150 is no exception. The list—and items aren’t available on all trim packages—includes an overhead-view camera system for maneuvering in tight spots (and to see whether there are short people around the truck out of view from the driver), integrated loading ramps for ATVs, motorcycles and such, LED headlamps and taillights, and a remote locking tailgate.