As Ford prepares to launch the 2015 F150, a traveling circus of tents and trucks is traversing the country to introduce dealers to the next generation of Ford’s best-selling truck. Nearly a dozen trucks are hitting 26 cities to showcase the advancements and aluminum of the F150. In tow (pun intended), Ford has cherry-picked some select competitors to allow for easy comparison. We were, however, initially puzzled by the location of the event. Met Life Stadium doesn’t seem like the ideal place to test a truck. There’s no dirt, unless you count the combined season records of the two teams that call the stadium home. But Ford didn’t want us on dirt, they wanted us on asphalt. We arrived to a fully coned autocross course.
In case you’re unaware, it’s all about aluminum. Trade in your steel F150 and your big, heavy V8 and you can lose up to 700 pounds of truck. The F150’s new frame uses more high-strength steel and the entire body is stamped out of aluminum alloy. The rest of the weight savings come from opting for the 3.5L EcoBoost V6. It’s the same engine we tested in the 2014 F150 Tremor, producing 365hp and 420 lb-ft torque . Stalwarts of natural aspiration can opt for the 5.0L V8. With it comes less complexity and a slightly lower tow rating: 11,000 lbs as opposed to the EcoBoost’s 12,200. Working down the available engine list, a new 2.7L EcoBoost V6 produces 325hp and 375 lb-ft torque. Ford is looking to make this the new mid-range powerplant of choice. With a tow rating of 8,500 lbs in a 4×2 setup, it stands to replace the base 3.5L V6. That engine, another holdover from the last generation, is still available on entry-level trucks.
Ford had at least one truck with a 5.0L, 3.5L EcoBoost, and 2.7L EcoBoost on hand, ranging from the cloth bench-seat XL to the heated and massaging leather captain-chaired Platinum. With $25,000 of equipment between the two, the full-size truck market continues to offer something for everyone. As for the competition? Two Chevrolet Silverado 1500s, a 6.2L V8 and a 5.7L V8, and two Ram 1500s, a 5.7L V8 and a 3.0L EcoDiesel V6. What followed was a free-for-all of one-lap runs. It was obvious why an autocross course made sense. In autocross, weight is the enemy. Weight slows acceleration, makes it more difficult to change direction, and increases stopping distance. The Ram EcoDiesel and Silverado 6.2L V8 suffered most from being front-heavy. While there wasn’t much difference between the 5.7L competition and the 5.0L F150, it was the EcoBoost powered Fords that made the biggest impression. The torque from the 3.5L EcoBoost is immense and the new 2.7L EcoBoost gives the F150 the character of a midsize pickup. How the new F150 handles in day-to-day life is another story, but we’ll wait until we can spend some more time before passing judgement.
After we cleared the tire-spinning out of our system, we had the opportunity for a full walk-around of the new F150 and some of its optional new features. LED bed lighting, LED spotlights in the side mirrors, a factory plow package, a new cargo management system featuring locking bed ramps, and an industry-first power-lowering tailgate bring new versatility to the new F150. Solving the “steel” problem with large-scale manufacturing and long-term durability is a big step forward in the truck market. Trucks that don’t rust and can be repaired with rivets and adhesive are the future, and Ford beat everyone else to market. The thing is, besides the aluminum body, the 2015 F150 isn’t revolutionary. The F150 does just enough to excite its ownership base without going so far as to risk alienating anyone. Ford truck buyers will still buy Fords just like Chevy buyers will buy Chevys and Ram buyers will still buy Rams. Its statistics. Truck buyers are one of the most brand-loyal groups around, right up there with the muscle car fans. But Ford has given them a reason to visit their dealers. The new Mustang and F150 are hitting lots this month and that’s more than enough reason to drop by.