I’m often asked what the best-selling vehicle is in North America right now and there’s often a look of surprise when I confirm that it’s the Ford F-Series pickup. In fact, it’s held that status for close to 40 years and more than likely, there are very few vehicles on the planet, if any, that sell in greater numbers.
Ford is naturally anxious to continue the tradition in an increasingly competitive market which includes not just the two other members of the US “Big Three” GM and Ram, but ever-improving products from Toyota and Nissan. When the time comes, as it did for the 2015 model year, for a bumper-to-bumper upgrade, there’s a good deal of serious thought and research before changes are made. Truck buyers are a loyal, conservative, group and often don’t like radical changes or gimmickry.
So apart from almost innumerable engineering and styling changes there was one very major directional shift. After decades of pressed steel construction, it was decided to make the switch to an aluminum cab and box for the new truck. This was certainly a big surprise to both industry and buyers, but Ford was set on this path and we now have a mostly-aluminum F-Series. Although aluminum has only been used in the past for various truck panels, nobody has had the boldness to go the whole way with the strong, lightweight, material. As an interesting aside, the new F-150 has more new patents covering its design than any truck in Ford history.
Nowadays, there are a fair number of cars built from aluminum, but most of them are upscale products like the Audi A8 and TT and models from Jaguar and other top brands. I’ve visited plants where aluminum bodies were constructed and it’s a fascinating process that often involves the use of castings and extrusions as well as sheet metal. Automakers building aluminum vehicles confirm that the material is easier to repair than steel and it’s just as rugged and crash-proof. With Ford building the F-Series in aluminum, there’ll be increasing numbers of body shops that will be adapting to the material. Not that the new truck will need constant attention when it comes to day-to-day use. Ford developed a new heat treatment process for the aluminum alloy that nearly doubles its strength and helps it achieve better dent and ding resistance while reducing weight.
The body styling was refined for maximum aerodynamic efficiency and includes a remote tailgate release that operates from the key fob. The tailgate itself is designed to act as a spoiler. There’s also a refined tailgate step - a great Ford innovation on earlier models - and many other improvements around the cargo area, including diecast aluminum tie-down cleats. Frontal styling is bold and authoritative with a very prominent grille and a new approach to the Ford logo.
The new truck has won numerous awards already, including the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) “Best New Pickup” for 2015.
Driving this new Ford was quite a revelation, even after wide experience with rival nameplates. My tester was a fairly upscale version (and there are many choices) and as soon as I climbed in the cab I felt good about it. The interior is totally new and very well done indeed. It felt more like and upscale SUV than a truck and was surprisingly refined and comfortable. Incidentally, there are three cab designs available - Regular Cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew. Trim levels available include base XL, XLT, Lariat (the one I drove), King Ranch and Platinum.
Engine options for the new F-150 include a base 3.5-litre V-6, two EcoBoost V-6s (2.7-litre and 3.5-litre) and a 5.0-litre V-8. Horsepower levels are 283, 325, 365 and 385 respectively. My test truck came with the 3.5-litre EcoBoost and it was very impressive - it seemed to have all the power and refinement of a V-8 with surprisingly good fuel economy for a full-size pickup. It was smooth, responsive and had excellent levels of torque. Even the entry level F-150 will tow 7,600-lbs. Two transmissions are on the options sheet - a 6-speed automatic and a more advanced 6-speed SelectShift automatic. As would be expected, the F-150 is available in 4X2 or 4X4 configurations.
It would take several pages of this website to go into full details of this impressive new range of Ford pickups and for would-be buyers, the best plan is to discuss exact needs with Richport Ford’s truck specialists at the Richmond Auto Mall. There’s no doubt that when I first drove this truck, I thought it was right up there with the very best in the industry. It’s technically sophisticated, built of non-traditional aluminum, bristles with innovations and above all, is exceptionally capable, durable and rugged. There’s not too much doubt that Ford will hold onto its market leadership with this new F-Series.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: 4-door extended cab pickup
ENGINE: 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 (as tested)
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
TOWING CAPACITY: 7,600-lbs, base vehicle
FUEL ECONOMY: 12.2-litres/100 km city; 9.2-litres/100 km hwy. (EcoBoost 2.7-litre)
PRICE: $24,899 base MSRP