In the generalized truck world of the Internet, there are few things as sacred as drinking beer, shooting guns, and country music. For 2015, Ford brought one of those activities—the beer—closer to their F-150, in a way that is either heralded as a technological breakthrough or the final nail in Ford’s coffin. No, Ford is not giving a 6-pack away with every F-150 (although that very well may work), but rather have transitioned from building their trucks out of heavy steel, to lightweight aluminum.
While Ford and their fans have heaped praise on the decision—aluminum offers lighter weight and better performance because of this reduction—Chevy and Dodge fans are quick to point out, “I’d never drive a truck made from a Miller can!”. It seems these people seem to prefer their trucks made from Campbell’s cans or Tuna cans, however Ford does not take this attack lightly, and to this end have generated a real mouthful when referring to their new building material; “High-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy”. This mouthful resulted in as much as a claimed 700lbs being shed from a comparative 2014 steel-bodied model, which is no laughing matter, especially when structural rigidity is supposedly not decreased. The hoped-for result is that the F-150 range will be dynamically improved, with sporting models even further improved. This week, I put this to the test, taking a short drive in a 2015 F-150 Sport 4×4.
|2015 Ford F-150 Sport 4×4
Base Price (of F-150): $26,550 –Very base–
Price as tested: est. $45,000-$48,000
Engine: 5.0 L Ti-VCT V8
Horsepower: 385 hp @ 5,750 rpm
Torque: 387 @ 3850
MPG: 15 city / 21 highway
Curb Weight: est. 4,750lbs
Dimensions: 232″ L x 80″ W x 77″ H (Stock)
Even before getting behind the wheel, hopes were high regarding the new material choice. My 2007 SRT8 Charger—reviewed here last week—weighs a veritably lumpy 4,160lbs. The F-150 I drove—with a V8 engine, towing power, lots of room, and the utility of a bed to boot—weighed only 600lbs more than the SRT8 performance car. Considering the F-150 is also only down 40hp from the big 6.1L V8—this gap is even closer with the optional EcoBoost engine—the ‘Sport’ in the name might well be earned.
To test this, I put my 5.0L V8, 6-speed auto, 3.73 auto-locker equipped example into sport-mode, and gave it a go. As mentioned above, this truck was not stock, and combined with the rainy weather of the day, the results were as expected: a severe lack of traction. Kept in RWD mode, with a slight drizzle, this F-150 was allegedly capable of lighting up the rear-wheels for nearly the length of a football field on tarmac. For burnouts, this leaves little to be desired.
After realizing the futility of extra throttle inputs while in RWD in the rain, swapping it into 4H yielded more practical results. With the exhaust, 0-60 veritably roared by—acoustically and physically—and while my Charger has nothing to worry about (whew), the F-150 feels quick. Some cars will be faster; many won’t, and for a truck the F-150 is a real brute, leaving little to be desired, and enabling safe overtakes and merging.
This extra zoom afforded by the decreased weight and improved V8 engine—many features are shared with the Boss 302 Mustang, tuned for less HP and a flatter torque curve—also has a practical purpose besides smiles. In a towing situation, a common occurrence for this particular truck, the decreased weight of the truck in general translates directly to more weight afforded to the tow-rating, and better MPG all-around. The result is a tow rating of 10,800 lbs, a very impressive, and practical, tow rating.
This improved performance will also translate into off-road performance. A stock F-150 in this configuration has 9.4in of ground-clearance, with front and rear departure angles of about 26 degrees. This affords a ‘stocker’ F-150 in this configuration considerable off-road clout, and this example was further improved with a lift-kit and more aggressive rubber. The result is something akin to ¾ the capabilities of a Raptor, with a much more stealth, practical ride. My off-road adventures were limited to a dirt/gravel road, the Sport F-150 did not even bat an eye. It would take a lot to make this ride miss a beat.
The interior of the Sport F-150 is afforded unique black cloth seats, and not much else. Plastic is everywhere, buttons abound, and everything can be described as ‘beefy’. This is how it should be. Trucks have become less and less of a utilitarian device, being coated in leather and wood on the inside. Doing so results in turning a truck from a tool meant to be used, to a possession to be preserved and valued. For a truck routinely being used for truck things, and having the rear seat essentially reserved for a yellow lab duck dog, a cloth interior was the proper choice.
The front seats are nothing to look twice at, yet are surprisingly comfy. The extra bolstering is enough to handle the trucks on-road performance, keeping both the driver and front passenger comfortably in place. While serious off-roaders might prefer a more race-inspired seat, these are the perfect material, size, and shape for a truck in this class, although electric operation would always been appreciated.
The steering wheel is standard Ford truck stock, featuring lots of buttons and a meaty feel. The column shifter is on the right, and is a proper column shifter, not a dial as other manufacturers are trending towards. For towing, gear selection is achieved through buttons on the stalk, and is not for a sporty drive in any way. The drive-mode selector IS a dial, conveniently placed on the dash below the shifter.
The gauge cluster is a handy unit, featuring a left-hand tachometer, and a speedometer on the right. Sandwiched between them is an info-screen, which can display any number of the usual info. While a large screen for its use, the increase in text size is appreciated over other smaller screens in different cars. Above all of this sits four gauges, ranging from fuel to oil pressure, and all are welcome. Having such a plethora of engine-health information enables towers to be constantly considerate of the engines health.
The major pitfall of the interior is an unavoidable one when discussing Ford: The Sync infotainment system. Simply put, this system is awful. Not only is the display shown here laughably small—there is a back-up camera surprisingly enough—the buttons surrounding it deliver the one-two punch of being both much to numerous, and not intuitive in the least. An example of this lack of intuition is the pre-set system for the radio. While it may very well be user error, it seemed 1,3,4,5,7, and 8 were presets, while the remaining numbers had different functions. The screen is also not a touch-screen, with the buttons below serving to interact with the screen. While it can be argued this is something simple and less prone to breaking, a touch screen would still be appreciated.
The 2015 F-150 Sport 4×4 made me wish for a good off-road daytrip in it. In a world where trucks can have magnetic shocks, leather interiors, and multiple TV screens, coming away from a truck with such an honest, truck-like desire was a good feeling. Considering I was driving the truck for the sole purpose of a ‘dump run’ this F-150 is living up the utilitarian, truck standards of its predecessors. If Ford keeps making trucks like this, I don’t think they should worry about their choice of building material, because while driving the truck—even approaching it with aluminum in mind—the material never once entered my mind while driving it and having fun.
I recently recieved a degree in History from the University of Nevada, Reno.