Last January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford revealed the Atlas concept, calling it the company’s “future vision for pickup trucks.” If only we knew then just how literally they meant that statement. After all, we’ve seen many similarly aggressive concept truck designs that never make it to production -- or end up revised and watered down beyond recognition. Although we liked the Atlas’ sculpted exterior and imposing Super Duty -- style frontend design, we never thought the production truck would end up looking nearly identical to it. Then, one year later, Ford unveiled the completely redesigned 2015 Ford F-150 and proved us all wrong. Love it or hate it, this truck is pretty much Atlas Version 2.0.
Upon approaching the new Ford F-150, the first thing to catch your eye will likely be its sleek LED headlights. Normally a technology reserved for high-end luxury cars, these headlights use far less energy than traditional bulbs, output more white light, and Ford says they’ll last the lifetime of the truck without replacement. The truck’s arched active-shutter grille is also prominent, and although it’s missing the Atlas concept’s nostril inlets, we’re sure the aftermarket will come up with a solution for that soon enough. The hood’s creased ridges are reminiscent of the Super Duty lineup, and the squared-off mirrors feature swiveling LED spotlights for even more nighttime visibility. Ford’s signature front window kink is still present from the last generation, but a subtle second kink has been added to the corner of the rear passenger windows for a balanced feel.
The truck’s interior has been revamped for 2015 as well, with a luxurious yet refreshingly
There are no more protruding plasticky HVAC knobs or swiveling air vents to be found here.
Looking at the truck from the rear, you’ll notice the porthole-style sliding rear window design is all new (and a little odd-looking, if you ask us). Also, it’s hard not to think Tundra when looking at the taillights, but we do appreciate the wraparound LED running lights and integrated blind spot monitors. We also liked the new tailgate features, which include remote locking, remote release, and a much-improved retractable step design. Even details like the Ford F-150 badges have been redesigned with a new angular look and a hollow “F” to emphasize the F-series’ lighter aluminum body.
Inside the cab, the exterior’s chiseled look is tied in by an all-new interior layout. The concave four-spoke steering wheel has a modern look, and last generation’s round air vents have been replaced with new, squared-off vents. For the technology lovers among us, a new full-color 8-inch productivity screen in the gauge cluster displays vital information, map directions, and more. A 400-watt power outlet provides plenty of juice for your electronic devices, and a new 360- degree camera system gives you a bird’s-eye perspective of the truck on screen while parking. Speaking of parking, there’s also Active Park Assist, which can actively drive the truck and turn the wheels to help you park -- if you need that kind of thing.
We’ve covered the visible changes to the new truck, but what about those that are less visible? First of all, the truck’s body is entirely made of aluminum alloy, a first for full-size production trucks. This change helped Ford shave more than 700 pounds of weight from the Super Crew truck and improve fuel efficiency, braking, and acceleration all at once. Ford tells us the new aluminum body remains just as strong and durable as the previous generation and should not cost considerably more to repair or insure. Another plus, Ford says the aluminum sheetmetal will be more dent resistant than the heavier steel it replaces. Underneath the new body is a new high-strength steel frame with improved crash protection and more stiffness than ever before. The 5.0L V-8 and 3.5L EcoBoost engines will remain in the lineup, but the old base-model V-6 has been replaced with a new 3.5L V-6 with twin independent variable cam timing and Flex Fuel capability. Finally, an all-new high-efficiency (read best mpg of the bunch) 2.7L EcoBoost has been added, and it features auto start/stop technology and a Power Stroke–style compacted graphite iron block.
Overall, we like the new Ford F-150 design, and we’re excited to see what shops and aftermarket companies will do with it in the coming months. It looks a lot like the Atlas concept, and we see nothing wrong with that -- there’s no reason to mess with a good thing. However, whether or not consumers will accept Ford’s gutsy styling, aluminum body, and new engine offerings remains to be seen.
What Ford Got Right -- and Wrong -- With the New F-Series
Things Ford Did Right:
• LED headlights. There’s a reason off-roaders have been using LED lightbars for years now -- they’re extremely bright, compact, durable, efficient, and reliable.
• 360-degree camera. It’s pretty cool to see your truck from above in real time on a screen, and it makes parking and maneuvering much easier.
• 180-degree opening doors on SuperCab models. Just swing the door out of the way, and you have more accessibility to storage space or when accessing child car seats.
• Tailgate improvements. It locks and unlocks with your truck for security, lowers itself for convenience, and has a much better slide-out step design than previous models.
• New body styling. It’s gutsy, and the production truck looks almost identical to the concept. We like that Ford didn’t play it too safe this time.
• Many segment-first technologies, forward-facing LED spotlights on side mirrors, fully-integrated tailgate step, and stowable cargo ramps.
Things Ford Did Wrong:
• Taillight shape. It’s impossible to ignore how similar they look to the 2007-2013 Tundra’s lights, as many of our Facebook followers have pointed out.
• Active Parking Assist. If this system is like any of the others we’ve seen, it’s probably worse at parking than a halfway competent human would be.
• Porthole sliding rear window. It looks awkward, and we imagine replacing a broken rear glass panel will not be cheap.
• Still using the six-speed auto. Ram stepped up its game with a new eight-speed, but Ford still only has one transmission available: the six-speed auto from the last generation.
• The 3.5L twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost gets all the press, but with the 2015 F-150, Ford killed the powerful 6.2L V-8. We know it was a low-volume seller, but we’ve made huge power with that engine and the competition all offer bigger V-8s to lure buyers away from Ford.
• Rumor has it, the SVT Raptor and standard cab Tremor have both been discontinued for the new 2015 model year.
Things We’ll Have to Wait and See About
• The aluminum body. Yes, Ford says its “military-grade” alloy is just as strong as steel, but we’ll believe that once we get a chance to put it to work ourselves.
• The 2.7L EcoBoost. It’s more efficient and economical than the 3.5L EcoBoost, but will it have a big enough real-world mpg difference to convince buyers to choose it over the 3.5L? We don’t know yet.