THE FUTURE OF TOUGH
Ford knew that customers wanted their trucks to be even more productive. They responded with one that was that—and then some. Introducing the smarter, tougher, more capable 2015 F-150.
By Seth Putnam
The funny thing about the world of trucks is that any time new features hit the market, it’s the F-150 breaking ground. For the truck’s 2015 iteration, Ford listened to its customers, who said, loud and clear, that they wanted a smarter, more productive pickup.
What did that mean? It meant people wanted to be able to tow more, haul more, and do it over rougher terrain in more hard-to-reach places. And they wanted to be more efficient as they went to work. The answer was to build a better, more productive truck, without compromising on any of the toughness that has made the F-150 America’s favorite pickup.
The 2015 F-150 is designed to deliver more towing and hauling capability than the previous generation, while doing so efficiently through innovative tools such as the new Auto Start-Stop System on the available 2.7-liter EcoBoost®. The body is constructed of a high-strength military-grade aluminum alloy* to improve efficiency while also creating the toughest F-150 ever made.
Ford engineers didn’t arrive at this combination by accident. This year’s model is the product of years of development and secret testing, some of which took place right under the noses of experienced industry professionals. Which leads to the exciting thought that, even now, Ford’s engineers could be at work on the trucks that will define the next decade.
BODY DOUBLEF-150 engineers began with a simple question: Can a lighter body replace the tried-and-true steel of previous F-150s? It can if it’s military-grade aluminum alloy. This industry-first move takes advantage of a material that’s more dent-and-ding resistant than its predecessor, and is lighter and resists corrosion; this is a major upgrade for drivers who do real, tough work.
“When you see how these people use their boxes, the first thing they do is dent and ding the heck out of them,” says Pete Reyes, chief engineer of the 2015 F-150. “We thought, This alloy can be better. Let’s go prove it.”
Underpinning the truck is a high-strength steel frame designed to handle punishing terrain and demanding driving conditions. Using an aluminum alloy for the body, engineers were able to lop off up to 700 pounds of total weight compared with the 2014 model. That reduced mass means it is more responsive, can stop faster, and can worry less about hauling itself and more about hauling and towing the payload.
The innovations don’t stop with cutting-edge materials. “The truck’s design is bold, powerful, purpose-built and advanced with a ‘Built Ford Tough’ aesthetic that’s grounded in function,” explains Gordon Platto, the F-150’s chief designer. The sign of a well-designed truck is how well the appearance supports and reflects the capability of the truck. Platto and his team put the truck under a microscope and paid close attention to every detail, playing with everything from a new mirror-mounted LED lighting system for the headlights, taillights, mirrors and bed to integrating BoxLink™, which lets owners attach modular cleats on the box sides to allow attachments of things like stowing ramps and tying down ATVs, motorcycles and more.
TORTURE TESTINGJust because it’s a lighter truck doesn’t mean it’s allowed to go through lighter testing. Instead, this truck was punished by a series of rigorous tests that included speeding over rocky terrain and enduring drastic temperature swings from a frigid –20° F to a scorching 120° F.
“When our first prototypes come out, they go through the most brutal durability off-road testing we can come up with,” Reyes says. “It doesn’t matter that these are different materials, different shapes, a bigger truck—it has to go through it all. They’re run 24/7 by fleets of drivers. The F-150 will undergo 10 million miles of testing before the first vehicle rolls off the line. That’s a big bogey for this truck, and it’s a higher bogey than we’ve had for any previous F-Series models.”
Ford’s 3,880-acre Michigan Proving Ground is already legendary for the sheer brutality to which it subjects its vehicles. With more than 100 miles of track, there are 60-percent-grade hills, miles of precision-steering curves, and corrosive stations focused on salt spray and grime. Then there’s what’s known as Silver Creek 1. It’s the Big Daddy of durability testing, boasting ditches, rumble strips, variable-height ground sections and recessed metal plates—all of which made the F-150 truly Built Ford Tough. And that’s before it even got to the SCORE Baja 1000.
SCORE BAJA 1000Ford had the audacious idea to enter an F-150 with the all-new high-strength steel frame, aluminum body and 2.7-liter EcoBoost—disguised as a stock 2014 F-150—in the legendary SCORE Baja 1000, a savage 883-mile race through Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. The course forces vehicles to churn through abrasive sand, jagged rocks and varying elevations from sea level to high altitude. It’s a contest infamous for its harshness, with more than half of the entrants not even making it to the finish line.
The F-150 surged onto the course, through the night and into the dawn, and finished without breaking a sweat—prompting awe from both the truck’s drivers and their competitors, many of whom were piloting expensive, specialized trucks that didn’t even complete the course.
SECRET OPERATIONSThe 2015 F-150 has been in the works for years. And that means Ford couldn’t let anybody know about it until exactly the right time. After production, the trucks are hustled into a hidden room to be sprayed with camouflage, and never leave the plant without being covered to hide their shapes.
That makes testing difficult; all the camouflage and padding make the truck warmer internally and slower through the wind, and then it has to be uncovered before it can go into the wind tunnel. But even the tests internal to Ford Motor Company might not run the gamut of abuse a truck would see in the field. The 2015 F-150 had to be released into the world.
“Most important,” says Reyes, “we sent six of these vehicles out into the field—two of them with mining companies, two with utility companies and two with construction companies.”
In these rugged field tests, the six trucks underwent 300,000 miles of work and their drivers were none the wiser, except that they noticed they were getting better results than before.
FAST FACTS2015 F-150
>BODY Aluminum alloy: up to 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor
>FRAME High-grade, high-strength 70,000 psi steel
>ENGINE Available 2.7-liter EcoBoost® V-6 crafted from compacted graphite iron (the same material used for the 6.7-liter SuperDuty® V-8 Turbo Diesel)
>OPTIONS Naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost® and 5.0-liter V-8; turbocharged 2.7-liter and 3.5-liter V-6.
>TRANSMISSION 6-speed automatic
>TECH Available 360-degree surround-view camera system; optional lane-keep assistance and collision warning
>LIGHTING Redesigned high-efficiency LED systems for the headlights, taillights, mirrors and box provide enhanced lighting capabilities