First Drive: 2015 Ford F-150

Oct. 02, 2014 By Josh Burns, Photos by Adam Wood and Courtesy of Ford, Video by Adam Wood and Jay McNally

First Drive: 2015 Ford F-150

During our fast-paced Texas trip near San Antonio, we spent quite a bit of time behind the wheel of the new F-150, and it was one event in particular on the first night that gave us the best impression of the F-150’s weight savings. Ford had a mobile proving grounds set up for us in the corner of a parking lot at Six Flags. We had the chance to perform a drag-race start and run through a tight cone course on each engine option of the F-150s as well as competitive half-ton trucks. In accelerating, each of the F-150 motors felt good, but clearly the EcoBoosts felt the fastest of the group, with the 3.5L getting top honors for seat-of-the-pants feel and quickest times. It was in the cone course where the weight savings became most apparent, as the F-150 did truly feel more nimble and at ease in tight turns. Ford wasn’t afraid to bring the trucks from the “other guys,” and when driving comparably equipped half-tons we noticed the trucks pushing wide through tight turns and requiring more effort, whereas the F-150s knifed around corners with greater ease and confidence.

Getting the truck on the road only reinforced what we learned on the cone course the night before – the weight savings definitely made a difference in the turns. 

This feeling was only reinforced when we hit the road the following morning. The F-150 still feels every bit the truck as any other half-ton, but the more we drove it the more we liked its handling and cornering. We also had the chance to test the towing power of the 3.5-liter EcoBoost, pulling a 9000-pound trailer up and down a hill – well as “hillish” as Texas gets. The motor, which has a max tow rating of 12,200 pounds, performed well overall, and it gave us a quick test of the SelectShift function that allows the driver to control the gearing of the six-speed transmission manually. While there’s a slight lag off the start with the twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost, it still gets on boost quick enough to yank the trailer forward with little signs of struggle.

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Ford offers a segment-first loading ramp option for the 2015 F-150 that’s part of the BoxLink storage cargo system for the truck bed to load dirt bikes and ATVs.

Ford also had an off-road course set up for us, allowing us to drop into 4-High and 4-Low to crawl up and down some loose-dirt hills, pounce through a few mud pools and navigate a variety of deep ruts. Although our test truck still had side steps installed and wasn't equipped with the most aggressive tires, the off-road test reinforced the aluminum-bodied F-150's toughness and proved that it can wheel with the best of ‘em off the pavement.

We couldn’t find much to pick on with the F-150, but the 18 buttons on the steering wheel are a bit much.

We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t find a few things to pick at, but it did take some careful inspection to find them. We found ourselves having to close the doors more than once on a few occasions (something we’re told will be dialed in on the full production versions). We also weren’t impressed with the 18 buttons on the steering wheel. Yes, the owner will get used to them, but 18 is just far too many things to push on a steering wheel.

We came away very impressed with the new F-150. Not only does it offer a host of new features in the segment, but it manages to improve capability while improving efficiency as well. Oh yeah, it still can perform quite well on and off road.

Is New Better?
The biggest question on our minds with the F-150 is whether this newly designed truck is window dressing or if it truly performs. Truth be told, we had a hard time finding things we disliked about this truck. The move to reduce weight and equip smaller engines on the F-150 seems like a gamble on paper, but the refined handling and improved fuel economy make this truck very attractive (though we have to wait for official fuel economy numbers from Ford). Ford has clearly put great effort into building a terrific platform that offers enough trim and engine options to satisfy most buyers.

We spent a great deal of time in the all-new 2.7-liter EcoBoost. Ford expects this motor to be a big seller on the F-150, and with a price tag that’s only $795 more than the base V6 (with a $300 incentive when it first launches), it may offer the best value – especially considering Ford says it will be the most fuel-efficient of the bunch.

The added new features on this truck like its 360-degree camera, new BoxLink truck bed storage and LED side-mirror lighting are great, and Ford even improved upon truck-minded features like its next-gen Tailgate Step and retractable bed-side step. The innovative new F-150 drives great on the pavement and in the dirt, and it offers pretty much everything truck buyers need in a half-ton. Ford says the body and frame have undergone nearly 10 million miles of testing. Ford even challenged its new F-150’s durability by entering, and completing, last year’s SCORE Baja 1000. We worried that Ford might outthink itself by changing the successful truck formula, but we came away believing that the F-150's seat on the best-selling truck throne will be secure for a long time to come. Newsletter
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