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Making Tracks: 2015 Ford F-150 XLT 4x4

Making Tracks: 2015 Ford F-150 XLT 4x4

The much anticipated and heavily advertised 2015 Ford F-150 half-ton pickup is now a reality. But compared to the 2014 model, it doesn’t appear much different styling-wise. The minor differences are a restyled grille and distinctive headlights.

Ford shaved off up to 700 pounds compared to the 2014 model by use of lighter-weight, military-grade aluminum for the truck body and bed. Aside from the obvious rust- and corrosion-resistance, Ford claims the aluminum components are made stronger through a heat-treating process, plus the maker used thicker body panels. The lighter weight reportedly transforms into improved fuel mileage, better power-to-weight ratio, higher towing capacities and payload, plus quicker acceleration when compared to a 2014 steel-bodied F-150. The base price rose $340. 

Other new features include the latest in comfort, convenience and safety options, all of which command a premium price. Even the unique tailgate step is an extra-cost feature. Drivers can display an optional four-camera, 360-degree bird’s-eye view around the truck on an 8-inch LCD screen. This is useful for hunters who go off-road when judging whether the truck’s width can slip damage-free through boulders or trees. The optional rearview camera also has Dynamic Hitch Assist, which is a black dashed line along with curved white lines showing the projected path to line up the truck with a trailer hitch on the LCD. There’s even a Smart Trailer Tow Connector display that provides trailer connection status along with trailer lights and trailer battery alerts and warnings. 

This 13th-generation F-150 is offered in XL, XLT (tested), Lariat, King Ranch, top-line Platinum and in regular, Supercab (tested; front-opening rear doors) and Supercrew (full-size rear doors) with a choice of 5.5-, 6.5- or 8-foot bed lengths.

Engine selections include a standard 3.5-liter, 282-hp, 253 lb.-ft. torque V6 with a 7,600-pound maximum tow capacity and EPA mileage ratings of 18 mpg city/25 highway; a 3.5-liter, 365-hp, 420 lb.-ft. torque EcoBoost V-6 with 12,200-pound max tow and 17/24 mpg; a 5-liter, 385-hp, 387 lb.-ft. torque V8 with 11,100-pound max tow and 15/22 mpg; and an all-new 2.7-liter, 325-hp, 375 lb.-ft. torque EcoBoost V-6 (tested) with 8,500-pound max tow and 18/23 mpg. 

All four powerplants come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission with tow/haul modes. The 2.7L EcoBoost, with stop-start function to conserve fuel at idle, gets an assist from twin turbochargers that provide excellent power for acceleration and highway passing. The sensation felt like a V8 under the hood but didn’t sound like one. This powertrain has been tested at 5.7 seconds for a 0-60 sprint, commendable for a pickup. Of course when kicking in the turbos, gas mileage suffers. But they help when towing a trailer, particularly during uphill jaunts.

Aside from performance, the F-150’s on-road manners are almost car-like. Load the bed with mulch or a hefty black bear, and the ride improves on Goodyear Wrangler 18-inch tires. Surprisingly, the F-150’s 4WD system still employs three gear selections: 2WD, 4WD high, 4WD low. Hill Start Assist is standard and helpful with a trailer in tow to prevent drifting rearward.

The interior, too, is car-like with a low 15-inch step-in to the step bars. The test model had comfy cloth bucket seats up front and 60/40-split folding seats in back. Since it was a Supercab, back seat legroom was marginal. Whoever gets the back seats in this model may have to ride sidesaddle. The rear seats fold up against the bulkhead, which opens a flat floor to stow long guns and gear. There’s also a bin beneath the floor for hiding tools and ammo.

In the cargo bed, four key-locking tie-downs (BoxLink plates) can be used with “S” hooks or straps. An optional remote tailgate release gradually lowers the gate automatically. Stowable ramps are available for loading ATVs onto the bed, and when not in use they can be secured to the BoxLink plates on the bed walls.

All these goodies don’t come cheap, and Ford prices them separately or in package form. With a long list of standard items, the extra cost options on the test truck consisted of: XLT trim ($2,150); 2.7L EcoBoost V6 ($795); remote start ($195); tailgate step ($375); trailer brake controller ($275); LED box lighting ($125); XLT chrome package with step bars, chrome wheels, OWL all-terrain tires ($1,695); cloth seats and console ($125); sprayed bed liner ($475); and delivery ($1,195).

As this is the first mass-marketed aluminum-body pickup, there are two important points American hunters should consider. Damaged aluminum body panels require a specialized shop area for repair, which Ford essentially required of dealers and independent body shops. Aluminum has less “metal memory” than steel, meaning it doesn’t regain its shape as easily when it’s deformed. Also, body shops need separate work areas as dust or particles of aluminum can damage steel in an electrochemical process called galvanic corrosion (rust). Body shops need to buy special tools and train personnel in aluminum techniques. Unlike steel that gets welded, F-150 body panels get riveted and glued. Ford has promised to furnish customers a list of aluminum-ready body shops, but says any body shop still can perform most routine repairs as the special equipment is primarily needed for large structural jobs.

Technical Specifications:
Powertrain: 2.7L twin-turbo, DOHC 24-valve Ecoboost V6 (tested) w/325 hp, 375 lb.-ft. torque; 6-speed automatic trans w/tow, haul modes; 4WD; 18/23 mpg
Suspension: front, coil-over shock; rear, solid axle
Brakes: 4-wheel vented discs, ABS
Dimensions/Capacities: overall length 231.9"; wheelbase 145"; height 77.2"; ground clearance 9.4" w/6.5' box; curb weight 4,874 lbs.; GVWR 6,800-7,000 lbs.; GCWR 12,200 lbs. w/3.31 rear axle ratio, 13,300 lbs. w/3.73 rear axle ratio; towing up to 8,500 lbs.
Price as Tested: $43,585 (base $37,005; delivery $1,195)

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