Ford is taking a big chance on the 2015 F-150 truck. Completely redesigned for the new model year, the F-150 certainly more than looks the part, with plenty of design cues from the meaty Atlas concept, but under the paintwork is a new aluminum alloy body on top of a high-strength steel fully-boxed ladder frame. It's a stark departure from the F-150 of old; we caught up with the new truck to see what Ford has done.
We can't argue with the new F-150's styling. The grill is bigger and broader-spaced than the outgoing model, as though the truck has been caught snorting in air, nostrils flaring, while the headlamps pick up on the general shape of the old version, but become more angular and distinctive.
It's not a carbon-copy of the well-received Atlas concept, but it's a good reinterpretation for the road. Ford has been a little more restrained in the brightwork, focusing the chromework in the canter of the front bumper rather than spreading it all the way around, while the wheel arches are sharply finished.
LED headlamps, some distinctive daylight running lights, and LED spotlights on the side mirrors help bring the truck more up to date, as well as help navigation in low-light situations.
That's not the only extra tech that Ford has thrown into the mixture. Inside, there's what Ford is calling its vista roof, opening glass at the front and fixed glass at the back, while the front seats are both heated and cooled. In the back, the rear outside seatbelts can optionally be switched for inflating versions, which pad out in the case of an accident for better protection.
Dominating the dashboard is an 8-inch touchscreen, dubbed the Productivity Screen by Ford, which can be customized depending on the accessories like tow-hitches and other items that owners use. It's also the central hub for a number of features you might more commonly associate with a luxury sedan rather than a truck, like a 360-degree camera system that blends live footage from four cameras into a virtual top-down view to help when parking.
If even that's not enough to assist you into a space, Ford will offer self-parking as an option on the 2015 F-150, with the truck able to parallel park itself. Unfortunately we weren't able to see that in action.
Otherwise, there's lane departure warnings, and front radar to automatically pre-engage the brakes in the case of a potential collision with the car in front. The same radar system is used for adaptive cruise control, adjusting speed according to how fast the traffic around the F-150 is moving.
What you wouldn't find on a luxury sedan is a capacious rear bed, and new on the F-150 is a power tailgate which can lower down automatically for easier loading. Hit a button on the keyfob and the rear drops down; Ford's tailgate step system has been carried over but redesigned, with the handle now fared in, and the actual opening process made more straightforward.
After the tailgate is opened, pulling it out and dropping it automatically switches into step mode.
It's indicative of a lot of little improvements that Ford has added in, small perhaps on their own, but adding up to a far more thoughtful experience for users. LED lights have been added at the rear of the bed, and either side of the rear top break light, for easier loading in the dark, while the rear-window is now powered.
What we couldn't test was how the new F-150 and its 2.7L EcoBoost engine actually drives, with Ford not ready to let us behind the wheel quite yet. That'll all change very soon, with Ford throwing the F-150 in at the deep end when it comes to how it handles the rough stuff. Stay tuned for more.