Pickup trucks may seem like dirty, muscular work oxen, but like other vehicles, they're evolving into smart, perceptive, high-tech machines. Last year's Atlas Concept made it crystal clear that Ford was serious about designing smarter trucks. The all-new F-150 introduced at this week's NAIAS 2014 doesn't include all the forward-thinking innovations of the Atlas, but it does pack enough of them to make it the "toughest, smartest and most capable F-150 ever."
Ford has injected nearly every inch of the new F-150 with the latest materials and technologies. That effort started with an all-new boxed ladder frame that employs more high-strength steel. When teamed with the military-grade aluminum alloys in the body, that steel cuts 700 lb (318 kg) off the F-150's weight, a major feat that promises to increase the new truck's efficiency, quickness, hauling capabilities and braking proficiency. The new high-strength steel and aluminum also improve the truck's strength and durability.
The new technology only gets started in the lightweight structure, continuing right through to the heart of the truck. A new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine with standard Auto Start-Stop joins tried-and-true F-150 engine options to offer a more efficient ride. Designed to boost fuel economy, the standard Start-Stop feature shuts the engine down when the truck comes to a stop, except when towing or in 4WD. A new 3.5-liter V6 with twin independent variable camshaft timing joins carryover 3.5-liter EcoBoost and 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 options to create a buyer's choice of four engines.
The new EcoBoost isn't the only aspect of the production F-150 derived from the Atlas Concept; the truck also gets a few nice drive and worksite features straight from that design. The 360-degree exterior camera system gives the driver a bird's eye view of the truck, helping him park and maneuver more skillfully. The trailer hitch assist feature uses the rear-view camera to line up the truck and trailer, eliminating the need for a spotter.
At the job site, LED spotlights integrated into the side mirrors can be used to flash a little light after nightfall, while cargo-box LEDs make it easier to find tools and such after dark. The 110-volt, 400-watt power outlets in the cab charge tools and gadgets. The tailgate locks, unlocks and releases at the push of the key fob, and the integrated loading ramps make it easier to roll tools and toys into the cargo box.
Other technologies and innovations on the F-150 include second-row inflatable safety belts; driver-assistance systems like blind spot information, lane-keeping and adaptive cruise control; LED headlamps and tail-lamps; and a new 8-in LCD infotainment system with updated truck apps.
The design of the 2015 F-150 isn't anything shocking or groundbreaking, simply an updated pickup truck. Changes from the current F-150 design include new headlamps, the shape of which remind us of a battery powered drill, and a new grille design.
"In the design process, we go through what we call a design bandwidth," explains Joel Piaskowski, Ford's design director, turning his attention to rough, early sketches for the F-150. "On one side of the bandwidth we had what we called a bullet train, and on the other side was a locomotive. On the bullet train, you see a more soft, more streamlined-looking truck and on the righthand side you see this locomotive or more agricultural-looking truck that's just really brutal and raw. We ended up more towards the locomotive side but still within the bandwidth."
The all-new F-150 will hit the market toward the end of the year. It will be available in five trims: XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch. The FX4 off-road package, which can be added to most 4WD models, adds an electronic locking rear axle, skid plates and off-road shocks. Ford has not released pricing yet.
You can check out the new F-150 design in the mix of live and company photos in our photo gallery, along with a few photos from inside the Dearborn Truck Factory, one of the factories where next-generation F-150s will be built.