Thursday, August 13, 2015

Aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 remains a top truck

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website

Sacramento, California ­There’s big news in the American pickup truck segment, as big as it gets in recent memory.

For 2015, Ford changed things up in its F-150 pickup, the star of the automaker’s F-Series lineup that has dominated U.S. sales for nearly two generations.  The most headline-grabbing change was the addition of high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloys in the truck body.

The biggest impact of the move was trimming some 700 pounds of body weight.

Naturally, given the rough-and-tough nature of the pickup segment, you would have thought that Ford announced the introduction of bud vases to its monster-selling truck.

The mere mention of the word “aluminum” sent some into shock.

Chevrolet wasted little time offering up a TV commercial where hapless human test subjects were forced to choose between an aluminum cage and a steel cage (a reference to the primary body material in the Chevrolet Silverado pickup) when a massive, angry bear walked into the room.  Natch, the steel cage gets picked every time.

OK, I understand marketing, but if you’re choosing a pickup truck based solely on the message in that commercial … well, let’s just say that I feel sorry for you.

The truth is that the Ford F-150’s new cocktail of aluminum and steel gives the truck exceptional structural integrity.  And it’s important to remember that the aluminum used by Ford is not what your mother used to wrap up the leftover meatloaf.  It is light years beyond that.

And furthermore, the 2015 Ford truck’s towing max and payload capacity actually increased with the new skin.

Obviously, the lighter body weight equates to better gas mileage, but it’s still pretty rough.  The tested, opulently dressed up 2015 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Platinum (with the 145-inch wheelbase) was rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 23 mpg on the highway.

I noticed the lighter weight in another area: When I punched the gas on the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 rated at 365 horsepower, I was treated to acceleration that I don’t recall experiencing in previous F-150s.  And the tested truck moved up through the revs with sedan-like efficiency.  That was very impressive.

The tester was loaded with goodies and perks, but the small things caught most of my attention.  That included the thoughtful box side steps that extend or retract with pressure from your foot.  And the power running boards made it possible for me and my passengers to step up into the big truck without making fools of ourselves.

I give this 2015 F-150 a solid “A” grade, plain and simple.

Are there red flags to consider?  In truth, yes.

For starters, the bottom line on my tester was a whopping $61,650.  If you can easily wrap your head around that price for a single truck, well, you’re a much more modern-thinking gearhead than I am.  Yes, there are cheaper versions available to buyers.

And for the record, both the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and conducted tests concluding that repairing the aluminum-bodied F-150 is more expensive than like repairs to its steel-bodied predecessor.

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