2015 Ford F-150 First Drive - Factory Fresh

New challenges, opportunities for customizers

Dec 10, 2014
Photographers: Edward A. Sanchez
When any new model truck comes out, it’s greeted with both anticipation and dread by the truck enthusiast community. The ’15 Ford F-150 is no different, and presents possibly one of the most challenging new platforms to the custom truck community in recent memory. But along with those challenges comes great opportunities as well. The new F-150’s lighter weight and updated powertrain promise plenty of performance tuning potential. And the updated level of comfort, convenience, and technology features offer up a higher-level starting point for customization than ever before.
Small But Strong
The single item that’s brought up the most discussion and controversy with the new F-150 is its all-new 2.7L EcoBoost V-6. Although sharing the same corporate umbrella brand name for gasoline-direct-injection turbo (T-GDI) as the 3.5L engine, it’s a completely different animal with an all-new three-piece block compacted-graphite-iron (CGI) construction, the same material that’s used in the 6.7L Power Stroke diesel V-8 in the Super Duty. Despite its diminutive size (for a fullsize truck), the engine cranks out a healthy 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. Combined with the ’15 model’s lighter weight, the small engine has no problem motivating the new F-150.
Photo 2/4   |   2015 Ford F 150 Rear Side View
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hook up a trailer to the smaller engine to see how it handled work duty. The maximum tow rating with the 2.7-liter is 8,500 pounds., more than enough to handle a couple of watercrafts or ski boats. If you’re planning on routinely pulling a heavier load than that, the 3.5L EcoBoost or 5.0L V-8 would probably be the better choice, if not a Super Duty. With a simple tune and intake and exhaust, it’s likely the 2.7-liter will be good for a reliable 350-plus horsepower and 400-plus lb-ft of torque. Even in its factory tune, we were able to do a brake stand and get the rears to let loose and make a little smoke.
However, we feel the engine that best fits the custom truck community is probably the 5.0L DOHC V-8. Not only is it the most “traditional” engine of the bunch, but it makes a proper, red-blooded V-8 sound, has sharp throttle response, and already has well-established aftermarket support, sharing much of its hardware with the engine offered in the Ford Mustang, and has been offered in the F-150 since 2011. For 2015, horsepower gets a 25hp bump to 385, and a 7 lb-ft bump in torque to 387 lb-ft. The 5.0 also offers the highest maximum payload rating at 3,300 pounds. Maximum towing capacity with the 5.0 is 11,000 pounds. The 3.5 EcoBoost offers the highest overall tow rating at 12,200 pounds. We did get the chance to drive a 3.5L EcoBoost model with a 9,000-pound trailer, and can report it handled the job with a minimum of fuss. Output on the 3.5-liter is unchanged from 2014 at 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Photo 3/4   |   2015 Ford F 150 Bed
Interior NVH is good, and a definite improvement over the ’14 model, but still subjectively trails the K2XX GM models, which we feel set the high watermark for quietness in the segment. Handling was firm and confident, with enough compliance to be comfortable, but not too much to be sloppy.
Some factory-available custom touches that bring the tech of the ’15 F-150 are full LED lighting, including headlights, taillights, and bed lighting, which can be activated by a bed-mounted switch. The new F-150 also offers accessory ramps for motorcycles or ATVs, optional factory spray-lined bed, and a remote-opening tailgate on higher-trim models.
New Material, New Challenges
In terms of customizability, the new F-150’s aluminum construction is a whole different ballpark than traditional steel bodies. The bed construction is modular, with the sides separate from the floor. It appeared the bed floor was attached to the body and frame through a combination of rivets, adhesive, and bolts. Hypothetically, it could be removed and repositioned in one piece for a raised bed, but it’s unknown how easily the factory fastening can be undone. However, Ford touts the modular construction of the aluminum body allowing for individual replacement of different sections such as the B-pillar and other parts, rather than large, single stampings, which has become a trend lately with steel bodies.
Photo 4/4   |   2015 Ford F 150 Interior
It goes without saying that the biggest challenge to customizers may be the new aluminum body, which requires a completely different set of tools and methods than steel. Speaking of steel, the F-150’s 70,000-psi high-strength steel-boxed frame also will likely be a challenge to chassis customizers. Don’t expect to slice through it like warm butter with your Sawzall. Doing a C-notch on the rear frame will likely require a plasma cutter, or some seriously heavy-duty grinding or cutting implements.
As has been the case for the better part of the last two decades, we feel the newer GM trucks will probably be the predominant choice of customizers. But if rumors are to be believed, GM may also soon be moving to aluminum construction for the next generation of trucks, so if your shop does major body modifications, it might be worth your while to familiarize yourself with working with aluminum.
For the rest of us who don’t plan on voiding the warranty just minutes off the dealer lot, the new F-150 offers a lot for those looking for a comfortable, fuel-efficient daily driver, with the latest in technology. From the bare-bones XL all the way up to the loaded King Ranch and Limited trims, there’s a price point and style for just about every taste, with the full complement of bed and cab configurations available in most powertrains. And yes, you can still get the 5.0L V-8 in a shortbed, regular cab.

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