Some pretty cool vehicles were revealed at the 2014 Detroit auto show this year, among them the new Chrysler 200, the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette Z06, and the Honda Fit. But in terms of significance, none of them tops the 2015 Ford F-150. The first reason is obvious. It's been the country's best-selling vehicle for more than three decades, and you can bet Ford wants to maintain that distinction for the foreseeable future. The second reason is that it's the largest mass-market implementation of an aluminum body in automotive history.
The 2015 F-150 still rides on a fully boxed, high-strength steel frame. But almost all the exterior sheetmetal is aluminum, certainly a first for the full-size truck segment, and the truck is among an elite group of vehicles that employs aluminum extensively in the body, including Range Rover, Jaguar, and Audi. The significance of those technological developments aside, there's the styling. Based on the comments on our Facebook page, reactions have been polarized. Almost nobody is saying "meh." It's either love it or hate it. Let's take a closer look at some of the details of the 2015 F-150, and compare it to its predecessor.
As expected, the 2015 F-150 shows a great deal of influence from the Atlas Concept truck, which itself took some cues from the larger Super Duty model. Gone is last year's rounded, somewhat nondescript look (with the exception of the in-your-face Raptor), replaced by a chiseled, angular appearance. As with the 2014 GM full-size models, looks can be deceptive. Although the sharper, creased styling seems like it would make for a higher coefficient of drag, the new model is sleeker than the outgoing model, although we don't yet know by how much. Standard grille shutters on all models are a testament to the focus on aerodynamic efficiency.
Ford made headlines in 2013 by offering the segment's first HID headlights in a full-size truck. It's making headlines all over again for the first available full-LED headlights in the segment. The lower foglights are still conventional halogen bulbs. Some Facebook commenters compared the new F-150 to the recently restyled Tundra. If you squint, you can see some resemblance, but we think the new look shares a lot more with the Super Duty than the Tundra.
Nearly all pickup trucks share the same basic side profile, with some variations in the beltline and front and rear details. The blocky, vertical grille of the new model contrasts with the slightly back-swept nose of the 2014 model. Likewise, the shape and detailing of the rear taillights are a contrast to the outgoing model. Now that it's firmly established in the public's awareness, the EcoBoost badge on the front door gets downsized. And naturally, every new generation of the F-150 has gotten a new badge, and the 2015 is no different. Ford even released an infographic explaining the meaning of the badge's changes, with the "open" F signifying light weight, and the elimination of the "-" signifying efficiency. We're indifferent on the badge change, but the badge design works well with the rest of the 2015's styling.
Ford is giving greater emphasis to the trim level. On the Platinum trim model, a satin metallic piece stretches nearly the full width of the tailgate, with "PLATINUM" prominently embossed on the rump, flanked on one side by the F-150 logo, and on the other side by the Blue Oval. Perhaps it's Ford's reassurance to Platinum buyers that the $50,000-plus they spent on the truck did not go to waste trying to impress their neighbors.
There are a couple of noteworthy design features on the rear of the truck. An optional remote-lowering tailgate is a nifty feature that's well overdue in the segment. We also like the auxiliary LED illumination to increase visibility from the optional rearview camera. Higher-trim trucks get LED taillights as well. And although the new F-150 doesn't get the bumper corner steps like the 2014 GM models, it does get a redesigned tailgate step and available bed side steps ahead of the rear wheels, as well as optional ramps for quads and motorcycles.
Like the exterior, the interior of the 2015 model is more angular than the outgoing model. All the HVAC vents are five-angle openings that flank both sides of the center stack and the outer edges of the dashboard, in contrast to the circular vents of the 2014 model. The console-mounted shifter returns, with a leather boot on the higher-trim models. The 2015 F-150 also adds inflatable rear seatbelts, which first debuted on the Explorer SUV. The Platinum model features a vertical woodgrain strip on the top of the door.
The four-spoke steering wheel shape and design is similar to that previewed in the Atlas concept, now with satin silver accent trim. Materials seem to be an improvement over the outgoing model, with a padded dashtop on the premium models. The window and lock switches also move higher on the door panel, on the same vertical plane as the window opening instead of on the same plane as the armrest on 2014 models. The door pull on the 2015 model changes from a pocket-style pull to a grab handle.
The 2008-2014 F-150 was not an unattractive truck by any measure, but neither was it especially impactful or revolutionary. The 2015 model, like it or not, definitely moves the styling needle for Ford. Some may not be the biggest fans of its large prominent grille and headlights, but it makes a bold styling statement. Regardless, if history is any measure, get used to seeing a lot of the F-150's grille and taillights in the years ahead after the new model starts to roll into showrooms in fall 2014.