The heat of competition in the full-size truck market is white-hot right now, with the 2013 Ram 1500 coming off multiple award wins, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra just months away from showrooms, and Ford already showing what many believe is a close approximation of the production 2015 Ford F-150 in the form of the Atlas concept truck. The fact that the Atlas seems relatively well-developed, with actual exterior door handles, and production-looking primary controls is probably no coincidence. Strip away some of the glitzy one-off exterior and interior trim, and tone down the mini-Super Duty grill a bit, and we're probably looking at the 2015 F-150.
Just as interesting as the styling and timing of the Altas concept are some of the features showcased on the truck. We've picked out a few of the most significant, and want to know which ones you'd most like to see on the 2015 F-150 when it finally rolls into showrooms.
110-Volt Outlets in Bed
Many of the features showcased on the Atlas concept are not exactly unprecedented in the automotive world, and AC outlets in the bed is one of them. This feature has been available in the midsize Toyota Tacoma since 2005 and was added to the Nissan Titan for 2013. Assuming it could handle the electrical loads of power tools, would likely be a welcome option by tradesmen and contractors.
Built-In Bed Ramps
We've seen a variation of this feature for decades in moving vans, but just in the form of a single ramp in the center. The Atlas has two of them to facilitate the loading of quads or other four-wheeled vehicles or equipment, or loading motorcycles side by side. This would certainly be appreciated by the recreational dirt sports crowd.
Power Tailgate Step/Cargo Cradle
This clever variation on a feature that has existed on the F-series previously adds an interesting twist. The "step" can actually telescope out and upward from the tailgate to provide a support to roof-mounted long cargo, such as beams, studs, canoes, and other long, narrow cargo that doesn't easily fit in a truck bed. No specific weight rating or price point were given for the feature, but knowing how seriously Ford takes its trucks, we expect it to be substantial.
Adjustable Air Dam
At first glance, this feature may come across as gimmicky, but there are some compelling functional benefits of it, in theory. When driving on the road, the air dam lowers to improve aerodynamics, and by extension, fuel economy. When off-roading, the air dam raises up to improve ground clearance. Assuming its operation could be reliable under the unforgiving conditions many owners subject their trucks to, this one looks promising.
Active Grille Shutters
Ram already showed these on the production Ram 1500, so it wouldn't be a segment first. But Ford is obviously convinced of the efficiency-enhancing potential of this feature, so don't be surprised to see it on the 2015 F-150 on certain trim and powertrain configurations.
Power Running Boards
Like the AC power outlets in the bed, this feature is hardly new in the larger realm of truckdom. AMP Research has offered its Power Steps as an aftermarket accessory for several years now, and is often a dealer-installed accessory on many trucks and SUVs. Ford currently offers power-retractable running boards as standard on the Limited and Platinum models, but their appearance on the Atlas suggests they might have wider availability on future F-150 models.
Dynamic Hitch Assist/Trailer Backup Assist
Often one of the most intimidating aspects of the truck ownership experience, towing is also a primary reason many buy a pickup in the first place. Ford aims to reduce the fear factor slightly with its dynamic hitch assist and trailer backup assist. Using sensors and cameras, the system provides visual prompts to help precisely line up the hitch and the trailer. But even more intimidating and potentially perilous is backing up a trailer, which counter-intuitively requires the opposite steering inputs as when going forward. The trailer backup assist function aims to ease that anxiety as well.
LED Headlights/Taillights/Cargo Lights
Ford was the first to offer HID headlights as an option on the 2013 F-150, and although full LED headlights are still a relative rarity in the automotive world, they're becoming more common, and we would not be surprised if these make their way to production. Ford also followed GM's lead with LED bed lighting on the Atlas, a feature we expect to eventually see in most, if not all, full-size trucks in the future.
Again, this feature is not entirely new. Infiniti offered this feature on the 2011 QX56 and has since expanded it to the JX35 (QX60?), as well as being available on the Nissan Pathfinder, among others. However, once again, this would be a first for the full-size truck segment. We're not entirely convinced this is an earth-shattering, must-have, but we wouldn't say no if it were included in an option package.
Active Wheel Shutters
While we see the aerodynamic benefits of this feature, we shudder at the thought of the replacement cost for these wheels, as well as the potential for malfunction. Ford claims the wheel shudder system has a self-contained, self-charging battery with power generated from the wheels' rotation. Clever, but we think a tad on the complicated and expensive side.
Diesel Engine Option
OK, so this feature wasn't specifically mentioned at the reveal of the Atlas concept, but that doesn't mean we want it any less. With the availability of the 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbodiesel in the 2014 Transit, we see other potential applications for the engine, and the F-150 seems a perfect fit. We also think its current power rating of 197 hp and 347 lb-ft of torque leaves plenty of potential room to turn up the wick a bit. We're thinking about 250 hp and 400+ lb-ft of torque wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for this engine. Ford seems committed to its gasoline EcoBoost strategy for now, but with the Ram 1500 getting the 3.0-liter VM Motori V-6 just announced in the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee a near certainty, Ford would have a quick competitive response ready in the form of the baby "Power Stroke."
So what are your ideas for the new F-150? Let us know in the poll below!
What Features Would You Most Like to See on the 2015 F-150?