2013 Detroit: Ford Atlas Concept First Look
Blue Oval Highjacks the Truck Spotlight
Ford hard been pretty secretive about its plans for the Detroit show. Officially, it's only major debut for the show was the new full-size 2014 Transit van, which will replace the venerable E-Series when it goes on sale. One look at the Ford display though, which not only had quite a few 2013 F-150s, but also an early F-100, and you just knew something was up. Our hunch proved correct: we've just gotten our First Look at the next-generation 2015 Ford F-150 via the Ford Atlas Concept.
With the Atlas Concept, Ford essentially looked over at GM's new production-ready Silverado and Sierra, shrugged, and then just completely destroyed their day. To truly understand what Ford just did to GM, picture Ford as Kanye West, and Taylor Swift as GM -- during GM's big moment in the spotlight with its new trucks, Ford grabbed the mic, told GM that they'd get to finish, announced the F-150 as 'the greatest truck of all time!' and then showed its next one.
True, Ford calls the Atlas a concept, but the high-strength steel-framed truck could move to production with just minor changes. The truck's grille is just a further evolution of the current F-150's, its stacked LED headlights (which bear a passing resemblance to the current Super Duty) look like they'd take minimal work to be DOT-legal, and its matching LED taillights look ready to go as-is. We'd hesitate to say that the Atlas Concept is the 2015 F-150, but it's safe to say that the Atlas is closer to production than not.
Making matters worse for GM (as a colleague pointed out), is that Ford's released just as many details on Atlas as GM has about the 2014 Silverado and Sierra, both of which are slated to go into production in the first half of this year. Ford says the Atlas Concept is powered by a "next-generation EcoBoost" engine with start-stop, though mums the word on exactly which engine powers it. Seeing as over half of current-gen F-150s are powered by the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, we'd bet that the Atlas' engine is related.
The Atlas also serves as something of a technology demonstrator for the 2015 F-150. Aside from its stop-start system (which self-cancels when a trailer is hitched), the truck is loaded with tech designed to both save gas and make the truck a more useful tool to its owners. Like the Ram 1500, the Atlas has Active Grille Shutters that open only when extra cooling is needed; a drop-down front air dam, which lowers at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics and raised at low speeds to improve ground clearance; and battery-powered Active Wheel Shutters, which are hidden in the wheels and automatically deploy at highway speeds to improve aerodynamics. Ford says the active fuel-saving features, combined with the new EcoBoost mill, improve fuel economy by 2 mpg on the highway, hinting that EPA testing may already be underway.
On the functional front, the Atlas includes innovative new features like Dynamic Hitch Assist, which helps line up the truck's hitch with the trailer coupling via the center stack screen, and Trailer Backup Assist, which -- like Ford's Park Assist -- will back up the truck to a trailer for you, all the driver needs to do is operate the gas and brake. Other new tech includes the next-generation of Ford's tailgate step, hidden cargo ramps to make loading wheeled vehicles and machinery easier, and a 360-degree camera that gives a birds-eye view of the truck during low-speed maneuvers.
With its production Silverado and Sierra pickups looking ho-hum compared to new Atlas, General Motors is clearly having a bad day...well, at least the new Corvette's cool, right?