Ford’s job pushing the new F-150 is simple. They just have to convince America that aluminum is better than steel.
That’s because just about everywhere they could, the engineers swapped good old hard as nails real steal for aluminum. That’s right, the stuff you can crush in your hands after downing a cold one. Except this isn’t the same stuff. Ford makes it very clear this is military grade, super heavy-duty aluminum. They say that some of the aluminum used in this new F-150 is actually stronger than steel.
And then there’s that moment when they wink at you. They casually mention that the new frame for this F-150 uses even more high strength steel than last year’s model. So how can they brag about using steel one place and aluminum another? Because the goal is to make each part strong enough without getting carried away.
Where Ford wants to get carried away is fuel mileage. Shave about 750 pounds from the weight of the truck and mileage goes up. My test truck had the 2.7 liter turbocharged Ecoboost engine that delivers 325 horsepower. It’s impressive power, but the mileage is even better. 18 mpg in the city and 23 mpg on the highway. I averaged 2o mpg during my test week. To appreciate that number you have to go back 20 years. That’s when the combined number for an F-150 eight-cylinder was likely to be 12 to 14 mpg. Yes, we have more sophisticated electronics and fuel management systems. But lighten the load and mpg will climb.
I’ve said before that I don’t really understand trucks. Don’t get me wrong, I haul plenty of stuff on the weekends. But I use an SUV with a trailer hitch. It never really made sense to sacrifice street comfort for a daily commute. And on most of my commutes I see lots of empty trucks. This F-150 made me think it’s a reasonable compromise. It still rode like a truck, but it wasn’t overly harsh. There was enough comfort inside to accept the compromise. Throw in a combined mpg very close to a lot of sedans, and you’re not giving away much.
According to TrueCar, the average price for a pickup truck in America is just over $42,000. But the average price for an F-150 is slightly over $46,500. That made me feel pretty good about my test truck. It was an 4×4 XLT series with a base sticker of $37,005. Throw in a collection of truck related options (spray in bedliner, tow package, etc.) and the price bumped up to $43,975. That means it was still $2,500 under the average for Ford, and only slightly above the overall average.
This F-150 didn’t have a ton of technology, but I’m OK with that. One thing I did like was the towing display. It told you whether the lights were connected. It gave you a checklist to make sure you’d done everything right. It even had different settings for the various trailers you might haul. In 2016, the F-150 also gets Pro Trailer Backup Assist. It’s an electronic aid to make sure things go smoothly. As someone who hasn’t always successfully reversed with a trailer, I think it will be a welcome addition.
So let’s get back to the sales job. Can the Ford marketers convince America that aluminum is OK. The reality is that they won’t have to work too hard. Spend a little time in the new F-150 and you’ll quickly forget about what kind of metal was used. All you’ll think about is that you’ve got a great handling hauler with even more impressive mileage.