2015 Ford F-150 4x4 Platinum review: Ford's aluminum workhorse pickup is better in all ways but one
Ah, the generic white pickup truck, about as common as dirt. You see them everywhere; these workhorses serve contractors, municipalities, movers, gardeners, you name it. The white work truck is so ubiquitous on American roads that it's practically invisible.
This 2015 Ford F-150 Platinum, bedecked in $595 White Platinum Metallic paint and chrome brightwork, aims to be more than just a work truck and it's anything but invisible. It balances its potent 4x4 power train with a luxurious, leather-trimmed cabin. It's not just a workhorse; it's a well-groomed Clydesdale.
It's also smarter than your average truck. For 2015, the F-Series has undergone a tech transformation. The pickup now features full LED lighting from its quad-beam headlamps to its tails. The body is now composed of lightweight aluminum and its frame of high-strength steel. And though the F-150 is still available with a beefy V-8 engine, Ford's focus seems to be squarely on a new selection of downsized EcoBoost V-6 engines.
Aluminum chassis and ride quality
Though now composed of aluminum and high-strength steel, the 2015 Ford F-150 still feels like a truck. Ford says that the new F-150 is lighter than the previous generation by up to 700 pounds (depending on options), but at about 4,696 pounds, our Supercrew-configuration example is still a heavyweight.
The ride is smooth, I believe due to the double wishbone front suspension's controlled articulation. The F-150 can feel a bit floaty over highway undulations and a bit bouncy over larger bumps and potholes, but it never felt uncomfortable during my hundreds of miles of testing.
Trips were made more comfortable, thanks to this example's power multicontour seats. The front buckets featured heated and cooled surfaces, a ridiculous amount of adjustability, and massage functions. The seat backs and bottoms have separate massage controls with two levels of intensity. The bottom massage was a bit odd at first, but I felt that the slight shifting of the seating surface helped to ease fatigue during one of my longer trips -- a 4-hour ride from San Francisco to Sacramento and back to pick up new seats for my project car.
Being a Supercrew model, the F-150 offered gobs of space, both in the bed -- the shorter 5.5-foot box -- and in the cabin. The rear seats offer enough space to comfortably hold three adults. When not in use those rear seats fold up, not unlike in a Honda Fit, revealing a flat floor that can accommodate bulky items that need protection from the elements.
Back in the bed, thoughtful Platinum features -- such as a power release rear tailgate with an integrated, slide-out step -- help the F-150 owner load and access cargo. Our example also featured an optional bedliner and a fold-out bed extension.
Downsized engine, not down-powered
Under the hood of our F-150 breathes Ford's 3.5-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 engine. Ford claims that this 365-horsepower, 420-pound-foot engine boasts the power of a V-8 and the efficiency of a V-6.
The first thing that I noticed when firing up the EcoBoost-ed F-Series is how quiet the 3.5-liter engine is. At idle and when cruising, it's barely audible and nearly vibration-free. Around town and in traffic, the EcoBoost feels powerful enough to motivate the massive truck without feeling taxed, but a digital boost meter on the dashboard let me know that I'd barely begun to stress the engine's capability.
The engine is mated to a single-option six-speed automatic transmission that connects to all four wheels via an electronic differential and a two-speed transfer case. Using a knob on the dashboard, I could toggle between rear-wheel drive and three different flavors of permanent four-wheel drive configurations. For my fuel economy testing and light-load hauling, I spent the vast majority of my testing in the two-wheel drive setting.
The EPA reckons that the 2015 Ford F-150 with the EcoBoost V-6 is good for 17 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway and 19 mpg combined. I started my test with the aforementioned highway cruise and ended the 4-hour trip at 18.2 mpg. Our example was equipped with the optional 36-gallon extended-range fuel tank, so I had plenty of fuel left over at the end of that trip. The rest of the week's driving was around town commuting, which included helping a friend move. By the time the low-fuel light came on, the trip computer was indicating 15.7 mpg.
A bit of the fuel economy drop could be attributed to my repeated testing of the turbo V-6's power delivery. Stomp the throttle and the engine seems to swell, the truck surging forward with a throaty rumble. There's more transmission lag and the smaller engine doesn't seem to have any problems with more aggressive driving.
New driver-aid tech
Meanwhile, from my perch atop the driver's seat, I was afforded a commanding view of the road ahead. The tall seating position put me at eye level with bus drivers, which was great on the highway. However, for lower-speed maneuvers, the high hood made navigating tight spaces tricky.
Fortunately, technology comes to the rescue with a 360-degree camera system that offers a bird's-eye view of the area around the truck. This makes negotiating parking decks and drive-throughs much less nerve-wracking. A blind-spot monitoring system helps with lane-changing maneuvers and a rear camera with cross-traffic alerts helps when backing out of parking spots.
This example was also equipped with a lane-departure prevention system, tech that is simultaneously useful and annoying in a truck of this size. On one hand, the slight steering assist that the system offers can be useful for keeping the wide truck between the often-narrow lane markers. On the other hand, during my testing I noticed that the system could be a bit inconsistent in its recognition of the lane markers and in the level of steering assistance applied. Sometimes it would let the truck get a full wheel over the line before aggressively stepping in with auto-steering. At other times it would resist my steering input when attempting to fork right onto a highway exit. After a day or so, I chose to deactivate this particular system.
Finally, this Platinum model also featured a forward-collision-alert system and adaptive cruise control with automatic distance control. The adaptive cruise isn't the full-speed variety and will disable itself if the car ahead slows below about 15 to 20 mph.
Pass on old MyFord Touch
At the center of the dashboard is an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system powered by MyFord Touch and Sync. We've never really been fans of MyFord Touch, and this setup is no exception. The interface relies heavily on a control scheme in which the driver taps a corner of screen to access the four main functions. This is a clunky interface in a sedan, but in the massive F-150 where I had to stretch and lean over to reach the upper-right "navigation" corner, it can be infuriating.
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MyFord Touch is also slow. Every tap took about a second to register, which makes a simple task -- like adjusting the bass on the Sony premium audio system -- take about twice as long as it should.
We've recently heard that the 2016 F-150 will feature the vastly improved Sync 3 infotainment, so it may be worth it to wait a model year to avoid the current tech.
Unfortunately, we weren't able to do any off-road testing in the F-150, but in Platinum trim the truck feels more like a boat-hauler than a trailblazer. We'll be sure to get good and dirty if an F-150 Raptor finds its way into the garage.
The 2015 Ford F-150 4x4 Supercrew starts at $54,385. Our example adds the Platinum Series equipment group for $2,540 and $595 White Platinum Metallic paint. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost upgrade only adds $400 to the bottom line, but a twin-panel moonroof is a $1,295 upgrade -- and worth it to add a lot of light to the cavernous cabin.
A host of other exterior equipment upgrades, including the larger fuel tank, the bed liner and foldable side steps, add $1,740 to the bottom line. As tested, we're looking at $62,150, including $1,195 in destination and delivery charges.