By Aaron Bragman
The all-new 2015 Ford F-150 that debuted at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit may be a complete redesign of the iconic pickup truck, but it's been designed to look familiar (especially when considering last year's concept Ford Atlas), featuring a set of style cues long associated with the F-Series. Even from a distance, it's obvious this is an F-Series truck. The grille shapes, the circular wheel openings and especially the beltline drop-down cutouts in the front windows immediately identify this as a Ford pickup. Lower models will have grilles that feature "nostrils" reminiscent of the original Ford F-1 pickup. But there have been some improvements and refinements to the design that show Ford has put a lot of thought into the shape of the new truck.
From the front, the obvious influence is the 2013 Atlas concept truck that Ford showed at the 2013 North American International Auto Show. The grille opening seems smaller than the current trend in full-size pickups (witness the massive amounts of chrome adorning the latest Toyota Tundra), and the headlights are separate units more integrated into the fenders than actually part of the grille — at least on high-end versions like the Platinum trim. Those headlights have a "light-pipe" surround that will be highly distinctive, and premium models can specify full LED headlights to replace the standard halogen projector beams. Automatic grille shutters behind the chrome block off airflow to help with aerodynamic efficiency, something that has received a lot of attention on the new truck. Rounded chamfers on the corners and a windshield that features a steeper rake thanks to moving the base of the A-pillars forward all contribute to improved aerodynamic drag.
The beltline of the truck is about an inch lower, and those drop-down cutouts in the front doors are actually 2 inches lower than on the current truck, making for much improved visibility from the interior. The lower beltline continues to the bed box as well, which is also an inch lower to aid in liftover height. Out back, every F-150 will have standard LED taillights, featuring a distinctive surround light pipe that mimics the design present in the headlights. More LEDs are present in the bed as well, both overhead and in the bed itself, to light up the cargo area. Optional on premium models are mirrors with LED spotlights, which can light up the area to each side of the truck at the push of a button, handy for dark campsites, work sites or even just parallel parking.
In our last comparison test of light-duty pickups, the Ford F-150 XLT was criticized for its outdated, "plasticky" interior, especially in the wake of top-notch offerings from Ram and GMC. The new 2015 F-150 banishes the old interior with high-quality soft-touch plastics, new paddle-style door handles right out of the Super Duty and more advanced display screens with easier-to-use functions. The first thing one notices about the interior is the visibility — the lower beltline and window drop-downs are combined with mirrors that have been moved forward by nearly 4 inches to create an easier view out. A dual-pane panoramic sunroof (available on Lariat trim and above) is massive and allows a ton of light into the cab. The cab is also wider than before, with seats moved about three-quarters of an inch outboard to accommodate a wider center console.
In King Ranch and Platinum versions, high-quality leather seats, real stitched dashboards, genuine wood and real metal trim create a truly upscale environment. Even lesser trim models feature smart designs and high-quality materials, however. To put it simply, Ford learned from Ram and GM, and has brought the F-150 up to competitive levels and beyond.
The new F-150's styling is an evolutionary step forward, a solid update of an iconic truck. In person it looks fresh, sleek and fully modern. Given that sales of the current F-150 are stronger than they've been in years, the company must have figured that it's best not to go too wild on what is already a good thing.