By Aaron Bragman
The average pickup truck today has technology that the most expensive luxury cars didn't have just a decade ago. With each new generation, capabilities grow — and the 2015 Ford F-150 is no exception. Chockfull of optional electronic systems that do everything from making work easier to making play more fun, you can option up the new F-150 to extraordinary levels of tech. Some of it's useful, some of it's flashy, but most of it is pretty damn cool.
There are three things F-150 customers can't get enough of, according to Ford: lights, cameras and cupholders. The new F-150 has more of all of these; it will all be on display at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where the pickup is making its debut.
Let's start with the front of the truck. See all those little cameras everywhere? There's one right there under the big blue oval logo, and it's part of a new 360-degree camera system you operate from inside the cab. Push a dedicated button high up in the dash and the large touch-screen changes to a split view, showing the truck's surroundings. On the left is a panoramic view of the front of the truck, while on the right is an overhead bird's-eye view of the trucks' surroundings, helpful for all sorts of situations from maneuvering into a tight spot to figuring out where exactly that low tree stump is that you don't want to sideswipe on a narrow trail.
Push the button again and you get a panoramic view of the vehicle's front environment, a 180-degree angle that is useful for seeing oncoming traffic in tight urban situations. Shift into Reverse and a rearview camera helps you back up, but now features an LED spotlight in the tailgate's high-mounted spotlight to help with nighttime trailer hook-ups.
Below that button is the ubiquitous Ford Sync and MyFord Touch system, but as promised by Ford last year, this system has several redundant buttons and no touch-sensitive panels, a wise move on Ford's part. The new 2015 system boots up faster and is more responsive than in previous model years. It has been updated with new top-level command prompts that appear onscreen when Sync is activated, making for easier use. A new 8-inch LCD screen now is available on higher trim levels and is nestled between the round analog gauges directly in front of the driver. It has a number of new features, expanded apps, customizable display graphics and much better legibility than the much smaller old display.
With the arrival of all sorts of new sensors and the existing electric power steering for all models, the F-150 gains a number of enabled features like lane keep assist, automatic parallel parking and distance keeping cruise control. Blind spot warning has been brought to the F-150 too, and through a rather novel way. Instead of putting sensors in the rear bumper (which can be easily damaged in a working pickup) or in the tailgate or rear fenders, Ford decided that the easiest and cleanest way to install rear radar was to integrate it into the taillights. The system is optional on higher trim levels.
This is just a sampling of the new tech that has gone into the 2015 F-150. Ford seems to have taken its recent drubbing by Consumer Reports and other reviewing organizations to heart and boosted the technology levels in the new F-150 without making them overly complicated or difficult to use. Given that this is by far the company's most popular vehicle, that's a sound decision.