1. Reducing Weight
This had to be done. Half-ton pickup trucks have been attempting to outpace and outperform each other in towing and payload for so long it's started to get a little crazy. Aluminum and other composite materials have been around for a long time, but the issue has always been cost. When using large amounts of these lighter materials, the issue becomes who has the raw materials and how much it costs. That question is still up in the air, but we like the direction Ford is headed with this.
2. Exploring Powertrains
If we hear one more person tell us that truck buyers don't want anything but big V-8s and more turbo-diesels, things are going to get ugly. Ford seems to be the first truck maker willing to accept that young truck buyers are not like their parents when thinking about pickups. It will be interesting to see what the take rate is on the smaller EcoBoost V-6 and who the buyers turn out to be. Not even Ford is expecting the smaller EcoBoost to take off like the bigger 3.5-liter twin-turbo, but we like that Ford is willing to experiment. Remember, Ford already has a baby Power Stroke slated for the coming Transit van that could slot right in.
3. Pushing Technology
Yes, half-ton pickups are getting quite expensive at the upper trim levels, and Ford is probably the best at serving those customers with King Ranch and Platinum trims. Even the Lariat is being stuffed with more high-tech systems. An all-new wiring harness was needed to deal with all the possible safety options, park assist, lane mitigation assist, blindspot sensors and segment-first towing electronics. There's also a new 8-inch information screen.
4. Rebuilt Frame
Ford redesigned the frame to take full advantage of the towing targets it needs to meet as well as provide additional cabin space. It was the right thing to do. Thanks to ridiculously smart software programs that didn't exist five years ago, Ford was able to custom build and construct a new frame that is stronger, thicker, wider and weighs less than the frame it's replacing. A good part of the midsection is made of 70,000 pounds per-square-inch high-strength steel — some heavy-duty pickups don't have frames that strong.
5. Bed Tech
Ford may have switched to making its beds out of completely different material but what hasn't changed is how truck buyers use their beds. What Ford did right was come up with several advancements to make the beds easier for people to use. We especially like the backup camera light for nighttowing, the removable tiedown cleats plated inside the bed and the remote-controlled (from the key fob) tailgate release. The multiscreen backup camera will be a standout feature for those who tow.