After years of trying to out-tow, out-last, and outperform the competition, the full-size pickup segment is finally starting to see some meaningful changes in the way engineers think about trucks. Between Ram’s introduction of the first diesel engine in its class, and Ford’s introduction of a largely aluminum body for the 2015 F-150, the pickup sector will see some intense upheaval in the next few years as the Big Three continue to duke it out for the profit-generating trucks.
By themselves, diesel engines aren’t exactly revolutionary (though in the U.S., they can seem that way). But Ford has truly gone the extra mile with its new truck, which has been redesigned from the ground up with new materials, features, and capabilities that will likely send Ram and Chevy back to the drawing board.
Karl Brauer, who is an automotive analyst and editor at the Kelley Blue Book, jotted down 10 of the most significant new features on Ford’s latest pickup that show how much the segment is changing. No longer are trucks solely the workhorses of America; they are also becoming luxury chariots that happen to have impressive towing capabilities, and customers have been eager to shell out luxury-like prices for leather-swathed, tech-laden pickups.
Here are the 10 things that Brauer felt would make the biggest impact.
10. Remote tailgate
Remote door options have been around for some time, notably on vehicles like minivans and SUVs to assist in closing the trunk when the drivers’ hands are full. Ford has applied the same idea to its new F-150 for the tailgate, as an option that will also lock and unlock remotely, in addition to opening. Cushioning will make sure that the gate doesn’t harshly fall, and as an added perk, it’s made of aluminum, so it’s lighter and easier to maneuver than its steel predecessor.
9. Box steps
As trucks get larger, bed access becomes more difficult, especially for those who are more vertically challenged. Chevrolet kicked off the step that was built into the bumper, and Ford has brought in its own step system that’s located behind the cab in order to more easily access the bed’s contents. “The Boxside steps retract underneath the bed when not in use and deploy down to provide enough space for large work boots,” Karl Brauer wrote for Forbes. “The tailgate step and grab handle now fully retract into the tailgate when not in use, which keeps the tailgate’s inner and outer surfaces clean and flat.”
8. Cargo flexibility
Virtually every truck on the market offers tie-downs and reinforced panels for hauling even the most cumbersome and rugged of cargo, but Ford has opened up potential configurations with the addition of additional tie-down points and removable cleats (which Brauer notes are “similar in appearance and functionality to what’s used in securing a boat to a dock”). There is also the e-track system made up of sliding metal rods, and each mounting location has a load capacity of 600 pounds, Brauer notes. There are also optional ramps for loading small vehicles and other heavy cargo.
7. 170-degree doors
Over the range of cab options, the extended cab models still remain one of the most popular choices for pickup buyers. These often consist of regular front doors, with suicide-style half-doors, the latter of which can pose some issues as far as the ingress and egress of cargo is concerned. “The ability to load items (people or cargo) into the rear portion of an extended cab is limited by the smaller opening between the cab’s B- and C-pillars,” Brauer explains, adding that to remedy the issue, Ford has now made it so the doors can swing open 170 degrees, opening up the cabin for improved functionality.
6. LED lighting
LEDs are now commonplace among many cars, but still haven’t found adoption throughout the pickup segment. LEDs, as Brauer notes, hugely improve visibility, both for the driver and for other vehicles. For Ford’s F-150, LEDs are standard equipment on the Platinum and King Ranch models, and can be chosen as an option for the Lariat. Ford’s taken its adoption of LEDs well past the headlamps however, as it offers LED lighting in the cargo bed, in the tailgate handle, in the exterior mirrors’ puddle lamps, on the exterior mirrors’ spotlight locations, Brauer said.
5. Driver assist
There was once a time where luxury sedans were the go-to for the latest tech, and pickups were vehicles reserved for rugged work and a no-frills attitude. That’s not the case anymore, at all, and Ford’s new F-150 leaps into the tech world with both feet. F-150 buyers now have the choice of blind-spot detection, lane-keeping assist, curve control, forward collision warning, radar cruise control, hill descent control, and Ford’s proprietary Active Park Assist system to pair along with an interior that would make a Cadillac blush in the right trims.
4. Exterior cameras
In addition to the extra safety equipment that Ford has jam-packed into the new F-150, it also added some exterior cameras — and not just the rear-view that’s become commonplace on all vehicle types. Ford’s camera setup will actually give drivers a 360-degree view of the vehicle, to help ease parking and navigating in difficult surroundings. The rear-view camera is also outfitted to help guide the truck up to a trailer hitch, so you won’t need your buddy to hop out and shout indiscernible directions at you while to back into a rock.
3. Electronic display
Another feature that’s more often seen on luxury cars, the optional 8-inch MyView display nestled behind the steering column gives F-150 drivers a whole menu of information that can be displayed and monitored. Everything from fuel economy, towing stats, off-roading, and tire pressure can be illustrated to the driver’s whim, as well as many other bits of data that the driver might want to know about.
2. EcoBoost engines
Ford’s EcoBoost engines have been hugely successful throughout the automaker’s entire lineup, but buyers have been particularly responsive to the 3.5 liter EcoBoost that provides 365 horsepower and 420 or so pound-feet of torque for the F-150. To better capitalize on its potent turbocharged units, Ford has introduced the 2.7 liter EcoBoost V6, which serves up 325 horsepower and 375 pound-feet of torque. Combined with new weight savings, the new F-150 should provide some healthy fuel consumption figures with little detriment to performance.
1. Aluminum body
Of course, the largest and most significant improvement for 2015 is the F-150’s famed aluminum body. In specific trims, it can shave 700 pounds off the curb weight of the truck, helping improve handling, fuel economy, and payload capacity (that’s an extra 700 pounds that the truck isn’t carrying around). Why is this such a spectacular development? Aluminum, while commonplace among luxury cars, has never been applied to such a widescale, mass-market application before now. And while its detractors liken the new material to tin cans, it’s notably a very similar material used on airplanes — and you’ve be hard-pressed to find a more stressful test of material than that.