Mountain Wheels: Reinvented Ford F-150 loses weight, goes cubist |

Mountain Wheels: Reinvented Ford F-150 loses weight, goes cubist

The new 2015 Ford F150 features up to 700 pounds of weight savings with its steel frame and military-grade aluminum alloy body. The F-150 also introduces a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine with Auto-Start Stop and 11 class exclusive smart features that include available remote release tailgate with the click of the key fob, LED headlamps, 360 degree camera system and more.
Sam VarnHagen / Special to the Daily |

2015 Ford F-150 4x4 Supercrew King Ranch

MSRP: $51,920: As tested, $61,175

Powertrain: 365-HP 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6, 6-speed automatic transmission

EPA MPG figures: 19 combined: 17 city, 23 highway

There are two critical questions in light of the much-ballyhooed reinvention of America’s most popular truck, the Ford F-150: Does the move to an all-aluminum body really change things, and can a smaller, turbocharged engine really do real truck stuff, especially in the line’s biggest, brawniest, almost F-350-sized variant.

After driving a new absolutely top-of-the-line 2015 F-150 SuperCrew 4×4 with the ultra-luxe King Ranch package — boosting the window sticker to an auspicious $61,175 in the process — I can say that yes, those two new changes do work together in a mostly positive way, though you will not magically be seeing Prius-style fuel economy.

Rather, the positive spin is that the 700-or-so pounds in weight loss by moving the truck to an all-aluminum body will, in much smaller variations of the F-150, result in some significant fuel savings — especially when you go with the standard 2.7-liter 325-horsepower EcoBoost turbo V6, which is rated for up to 26 mpg.

I had the slightly more powerful 3.5-liter version, the updated variant that I’ve been using on other members of the Ford family for a half-decade, and its 365-HP output seemed pretty well matched for the new truck’s ever-expanding grandeur, plus the lifted suspension and meatiness of a 4×4 setup. And I still got 19 mpg pretty consistently.

If you were in the hauling business, you’ll be happy to know that the new aluminum setup promises more than 1,100 pounds of extra towing capacity and more than 530 pounds of raw payload across the engine line; the 420 lb.-ft. of torque offered by the larger EcoBoost seems entirely capable of yanking a seriously sized RV up the highway. Traditionalists can also opt for a 5.0-liter non-turbo V8, but it’s only set up to provide 20 extra horsepower, so the EcoBoost seems like the best combination.

On the road, however, the V6 turbo sounds anything but megatruckly, if you know what I mean: There’s an occasional sniff and whoosh of turbo, but hardly any raw truck noises, which may lead true old-schoolers to think V8. Happily, you’ll get all the power you need, almost immediately, with uphill jaunts or quick passes no problem, despite some 231 inches of alloy infused vehicle. There’s a thumb-operated electronic shift control on the massive shift knob to make some manual choices when downhilling (or full-blown hill descent control in the 4×4 models), plus in-cab trailer brake controls in this trailer outfitted model. Large side mirrors and a fancy new 360-degree camera system make parking the big beast a little more easy for newcomers; F-150’s lane assistance system buzzes the steering wheel a bit when you stray over a line on the highway.

King Ranch gives you an opportunity to see what happens when absolutely every possible combination of design and technological innovation is thrown at the F-150 platform, although many of the bits and pieces will show up across the entire family.

Principally, you’ll be feasting your eyes on a hyper-cubist body design that’s taller, squarer and more impactful than ever before. It’s hard to say who was the first to jump on that bandwagon, but you’ll notice an angular similarity on the body (and especially on the interior details) that’s a whole lot like the new generation Toyota Tundra, which seemed a little ahead-of-the-curve when it first appeared.

That means sharp angles on the hood and even some angled shape on the top of the front windshield, plus bracket-shaped LED head- and tail lamps, the front ones outlined with ghostly orange halos. Lights in the back wrap around to the sides of the body.

Inside, those rhomboid angles are everywhere, from the giant chrome-edged air vents to the full line of dash details, plus a center console box big enough for a motorcycle helmet.

The massive King Ranch, in addition to a spectacular spread of hand-tooled and specially embossed leather and aluminum emblems (even in the wheel caps), got both power-deploying running boards and a set of spring-loaded helper steps located just in front of the rear wheels. The new tailgate can be dropped, softly, via a tap of the key fob; my model of course had a full spray-in bedliner and the bed extender system.

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