2015 Ford F 150 Winter Drive
To prove its mettle, The 2015 Ford F 150 pickup was taken to a quarry in Charlevoix, PQ, where it was put through its paces over logs, snow and boulders.
THE PROS & CONS
What’s Best: Thirty-four models, hundreds of configurations, thousands of variations to meet every want or need.
What’s Worst: Sheer size. It may be 700 lb lighter, but it looks 700 lb bigger.
What’s Interesting: Ford’s decision to go against perception and opt for aluminum in the body and box construction, making it a first for pickups.
Ford puts its aluminum F-150 to the test
CHARLEVOIX, PQ: It has been a good year for the 2015 Ford F 150 pickup truck.
Named the North American Truck of the Year and the AJAC Canadian Utility of the Year, it has also been getting a massive amount of publicity for Ford’s decision to switch to aluminum for body construction and truck beds.
Ford sold 126,000 F 150s in Canada in 2014, making it the best selling vehicle in the country, beating the best selling car in Canada, the Honda Civic, by two-to-one.
Read the Review for the Ford F 150
But proof is in the pudding which is why Ford brought a brace of new F 150s to the Charlevoix region of Quebec in the middle of February to prove the pickup can more than cut it in our Canadian winter.
By good luck, I drove with Larry Queener, product manager on the F-150, and he explained that the road from the inception of the new generation F 150 was more than 10 million miles of testing long even before it got to Charlevoix.
One of these tests was more than 1,000 extreme engine temperature loops that were the equivalent of driving non stop from Death Valley to the Arctic Circle 350 times.
During our drive he talked about F 150 and when he started work on it four years ago.
One of the early decisions was to go with aluminum, which resulted in a weight saving of 700 lb. That is equal to the weight of three, full-sized refrigerators or 20 concrete blocks leading to a 500 lb plus greater payload.
Queener pointed out the aluminum used on the F 150 body and bed is military-grade aluminum alloy like that used on armoured troop carriers and the Space Shuttle, not something like the flimsy aluminum home siding most of us think of.
This is attached to a frame that is 78 per cent high-strength steel, as opposed to 23 per cent in the previous F 150. This steel is stronger than that used on some of Ford’s heavy-duty pickups.
He said part of the testing of the new truck saw it put into real-work duty at the Barrick gold mine, where the service life of a light pickup can be very short.
In the mines, huge pieces of drilling equipment are dumped in the boxes, where they rattle around and sometimes rip holes in the box sides.
With the aluminum, the F 150s took a beating but did not fail.
The other objective was to lower the number of trim levels from eight to five, while offering four engines, two of them with EcoBoost technology.
They are the normally aspirated 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (283 hp, 255 lb/ft of torque); 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 (325 hp, 375 lb/ft); 5.0-litre DOHC V8 (385 hp, 387 lb/ft); and 3.5-litre EcoBoost V6 (365 hp, 420 lb/ft).
But with a choice of two- or four-wheel-drive, and multiple bed lengths and cab configurations, the number of ways to mix and match, not to mention trims, numbers into the thousands.
The purpose for journalists’ visit to the Charlevoix region of Quebec was to try out the new F 150 in real winter conditions and in a number of scenarios, starting with a slalom on a airport runway only partially cleared of snow so we could get out of shape, but not worry about hitting anything.
With traction control off and hard on the gas, the 4X4 5.0-litre I drove slithered back and forth, but went where it was aimed, albeit with a lot of contra-steering.
Braking was the fun part, even in the snow, and I didn’t kill a single cone.
Queener and I teamed up for the towing portion of the test, hauling first a 25-foot boat and trailer and then a generator lashed down in the bed with the 5.0-litre both times. With a payload rating of 1,496 kg (3,300 lb) and trailering of 4,989 kg (11,100 lb) there was no real sensation of pulling these numbers on the snow-covered back roads.
Ford offers three trailer tow packages as well as the F 150 coming standard with trailer sway control, hill start assist, transmission two/haul drive mode, productivity screen with new towing apps, as well as a new smart trailer tow connector.
There are also a number of optional trailer aids such as an integrated trailer brake controller and SelectShift six-speed automatic with Progressive Range Select.
One of these options is the manual and power telescoping trailer tow outside mirrors. Containing a regular and convex mirror, they extend to let you see what’s behind when towing and then retract to cut drag and noise when not needed.
But the most challenging part had to be a stone quarry Ford found with tracks hewn out of the mostly granite rock walls.
Ford had our vehicles clambering over logs and down steep inclines. The best or worst (depending if you were a passenger or not) was ascending boulder-packed roads with nothing to stop your fall on either side.
Queener did the driving here because I was too chicken and I will never forget rumbling up to the top only to see the St. Lawrence River way, way down about 10 miles away.
The F-150 we were in had the new 360-degree camera with split screen that gives a full surround view up to seven feet around the truck.
With the nose pointing to the sky, just being able to see where the crest of the road was, made for much more confidence.
Also aiding all was the My View information screen on the main gauge cluster that can be configured in a number of ways including off- and on-road settings to let you know literally where you stand.
At the end of a long day, Queener talked about the F 150 and all the factors that went into making the 2015 model the kind of truck he envisaged four years ago.
He said his goal was to make the most capable, most fuel-efficient, most cost-effective and smartest light pickup on the market.
And from what the F 150 did and where it went in Quebec, I’d say it was mission accomplished.