Recently, I had the opportunity to be one of the first non-Ford people in the world to drive the 2015 Ford F-150 at the global media launch in San Antonio, and I must say I’m pleased with the new truck. By utilizing aluminum instead of steel for most of the body, Ford managed to shave 700 or so pounds out of their new truck. A lighter truck should improve handling and performance, increase towing capability, and also improve fuel economy. I spent an equal amount of time driving both the 3.5L EcoBoost V6 in the Lariat model as well as the all-new 2.7L EcoBoost V6 in the XLT. I was surprised with the gumption of the 2.7L. That configuration was selected for the off-road course that Ford set up for the media to drive. Ford has a hit on their hands, but read on to find out why!

(Full Disclosure: Ford provided the travel, the food, the accommodations, and obviously the trucks for this review.)

2015 Ford F-150 XLT 2.7L EcoBoost 4WD

Apart from the aluminum, the big story with the new F-150 is the 2.7L EcoBoost V6. The engine scores big in a lot of ways. First, smaller displacement should equal better fuel economy (as long as you stay off the boost, of course). Also, being an all-new engine Ford could put some nifty tricks into it, including a new starter motor designed to support the Start / Stop functionality. Finally, Ford scores big with the engine because of its price. Compared to the base, non-turbo 3.5L V6, the EcoBoost 2.7 adds approximately $400 to the bottom-line. That’s a no-brainer.

Let’s first take a look at the newest feature of the new engine, the Start / Stop technology. When you stop at a traffic light and the truck is still in gear, the engine will turn itself off. Even though the engine is off, the radio will continue to play, the headlights still work, and everything else you’d expect. This is designed to save both fuel and carbon emissions. While you’re idling at a light, you are burning fuel needlessly. As soon as you lift off the brake pedal, the truck immediately restarts (there is virtually no delay), and you are ready to drive away.

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Compared to other systems I’ve experienced, the new Start / Stop in the 2.7L EcoBoost is fairly seamless in operation. If the radio is off, you can hear the engine restart. It’s also a little weird the first time you drive a car with Start / Stop technology. But once you’re used to it, you’ll barely notice it. One thing you will notice, however, is if you live in a warmer or humid climate. When the engine isn’t running, the air conditioner is also not running. The fan continues to run to blow air into the cabin, but if it is a bit humid it might get a bit uncomfortable before the engine restarts. To help prevent that, the truck is constantly looking at air conditioner load and outside air temperature. If it’s too hot to turn off the truck, the truck continues to run so the air conditioner runs. If you’re at a long traffic light, the truck might turn off and then restart before you let off the brake to keep the air conditioner running.

Like many modern systems in vehicles, there is an override button for the Start / Stop that prevents the system from working. Also, if the truck is in Tow Haul mode, Start / Stop is disabled.

For those that care, the 2.7L EcoBoost in the 2015 Ford F-150 makes 350 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque. Those are impressive numbers from a light-duty pickup truck. Despite the smaller displacement, the truck has some grunt. There is plenty of power on hand to overtake on the expressway or for towing. Speaking of towing, when properly equipped the 2.7L EcoBoost is capable of towing 8,500 lbs worth of stuff, and 2,250 lbs of payload in the bed. For most people, that’s plenty.

Where I wasn’t as impressed was with the fuel economy. During my stint behind the wheel (I’ll admit I wasn’t trying to get the best economy, I was driving normal), I saw around 20 mpg from the on-board computer. Our pals over at Truck Yeah on Jalopnik managed to get 23.5 mpg out of a 2WD version of the truck, and that’s with them trying to eek every drop of fuel they could per mile. While that is definitely a good number for a truck, most people won’t see that number because they’ll be hauling something, or driving like a normal. Turbo gasoline engines are great when the turbo isn’t being used, but once you get “on the boost” those numbers can drop extremely low. The $400 cost of entry is cheaper than the EcoDiesel option on the Ram 1500 I drove earlier this year, but I consistently saw between 28 – 30 mpg during my week with it, driving how I normally drive.

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Notice how I haven’t really talked about the aluminum? It’s because it’s not really that noticeable in day-to-day driving. Seriously. Yes, the truck corners flatter, which is nice. Also, some of the journalists I spoke with claim they could feel the difference right away. I personally thought it was a bit bouncier due to the decrease in weight, especially over the rear tires. It wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was something I remember feeling. The aluminum shines where it’s not noticeable; mainly in towing capacity and longevity. Aluminum simply won’t rust. Also, a lighter truck with the same pulling power means it can pull more weight. As for repairs, well overall repair costs aren’t really known yet, but the aluminum does feel pretty solid. At no point did I think or worry about the doors smashing like an aluminum can.

I imagine the XLT will be the volume seller, and when equipped with the 2.7L EcoBoost it’s a darn fine truck.

2015 Ford F-150 Lariat 3.5L EcoBoost 4WD

Stepping up to the Lariat trim adds a bunch of LED goodies, including the deliciously useful LED headlights. Spotter lights in the side view mirrors make it easy to illuminate a campsite at night. You also then have the option for the 3.5L EcoBoost over the 5.0L V8. The 3.5L EcoBoost engine generates the most torque that you can currently get in a Ford F-150. It’s also a carryover engine from the previous generation of F-150, so if you’re worried about longevity opt for this engine.

The 3.5L EcoBoost makes 365 hp and 420 lb-ft of torque. The 5.0L V8 (which is shared with the Mustang, in slightly different tune) makes 385 hp and 387 lb-ft of torque. When properly equipped, the 3.5L EcoBoost can pull 12,200 lbs of stuff. That’s a lot of stuff. That’s three-quarter ton truck stuff.

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Even though the 3.5L EcoBoost is a carryover engine, it does bring some controversy with it into the new 2015 Ford F-150. The engineers at Ford opted to use the stereo to create a gnarly engine noise inside the cabin. When I first drove it, I could tell there was something “off” about the noise. I’ve driven several 3.5L EcoBoost trucks before, and they didn’t sound like this. However, my drive partners couldn’t really tell. Many thought the noise was pleasing. The noise did sound good. You really can’t tell it’s coming from the stereo in the driving position. Knowing it’s fake is a bit of a buzzkill for more, but you might not notice or care.

The 3.5L EcoBoost is noticeably faster than the 2.7L EcoBoost that I drove previous. Considering that I also saw fuel economy close to 20 mpg with this engine, I’d just get the bigger engine (albeit more expensive) and be done with it.

The Lariat trim opens the door for a lot more options. My test truck had lane keep assist, a huge panoramic moonroof (the XLT also had it as an option), a productivity display in the instrument cluster that can show you just about anything you ever wanted to know, and more. Also noticeable is the lack of Start / Stop technology. It only exists on the 2.7L EcoBoost version.

This truck drove very similar to the 2.7L XLT. Aside from having more power, and the ability to check more options, they’re virtually the same truck. They all have good levels of noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH), and are nice to drive.

You really can’t go wrong if you’re in the market for a new pickup truck. The 2015 Ford F-150 improves upon their winning formula that allows them to sell a new one every 43 seconds. Undoubtedly, Ford will see similar success with the new truck. But the competition with GM and Ram is intense, and both are nipping at the heels of Ford. What that makes is a better truck for consumers, regardless of brand you purchase. I look forward to getting a new F-150 in for a full review and share that with you in the future.

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