2015 FORD F-150 LARIAT
Road Trip Review
By Steve Purdy
The Auto Channel
The accommodating folks at Ford agreed to provide this new
aluminum-bodied F-150 Lariat for a long road trip to Amelia Island, Florida
where I would cover the fantastic Concours d’Elgance. That would be
about 2,500 miles in six days and a 19-hour drive each way. As it turned
out I had a scheduling anomaly (wrong dates on my calendar) so I had to
rethink my plan. Unfortunately, the Concours date was the following week
and would work for neither the F-150 nor I.
So, instead of that long drive to Florida I decided on a 4-day
“writers retreat” (I’m calling it) to northern Michigan
– Traverse City to be precise – where we’ll find
beautiful winter scenery and perhaps a few driving challenges to test our
4-wheel drive pickup. It will be a shorter jaunt and not as gratifying but
still a decent solitary road trip. My pretty wife found a great off-season
deal for me on a room at the Bayshore Resort near downtown right on the
shore of the West Bay and she sent me off with a smile. (Not sure what she
has planned while I’m gone.) As I left home just after the truck
arrived a light freezing rain began to fall glazing the already snowy roads
and offering an opportunity to immediately experience the 4-wheel drive
system on our F-150.
The 2015 F-150 made huge news at the North American International
Auto Show in January of 2014. Ford announced this new generation of the
best selling vehicle in the U.S. market would have an aluminum body –
first in the industry – saving hundreds of pounds. Journalists
immediately began to speculate about the wisdom of the plan questioning the
cost of aluminum, its repairability and even availability. Between the
aluminum body panels and more than doubling the percentage of high-strength
steel used in the fully boxed frame they’ve actually saved around 700
pounds. We’ll see if that is manifest in fuel economy.
The F-150 offers a 4-engine lineup including two EcoBoost 6-cylinder
engines – 2.7- and 3.5-liters – both of which make horsepower
and torque greater than most standard V8s. The normally-aspirated 3.5-liter
V6 is the standard powerplant and Ford still offers the 5.0-liter V8. Our
Lariat (mid-trim level) 4X4 is equipped with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost rated
at 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque. That’s about 20 less
horsepower but about 10% more torque than the V8. Our EPA rating shows 17
mpg in the city, 23 on the highway and 19 combined, using regular fuel. No
more than 2 mpg separates the EPA ratings of any of these four engines. One
six-speed automatic transmission serves all these engines.
Under normal driving conditions (without cargo or trailer) this
3.5-liter EcoBoost is a powerful engine. Acceleration is brisk but the
mileage was not as good as I had expected. We managed just 17.4 mpg in our
week of testing and that was mostly on back roads at 50 to 60 mph. Kudos,
though, to the Ford acoustic engineers who make it sound like a hot rod on
full throttle. The transmission shifts quickly up and down whether in fully
automatic or using the manual mode.
While the main roads were slowly glazing over it was the back roads
that still had significant snow cover and offered the greatest challenge.
Of course, those are the ones I chose. Four settings control our driving
dynamics – two-wheel drive, automatic four-wheel drive, full-time
four-wheel high and four-wheel drive low range. I tried all but the low
range on the way north preferring the automatic setting for most of these
slippery road conditions. I found one opportunity while up north to engage
the low-range setting and take advantage of substantial ground clearance as
I skittered down an unplowed two-track leading to a beachside trailhead
east of Glen Haven. Our Lariat 4X4 handled that challenge admirably.
Without any weight in the bed it felt a bit light in the rear but it never
got too jittery or enough off kilter to cause any concern.
Neither interior nor exterior design breaks much new ground. Both
are attractive and functional although I found many of the interior details
less than optimal. Large knobs for audio and climate control allow
operation with work gloves but icons on the navigation/multi-function
screen and the other dash controls are small and often hard to see and
manage. We love the 110v outlet on the center stack and the cavernous
center console with plenty of storage options but my favorite element
inside was the meaty pistol-grip shifter that more than filled my fist. I
found the interior materials, including the leather seating, very nice and
everything fit and functioned well except the memory seats that returned to
a default position each time I left the truck requiring me to reset my
position each time I returned. Generous and comfortable rear seating has
become standard in just about all full-size pickups and this one is no
exception. The rear seat base folds upward easily, leaving a flat floor for
cargo. You’ll certainly want the running board option on the 4X4
versions of the truck since it sits so high.
Different options effect both towing and hauling limits. We have the
optional 3.31 rear end and that means we can haul about 3,000 pounds of
cargo and tow about 10,000 pounds of trailer. Properly equipped the F-150
can tow up to 12,000 pounds.
Our F-150 4X4 Supercrew Lariat with short bed shows a base price of
$44,465. The 3.5-liter EcoBoost adds about $1,200, and the Rapid Spec
Package adds another $5,400. Along with a few other minor options and a
substantial $1,200 destination charge our sticker shows a bottom line of
$58,975. The F-150 line starts at about $25,500 for the unadorned and goes
to over $50,000 loaded.
Ford’s new truck warranty covers the F-150 for 3 years or
36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.
The Michigan-built Ford F-150 has been the best selling vehicle in
the U.S. for many years in spite of intense competition from Chevy, GMC and
Ram. Even Toyota appears to be gaining ground in this segment. The new
F-150 is selling so well Ford just began production at another U.S. plant
to keep up with demand.
Having reviewed most of the new pickups, regular and super-duty,
I’ll forthrightly report that none stand out from the crowd. They are
all very good indeed. They are not all alike though with very different
powertrains, convenience options, levels of trim and capacities. For
example, Ram is the only regular-duty to offer a diesel and they have the
way cool saddlebag toolbox built into the rear fender. The Chevy and GMC
have a slick and efficient new 8-speed transmission and more luxurious
trim. This F-150 has an optional step that emerges from the tailgate. That
would be indispensable for me.
The point is, if you’re shopping for a full-size pickup and
you don’t have a loyalty issue that will make your decision for you,
this will be an overwhelming task if you do it right. They are all so good.