Thursday, April 30, 2015

2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty Diesel V-8

Ten-percent more power and a solid whump of additional torque from the Power Stroke diesel mean it’s Ford’s turn to leapfrog its truckmaking competitors to claim best-in-class honors for 2015. Although the blue-oval team is making more significant pickup-truck news with its aluminum-intensive F-150, in this case we’re talking heavy-duty or, in Ford parlance, Super Duty light trucks, the F-250, F-350, and F-450. 

 We climbed into a pair of the revised 2015 F-350 models for brief drives. Both were four-by-fours wearing the King Ranch badges that denote luxurious trimmings, and both were in crew-cab, short-bed spec. One was a dual-rear-wheel version wearing that edition’s standard 17-inch wheels shod with Bridgestone tires; the other truck had a single wheel on either end of the rear axle and the optional 20-inch chrome wheels and Michelin light-truck tires. Both were equipped with the Power Stroke diesel V-8 and TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission. Prominent badges reminded us that the rigs would happily burn B20 biodiesel if given the chance. 

 With only brief exposure, our impressions were that this year’s more-powerful engine seems remarkably quiet—not as clattery or ever present as the Cummins diesel-powered HD Ram we drove earlier this year—and that the dualie was, surprisingly, easier to maneuver and rode better than the single-wheel version. A Ford engineer who was riding shotgun told us the single-wheel model was equipped with an uprated towing package and that its big wheels and different rear-axle-and-spring setup affected the ride and steering feel.
On the Heavier Side of Light Duty 

 Each truck’s bed was burdened with more than 1000 pounds of weights, so it wasn’t really possible to do a seat-of-the-pants estimation of acceleration, but given the curb weights, power ratings, and previous experience, we expect these rigs to get to merging velocity with plenty of room to spare on a highway ramp. Unladen, 0-to-60-mph times should be about eight seconds. Although they’re called one-ton trucks, that’s not much of a load by modern standards. Ford says these Power Stroke F-350s, depending on equipment and trim, can be rated to tow up to 26,700 pounds (or as little as 12,500). The gross combined weight rating can range up to 35,000 pounds. Mind you, these are meant for farm and work-site use, although the distinctions between personal-use and commercial vehicles are blurring. Marketing nomenclature notwithstanding, these pickups are really classed with their half-ton stablemates as light-duty trucks rather than with true medium- or heavy-truck segments where commercial-grade haulers fit. 

 Ford isn’t helping to maintain this distinction, however, boasting that this second-generation Power Stroke diesel is essentially an engine so strong that it’s all but identical to the one used in the medium-duty F-450. (Ram made similar claims on behalf of its Cummins-built six last year.)

More Squeeze Makes More Juice 

 The Power Stroke now uses a larger turbocharger and redesigned fuel-injector nozzles to make bigger bangs in each of the 6.7-liter engine’s eight cylinders, adding up to a rating of 440 horsepower (up from 400) and 860 lb-ft of torque (versus 800 last year). That neatly tops the figures Ram used to claim the title as the hardest puncher with its Cummins diesels last year (385 and 850)—and by an even wider margin over the torque rating GM claims for the Duramax diesels in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra HD models. 

 With a firm eye on its cross-town rivals, Ford placed a pushbutton on the dash to actuate the exhaust brake. Like those at Ram and GM, the exhaust brake generates back pressure through the turbo to create drag. Ford claims that besides the easy one-touch actuation, this year’s version works more effectively. 

 Dearborn boasts that it upgraded the interior trim on the King Ranch models for 2015. It looks a bit better but to our eye didn’t match the quality of materials in the Ram and Chevy trucks we’ve sampled recently. The leather, now wearing the King Ranch’s “snake” brand more prominently, looked good, but there was less of it, and sometimes it was used in odd places. Cheap-looking plastic bits (notably pockets on the console and inner door panel) felt flimsy. On the one hand, F-350s in King Ranch trim can run $55,000 to $70,000 or so, and chintzy trim might be off-putting. Still, customers in this segment are always asking for more capability, Ford claims, so perhaps they’ll be willing to overlook such factors in favor of boasting the biggest power numbers.


 front-engine, rear- or rear-/4-wheel-drive, 2-6-passenger, 4-door pickup


 turbocharged and intercooled pushrod 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection

 406 cu in, 6651 cc
Power: 440 hp @ 2800 rpm
Torque: 860 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm

 6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode


Wheelbase: 137.0-172.4 in
Length: 227.6-263.0 in
Width: 79.9-96.0 in Height: 76.5-80.8 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 6100-8150 lb


 Zero to 60 mph: 7.6-8.0 sec
 Zero to 90 mph: 17.4-18.5 sec
 Standing ¼-mile: 17.5-19.0 sec
 Top speed: 95 mph

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor: The Beast Returns with an Aluminum Body and a Twin-Turbo V-6!
It's a bird, it's a plane . . . it's the boulder-decimating new Raptor!

In one of his last shows as the cocky, right-wing-mocking talking head on the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert made a gleeful, deliciously prescient point about Americans’ short attention spans for cheap gas: “Fuel is cheap this week? Give me a five-year lease on a rolling cargo ship with the aerodynamics of a cinder block!” The statement may have been sarcastic, but there couldn’t be a better climate into which Ford could introduce its second-generation F-150 Raptor.

 Hulking on its off-road suspension, widened fenders, and meaty 35-inch tires, the 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor is just as outrageously polar bear–mocking and lane-deflowering as its groundbreaking forebear, only now it swills cheap hooch. Not that such a detail matters; since being introduced in 2010, the roughly $50,000 Raptor has had buyers lining up even through the late stages of economic recession and four-buck-per-gallon gas. Naturally, we love the thing. Who wouldn’t, given its huge power, ability to bomb across craggy terrain at 100 mph, and bad-ass visuals?
Built Eco Tough

 Happily, Ford stuck to the script for the new model—almost. There has been some paraphrasing in the engine bay, where, instead of the old truck’s 411-hp 6.2-liter V-8, sits a new twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6 engine with direct fuel injection. While it shares a displacement figure with the larger of the two EcoBoost V-6s available in the regular F-150, the Raptor’s mill features a new aluminum block and upgraded internals, revised heads, and tweaked fuel-delivery equipment. Final output figures weren’t available at the time of this writing, but we’re told to count on 450 to 500 horsepower and more torque than the current V-8’s 434 lb-ft. As for fuel-economy estimates, Ford is likely to trumpet efficiency gains on account of the turbocharged engine, but horrible, ignorable fuel economy is part of the Raptor’s charm. We’ll file preliminary EPA estimates under “we don’t care.”

 Of course, four-wheel drive will be standard, and the Raptor’s setup now includes a terrain-response function that optimizes the truck for varied surfaces such as snow, rocks, and more. Feeding the transfer case is Ford’s first application of its all-new 10-speed automatic transmission.
You Can’t Crush This Beer Can

 The new powertrain is bolted to an equally new frame that, while derived from the 2015 F-150’s steel unit, is substantially upgraded to better handle the abuse doled out by full-throttle (sweet) jumps, huge rocks, and whatever else a Raptor can subjugate to its will. Two wheelbases and cab configurations will be offered: a 133-inch-wheelbase, extended-cab SuperCab and a 145-inch, four-door SuperCrew. Following in the F-150’s footsteps, the high-performance truck also switches to aluminum bodywork, shedding a claimed 500 or so pounds in the process. A composite hood and front fenders further reduce mass.

 Ford’s stylists somehow managed to massage these fancy new materials in such a way as to imbue the Raptor’s rippling body with even more muscle. The slight upkick to the rear quarter-panels lends the tail a bad-ass stadium-truck look, and the grille once again boasts giant “Ford” lettering and federally mandated marker lights on account of the truck’s width. Colossal Ford lettering also makes it onto the Raptor’s tailgate, and there are vents on each front fender and another one on the hood, in addition to LED accent lighting everywhere.

 The most important elements of all, however, are sheltered by the Raptor’s blistered fenders. Those would be the Fox Racing shocks, coil-sprung aluminum front control arms, and the leaf-sprung solid rear axle. To improve on the old Raptor’s impressive suspension travel—11.2 inches in front and 12.1 inches in the rear—Ford upped the Fox shocks’ diameters from 2.5 inches to 3.0. The units still feature internal bypasses that take the edge off of quick, hard impacts. Skid plates in front help protect against meet-and-greets with desert rubble, and shallower front and rear bumpers improve the truck’s approach and departure angles. New 17-inch aluminum wheels are wrapped in BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A K02 tires that practically scream out for raised white lettering.
It Knows It Can Fly

 Amazingly, another carry-over feature of the 2017 F-150 Raptor is its near complete lack of competition. Dodge offers the 1500-based Ram Runner, but it is available only in kit form through the Mopar catalog. General Motors never picked up the phone when Ford came calling in 2010, and it hasn’t since. Some credit is due to the Ford SVT engineers—who now toil under the Ford Performance banner, hence the absence of “SVT” in the new Raptor’s name—that designed such a product that worked nearly as well on the street as it did in the Baja.

 Having sampled several iterations of the new F-150, we can report that the weight loss afforded by the switch to aluminum construction is palpable from behind the wheel. Yet for all that, this Raptor version is the one we’ve been waiting for. With the base price expected to stay around the $50,000 mark, it will continue to be within reach of anyone with desert-runner fantasies. So, yeah, Mr. Colbert? You can sign us up for one of these babies.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ford F-150

The Ford F-150 has been one of the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. for more than thirty years. It’s a full-size pickup truck that can double as a workhorse or an adventure-seeking family’s daily driver. Over time, it has become a staple of American truck culture.

The all-new F-150, which was introduced for 2015, turns to aluminum to bring weight down and carry the truck world into the 21st century.

See our 2015 Ford F-150 preview for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings

The Ford F-150 range is staggering in its breadth and depth. It runs from "rubber-mat special" base-line trucks ordered for fleet duty all the way up to King Ranch and Raptor editions that ladle on luxury features unimaginable to pickup buyers a decade or two ago. The truck can be ordered in variations that suit utility workers, contractors, ranchers, fifth-wheel trailer owners, and off-road racers alike.

The fabled F-150 competes most directly with the General Motors pickup truck twins, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500. Added together, those two trucks have outsold the F-150 in some years, but the Ford nameplate hangs securely onto its "best-selling vehicle line" title. Then there's the (formerly Dodge) Ram 1500, the third in the home-grown list. While the two largest Japanese makers have now dedicated a decade or more and opened plants in the U.S. to build their competing trucks, the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan remain far behind the trio of U.S. trucks. That said, a new Titan is looking to challenge the Ford and others come 2016.

The F-Series trucks share some running gear with Ford's Expedition and Lincoln Navigator full-size sport-utility vehicles. Over the years, the F-150 has also spawned the short-lived Lincoln Blackwood and Lincoln Mark LT versions--both resounding market flops in the U.S., although the latter is still sold in Mexico.

Ford F-150 history

Although Ford had previously built passenger-car-based trucks, the company sold its first true full-size pickups in 1948. Throughout much of the next decades its F-Series pickup trucks came with six- or eight-cylinder engines; three-, four- and five-speed manual transmissions; and a single two-door body style. By 1960, the "F-100" had been christened at the entry level, with F-250 and F-350 versions available with an early kind of four-wheel drive. As most trucks of the era were designed as "flareside" models, Ford added a plain-sided Styleside version that would dominate sales from then on.

For the fourth-generation F-100, Ford added a "Ranger" trim level and briefly built some trucks with unibody construction, returning to body-on-frame designs in the mid-1960s. Four-door models were offered, as were versions that adopted camper tops easily. A fifth generation arrived in 1967, with plainer sheetmetal but the essential truck features intact--V-8 or in-line six engine, two- and four-door body styles, and payload capacity into heavy-duty territory. The sixth-generation truck is known primarily for adding the 302 V-8 to the lineup, spawning a new two-door Bronco SUV, and bringing the F-150 badge to the lineup; the latter was a higher-payload version of the existing F-100.

The F-150 grew more upright and more capable in the next three generations of trucks sold from 1980 to 1996. Diesel engines and new automatic transmissions joined the lineup, and the Ranger name was split into its own compact-pickup truck lineup. An "Explorer" trim level joined the F-150 lineup and would be spun off into its own SUV range in the same decade. In the eighth-generation truck that arrived in 1987, fuel injection became the norm, and flareside bodies went away for a time; rear anti-lock brakes were standard, for the first time on a full-size pickup truck. The ninth-generation truck went on sale in 1992 and brought with it a driver-side airbag and slightly smoother styling.

The tenth-generation F-150, sold from 1997 to 2004, marked a sea change in pickup trucks. Ever more the choice of commuters and daily drivers, the F-150 grew far more shapely and rounded in this generation--mimicking the lines of some of Ford's passenger cars. The old, squared-off truck was continued for a while, until Ford could tell if pickup-truck drivers would approve of the new looks. They did: The F-Series retained its best-selling title and grew even more popular. New engines came with the new body style, including versions of the Ford "modular" 4.6-liter and 5.4-liter V-8 that would prove very durable. The usual two- and four-door and extended-cab versions were available, as were four-wheel drive and a four-speed automatic, along with heavy-duty F-250 versions. Special editions introduced in this generation included the SVT Lightning, the Harley-Davidson F-150, and the King Ranch edition. Safety ratings were poor, though, and while this F-150 had good reliability, its cruise-control system was involved in a major recall for the potential of causing a fire. This F-150 spawned a short-lived Lincoln Blackwood version, along with the longer-living Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator SUVs.

The eleventh-generation F-150 arrived in 2004 and began to revert the truck's shape to its more angular past. A more upright grille, and more squared-off window openings were the hallmarks of the design. While it didn't change much mechanically, it did introduce standard curtain airbags and stability control to the full-size pickup range at Ford. The company put special attention into reducing the truck's cost and complexity, making it easier to build--and even more reliable. By some measures, it was considered the most reliable pickup truck ever built. Ford attempted another Lincoln pickup from this generation--the Lincoln Mark LT, which like the Blackwood before it, was a sales flop.

The last of a long line

The twelfth generation of the Ford F-150 arrived in 2009, with its sheetmetal even more crisply folded than earlier models--bearing many cues of a Ford F-350 Tonka concept truck from  the late 2000s. The twelfth-generation F-150 wore a very large, very bright, very tall grille to emphasize its "truck"-ness. It's somewhat redundant, since the F-150 was one of the most capable towing and hauling light-duty trucks available in America.

In 2011, the F-150 received its most comprehensive powertrain update. To go with its cutting-edge technology--including Bluetooth, SYNC voice control, even ventilated front seats--the F-150 gained four new engines, all teamed with a six-speed automatic transmission. A 302-horsepower V-6 rejoined the lineup for the first time in more than a decade, and delivers the F-150's best gas mileage, at 17/23 mpg; turbocharging a version of the engine created the EcoBoost, with 365 horsepower and a towing capacity of 11,300 pounds. A 5.0-liter V-8 with 360 hp brought Mustang-style engine noises to the full-size truck, along with 15/21-mpg fuel economy. Finally, there was a 6.2-liter V-8, with 411 hp and 13/18 mpg fuel economy, offered in the most upscale F-150s as well as the off-road Raptor.

For the 2012 model year, Ford added a new automatic all-wheel-drive mode to some 4x4 F-150s, and swapped out limited-slip differentials for an electronically simulated limited-slip function. Then on the 2013 Ford F-150, the automaker added MyFord Touch's suite of voice, steering-wheel, and LCD touchscreen controls to the pickup, with other minor changes to the front end, including high-intensity discharge headlamps to some models. The King Ranch model returned as well, with a new black interior choice and standard MyFord Touch, for a base price of more than $44,000.

In this generation, the F-150 came in a host of cab, bed, powertrain, and suspension variations. Three cab configurations with multiple wheelbases and box lengths each were offered, providing choices to satisfy just about any trucker's need with the F-150. Properly outfitted, this F-150 could tow 11,300 pounds--while earning top crash-test scores (including IIHS Top Safety Pick status and a 'good' rating in the roof-strength test). Unlike GM's pickups, there was no Hybrid edition, and the F-150 fell behind the Ram's excellent ride quality. However, this F-150 had a well-built cabin, excellent shift quality and comfortable seats--as well as the off-road-ready Raptor model and some of the most up-to-date luxury features found on any truck.

Today's F-150

With the introduction of the 2015 Ford F-150, the automaker set its sights on the most radical reinvention of the pickup truck yet. With a body composed mostly of aluminum, and a downsized range of turbocharged engines on tap, the latest Ford F-150 will be a lot lighter on the road and more efficient at the gas pump. The most efficient of the new F-150s scores 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway cycle.

At the top of that list of changes is an aluminum body. Ford says the high-strength aluminum alloy in the F-150’s body is at least as tough as steel but much lighter. The extensive use of aluminum saves about 700 pounds versus the previous all-steel F-150—a substantial reduction in mass that should markedly improve gas mileage. Under the aluminum body work, however, there’s still plenty of steel—in fact, more high-strength steel than ever is used in the structural underbody and frame elements to improve both capability and crash protection, while also saving about 70 pounds of weight versus the old setup.

Inside, the look isn’t such a great departure from previous versions of the pickup, though there’s a new level of upscale look and feel on premium trims. Blocky shapes and sturdy structures are the visual theme to back the F-150’s chosen mission. Ford has also added a long list of standard and optional features, including massaging seats.

 Engines are another area of innovation for the 2015 F-150. Four engines are available, and while three are familiar, the new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 is an unusual choice; Ford sees it as the go-to for gas mileage in the new F-150. Also available is an updated 3.5-liter V-6 engine that takes place of the outgoing truck's 3.7-liter, and the familiar 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and 5.0-liter V-8. All four engines are paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. Both 4x4 and 4x2 drive configurations are available. And for the first time, the base engine is available in a crew-cab truck, now that the weight has been brought down to meet its abilities. The 2.7-liter V-6 is the most efficient in EPA ratings, followed by the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter and then the 3.5-liter EcoBoost, followed y the 5.0-liter V-8. In its least efficient guise, with the V-8 and four-wheel drive, the F-150 still manages ratings of 15/21 mpg.

The 2015 F-150’s front suspension is a coil-on-shock independent arrangement, while the rear retains the Hotchkiss-type solid axle riding on leaf springs and outboard shock absorbers. The rear suspension got a significant rework, however, with a switch to staggered shock placement among other changes. Improved electric-assist power steering and four-wheel vented ABS disc brakes round out the key mechanical specs.

 As before, three cab styles are offered: Regular, SuperCab, and SuperCrew. Matching the cabs, three beds will be offered, with lengths of 67.1, 78.9, and 97.6 inches. At launch, these cab and bed configurations will be complemented by five trims: XL, XLT, King Ranch, Lariat, and Platinum. New equipment offerings for the 2015 F-150 include Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with cross-traffic alert, inflatable rear seat belts, pickup-box LED lighting, Sony premium audio, and, on Platinum models, real wood trim. An off-road-oriented FX4 package will be available, bundling off-road-tuned shocks, skid plates, and an electronic locking rear axle.

Ford used the 2015 Detroit auto show to announce a new Raptor based on the aluminum F-150. The new super-truck, which will arrive for the 2016 model year, features an upgraded suspension, a new four-wheel-drive system, and a high-output Ford Performance 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 that will make more power and torque than the outgoing 6.2-liter V-8 engine. Ford says the second-generation truck weighs 500 pounds less than the previous Raptor, as well.