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Half-Ton Hauler

Ford ups the towing ante with the 2015 F-150.

October 2, 2014
Ford Trucks
Ford Trucks
Ford Trucks

Ford Trucks’ all-new F-150 boasts a spectacular number of advances, but none more notable to trailer boaters than a maximum tow rating a 12,200 pounds – a 900-pound increase from the maximum in the previous iteration and the highest in the half-ton pickup category.

For skeptical boaters who might believe the greater tow rating is simply an exaggerated number to give Ford a marketing edge, keep in mind that its numbers comply with the SAE J2807 standards for establishing tow ratings.

I had a chance to pull some heavy trailers with the truck, and I can tell you that the performance is outstanding, not only in terms of acceleration and hill-climbing ability, but also in terms of stability thanks to a wide stance and beefed-up rear-suspension.

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So how did Ford squeeze more towing capacity out of the new F-150? Part of the answer comes in the form of less weight and more power.

All-Aluminum Body
The new cab and cargo box on the F-150 are formed with a high-strength military-grade aluminum alloy that saves 700 pounds versus traditional sheet steel. These new 5,000 and 6,000 series alloys are so light, I could lift the front fender panel with one finger, yet because it’s stiffer and thicker than sheet steel, it’s also more ding and dent resistant, according to Ford. Key components get heat treated for extra strength. Corrosion resistance ranks as another big benefit – good news for trailer boaters who launch in salt water, as well as anyone living in the rust belt.

Ford also cut 70 pounds from the weight from the frame, while also integrating 78 percent high-strength steel versus 23 percent in the previous F-150. Ford also redesigned the aft portion to eliminate many of the extra supports (and weight) needed when adding a receiver hitch. The entire frame receives a thick E-coating for rust-resistance.

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Ultimately, the weight that Ford has removed from the truck, it has transferred to the towing capacities.

Four Power Choices
There are four gasoline engines available in the new F-150. Leading the pack in terms of torque is the 3.5L EcoBoost. Thanks in part to twin turbo-chargers, this small-displacement aluminum-block, aluminum-head V-6 punches out 356 hp and 420 lb.-ft. of torque. The new F-150 reaches its max tow rating when powered by this engine along with the Max Trailer Tow Package, which includes 3.55:1 electronic-locking rear axle, upgraded rear bumper and integrated brake controller. At the same time, this EcoBoost engine offers greater fuel efficiency in non-towing applications. Whether towing or not, I have found this is one of the most impressive engines in a pickup today.

For trailer boaters who believe in displacement, Ford offers the 5.0L TI-VCT V-8 with 386 hp and 387 lb.-ft. of torque. Featuring an aluminum block and heads, it has four valves per cylinder. Maximum tow rating with this V-8 is 11,000 pounds. If you use your truck almost exclusively for towing trailer-boats with total towed weights between 6,000 and 9,000 pounds, this is the engine to order, I believe.

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Mighty Mite
With a compacted graphite iron block, the new High-Output 2.7L EcoBoost lends the redesigned F-150 a max tow rating of 8,500 pounds, which I found difficult to believe until I drove it. With twin turbo-chargers, this V-6 pumps out 325 hp and 375 lb.-ft. of torque. While I have not had a chance to tow with it yet, the power it displayed was impressive. Non-towing fuel economy was in the 22 mpg range, and Ford believes towing mpg will be much better than with the 3.5L EcoBoost. It also features Auto Start-Stop for non-towing city driving, but this feature is disabled when you activate the Tow/Haul or 4×4 modes. Priced as a $500 upgrade from the base engine (see below), this engine is almost a no-brainer if you tow up 5,000 pounds on an infrequent basis.

Ford also offers the 3.5L TI-VCT V-6, but with a 7,600-pound max towing capacity, it is least of the four engines for trailer boaters.

Unlike Ram, Ford has eschewed diesel engines in its half-ton line for now, but admits to closely monitoring the potential market for a diesel-powered F-150.

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High-Tech Marvel
Ford offers a mind-boggling array of upgrades with the new F-150, some of which are aimed squarely at trailer boaters. For example, among the many LED lighting options, there’s an available recessed tailgate light to illuminate the trailer hitch for hooking up your boat at night.

Dynamic Hitch Assist is also available to help you hitch up when you don’t have a spotter. It adds a dynamic line emanating from the hitch ball based on the steering wheel angle in the rear-view camera display to help you precisely line up with the trailer coupler.

Ford has given the new F-150 a more macho look with a slightly wider track and a bold grill treatment reminiscent of the Ford Super Duty series. In fact, facing head-on, you have a hard time telling the two series apart. That leaves Ford with a challenge to give the Super Duty trucks an even more macho appearance – a task I believe they already have well in hand.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to getting even more seat time in the new F-150 and challenging the new High-Output 2.7L EcoBoost engine to some tough towing. Look for the 2015 models in dealer showrooms later this year.

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