Ford’s turbo’d half-ton delivers what landscapers need

EcoBoost F-150 is a good towing vehicle, but remember to use a weight-distributing hitch for trailered weights above 5,000 pounds. Photo: Bruce W. SmithEcoBoost F-150 is a good towing vehicle, but remember to use a weight-distributing hitch for trailered weights above 5,000 pounds.
Photo: Bruce W. Smith

Twenty-two miles per gallon, zero to 60 in under seven seconds and 5 tons of towing capacity are nothing to sneeze at when you’re talking about a V6-powered, full-size pickup. When you consider that the body is aluminum, it’s easy to see why the 2015 Ford F-150 is the talk of Work Truck Town.

The 13th generation of Ford’s F-150 is remarkable on many fronts, as I found after spending a week in it, driving hundreds of miles. I made several runs to the local boards-and-nails outlet, the grocery store, post office, municipal golf course and the airport, used it to tow a couple of equipment trailers and managed a weekend trip into the mountains. On every outing, some aspect of its new technology surfaced that made each of those trips easier and safer.

The remote tailgate was handy when loading plywood and the “smart” trailer-tow module, which immediately let me know the trailer lights and connections were good-to-go, made the trailering process quick and simple.

Voice-activated navigation, the lane-departure warning system and the 360-degree camera view made it easy to know where I was and how to get where I wanted to go. The keyless start/stop feature meant I never had to fish for the keys.

Access to the front and rear seats in the new F-150s is excellent. The front doors have been shortened some 2 inches so the rear doors could be made longer, greatly increasing access to the rear of the SuperCrew with zero negative impact up front. Photo: Bruce W. SmithAccess to the front and rear seats in the new F-150s is excellent. The front doors have been shortened some 2 inches so the rear doors could be made longer, greatly increasing access to the rear of the SuperCrew with zero negative impact up front.
Photo: Bruce W. Smith

Between the MyFord Touch feature and the “productivity display” in the instrument cluster, there didn’t seem to be any piece of information, climate or audio control that wasn’t at my fingertips. I was also impressed with the truck’s interior quietness and how smoothly the voice-activation system worked even on gravel roads (or pavement that wasn’t much smoother).

The SuperCrew Lariat interior is roomy and the seats are comfortable. There’s just enough leather, brushed metal and wood trim to give the truck the feel of richness without being over the top – a nice balance for the businessperson who needs a pickup that’s going to get dirty during the week, yet easily cleans up when it’s time to take friends or clients to dinner.

If the 2015 F-150 has any shortcomings compared with its GM and Ram rivals, it’s that the ride, when unloaded, is slightly firmer than the Silverado/Sierra’s and Ram 1500’s, plus the Ford’s electric power steering is a bit more sensitive. Otherwise, the EcoBoost FX4 off-road package I was driving is a stellar performer, on pavement and off.

This particular model F-150 SuperCrew 4Ă—4, with 3.31 axles, is capable of towing up to 10,700 pounds when equipped with a weight-distributing hitch. The 3.5L EcoBoost and six-speed automatic pulled a 20-foot tandem-axle equipment trailer that weighed in at 5,200 pounds with ease on the factory weight-carrying receiver. Doing so required carefully positioning the load so the proper tongue-weight was applied.

Power with the 3.5L EcoBoost is never an issue. With 365 horsepower and 420 pounds-per-foot of torque – more than the 5.0L V8 – the twin-turbo V6 has plenty of muscle available. This is especially noticeable when towing.

Be aware, however, that according to the Ford EcoBoost owner’s manual, the truck is required to run premium fuel when towing. The reason is that the engine mapping is changed when the trailer is plugged in to the truck, helping the EcoBoost manage heat and power better under such loads. That said, the transmission never “hunted” for the right gear when I was pulling trailers; it seemingly locks into a gear when pulling grades and pulls strong from around 2,800 rpm to redline.

I also learned during my week behind the wheel that both “tow” and “sport” modes enhance the feel of the V6’s power. The button marked “T/S,” near the bottom of the shifter, electronically changes the transmission’s upshift and downshift points so the truck is much more responsive. Selecting the sport mode also enhances throttle sensitivity and holds shift points higher in the rpm range.

The F-150 is deceptively fast, too, loaded or empty. I clipped off 14.90 quarter-mile times pushing past 93 miles per hour with ease. The truck also managed 0-60 sprints in the 6.40-second range. And those times would’ve been a few tenths faster if the truck were equipped with the optional 3.55 gearing, which I’d recommend for anyone towing on a regular basis.

I found the biggest driving challenge during the acceleration runs was finding the sweet spot between getting the best times and keeping the EcoBoosted Lariat 4Ă—4 from striping the roadway for a considerable distance when traction-control is turned off.

It was also during these speed runs that I got to experience another of Ford’s new technologies: slight of sound. Roll hard into the throttle and the EcoBoost V6 sounds just like a V8. Why? Ford engineers have actually mated the soundtrack of a V8 with the throttle position sensor and pipes the V8 exhaust growl into the truck’s sound system, perfectly synched with the V6. So, to those inside the cab, the F-150 EcoBoost V6 sounds pleasantly healthy.

And to those on the outside? Well, it still has the “whoosh” sound of a turbo’d V6. (They have done the same on EcoBoost Mustangs.)

Where electronic slight-of-hand doesn’t play any part is in fuel economy. It’s as real as the power part. Drive this truck gently and you are rewarded with really good mileage numbers. My 120-mile Interstate run with the cruise control on 65 netted 22.1 miles per gallon. City numbers hovered around 16.6, while towing those 5,000-pound loads at 55 miles per hour came in at 11 miles per gallon. EPA figures are slightly better: 17/19/23.

All in all, the Lariat model 2015 F-150 SuperCrew 4×4 3.5L EcoBoost is an impressive pickup. It oozes power and state-of-the-art technology, both of which can help the workweek go faster and smoother. It also combines a level of creature comfort, connectivity and safety into a package that sets a very high bar for its ½-ton pickup competitors to match.

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Download
Attachments Idea Book Cover