The first time I saw the 2015 Ford F-150 up close, I almost mistook its gleaming front clip for the gable end of a barn. OK, not really, but it looked huge—even if that's not unusual among its massive-grilled contemporaries. Closer in, particularly when I sat in the driver's seat for the first time, I felt a like a small child sitting in a large adult's favorite rocking chair. As on its exterior, the interior appointments were a chunky celebration of sheer bigness.
Everyone has their own perspective on this current trend of exaggerated hugeness in trucks, and I must admit that I'm not a huge fan. But once I'd acclimated to my big & tall-sized surroundings, there was enough about the truck to like that I could overlook my initial aversion to its proportions. In my opinion, this is the best of American largesse boiled down into a pickup truck. Forget about the finned cruisers of the '50s and the monstrous land yachts of the decades that came after. The F-150 is the comfort machine of the new age.
Part of its ascendance from past years' ideals of comfort and luxury seem to lie in a cultural shift of late toward practicality. This beast of a truck may be big and comfortable like the behemoth sedans of the post-war years, and most people probably don't need the utility afforded by the pickup truck bed. But when you combine the F-150's cushy ride with the handy pickup platform, then throw in the coup de grace—Ford's new turbocharged 2.7-liter V6—it begins to make sense.
As someone who has owned a few traditional pickups—the V-8-powered 5,000-pound monsters that still ply American roadways in significant number—I can tell you that having a truck is great. If you got along without one before, you're likely to become one of the people who sing pickup praises once you take one home for the first time. The only problem, in the past, was that going any distance in a vehicle that would reliably turn in fuel economy numbers in the 13-to-16 mpg range added a dismal cost factor to whatever it is you were doing.
Not so with the 2.7-liter F-150, which will reliably get 24 mpg on New England's hilly stretches of highway, even at speeds approaching 80 miles per hour. An extra 1,000 pounds of tools and inefficient old-school small block Chevrolet engine parts loaded into the bed didn't seem to change anything either. Fuel economy and ride quality were unflinching.
The 2.7 occupies a unique space in the lineup of engines available in Ford pickups. I've driven all of them, and the standard, naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 works fine. But it's as uninspiring as you'd expect an entry-level truck engine to be. The V-8 and top-of-the-line Ecoboost V-6 versions are great, but they're expensive upgrades. The 2.7, on the other hand, is a very capable engine that only adds $795 to the truck's price (unless you end up tacking on a bunch of other upgrades, which is likely if that's what happens to be on the dealer's lot).
While I've always appreciated trucks with bench seats and open floor plans, so to speak, the blocky center console Ford has made available in the F-150 is truly useful. Not only was it able to swallow everything from cameras and tools to hanging file folders, it also made a decent flat desk space in a pinch. As a matter of fact, if you have work to do, you never really have to leave the F-150. It has more office worker-oriented cubby holes than a plastic desk organizer. The windows are tinted, so even when people stop to gawk at its gleaming chrome wheels, they won't even know you're there typing away (I know that because it happened). And yes, technically, you can actually get one with vinyl bench seats front and rear.
On the highway, the F-150 floats along like the Cadillacs of old; well, until the road's surface turns rough, then it sort of reminds you that it's a truck. But cruising above 70 mph feels as secure as it does comfortable. Acceleration is brisk, and there's no noticeable turbo lag. The 2.7 gave off the impression that it was an honest-to-goodness jack of all trades.
The infotainment system functioned well enough, but Ford still has some unfinished homework in that subject. The configuration of its controls isn't intuitive (to me, mind you, which is by no means everyone), and the system did weird things like turn the audiobook recording playing through my phone into the stereo system into an actual phone call without warning now and again. The AM radio voice effect was kind of neat, but I would have preferred if things just worked the way they were designed to.
At nearly $45,000, this particular F-150 was a little rich for my blood. I felt that it could have done without the $1,700 "chrome appearance package." Another equipment group included a rear-view camera I'd say is indispensable in a vehicle this tall, but I personally might go for an aftermarket unit to avoid its $2150 price tag. Strip down enough options—including four-wheel drive, unfortunately—and you can still have this great driving, turbo 2.7-powered Supercab truck for just over 32 grand. It won't have any chrome on it, but truck aficionados might still gawk at it while it's new. Regardless, you'll be able to carry 1,700 pounds of stuff in the back or a 7,600-pound trailer with it, so what do you care what they think?
By the numbers: 2015 Ford F-150 XLT 2.7
MSRP: $44,980 (as tested, includes $1,195 destination charge)
Power and drive wheels: 2.7-liter, 325-horsepower turbocharged V6; rear-wheel drive with selectable four-wheel drive
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 18/23 city/highway mpg
Safety: IIHS has not yet published results for the 2015 model.
In showrooms: Now