Ford wanted to demonstrate the winter and off-road capabilities of its all-new, aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 pickups, so it arranged a test-driving program in Charlevoix, Que., following a highway drive from Quebec City. The testing venue included a most challenging off-road course, carved out of a quarry, plus an icy slalom laid out on the frozen taxiways of the Charlevoix airport. To say the new F-150 capably handled the challenges is an understatement, while its performance on the open road was flawless.
The test drive fleet included this F-150 powered by Ford’s all-new 2.7-litre EcoBoost V-6 engine, which uses twin turbochargers, an intercooler and sequential direct fuel injection to pump out an impressive 325 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. It’s the latest addition to the F-150 engine lineup, which also includes the naturally aspirated base 3.5-litre V-6 (283 horsepower, 255 lb-ft of torque), the trusty, naturally aspirated 5.0-litre V-8 (385 horsepower and 387 lb-ft of torque) and the high-output, 3.5-litre EcoBoost V-6 with twin turbos, an intercooler and sequential direct injection to generate 365 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Despite its relatively small displacement, the 2.7-Litre EcoBoost V-6 demonstrated impressive grunt, easily handling the steep grades and rugged surfaces of the quarry course. It was equally adept at highway speed, cruising comfortable with plenty of power in reserve for passing and merging demands. This engine, combined with its six-speed automatic transmission, is capable of hauling a maximum payload of 1,020 kg (2,250 lb) and is rated to tow up to 3,860 kg (8,500 lb). This engine is fitted with an auto start-stop feature that helps it achieve class-leading fuel efficiency – 9.2 litres/100 km in highway driving, 12.2 L/100 in city use. (The auto start-stop feature is disabled when the truck is towing or in 4x4 mode.)
The off-road course was one of the most challenging this scribe has encountered. Dynamite was used to blast out the route, leaving behind large chunks of loose rock that provided an extreme test of the F-150’s capabilities. Once the climb to the summit was achieved, a twisting circuit through deep snow led back to Ground Zero. All the trucks were equipped with Ford’s FX4 off-road package, including four-wheel drive and electronic locking rear axle, which made the ascents up the slippery slopes a breeze. Likewise, the package’s hill descent control system proved invaluable during the steep descents, keeping the vehicle under control despite the deep, snow-covered surface.
As if the quarry climbs weren’t enough of a test, the off-road course also included a log crawl, where the truck had to inch its way over a series of large logs. While it was jarring for the occupants, the F-150 absorbed the abuse without a whimper. The off-road-tuned shock absorbers front and rear (part of the FX4 package) worked well with the independent, double-wishbone front suspension and two-stage variable-rate rear leaf springs to minimize bounce.
The dynamic testing layout at the Charlevoix airport included a run through deep snow. While providing an opportunity for some fun for the drivers, the foot-to-the-floor acceleration pass also demonstrated the effectiveness of the F-150’s AdvanceTrac stability control system with integrated roll stability and curve control. There was no problem keeping the truck heading in the right direction despite the deep ruts in the snow that developed over the duration of the exercise.
An icy, frozen taxiway was the ideal venue to put the F-150’s stability and traction control systems to the test. The truck stayed on course, although it could be made to wag its tail with aggressive use of the accelerator. Understeer was never an issue either, unless the driver pushed the limits too far. Overall, the F-150’s behavior on ice was commendable, thanks to its electronic control systems, and certainly gave the driver a sense of confidence in such adverse conditions.
The F-150s used in this event were all fitted with BFGoodrich’s new all-terrain T/A K02 tires. This is not original equipment on F-150s, although it will be fitted to future Ford Raptors, but was selected for use here to comply with Quebec’s mandatory winter tire regulations. It proved to be an ideal choice, delivering a quiet on the highway, aggressive grip on the rugged, loose aggregate of the off-road course and confidence-building adhesion on the icy slalom layout.
The KO2 slots into the brand’s lineup between its radial All-Terrain T/A models designed primarily for road use and its extreme off-road tires. On the F-150 it can readily handle off-road challenges, yet retains good manners on the highway as well. Features of the KO2 include sidewalls that are 20 percent tougher – there wasn’t a single tire failure despite the sharp rocks encountered on the off-road course – while tread life on gravel has been doubled and improved 15 percent on asphalt, compared to its predecessor. Traction in mud is 10% better and in snow it’s increased 19%.
The development of an all-aluminum cab and box, which started in 2009 and has been subjected to more than 16 million kilometres of testing before its introduction in the 2015 F-150, resulted in a 317-kg reduction in vehicle weight, yet the use of an all-new high-strength steel frame enabled Ford engineers to deliver a truck that offers best-in-class payload (up to 1,500 kg/3,300 lb) and towing capacities (up to 5,530 kg/12,200 lb), depending on the powertrain, plus up to a 20% improvement in fuel economy, faster acceleration and better braking.
The new F-150’s power-to-weight ratio has improved from five to 16%, also depending on the powertrain. For this testing session, a payload consisting of a tow-motor that weighed approximately 385 kg (850 lb) was strapped into the aluminum pickup box, while the trailer-towing trial involved an excavator loaded on a dual-axle construction flatbed with a total weight of about 8,500 lbs (3,855 kg). Driven over a combination of flat, urban terrain and hilly country roads, the trucks handled both loads without an issue.
For a video take on this adventure from our friends at Wheels on Edge, click here.
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