By on March 9, 2015

Ford F-150 grey, side

This review begins with a car, a broken car, a miserable broken ungrateful little four-wheeled implement to which I have sunk too much money and too many pulled hairs, both of which I will never recoup.

My stupid, silly Mazda Miata has been out of commission since, oh, last May, befallen by a faulty engine and then, uh, another faulty engine. (The details are sordid: first time was a journal bearing, if anyone’s keeping track, and the second, a failed oil pump. Someday I’ll gather all of my thoughts on this Horrible Misadventure in Transportation Ownership and publish the eight-thousand word screed to any miscreant willing to stomach it.)

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The third engine, as pointed out by snickering colleagues, has got to be the charm. That warm glow of schadenfreude doesn’t feel as good when you’re the poor dumb bastard.

Ford F-150 grey, front

So when an 2015 Ford F-150 FX4 the approximate size, color, horsepower and towing capacity of the USS Ronald Reagan CVN-76 showed up on my driveway with a whomp, I called up Chris Hayes, podcast producer extraordinaire of The Hooniverse Podcast—and we took to the road, heading 60-something miles east to Corona, California, to Keegan Engineering, the somewhat-grandiose self-stylings of one Mike Keegan, to liberate the fruits of my financial mess.

Ford F-150 grey, rear

Make no doubt about it—the F-150 is still huge, and it feels huge. Swearing off any nod to aerodynamics, its front end is as square and brutish as your average Electro-Motive Diesel product. It will eclipse a 2015 Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab, too—longer by 13 inches, taller by nearly two. And it certainly drives like it: bulky, ponderous, but never bogged down. It might be all that aluminum. It might be the fact that it can hit 60 miles per hour in five point six seconds.

Our EcoBoosted Ford came with the 3.5-liter V6 engine, pumping out 365 horsepower and 420 flubs of torque. It is a hell of a thing. Counting down that red light? Freeway getting crowded? Gotta move over before the on-ramp ends? Get on the gas and watch the nose rise up like a surfacing Red October, followed by the immediate and calamitous shifting of anything in the cargo bed. There’s a hint of turbo lag, but then the truck shoves you back, harder than a V8, I’d reckon, because turbocharger. And if the windows are down, the littlest prod of the accelerator evinces a constant whoosh “like it’s a turbodiesel,” said Hayes.

At one point, I lined up at a stoplight next to a Ferrari F430, equally grey, the ghost of Enzo all yelling “vaffanculo!” from across time and space, and floored it. Then I felt bad. You drive a flashy car like that, everyone’s gonna try to race you in all sorts of inappropriate machinery.

Still, I could’ve had him.

Mike Keegan hoists the new engine into the back of the F-150.

Mike Keegan hoists the new engine into the back of the F-150.

Chris and I recorded an episode of the Hooniverse Podcast on the hour drive to Corona, which you can listen to here, and which we could because the F-150 is dead quiet. Mausoleum-quiet. Which would be a cliché if it weren’t shaped like one.

We pulled into a nondescript neighborhood of two-story homes, washed out in different tans and beiges. A gentle bald bear of a man, Keegan met us in the driveway of his modest suburban home, next to a flat-white Falcon sedan—his wife’s—and in front of a garage that held untold projects and occasional treasures. It was quiet here, he said, and cheaper than Irvine, where he used to run his operations. Hayes and Keegan talked shop, exchanged handshakes, business cards. Trained by Cosworth, experienced through Champ Car, Keegan notably built Edmunds’ money-no-object Miata project as well as the race car motors for 949 Racing, which brought them to victory at Thunderhill, which certainly counts for something. Now, he works on diesels. We asked him if we could get him on the Hoonvierse podcast, and he smiled wistfully and shook his head no. “Too shy,” he said.

Mike Keegan close up

He had wrapped in plastic and strapped it to a pallet. We lifted it with a hoist and pushed it neatly into the bed, nearly filling its width. The F-150, especially with its FX4 off-road package, is so tall that the flip-out tailgate step is the only thing standing between you and your inevitable hamstring hernia. It slides out with a KA-CHUNK, along with corresponding yellow-knobbed pimp cane to climb up, and stepping down from the bed gives even the manliest man the countenance of a prom queen descending a crystal staircase.

The combination probably weighed 330 pounds, according to a snotty Miata.net member. I don’t rely on forums anymore. After spilling my fair share of pathos to bands of the like-minded, I found myself reaffirmed with the inevitable deluge of condescension and bad advice—I was like a vulnerable runaway, looking for support, for sympathy, remembering that I deserved none. From now on, I vowed, I would watch from afar, search and learn. We shook Keegan’s hand, slammed the tailgate shut, and climbed back in for the long drive back to Los Angeles.

The most useful innovation to pickup trucks since the V8 engine.

The most useful innovation to pickup trucks since the V8 engine.

Engine all loaded, we headed for the long journey through traffic.

Progress in the truck world advances so rapidly that an FX4 Off-Road edition is quiet, comfortable and serene. The ride is excellent. Let nobody tell you that leather is the be-all, end-all consumer good of lugg-jury: cloth seats are firm, never too grippy, and certainly easy to clean. Up front: gen-you-wine audio and climate control buttons—glove-friendly, self-explanatory. In back is so much legroom that it could serve as a one-bedroom apartment. The doors, however, slam with a shocking flimsiness, never with the hefty reassurance that justifies the purchase of a big new truck.

Gen-you-wine buttons and knobs!

Gen-you-wine buttons and knobs!

It’s a turbo, so it’s gotta be efficient, right? Well, Chris and I drove from his home in Redondo Beach to downtown LA, to Corona, where winter rains rendered the Chino Hills unto surprising greenery—grabbed the engine, drove up to the San Fernando Valley, another 75 miles, before I finally filled up to the conclusion of 13.2 miles per gallon. After another two days around town and half a tank, the computer readout displayed something like 16 mpg. Ford expects 17 mpg around town, 23 mpg on the freeway, with our engine and the 4×4 drivetrain, for the record.

John from Tripoint Engineering and Chris Hayes unload the engine.

John from Tripoint Engineering and Chris Hayes unload the engine.

And so. A truck is the easiest gadget in the world to justify: you won’t use it every day, but on the days you do, it is as indispensible as your next breath. That’s why Ford sells so many. That’s why so many are headed to the suburbs, where the mulch flows like gold tailings. Few consumer goods in the entirety of human civilization been honed to a knife edge, yet remain steadfastly traditionalist; in a sense, the F-150 makes up for its bold new aluminum experiment by wearing its size boldly, out-hefting its Chevy and Ram brethren. The result is stunning in its effectiveness.

Last year, when my Miata broke for the first time, I hauled it back home along the Central Valley with a Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. It was my first time towing anything. United with its Ford rival, across time and space and weight classes, by a singular fixed point of broken automobile, I learned that modern-day truck transport has no right to be this comfortable, this smooth, this easy—naw, make them city boys work for it! Make ’em sweat a lil’ bit!

With the new engine firmly in the hands of competent mechanics, allow me say that I enjoyed my time with the F-150—but I hope to never have to drive another truck, into a forgotten corner of California, on another roadster rescue mission.

Easier to hold the engine up and drive away from it.

Easier to hold the engine up and drive away from it.

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81 Comments on “2015 Ford F-150 FX4: Reviewed!...”


  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “, because turbocharger.”

    Stopped reading right there. This cross pollination with Jalopnik is bearing some questionable fruit.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I definitely used the extreme utility excuse to justify my pickup purchase. While it is used primarily as a daily driver, those trips to Home Depot and the dump make it 100% worth it. Knowing how well trucks hold their value makes the ridiculous payment and terrible gas mileage seem almost palatable.

    By no means do I have a fully loaded truck, but the heated leather, touch screen system, back up camera, remote start, etc, means this truck has more luxury features than any other vehicle I’ve owned.

    It does make me dream of an even more ridiculous and unnecessary second car like a convertible or something. If I got a regular car as a second car, I’d have a perfectly good $40k truck parked useless in the driveway, so the only solution is to have an even less practical “fun” second car.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    “[C]loth seats are […] certainly easy to clean.”

    Are they? I’m not doubting you or anything, truly, but my father has been complaining that all the fire retardants in seats make the cloth impossible to clean if anything spills on it. I have no idea if he’s right, and granted, that’s on his ’06, so they’ve probably changed something on the ’15s. But now he wants leather on whatever replaces his current pickup.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      My reasoning behind vehicles with leather seats is that with 3 young boys you need something that you can clean and/or keep clean. Sorry, but every cloth surface in my home says that cloth anything is not easy to keep clean with young kids. Leather on the other hand.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Leather is the new vinyl.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        Cloth seats aren’t hard to clean if you have a steam-cleaner or wet vacuum.

        It does get dirty fast, but it’s also easier to rehabilitate. Leather and vinyl don’t survive the car-seat-and-associated-crumbs treatment nearly as well: scuffs, stretching and oil (for leather) or acid (for vinyl) are much harder to clean up.

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          I’ve always put towels underneath my car seats. Problem solved. The rear seat on my ’04 GMC crew cab still looks like new despite all the abuse it has taken over the years from 3 boys. I suspect if it was cloth, it would be littered with battle scars inflicted by bottles filled with formula and sippy cups armed with juice.. Our vehicles have black and dark gray interiors. Another must with kids and a wife who is a bit of a slob.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      The crap fake cloth used on 90% of today’s garbage is in no way easy to clean and keep clean. It is the single largest complaint from many of our customers along with poor visibility on most vehicles built after 2005.

  • avatar
    Flipper35

    Leather is far easier to keep clean.

    For the author, you reckon it is quicker than a V8 because it has a turbocharger? Could it be because it has more torque than the Ford V8 or the gearing is different or? Is it quicker than other brands with a V8?

  • avatar
    mikey

    I’m 61 years old, and I know squat, on the subject of “millennial jargon”

    I do know that I enjoyed reading the review, and found it informative, and entertaining.

  • avatar

    I haul/tow so rarely that it’s cheaper to borrow a truck when I need it…or rent one. They’ve already got the 2015 F-150 in the rental fleets. I think that the only thing a truck could give me on a daily basis is the security of being in a larger (presumably-safer) vehicle. Then again, with the way I take corners, my little wagon is probably the safer bet.

    Still, there’s no doubt about it. Ford put a significant amount of effort into keeping the F-150 competitive, and it shows.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Pretty sure that most/all companies that would rent you a PU would also tell you not to tow with it. I’ve rented tandem axle dump trailers where if you showed up with anything less than 3/4 ton truck your going home empty.

      • 0 avatar
        mikeg216

        With this truck you can put 2,000 in the bed and tow 11,000 out back. Tell them to get with the times

        • 0 avatar
          Carlson Fan

          I’m not gonna tell them anything, I own a 2500HD.

          They’re the one’s that have to deal with the mess after a guy loses control & jack knifes his 1/2 ton truck and their trailer in the middle of a dry highway. Or so they told me.

          They rent single axle dump trailers for the 1/2 ton guys.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Carlson fan – I followed a guy in a gasser Chevy HD pulling a tandem dump trailer this summer. He lost control on a steep downhill and went into the opposite lane. Luckily no traffic. Point is…. even guys with HD’s can overdrive thier loads.

          • 0 avatar
            Carlson Fan

            Agreed Lou. Seems like the guys who wreck with trailers are usually the HD guys and almost always they have an oil burner under the hood.

            Understand the trailer in question weighed 2 ton empty. I had 6 ton on the axles alone at the landscaping yard and the trailer had capacity for another 2 ton. So you can understand why they didn’t let people with a 1/2 ton trucks rent these.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Carlsonfan -it is human nature to load up based on volume. They see space and want to fill it. That is a problem inherent with 1/2 trucks. They have the space to take a load but not the engineered cargo ratings.
            I see the opposite with most people with HD’s used for personal use. They buy a truck with 20k tow raings and tow a 10k trailer. Because the truck barely notices the load they drive like they are empty.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Only if you get the very right combination of stuff. If you go looking for something on the lot with those numbers, you’re unlikely to find it, unless its a regular cab. I know; I’ve been looking. The cargo capacity of the typical F-150 crew cab you’ll find on a lot might be as much as 1700 lbs. if you don’t order the FX4 package (because . . . skid plates). Also avoid: the sunroof (super-heavy) and the extra capacity 36 gallon fuel tank. There’s a lot of advertising b.s. put out about the towing and cargo capacity of these 1/2 ton trucks. Heaven help the buyer with an actual trailer, who doesn’t know enough to look at the cargo capacity on the door sticker on his particular truck before he signs the loan papers.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            DC Bruce- really? I would not buy any 1/2 4×4 with the optional smaller fuel tank. Same can be said for skid plates. They are cheap insurance. If you live in a dense urban setting and use 4×4 for that occasional skiff of snow then fly at ‘er.
            Look at the door tag because as you have pointed out, options add weight and weight reduces cargo ratings.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Please tell me that any 3.5 ltr turbo V6 F150 comes standard with some sort of mechanical limited slip to aid the traction control.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Saw my first of the new generation in the flesh last week. It’s easy to dislike on paper, but in person it’s a handsome truck. I think my favorite part is the “F-150” Lettering. It just looks so right.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Fixed.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    I’ve never been an F-150 (now F150) fan, but I gotta say that this truck finally ticks all the right boxes for me. The interior is still a bit cheapo in some areas, but after my boss let me have his for a day it’s a winner. The color combo shown here is what I would get too, although not sure if I would stick with the 5.0 or upgrade to the EB.

    Note to Ford dealers: PLEASE order more trucks with the spray in bed liner from the factory.

  • avatar
    gaudette

    More like a life lesson learned by a guy who knows nothing about trucks than an actual review. The first few paragraphs I thought this was satire and I still hope it is to some degree. The only direct comparison to other trucks was the incorrectly stated length. I guess the real truth about cars is that whatever is shiny and new is nicely reviewed.

    That man step is all but useless. If a person has the time to pull that contraption out of the tailgate they definitely have time to pull their gloves off before changing the radio station or adjusting the air conditioning. I take mine off before opening the damn door. By the way, FX4 is also no longer a trim level but an optional package.

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    “It slides out with a KA-CHUNK, along with corresponding yellow-knobbed pimp cane to climb up, and stepping down from the bed gives even the manliest man the countenance of a prom queen descending a crystal staircase.”

    I LOL’d. Hard. This is what brings me back to TTAC.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Those steps wouldn’t be necessary if they reduced the height some. Example my 99 Silverado can haul just as much as this F150 except I can step into it from the bumper and reach over the sides to grab stuff out of the bed. Just one of the things that bother me about new trucks. Still they are awfully nice inside. Too bad about the mpg.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      I think think the biggest problem is the big wheels they put on trucks these days. Put your Silverado wheels and tires on the new Ford and the bed height difference probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as drastic.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    So, you did all that at how little mpg’s, when a Transit Connect could of done the same.

    Great selling points for the FX-4 you’ve made?

    So what is it good at other than traffic light drag racing and returning around 13mpg.

    What’s its cost? And what are cheaper alternative to do what you used it for?

    It looks like a nice pickup, but I think you’ve sold the aluminium F-150 down.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s not our job as reviewers to sell you on anything. We’re here to report our findings with the vehicle we had in a given timeframe. For the task at hand the F150 (not Transit connect) performed the duties we asked of it.

      Reviews are not subject to a given formula, that would be a comparison test and even that is dictated by the publication and not the readers.

      In short, F150 Ecoboost = nice truck, powerful, but gas mileage that sucks in Los Angeles. LA is not the natural habitat for such a large truck (about the size of the outgoing Raptor) and hammering that point in the review seems a bit silly considering how obvious that fact is.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @BAFO™ – You’ve got a major hard on for the F-150 like DW does for Cadillac. But you’re a midsize truck owner that’d be better served with a cargo minivan too. Go ahead, you 1st.

      • 0 avatar
        Luke42

        For my purposes, my Sienna winivan is a far better truck than the 2004 F-150 FX4 that I used to own.

        So, I kept the van – and found someone who really wanted a truck to take it off my hands. Win-win.

        Some people really like pickup trucks, but that does not make them the right tool for every job. I much prefer an engineering approach where we define the needs, and then pick a tool to address those needs.

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Blake…Very Cool Review!!!

    OK…several issues that hit at my heart. Are you really telling me to not only turn away from this spring’s Miata purchase, but to RUN away from it?

    Next, very sad to once again be reminded of the real driving MPG of this truck. However, is it again something minor considering the power and weight advantage it gives? My sister adores hers in Texas…but she has enough money where the price of gas is meaningless.

    Again, very fun reading and wish all reviews could add this fun and emotion as well. Yes, there are missing specs and hard data, but it was still an enormously fun read.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I tend to find pickup write ups by non-pickup type guys annoying or maybe I’m not getting the attempts at humour.

    The F150 has always been bigger and heavier than the Chevy up until now. Aluminum puts Ford at a slight weight advantage until GM changes over.

    The much maligned “man step” is an incredibly handy feature but making fun of it was lame when Howie Long did it and it appears that legacy continues onward.

    • 0 avatar

      Try reading the review again, this time with your real eyeballs—I loved the man step, almost as much as I hate Howie Long.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Blake Z. Rong – After reading Derek Kreindler’s reply to another blogger I will expand upon my initial comments.
      1. you comments about the size of the F150, I got the vibe that you were just playing up steriotypes. Yes the F150 is big. That is why Ford went to aluminum. Roof height increased due to changes in regulations covering roll over crush resistance. Is that height and width an issue to most truck buyers?
      2. The man step. Again I got the vibe one was trotting out metaphors to play the car end of the pub. The previous “pimp cane” was on top of the tailgate. A truck guy would of commented that with this design Ford cleaned up the tailgate and ease of loading/unloading by relocating the pole.
      I do agree that the Ecoboost line is deservedly maligned for mpg but more because of Ford PR hype. Yes mpg is bad for a V6 but is it bad for a V6 with 365 horsepower and 420 lb.ft. of torque? It is slightly better than V8’s with similar power.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        In carefully done, independent tests, the Chevy V-8s (even the 420 hp 6.2 liter, which will smoke the Ecoboost) get better empty gas mileage on real-world test loops than the 3.5 liter Ecoboost (but not the 2.8). Carrying a fair amount of weight, IIRC, it’s the same story.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’ve owned three picket tricks over my driving life.

      The “man step” is just a workaround for making the rest of the truck bad at truck stuff, like moving heavy objects.

      When you need a step to get in to the bed, it’s time to take the lift kits out of the factory-built monster truck, and get back to doing actual work.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Did you choose to use a picture of the F-150 next to a passing semi on purpose?

  • avatar
    dabossinne

    In the market for a new full size pickup, coming out of an ’06 Tacoma. Went and test drove a 3.5 EB ’15 F150 this past weekend, and the author’s comments are accurate to what I experienced. I also drove a 2.7 EB and 5.0 powered F150, all 4×4 super crews, all with 3.55 rear axle ratios. These are very smooth, quiet, comfortable and capable trucks (as are the Ram and GM trucks).

    The 3.5 has the most grunt off the line. Really impressive low-mid range power. But I was most impressed by the 2.7. Very snappy off the line (I’m sure the 3.55 helps, and a 3.73 is the optional ratio) with verrrry little lag. Every turbo motor has at least a bit of lag, just some less than others…this one as little as I’ve experienced. (Note: the 2.7 also has an auto stop/start feature which when engaged take a split second for the motor to fire up from a dead stop and shouldn’t be confused with turbo lag). It simply gets up and scoots with a great flat torque curve from right off idle. Compared to the 5.0, I thought it had better low-to-mid range grunt, although the 5.0 is better in the mid-high RPM power department, where the turbo motor begins to run out of breath a bit.

    The 2.7 even sounded reasonably good with a decent growl to it, although in hindsight this could’ve also been that fake V8 noise being pumped into the cabin by the stereo speakers in the Lariat and up EB-equipped F150s. Nothing like the muscular roar of the 5.0, though…damn, is that one sweet sounding motor.

    Anyway, I’m torn between the 2.7 and 5.0 and could easily live with either. We should be so lucky we have such great truck choices these days.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      Turbo lag is nowhere in the Ford’s I have driven.
      Now, I dunno why VWs have it so in your face, but I hated driving my daughter’s Tiguan because of this sudden jerking at get up. I get a handle on it after awhile, but it is really there.
      The MKS I have had since 2009 with the earliest 3.5 AWD ecoboost never had it. The 2.0 in our ’13 Escape FWD never has it. I don’t drag and the take offs are the same in all these cars, but the Fords are easy breezy.
      And my sister loves hers and tells me she never has the lag.
      And I remember test driving the GTI…and it drove me away with its sudden jerking from stop signs. Fun car…but that was nuts.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        I have to disagree, both the ’15 and ’14 3.5 Ecoboost have the non-linear throttle response typical of forced induction engines. Drive the Chevy 6.2 V-8. especially with the new 8-speed, and you’ll immediate notice the difference. It’s not objectionable (unlike, say, the first generation Acura RDX), but it’s there. The rub is that the Chevy 6.2 requires 91 octane premium fuel; the ecoboost doesn’t

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “The rub is that the Chevy 6.2 requires 91 octane premium fuel…”

          The other rub is that one can buy an Ecoboost F-150 in a truck that stickers for as low as $27K. I think the lowest priced 6.2L is $42K.

          I prefer the big GM V8, but its restriction to only the highest trim levels makes it tough to champion.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            @DC Bruce – I had the chance to drive an EB3.5 F150 for 9 days while my truck was in the body shop. I didn’t notice much in the way of turbo lag but then again I’ve never been a foot meets floor driver.

            I found that mashing the pedal has some lag but it didn’t seem any different than that of my 5.4. It was like the transmission and engine mapping was trying to make its mind up as to what to do.

            The Ecoboost responds better to smooth inputs and avoiding inputs that cause a downshift. It seemed to pull harder if you kept it pulling in a gear higher than normal. I loved the torque.

            The mpg was similar to my 5.4 but at the time I had it we were in a -30C cold snap and tons of snow.
            The only thing I hated was the E-locker. I didn’t like how it worked with traction control and the engagement/disengagement points sucked.
            The EPS was heavy and numb at centre.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    The last F-150 FX4 was so much better looking. This thing just looks frumpy.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    @Spartan – the wide angle lens used to take the photo makes the snout look more bulbous than it really is but with that being said, I’m not a huge fan of the new nose.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Actually, Blake, while the front of the F150 may not look aerodynamic, a closer inspection of the detailing of the lights, etc., shows that it is . . . within the constraints of not being able to have a big proboscis forward of the front wheels and needing substantial airflow available for engine cooling. If I recall correctly, all ’15 F150s have active grill shutters, also for aero purposes. I agree with you, having driven a ’15 Silverado short box and a ’15 F150 shortbox back to back, that the Ford “drives bigger” than the Chevy . . . and part of the reason for that is the substantial height difference between the two trucks. Heck, the F150 is as high as all of the 3/4 tons.

    However, I agree with Alex Dykes that the seats in the Chevy LTZ are absolutely unbeatable for comfort, although I don’t feel as negative about the Ram’s seats as he apparently does. I turned down a chance on a good deal on an otherwise perfectly satisfactory 14 F-150 Lariat because I just found the seats impossible. The new model is better, but not great.


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