Matt Tripp showed up in his 2013 Ford F-150 at Tractor Supply Company in Olathe on a chilly afternoon on Nov. 4, curious about the 2015 version of his truck.
Tripp’s truck – the first one he has ever bought – has only 20,000 miles on it, and he enjoys many of its features.
Still, Tripp, who is from Overland Park, was willing to stand in line on a 40-degree day to test drive a truck that won’t hit the market until early next year.
After Tripp drove several miles in one of the 2015 F-150 models, he returned impressed by its power, comfort and all the things he heard about the newest model.
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“I have a Ford F-150 Platinum,” Tripp said. “I thought the engine was the same. I wasn’t expecting much difference from performance and sound. I did notice the difference.
“It was a noticeable difference, and that intrigues me. I am more interested in the truck than I should be.”
The Ford Motor Company wants and expects this kind of reaction from people test-driving the 2015 F-150 during its Consumer Test Drive Tour this fall.
The tour reached the Kansas City area the first week of November. The excitement level of Lisa Walkowicz, the team lead for the Ford F-150 Drive Tour, rivaled and might have even surpassed the recent enthusiasm of Royals baseball fans in Kansas City.
“Listen,” Walkowicz said as she cruised down a street in one of the 2015 F-150 models. “Isn’t that awesome? That is a 2.7-liter, V-6 engine. Isn’t that silly? It is absolutely ridiculous. It has so much power, 325 horsepower.
“When you drive it, you are going to be aware of certain things. It is a very comfortable, quiet drive.”
Of course, a team leader for a consumer test drive is supposed to be enthusiastic about the vehicle.
But hyperbole isn’t really needed when talking about the F-150. It has been America’s best selling truck for 37 consecutive years and America’s best-selling vehicle for 32 years. It also is built locally at Ford’s Claycomo plant.
Even by those standards, the 2015 F-150 is different from previous models. Walkowicz said the words you will hear over and over about the F-150 is “game changer.”
“Ford did so much of its design based on consumer feedback and input over the years,” Walkowicz said. “They really listened to the people on this one. They got everything right on this one.”
The 2015 F-150 will come in five models, XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum and will range in price from $25,420 to $51,000.
Well, what is so different about the 2015 F-150 from the previous models?
“The big story that everyone is talking about is the fact its body is made of military-grade aluminum alloy,” Walkowicz said. “Instead of this being a steel body truck, you are looking at a material that is stronger and more dent-resistant than steel. It just happens to be much lighter. There are all kinds of benefits with that.”
The 2015 model is 700 pounds lighter, which means better gas mileage and a smoother drive. Ford, though, hasn’t released the number of miles per gallon it will get.
“This is the toughest, smartest, most capable F-150 ever,” Walkowicz said. “You are going to see that time and time again. That is the key message that Ford wants everybody to be aware of.
“You hear over and over ‘game-changer’ with Ford. You heard that when we brought out the EcoBoost in 2011. You are certainly going to hear it now with the aluminum body and the light weight.”
This is a truck, Walkowicz said, that is going to far outperform its predecessor and still get better gas mileage.
“The fact we brought out a truck that can do more and use less gas, how exciting is that?” she said.
“This truck, when you look at it, you need to know it is a complete redesign. It is a brand new truck from 2014 pretty much in every way possible.”
Tripp agrees with that assessment.
“The little things I noticed,” Tripp said. “It appears to me they went to the nth degree to put out a quality, well-respected truck and listened to customers about concerns of their previous truck.”
Tripp is the type of consumer Ford is seeking with its F-150. These trucks are no longer just for the farmer hauling crops or a construction worker or the outdoorsman. Consumers are buying the F-150 and using it in the same manner as a car or even a luxury car.
“I went with my truck to get a good combination between something that is respectable on the professional side and is a great utilitarian type vehicle,” Tripp said. “I can use it for a lot of things.
“It is a nice ride. I am comfortable taking it to nice locations. It has a luxurious feel to it and yet it can do some work when you need it.”
Even though the 2015 F-150 is lighter than its predecessor, Walkowicz indicated it was strong enough to tow a big load.
While the body is made of military-grade aluminum-alloy, the frame uses high-strength steel rated up to 70,000 psi. Eight through-welded crossmembers provide increased stiffness, while staggered rear outboard shocks help provide stability.
Some other features that will be available are a 360-degree camera and a trailer hitch assist, which is a new rear-view camera that adds a dynamic line based on steering wheel angle in the display to help line up the truck and trailer without requiring a spotter or having to get out of the vehicle.
Another interesting feature on some of the high-end models is a parallel parking assist function.
“Active park assist has a sensor on the front and rear bumpers,” Walkowicz said. “If you want to parallel park your (truck), you can activate the system, turn your signal on and it will start looking for a spot. When it finds a spot that you are going to fit in, it is going to give you an indication and then you can literally take your hands off the wheel. You are still going to operate the gas and brakes always, but you can take your hands of the wheel and it will park the vehicle itself. It is unreal.”
These are just a few of the features that Walkowicz could spend a day talking about.
This consumer drive test tour started in Detroit the first week of October. It then went to Sioux Falls, S.D., Minneapolis, Chicago and St. Louis before arriving in Kansas City.
In each city, the tour does two events per day. The test drive tour will conclude Dec. 22.
“What is really cool about these events is there is so much excitement and anticipation,” Walkowicz said. “People who come out are multigenerational Ford family owners. They love Ford. They are true to us. They are very excited about the innovation and advancement. They know this is a game-changing product coming their way.
“They are going to stand around in the cold for us because they can’t wait to try it. We see people waving at us as we are driving down the road. Is that the new truck? Is that the aluminum?
Come springtime, Ford is banking on people all over the country saying, ‘Wow there goes the new F-150.’
“It looks awesome,” Walkowicz said. “Everyone who sees us, notices us. We get so much attraction just by how great the vehicle looks.”
To learn more about the 2015 F-150 go to www.ford/new-trucks.com.
If you have a feature story you would like to see in Drive, email your idea to David Boyce at Drive@kcstar.com