Ford has taken great pains to make sure the all-new 2015 F-150 is its most aerodynamic pickup ever in order to make it more fuel efficient.
Brad Richards, the truck’s exterior-design manager, said every vehicle should be more aerodynamic than the model it replaces, but the expectations were heightened on the F-150 program.
“The aerodynamics were much more at the forefront on this launch,” Richards said of the aluminum-body truck. Ford has not discouraged industry speculation the truck could get as much as 30 mpg in highway driving.
“It was a huge challenge as a designer to try to make the trucks tougher looking, but more efficient,” Richards said. “We want to sell the truck on efficiency. It is money in the customer’s pocketbook.”
The surprising finding was that some of the softer and sleeker lines he feared he would have to sculpt actually made the aerodynamics worse instead of better.
Working with sketches and then clay models, designers found that crisp corners, channels to steer wind through the wheel wells, wider tailgate panels and carefully designed side mirrors make a big difference.
During the two-year design process, design ideas were vetoed because the aerodynamics team said they would not work, Richards said. Other ideas were scrapped because they would not have resonated with buyers.
In the end, the design team did not have to settle for a truck that looked weaker than the one it replaces, largely due to aerodynamic details that create a modern look, Richards said.
But the team’s success remains to be seen. Ford officials are still going through Environmental Protection Agency testing, so the mileage figures are not yet available.
All Ford officials will say is that the 2015 model spent more time in the wind tunnel than past trucks. As a result, they are confident the new F-150 is significantly more aerodynamic than its predecessor.
The sharpened corners of the new truck actually break the wind better than round corners, Richards said.
The tailgate is wider because air coming off the cab deflects better if it has a landing pad on the back of the truck. It acts like a spoiler preventing air from swirling around in the truck bed and causing drafts that would slow the vehicle.
An air curtain in the front channels the air into the front wheel wells, where it dissipates. The feature will debut this fall on the 2015 Ford Mustang. Richards said it is a design feature found in some luxury cars, but he has not seen it used on a pickup before now.
The first side-mirror design was beautiful, but aerodynamically “it was terrible.” It took about 12 designs to get a mirror with the perfect air flow-through to prevent any drag.
“We wanted one as slippery as it could possibly be,” Richards said.
There is no molding on the edge of the windshield glass. There are lower air dams in the bumpers; door handles slightly inset; seals to make sure wind doesn’t get caught between the cab and the bed; and active grille shutters that close when the vehicle reaches highway speeds.