Monday, March 9, 2009

Future Truck: 2012 Ford F-150

By: Mark Levine

Since we did a pretty good job back in January 2007 figuring out what the 2009 Ford F-150 would look like (well, at least one of the versions), we're taking out our crystal ball again (Mark, you sure you're ok in there?) for a speculative look ahead at the next F-150.

While there are major changes and upgrades, the 2009 Ford F-150 isn't an all new truck. It's more like a strong kick-off to a three year journey that will totally transform America's best selling vehicle by the time the next-generation 2012 F-150 arrives.

The latest rumors and official information say the F-150 will receive three new engines by 2010 - a twin turbo 3.7-liter V6 EcoBoost gasoline direct injection (GDI) motor, a 6.2-liter naturally aspirated "BOSS" V8, and a 4.4-liter V8 diesel. When these engines arrive, we're expecting the legacy two- and three-valve 4.6-liter gas V8s will be retired.

Think the 2009 Ford F-150 has a taller hood just to make the truck look tougher? Nope, there's also a brawny new twin turbo version of the BOSS V8 on the way by 2011 that's going to need all the space it can get to accommodate its taller profile.

The promise of these new gas and diesel engines is improved performance and fuel economy. But engines aren't going to be enough to put the F-150 on the right trajectory to hit the tough new corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) law, which mandates a fleet wide vehicle average of 35-miles-per-gallon by 2020.

Ford's North American design director, Peter Horbury, told Automotive News that the F-150 design team is also trying to figure out how to make the truck more aerodynamic - including "active aerodynamic elements" that work while the truck is moving and a laid back A-pillar, similar to the current Nissan Titan.

The results of all these prognostications are the sleek renderings you see on this page.

The 2012 F-150 will have all-new sheetmetal, and we're expecting major changes to the frame for weight savings and manufacturing flexibility (more on this item another time).

Note the vents on the top of the hood in the lower picture, to help cool the twin turbo EcoBoost BOSS V8. We also expect an automatic retractable tonneau cover to help smooth airflow over the bed, particularly when the cargo box is empty.

Ford says F-150 buyers want their trucks to look tough. It's the reason why the company strengthened the exterior of the 2004 F-150 when it moved on from the 1996-2003 model. Will swoopy aerodynamics and fuel economy regulations trump "toughness"?

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