August 26, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Ford: Aluminum-bodied F-150 says 'boldness, toughness and efficiency'

Ford F150 wind tunnel demonstration
Ford F150 wind tunnel demonstration: Brad Richards, Exterior Design manager for the Ford 150, talks about the new aluminum-body truck's aerodynamics

Allen Park — Ford Motor Co. says its new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup may be its most aerodynamic yet.

Engineers spent two years designing every detail of the new truck’s exterior to strike a balance between sleek and strong. Designers cycled through four full-size clay models before settling on a design that includes wind-cutting details from the front grille and door handles to the rear tailgate.

“This truck needed to say boldness, toughness and efficiency,” said Brad Richards, exterior design manager for the F-150. “We not only wanted to make this truck the toughest F-150 we’ve ever done, but we also wanted to make it as efficient as it could be as well. This was a serious challenge.”

Ultimately, the improved aerodynamics will result in “significantly better” fuel economy, Richards said, although Ford has not yet released mileage numbers.

Ford broke with boxy design tradition in 1997 with the introduction of an F-150 that featured a more curvy, soft design that looked aerodynamic, but a return to harder edges and a bigger overall truck actually makes the truck more wind-friendly, Richards said.

“A soft shape doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more aerodynamic,” he said.

The new truck’s designs include an air-cutting duct on the front bumper that channels the air inside the wheel well and reduces drag, a feature no other truck has. The front grille is vertical and angles back toward the headlamps, directing airflow to the sides, and the door handles are recessed.

The windshield doesn’t include molding that would disrupt airflow, and the side mirrors are designed at a specific distance away from the truck body to reduce drag and wind noise.

The roof of the cab has rounded corners that help funnel air across the bed to a thicker tailgate that reduces drag. The cargo box is narrower than the cab itself to enhance airflow; sharpened truck bed corners and tail-lamp edges allow the wind to break away from the truck easier.

“It’s significantly better in terms of the ways it cuts through the air,” Richards said.

The new truck weighs about 700 pounds less than the previous model. Pricing will increase between $395-$3,615 over the current 2014 truck, depending on model.

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Brad Richards, exterior design manager for the F-150, talks about how the aluminum-bodied truck handles the wind. / Clarence Tabb Jr / The Detroit News