Ford F-150 arms winter warriors with plow option
Ford's light-duty 2015 F-150 comes with a "plow-prep" option that makes snow-plowing available to a wide swath of pickup customers. Winter warriors with long driveways can rejoice.
Plows have long been compatible with heavy-duty pickups. But due to chassis and electrical limitations, finding a plow-capable light-duty could be like finding a warm day in February. The new F-150, however, was engineered from the ground up to accept a plow.
"By using more high-strength steel in its frame and advanced materials in the body, we've made the new (F-150) up to 700 pounds lighter," says Eric Peterson, Ford F-150 marketing manager. "This leads to more capability and better handling, which is exactly what you'd want for plowing."
Ford also upgraded its electrical system with an eye toward retrofitting plows. Modern electrical power steering is better for fuel economy than hydraulic systems — but it taxes a vehicle's electrical system. The last generation F-150's alternator couldn't handle the loads of both the power steering and the plow controls. The new truck changes that: With a simple push of a dash button, power to accessories like heated seats, heated steering wheel and fog lights are turned off to allow more juice for the steering and plow.
As a result of these engineering changes, Ford's plow-prep option costs only $50. No chassis upgrades or suspension tweaks are necessary.
The Ford F150 equipped with BOSS Snow Plow clears a parking lot in Dearborn.
The plow itself is additional. Ford demonstrated the feature this week with a Boss plow estimated to cost between $4,600-$4,800. (Ford recommends taking their trucks to an approved vehicle modifier to install plow hardware that includes an electrical harness and controller.) Boss, which manufactures in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is one of a handful of suppliers who will benefit from the expanding light-duty market for their products.
Ford's plow-prep option will be offered on F-150's with 5-liter V-8 engines with any cab configuration — Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew. Ford Consumer Manager Brandt Coultas says that engine amounts to 30 percent of the big truck's volume.
Prior to the 2015 F-150, Ford's only light-duty plow-prep offering was on now-discontinued 6.2-liter pickups with non-electrical hydraulic power-steering.
Heavy-duty Chevy Silverados offer plow prep — but it's only offered on light-duty trucks with regular cabs and substantial chassis and electrical upgrades. Toyota's Tundra does not offer plow capability, while Ram offers its "Snow Chief" option only on heavy-duties.
"We're looking at it," says Ram spokesman Nick Cappa. "But the larger percentage of the market for plowing is in heavy-duty trucks due to better ground clearance and powertrain demands."
Ford confirms most of its demand, too, is in heavy-duties, but expects plow prep to be a hit with rural customers and with metro dwellers with long driveways.
Ford only pairs plow prep with its V-8 because of the respiratory requirements of its turbocharged, V-6 Ecoboost powerplants. Ford found the plow restricted airflow to the F-150's big grille, thus compromising airflow to the turbo's air-hungry intercooler.
In a demonstration Tuesday at Dearborn's Adoba Hotel parking lot — buried under 2 feet of snow — the F-150's plowing capability proved impressive.
The 430-pound Boss connected in four easy steps: 1) Attach the electrical harness. 2) Secure port and starboard clip fittings. 3) Align the assembly with a toggle switch. 4) Lock in the blade height.
Operation doesn't require a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering, either. Boss provides a joystick controller that connects to an outlet below the dash. Put the 4x4 truck in Drive and the plow will raise, lower and swivel at will..
Plowing at speeds up to 15 mpg, the Adobe lot cleared quickly. The powerful F150 used most of the steel blade despite the deep powder. The plow comes with a dolly package so it can be moved for storage.
America's truck wars rage constantly, so expect others to jump into the light-duty plow market if the F-150's new option proves popular.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.