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Ford F-150: Leaner pickup is still a winner

Are you overweight or obese? Sixty-nine percent of Americans are, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the average American is 23 pounds heavier than his or her ideal body weight, according to the CDC.

Having just sampled the newest Ford F-150, I think I have a solution: Call Ford's engineers. After all, they put America's favorite vehicle on a diet, thoroughly redesigning the F-150 for its 2015 model year edition.

By increasing the use of high-strength steel in the F-150's frame to 77 percent from 23 percent, and employing military-grade aluminum-alloy for the F-150's body, the engineers managed to get this heavy hauler to accomplish what most of America cannot: lose weight. After shedding 700 pounds, the truck is able to use a smaller-than-previous-generations engine and still deliver impressive towing and hauling capacity.

The base power plant is a 3.5-liter V-6 rated at 282 hp. and 253 pound-feet of torque that can tow up to 7,600 pounds of your favorite plaything. Yet, it can also haul 1,910 pounds of accompanying lifestyle debris. There's also a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine with 325 hp. and 375 pound-feet of torque that's capable of yanking 8,500 pounds and schlepping 2,200 pounds.

All engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. Depending on the model, the truck's fuel economy ranges from 18 to 20 mpg.

The new F-150 is very easy to maneuver on a job site, in the brush or in a big-box store parking lot. And when a road trip is called for, you might be surprised to find that it comfortably and confidently dispatches its duties.

Some of that is due to the boatload of driver-assistance features added for the 2015 redesign, including park assist and a 360-degree view camera, not to mention adaptive cruise control, collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist, and hill-descent control.

The thoughtfully designed interior has big beefy knobs and buttons that are effortless to hit, even while wearing work gloves. The seats were all-day comfortable, while the rear folded for carrying cargo rather than people. If there's any knock against the F-150, it's that while the interior has a number of soft-touch surfaces, its ambience is merely OK for the price. Plastic and switchgear quality is best described as durable.

Given the versatility that this pickup truck offers, its price tag is well within reason. After 38 years as America's best-selling truck and 33 years as its best-selling vehicle, it's little wonder that one rolls off the production line every 35 seconds.

2015 FORD F-150

Base price: $26,615

Price as tested: Not available

Engine: 3.5-liter V-6

Power: 282 horsepower; 253 pound-feet torque

Wheelbase: 145 inches

Length: 231.9 inches

Cargo box width: 50.6 inches

Cargo box height: 21.4 inches

Payload: 3,270 pounds

Towing capacity: 12,200 pounds

Curb weight: 4,309 pounds

EPA fuel economy:

17 mpg city, 23 highway

Bottom line: Strength

to spare

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