Next-gen Ford truck: Unstoppable capability

Farm Forum

Over the past several years, Ford has aggressively upgraded its F-Series pickups. With its new Atlas Concept truck, the automaker is showing a continuing commitment to answering the demands of serious truckers.

“The Atlas Concept was geared to allow Ford to give our future vision of F-Series trucks,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, global product development. “From a design perspective and from an engineering perspective this is where we see trucks heading in the future.”

“It’s not intended to be an F-150 or a Super Duty, but a concept. It’s really a learning lab,” said Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager. “The Atlas Concept gives Ford an opportunity to stretch the envelope and give people the opportunity to see what the next-generation truck might be.”

The design is quite different from today’s F-Series, said Scott. “It was all about trying to give the truck an unstoppable appearance,” he said. “We wanted the truck to say, ‘I’m up to any task, there’s nothing I can’t handle.'”

Befitting a truck named after a powerful titan of Greek mythology, the vehicle is tall, its stance is wide, and its massive and aggressively sculpted front end features a chiseled grille. Designers created the Atlas Concept to do more than just make a powerful statement. Merging form and function was a mission.

Aerodynamics was addressed up front with Active Grille Shutters, Active Wheel Shutters and a Drop-Down Front Air Dam. The shutters behind the grille work automatically, staying open when extra engine cooling is needed. When traveling at steady highway speeds the shutters close to improve aerodynamics. Hidden automatic wheel shutters boost aerodynamics by closing at highway speeds. A bottom chin spoiler lowers at highway speeds to improve under-body airflow and rises at low speeds to increase ground clearance.

Similarly, Power Running Boards automatically deploy when the truck is stopped, allowing easier passenger entry, but tuck against the truck when it’s moving to improve aerodynamics and ground clearance.

“This combination of features will generate or give you up to 2 miles per gallon better fuel economy on the highway,” said Scott, “so they are among the technologies we are looking at or that you can expect to see in the next-generation trucks.”

The key fuel-saving technology is Ford’s smaller-displacement, turbocharged, gasoline direct-injected EcoBoost engine. This next-generation powertrain, which Ford boasts provides the power of a larger-displacement engine without the sacrifice in fuel efficiency, teams with Auto Start-Stop engine shutoff technology. This feature shuts off the engine when at a stop to save fuel, but is suspended when the truck is towing a load.

Complementing the towing capability of the powerful EcoBoost engine are clever features designed to add convenience to toting and towing cargo, such as the Dual-Purpose Tailgate Step and Cargo Cradle.

With the tailgate in its upright position, the tailgate step raises even with the vehicle’s roof. At the cab’s center there’s a rubber pad that provides a forward rest for lumber, a ladder or a kayak, and the cargo’s rear portion sets strapped on the Cargo Cradle. Loading wheeled items such ATVs and dirt bikes into the bed is made easier with lightweight Hidden Cargo Ramps.

The frustration of hitching a trailer is eased with a Dynamic Hitch Assist and Trailer Backup Assist, allowing the truck’s hitch to be precisely lined up with the trailer coupling and the trailer to be backed with a twist of a knob.

There’s also a 360-camera. It has a front camera, rear camera and cameras in each of the front rearview mirrors that provide a bird’s-eye view 360 degrees outside the truck on an interior display screen.

Innovative use of LED lighting is another Atlas Concept plus. The cargo box is illuminated with LED lights and Side Mirror Lighting features LED spotlights. When extra light is needed at a work or camp site, the spotlights can be repositioned by folding mirrors in or extending mirrors out.

The Atlas Concept’s interior also features futuristic styling. The leather-covered seats are thinner and lighter weight, allowing for extra legroom for rear passengers. Creating a functional interior with a rugged stylish look was the goal. Extra storage space is available for smaller items, and driver convenience is enhanced with glove-friendly controls and “floating” instrument pods.

Scott said Ford has received positive feedback from consumers during the Atlas Concept appearances at auto shows and public events across the nation — increasing the odds of the Atlas being incorporated into future F-Series models.