On many farms there are two pickup trucks. The reasonably new one that ferries kids to hockey games and makes shopping trips to the city, and an older one that lugs a fuel tank and tools back and forth from the field. If there is 20 or more years age difference between those two, the difference in comfort between them will be quite noticeable. There’s no doubting the fact creature comforts have been getting packed into pickup trucks at an accelerated rate during the last couple of decades.
Pickups now seem to walk the line of part truck, part car. A concept automakers originally pioneered in the late 1960s with vehicles like the El Camino and Ranchero. Except they were neither car nor truck. Now, however, new pickups get car-like feel with truck-like capabilities.
But as comfortable as your “good” truck may be now, Ford has just made it clear pickup trucks will get even splashier in the future. At the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, they pulled the cover off their Atlas concept truck, which takes comfort, convenience and technology to an entirely new level.
“The Ford Atlas Concept previews the innovations that will transform what people expect from their pickup,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice-president, Global Product Development, in a press release. “With 36 years as America’s best-selling pickup, we are absolutely committed to setting the agenda in the truck market.”
Autoweek magazine named the Atlas as “Most Significant” vehicle at the Detroit show.
Ford claims the design of the Atlas was driven primarily by comments from customers. When you look at the list of innovations, one thing is clear: no one will mistake the Atlas for your old work truck. Atlas is meant to be a hint at what buyers can expect to find in the F-150 of the future.
The F-150 of the future
First of all, the Atlas sits on a wide 78-inch track and has an overall width of 88 inches. Wheelbase is 137-inches and overall length is 237 inches, which rivals, and in some cases exceeds, the dimensions of some of Ford’s current Super Duty models.
But the Atlas is all about technology — and style, of course. Under the hood it sports a next-generation Eco-boost engine that is turbocharged with direct injection. There are already 250,000 or so Eco-Boost engines on the road in F-150s. But the Atlas engine gets an automated start-stop feature tailored for trucks. What that means is when you roll up to a red traffic light, the engine shuts off and automatically restarts when you step on the accelerator, unless you’re pulling a trailer. In that case the truck will “know” and the engine will stay running.
This feature and much of the rest of the electronic gadgetry is intended to improve fuel mileage. And Ford claims the Atlas gets a two-miles-per-gallon improvement over a current comparable F-150.
Behind the Eco-Boost engine is a six-speed, automatic transmission. And the truck rides on LT325/50R22 tires.
To make the Atlas more aerodynamic, it has a drop-down front spoiler, which retracts at low speeds; automated grille shutters and wheel well covers also activate at speed. They streamline the truck and reduce drag. Electrical power to operate those shutters comes from batteries charged by wheel rotation. To further conserve energy the trucks gets a full helping of LED lighting, which has lower power demands than even current HID or halogen types.
To make the Atlas lighter and stronger, the frame and body components are made of high-strength steel that incorporates Boron in its alloy.
Out back there is a 110-volt power outlet to run tools. The tailgate step gets enough strength to act as a cradle for extra-long loads. And to make it easier to haul your ATV around, there are hidden loading ramps under the box.
Dynamic hitch assist makes it easier for drivers to connect to a trailer. An indicator on the dash signals when the truck and trailer hitch are lined up. And speaking of trailers, Ford says its research shows that backing a trailer is often the most intimidating task a truck customer can face, so that becomes an automated process in the Atlas. Just turn a knob and the truck handles the job.
Then there are the automated, rain-sensing windshield wipers, auto high-beam headlights, lane departure warning, next-generation productivity dash screen and truck apps, and, well, the list goes on. On the Atlas’ dedicated webpage, Ford claims there are “65 cool things” incorporated into the truck.
“We wanted the concept to reflect how Ford trucks help people in both their worlds — professionally and personally,” said J. Mays, Ford group vice-president and chief creative officer. “Every feature and surface in the vehicle has been crafted for purpose and capability while retaining an unmistakable ‘built Ford tough’ look.” †