Tacked on to the end of a presentation of its new Transit and Transit Connect commercial vans at the Detroit auto show, Ford added a surprise showing of its Atlas full-size pickup concept. The Atlas is a thinly veiled look at what Ford has in mind for the production-spec 2015 F-150. As Ford is happy to tell anyone who will listen, the F-series pickup has been the bestselling pickup in the U.S. for the past 36 years. That’s important stuff, especially considering GM just unveiled its all-new full-size pickups, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which compete over the same set of buyers. According to Ford, the Atlas is an exploration of fuel-efficiency improvements, potential technologies, and capacity advancements.
The look of the Atlas is unmistakable contemporary Built Ford Tough, with bulging wheel arches, a drop-down beltline at the front doors, and some of the biggest snarling grille nostrils ever seen on an F-150.
Behind that outsized grille is the next generation of Ford’s twin-turbo EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6, with a “truck-enhanced” stop-start system. Other fuel-economy upgrades on the Atlas include active grille shutters that close for improved aerodynamics when cooling requirements are low and active wheel shutters that actually close up the wheel vents at speed. The front air dam lowers at freeway speeds to improve underbody airflow and is raised at lower speeds to clear off-road and around-town obstacles. Altogether, Ford expects a 2-mpg improvement in highway fuel economy thanks to these measures.