This is a leap year for Ford trucks. Not in the Gregorian calendar sense, but in the technological field.

With the official launch of the F-150 in 2015 and its numerous advancements, Ford is literally at least a year ahead of its full-size competitors. Maybe more.

As you drive the new F-150 around the San Antonio area while pulling 4½ ton box trailers, idling, doing a short off-road lap, and playing a little on a parking lot slalom course, you will learn a lot about the new pickup – and there are competitors, the Ram and Chevrolet Silverado 1500s.

The real eye-opener of the all-aluminum body pickup isn’t so much about ditching the conventional steel body, but rather how losing more than 700 pounds sets the stage for a number of other improvements that will make the F before 2015 – 150s out of date.

Take, for example, the latest engine for the Ford truck family: the 2.7-liter V-6 EcoBoost with 325 hp.

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This small (by traditional pickup truck standards) twin-turbo engine with a block of the same compressed graphite-iron material as the 6.7 liter PowerStroke diesel produces 375 lb.-ft. of the torque. That’s enough to give a 2015-equipped F-150 a maximum towing capacity of 8,500 pounds or to carry a payload of up to 2,250 pounds.

The high performance of the small V-6 and the reduced weight of the truck give the F-150 2015 an eight percent advantage over similarly equipped GM pickups with the 5.3-liter V-8, an advantage of five percent over that Ram 1500 with an EcoDiesel and a lead of three percent over Hemi-Ram 1500.

From the point of view of fuel consumption, it should be able to keep up with the numbers of the EcoDiesel due to the smaller displacement and the automatic start-stop technology. (Ford says EPA numbers should be released in late October or early November.)

Driving a 4 × 4 with the 2.7L EcoBoost feels like driving a V-8. It even has the throaty but muffled exhaust note of a small block V-8.

Ford’s EcoBoost V-6 pulls heavily from low revs to their redlines. The smaller of the two, the twin-turbo 2.7L, reacts faster to changes in the throttle valve position with faster downshifts. Thanks to the small turbos that are screwed to the integrated exhaust manifolds, which are firmly attached to the heads, there is no “turbo lag”.

The fuel-efficient start-stop feature of the new V-6 is smooth, so after the first few times you don’t really pay attention to the fact that the engine is turned off every time you stop the truck.

According to Ford, the start-stop function, which is automatically deactivated in tow / transport mode or via a deactivation button on the dashboard activated by the driver, increases the city’s MPG numbers by one mile per gallon.

The smaller of Ford’s two EcoBoost V-6s, developed for (and debuting in) the 2015 F-150, will find its way into Ford’s other SUVs. And rightly so. It’s sleek and surprisingly strong – a perfect addition for those who need a pickup truck but don’t use it every day for towing or pulling overly heavy trailers.

By that, I mean the 2.7L EcoBoost would be an ideal engine option ($ 500 versus the 283-hp, naturally aspirated, 3.5-liter TIVCT V-6) that would use it more for commuting and easy trailer towing (trailer loads less than 4,000 pounds a couple of times a month) than using the truck as a half-ton workhorse.

If the 2015 F-150 is used like this, I would go for the next engine on Ford’s half-ton ladder – the 385 hp aluminum block 5.0 L TI-VCT V-8.

That’s the motor fleet owner – like landscapers, DOTs, and utilities – who has the best fuel economy for trailer loads in the 4,500 to 7,500 pound range.

3.5 liter EcoBoost V-6

That brings us to the third engine option. If you’re a business owner who needs to tow muscle but need the fuel economy of a V-6 without towing power, opting for the 365 hp 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 is a good choice. This is my recommendation after driving both EcoBoost engines and the V-8

The 3.5 liter version is the most fun of all four engines that Ford offers in the 2015 F-150. It has more torque (pulling power) than the V-8, reacts faster to gas than the 5.0L, saves much less fuel and has the highest towing power in the entire F-150 range.

The 3.5L will smoke a 5.7L Ram Hemi or EcoDiesel in a drag race or trailer pulling contest, all things being the same. Short run or long pull, it’s just a smooth, sturdy powerhouse.

The only downside I see is that the smaller displacement under load has an impact on fuel economy as it drops to or below that of the 5.0L V-8. That’s because six cylinders need more fuel to put the same load in motion and maintain the same speed as the larger engine.

So, why would buyers of the 2015 F-150 pulling trailers weighing more than 4,500 pounds, for example, weekly or daily, would likely be happier all round with the 5.0L V-8.

If that towing requirement is less than half a dozen times a month, the 3.5L is my first choice because of its fuel consumption and performance advantage. In some F-150 configurations, the 3.5L is rated on the SAE J2807 rating system to pull 12,2000 pounds.

To sum it up, here is my take on what engine selection to choose after a day with the 2015 F-150:

  • Basic work / delivery truck: 3.5L TI-VCT V-6
  • Work truck / commuting / light hauling: 2.7 l EcoBoost V-6
  • Work truck / weekly towing: 5.0L V-8
  • Work truck / commuting / occasional towing: 3.5 L EcoBoost V-6

Editor’s Note: Pickup Trucks editor Bruce Smith drove several configurations of the 2015 F-150. We’ll be posting impressions specific to these configurations shortly.