This is a delicate time to launch a new pickup truck, but Ford's signature product, the 2009 F-150, has been rewarded with Motor Trend magazine's Truck of the Year award.
The all-new F-150, built at Ford's Claycomo assembly plant, marries comfort, convenience and innovation with new styling and increased work capacity. Ford has sold more than 33 million F-series pickups since it was introduced in 1948.
Ford claims that it sells more work trucks than its competitors, and the company expects that number to grow. It's not easy to design a pickup truck that can do heavy work and still maintain the smooth ride, lack of noise and upscale interior that many non-work owners demand. Ford has succeeded in both areas.
Towing and hauling requirements caused Ford to stick with leaf springs on the rear axle, but they are longer and wider for a more comfortable ride. Fuel efficiency of the 5.4-liter engine has gone up by 12 percent.
Base prices begin at $21,095 and range to $43,885. The truck is available in regular, extended-cab or crew-cab models in two-wheel or four-wheel drive with a choice of three engines: a 4.6-liter V-8 with 248 horsepower, a 4.6-liter V-8 with 292 horsepower, and a 5.4-liter V-8 with 320 horsepower.
The regular cab is available with a 6.5-foot or 8-foot bed; the extended-cab model is available with a 5.5-foot, 6.5-foot and 8-foot bed; and the crew-cab is offered with a 5.5-foot or 6.5-foot bed.
Towing capacity ranges from 5,200 pounds to 11,300 pounds depending on the engine, axle ratio and model.
Mileage ratings range from 15 city and 21 highway for the 4.6-liter SFE to 14 city and 18 highway for a 5.4-liter with four-wheel drive.
The F-150 is available in 64 styles, and the top Platinum crew cab has a satin chrome grille, satin woodgrain accents, 20-inch wheels, brushed aluminum trim panels and 10-way captain's chairs whose leather has tuxedo stitching and embroidered logos on the seatbacks.
The test truck was a four-wheel-drive crew cab in the Lariat trim, and its base price was $37,990.
The preproduction model I drove was quiet and smooth. The ride quality exceeded that of many competing pickups. The 5.4-liter V-8 and six-speed automatic transmission is a proven unit that delivers ample power without struggling.
The new truck rides on a high-strength, lightweight chassis that has a fully boxed frame and hydroformed side rails. Torsional rigidity is up by 10 percent.
Useful options include a box side step that folds out from under the side of the bed to facilitate reaching items in the bed, a stowable bed extender that folds up inside the bed, a tailgate step that folds out from the tailgate to ease climbing into the bed, a cargo management system with cleats and side rails, and a lockable midbox mounted behind the cab and in front of the standard pickup box.
Vehicle stability control is standard, and it contains a trailer-sway control function. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are part of the package as well.
Other functional options include a trailer sway control that is a part of the vehicle stability control system, an integrated brake controller and a rearview camera that shows the trailer hitch so it is easier to line up a trailer.
The crew cab's cabin is genuinely spacious. Rear-seat legroom is huge, and the flat rear floor contributes to a large weatherproof storage space when the back seat is folded.
Climbing up into the cab was a bit of a reach for me, but the optional side step helped. Once settled inside, I found the front bucket seats to be extremely comfortable. They could be both heated and cooled.
To reach Tom Strongman, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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