Perhaps it is the iconic image of the pickup owner as a no-frills, hardworking, get-it-done person that makes me feel odd writing the word classy or stylish to describe any pickup. My guess is that even owners of the new Ford F-150 SuperCrew Lariat might cringe at the notion that their tough vehicle gives them anything less than a tough image.
So, I won't say it.
But it does.
Just one look at the perfect black clear coat running across the new F-150's gorgeous lines and I was once again asking myself why wouldn't someone want a pickup as their everyday vehicle? Heck, if it looked as beautiful and as classy as the Lariat tester I was about to get into who would even care?
The 2009 Ford F-150 offers three styles, Regular, SuperCab and SuperCrew; three V-8 powertrain options; 6.5-, 5.5- and 8-foot boxes; and 4x2 and 4x4 configurations. Base prices for the 2009 F-150 start at $21,095. My F-150 4x4 SuperCrew had the upscale Lariat styleside treatment with a base of $37,990.
Millions of Ford trucks have been sold since 1948 and they have performed admirably on farms, construction sites and for fleets across America. The F-150 has earned its reputation for dependability and toughness, but when you add premium equipment such as navigation ($2,430); leather-trimmed, heated and cooled captain's chairs ($895); and the Lariat plus package ($795) with rear-view camera and reverse sensing system, you end up with one sophisticated truck.
Truth is, with millions of these vehicles in driveways across America, the pickup is not just for work anymore. In fact, it is just as accepted as any sedan or coupe pulling into a fine dining establishment or a country club.
I love the styling on the new F-150; it is contemporary yet remains a truck. That simply means it looks tough, a really important part of any pickup that takes itself seriously. My tester had a great exterior look with a mix of capable utility and hints of elegance. This may not be the look for a rancher or construction site manager, but for the owner who may never hit the dirt it is an expression that will get you noticed.
The big Ford grille greets you as you encounter this hefty truck on the road, but it is the black clear-coat paint that made my tester's look possible. Without the lustrous darkness as its backdrop, the grille, chrome step bar ($495) and big 18-inch rims might have had less impact.
The F-150 has plenty of options and packages to choose from and none are as tantalizing as the engine options. When you are talking pickups, you have to talk engine ranges and F-150 has several options in the 16-valve, 4.6-liter 248-horsepower V-8 linked to four-speed automatic with 294 pounds-feet of torque and the 24-valve, 4.6-liter V-8 coupled to a six-speed automatic with horsepower ratings of 292 and torque of 320 pounds-feet.
The engine on my 4x4 SuperCrew was the capable 24-valve 5.4-liter V-8, which delivered 320 horsepower and 390 pounds-feet of torque. The power plant was mated to a flawless six-speed automatic. The Environmental Protection Agency mileage per gallon ratings was 14 city/18 highway - not great but par for the pickup class at this size. The good thing is the 36-gallon fuel tank will help minimize stops.
Once inside the cabin, if it were not for the grand view above the traffic you might be fooled once again into thinking that you were riding in a sedan. With expected bodyroll and engine noise in the cabin, there's just enough truck in the F-150 to keep reminding you that you are in a pickup.
The F-150's cabin offers plenty of room. You can tell a lot of thought went into the design and arrangement of gauges and the control centers. The dash is thoughtfully laid out in front of the driver.
Power adjustable pedals and driver's seat make getting the perfect seating position a breeze. My tester had a rear-view camera option that made maneuvering the big truck a lot easier.
A long list of options made the interior a great place to be. My favorites? The really nice power-sliding back window ($250) and the amazing (a $395 must-have) SYNC system that allows you to link up your command center in the truck to your cell phone and iPod.
The automaker boasts that its all-new 2009 F-150 has a class-leading towing ability of 11,300 pounds and a cargo-carrying rating of 3,030 pounds. According to Ford, improvements to the chassis have helped with torsional rigidity and make delivering the additional payload and towing abilities possible.
The new capless fuel filler that automatically opens with the fuel door and seals shut to reduce fueling emissions will save time and effort, while a great tailgate step allows the owner to easily access the cargo bed with a integrated step ladder.
Overall, the new Ford F-150 is a formidable opponent for the Dodge and Chevy/GMC pickups. While they certainly seem to take their turns upping the ante each redesign, my Ford F-150 SuperCrew, tipping the scale at $45,800, sure has an upper hand on taking the workhorse pickup to another level of performance and comfort.
2009 FORD F-150 LARIAT SUPERCREW
ENGINE: 320-horsepower 24-valve 5.4-liter V-8
TRANSMISSION: six-speed automatic
DRIVET RAIN: 4x4
FUEL ECONOMY: 14 city/18 highway
BASE PRICE: $37,990
AS TESTED: $45,800
WEB SITE: www.Ford.com