PROS Ample towing and payload capacity, Lots of passenger room on crew cab, Pleasing interior
CONS Mediocre fuel economy, Balky transmission, Mushy brake pedal
The F-150 is the undisputed king of pickup trucks. Since it was introduced in 1948, Ford has sold more than 33 million copies. It has been the best-selling pickup for 31 years and, at one time, was the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 23 straight years. Yes, there are strong challengers in this segment, namely the Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram, but the F-150, through sheer sales numbers can rightfully claim to be the top dog.
For 2009, Ford has completely redesigned the F-150. Starting with a revised chassis that is both lighter and stronger, Ford Engineers gave F-150 more powerful engines, improved fuel economy, greater towing and hauling capacity, additional safety features, trailer sway control, and a tailgate step to ease access into the bed.
F-150 comes in regular cab, extended cab, and crew cab body styles. The regular cab seats up to three on a bench seat. Extended cab and crew cab can seat up to six on twin bench seats. Front bucket seats are also available. Each body style comes with at least two different bed lengths, ranging from 5.5 feet to eight feet. In all, there are 35 different configurations.
Gone for '09 is the V6 engine, leaving F-150 buyers with a choice of three V8s. The base engine is a 4.6-liter 16-valve V8 that delivers 248 horsepower. A 24-valve version of that engine is also available. It makes 292 horsepower. Topping things off is a 320-horsepower 5.4-liter V8. The base engine comes with a four-speed automatic, while the three-value 4.6 and 5.4 come with a six-speed automatic. Ford says that diesel and EcoBoost gas turbo direct injection engines are planned for 2010.
Two- and four-wheel drive models are offered. The four-wheel-drive system does have a low range. However, it is a part-time system that should not be left in four-wheel-drive mode on dry pavement. Maximum payload capacity is 3030 pounds on regular cabs, 2650 on extended cabs, and 1760 on crew cabs. Maximum towing capacity is 11,300 pounds on all models.
Model choices include the XL, STX, FX4, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and new-for-'09 Platinum. The new model features a satin chrome grille with mesh inserts, ten-way leather captain's chairs, satin-gloss wood grain accents and real brushed aluminum trim panels. Prices range from $20,815 to $40,910.
Standard safety features on all models include antilock four-wheel disc brakes, stability control with rollover sensors, tire-pressure monitor, and dual-front, front-side, and curtain-side airbags. Rear-obstacle detection system and rear-view camera are standard on King Range and Platinum and optional on other models.
2009 Ford F-150 Lariat 4WD
Base Price: $37,990
As-Tested Price: $44,800
Built in Kansas City, Missouri.
3.55 Limited Slip Rear Axle
Sony Navigation Radio
Chrome Step Bar
Power Sliding Rear Window
Full Rubber Mats
Lariat Plus Package
Trailer Brake Controller
Leather Captain Chairs
Engine: OHC 5.3-liter V8
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: four-wheel drive
Unique features available on the F-150 include Ford's SYNC voice-activated, hands-free, in-vehicle communications and entertainment system, SIRIUS Travel Link, and a Sony audio system that includes 700 watts of power, 5.1 surround sound, and ten Sony speakers.
The F-150 is built in Ford's Kansas City, Missouri assembly plant and carries a destination charge of $975.
Get Up and Go At this point, the only models that have been made available for testing have the 5.4-liter V8. It provides surprisingly strong acceleration from a stop and good passing response. Ford doesn't quote a 0-60 mph time, but it is likely in the low nine-second range. That's more than adequate for most drivers.
For the most part, the new six-speed transmission goes unnoticed, which is good. However, at low speeds it is sometimes rough when shifting between first and second gear. Also, full-throttle downshifts seem to take longer than they should.
The four-wheel-drive system is controlled by a dashboard knob that allows for shifting between rear- and four-wheel drive on the fly. As noted, the four-wheel drive system does have a low range for severe off-road use, but neither that setting nor the four-wheel drive high mode are designed to be used on dry pavement.
Ford claims to have improved fuel economy by at least one mile per gallon, model to model. Four-wheel-drive models equipped with the 5.4-liter V8 are EPA rated at 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. Those numbers match other full-size trucks around town, but fall short of the Silverado's highway rating of 20 mpg.
In routine city driving and urban commuting expect to average no more than 14-16 mpg. If you do a lot of highway travel, you might be able to average as high as 18 mpg. The 5.4-liter V8 will run fine on regular-grade gasoline and can also run on E85 ethanol.
On the Road Despite significant improvements in chassis and suspension tuning, F-150 still rides like a typical pickup. Small bumps are nicely quelled, but medium to large bumps reverberate through the passenger compartment with some concern. Thankfully, the long wheelbase does a good job of reducing unwanted bouncing or bobbing that's common in bigger vehicles. Overall, the F-150 falls in between the smooth-riding Silverado and the firm-riding previous-generation Ram (note, the Ram is redesigned for 2009).
While the chassis improvements don't have much effect on ride quality, they do noticeably improve the F-150's on-road feel. Sure, it's a monster, but it feels composed and buttoned down on all but the roughest roads. The steering is firm and dead accurate. The brakes have great stopping power, but the pedal is somewhat difficult to modulate. Obviously, the large wheelbase makes maneuvering in tight spots a chore, but that's a malady endured by every full-size truck.
Over the past few years, Ford has made significant noise-reduction strides and the '09 F-150 is the quietest yet. Wind noise is still somewhat notable on the highway, but road and engine noise are nicely reduced.
Behind the Wheel Truck interiors vary depending on the trim level selected. Regardless, F-150 sports a clean and functional design from the XL all the way up to the top-of-the-line Platinum. Lower-level models are somewhat stark, but feature quality materials and good assembly. Top-line models have nicely upgraded materials and more than a few soft-touch surfaces.
Gauges are somewhat small and difficult to read at a glance, which is uncommon in the pickup world. The large center stack features lots of buttons and knobs. Thankfully, they are logically placed and clearly marked. They could be a trifle closer to the driver, though. The optional SYNC system works well to reduce driver distraction when programming the navigation system or using a cellular phone.
The front seats are full size, no doubt. They are also comfortable and supportive on long trips. Head and leg room are generous, but the step-in is quite high--particularly on four-wheel-drive models. Thankfully, the doors are large and running boards can be found on the option list. Outward visibility is generally good, but the outside mirrors could be a trifle longer. Kudos to Ford for making park assist and a rear-view monitor available.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2009 Ford F-150 4WD
|Front Impact, Driver ||5 Stars|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||5 Stars|
|Side Impact, Driver ||5 Stars|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||5 Stars|
|Rollover Resistance ||3 Stars|
Extended cab models offer enough room for kids or small adults. Knee room is tight though, so you won't be able to push the front seats all the way back. Crew cab models have ample room and three-across seating is no problem, thanks to a flat floor.
Cargo space really depends on which bed owners choose. Obviously, the eight-foot bed has the most space, but the 6.5-foot bed with bed extender is likely all most weekend warriors will need. Interior storage is plentiful, highlighted by an extremely large center console bin. Crew cab models have fold-up rear seats that create a very large, if somewhat unsecured, weather-proof storage area.
Bottom Line Ford's redesigned F-150 is better in every way than the model it replaces. That's saying a lot, because the previous F-150 was a great truck. Still, Ford is facing very tough competition from domestic rivals and even import upstarts like Nissan Titan and Toyota Tundra.
While pickup buyers are extremely loyal, Ford has made a serious effort at attracting commercial buyers with this new F-150. That doesn't mean that the truck doesn't cater to residential buyers either, given the upscale Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum models. In the end it comes down to price and taste. The F-150 has a wide range of models designed to accommodate any pocket boot and satisfy any taste.