There’s apparently much more to a pickup than mere power as, through thick and thin, Ford’s hauler remains the sales champ.
Since 1975 the F-150 has been touted as a multi-tasking truck that competently tackles its various chores. This fall, a brand new version of the world’s best-selling light-duty pickup aims to keep Ford at the head of the class in this hotly contested division.
When it comes to pickups, variety is the order of the day. Some are employed as dedicated workhorses equipped mainly for fleet duty, while others specialize as off-road-capable, go-anywhere brutes that backstop their agricultural, construction or specialty-trades owners.
Many are also required to put on their fancy duds and head to the city for a night on the town.
Ford seems to recognize these various requirements more than most and will expand the F-150’s lineup for 2009 with seven different trim levels, from bare-bones basic to fully dressed, and in as many as 35 different trimlevel configurations, including four box lengths and three cab sizes (regular, extended SuperCab and four-door SuperCrew), not to mention both rearand four-wheel-drive availability.
What F-150 customers will be presented with is a truck that appears similar to the conservatively shaped 2008 rig. The most notable difference is a more rugged looking grille, especially on the starting-point XL and mid-range STX, XLT and FX4 grades. That feature is softened with an elegant chrome design on the upper-level Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum. The latter loaded-to-thegills pickup is destined to replace the Ford-produced Lincoln Mark LT that ends production after the 2008 model year.
The new body is attached to a boxed ladder frame that has been lightened by 100 pounds and made stiffer which, according to Ford, should aid carrying capacity while improving fuel efficiency. Additionally, the rear leaf springs have been lengthened for claimed improvements in ride quality and pavement prowess.
The F-150’s interior has been given larger dash-mounted control buttons and switches and a bigger console that can swallow at least two laptop computers. There are as many as 30 storage pockets, bins and cubbies available on this truck, depending on the model selected.
Interior cabin dimensions on four-door SuperCrew models have six inches of extra length that adds rearseat roominess and interior storage space, especially when the seat cushion is in the raised position.
Under the hood, the base 4.6-liter 16-valve V8 will be joined by an optional 24-valve version as well as a 5.4-liter V8 that tops the list. The automaker is so far silent as to actual horsepower ratings for each, but expect the base 4.6 to deliver around 255 ponies, with the optional 4.6 and 5.4 motors churning out about 285 and 330 horses, respectively. The extra power is appreciated, but with the competition producing close to 400 ponies, will it be enough?
A four-speed automatic transmission is mated to the base engine, while the remainder will arrive with six-speed automatics.
Beyond the standard air/cruise/ tilt/power content, The F-150 will be available with some nifty options including a handy steel step that, when lowered, folds down from the tailgate. This feature works in conjunction with a folding grab handle for extra support when clambering into the pickup bed. Folding box steps, positioned ahead of the rear wheels can also be ordered to provide easier access to the bed.
Sticking with the storage theme, Ford has devised what it calls a Midbox, essentially three sliding storage trays located behind a locking door that’s built into the pickup bed behind the passenger compartment. It’s available on regular and extended-length SuperCab trucks and can be accessed from outside or inside the vehicle and is ideal for secure and discrete storage of a variety of valuables.
The new F-150 appears to be a more powerful, refined and stylish hauler that places customer needs and comfort as its top priorities. The recipe is one that has kept Ford on top all these years and even though the competition has caught on, uprooting this seasoned champ will be no easy feat.