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Whenever a new generation of a vehicle is introduced those of us who write about them tend to dismiss the just-superseded machine as an archaic and unworthy artifact of a bygone era. When the 1997 Ford F-150 was introduced that was appropriate since the outgoing F-150 had been introduced as a 1980 model and was outclassed in refinement by several second-tier skateboards. But while the 2004 F-150 is obviously better than the F-150 it supplants (the one introduced as a ’97) it’s hardly a quantum leap forward. That’s not so much because this latest F-150 isn’t a spectacular truck, but because the old F-150 was still pretty good. So good in fact that Ford kept it in production through the 2004 model year alongside the new model.
Ultimately everything and everybody eventually faces obsolescence. But early and involuntary retirement is never pretty.
Where the old F-150 was rounded and sleek, the new F-150 is built to be blocky and massive. Surely Ford has tweaked the aerodynamics for effective noise and drag management, but this thing looks like a 5000-pound block of two-tone, wire-cutWisconsincheddar from virtually every angle.
But the exterior in only wrapping over an interior that is radically better than before. This test truck carried a sticker price just $10 short of $40k and the interior almost makes that seem worth the price. The dash is square, but full of oversize vents, a great sound system with in-dash six-disc CD changer, and big buttons that could be operated by someone wearing mittens whose hands had been numbed with injections of Novocaine. But those knobs and switches also feel so good that even the fingers of the most sensitive mohel would be satisfied with their operation. The graining and texture on all the surfaces is vastly better than before and the phony wood on the door panels look like they glued Broyhill coffee tables on there. There’s even a relatively good use of chrome-looking plastic to highlight the instrumentation and add some flash to the center console-mounted shifter for the four-speed automatic transmission. Oh yeah, the front seats are flat but comfortable and there’s enough room in the rear seat for a full kick-line of 3/4-scale Rockettes (that’s roomy — if not quite Radio City Music Hall).