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The best-selling vehicle in the United States isn’t a car – it’s a truck. Ford’s F-150 range of trucks has sold more than 26 million copies in its lifetime, and for the past five years it’s found its way into more than 800,000 households. As such it’s become a critical profit producer for Ford, especially so as Ford tries to recover from a profit slump.
Understandably, the challenge with the new 2004 F-150 is to keep whatever mojo has fueled sales thus far, while meeting the seriously good Ram and Silverado/Sierra – not to mention the new Nissan Titan – head-on in terms of strength, security and capability. Ford’s doing it with a new design that emphasizes crisper styling, a much more rigid frame, and an updated 5.4-liter V-8.
The powertrains include an updated 231-hp 4.6-liter V-8 and a more thoroughly reworked 5.4-liter V-8 with three valves per cylinder and 300 hp. The 5.4-liter engine also gains variable cam timing, Ford’s first use of the technology in a truck. Both are mated to upgraded versions of Ford’s current four-speed automatic transmissions.
A partially hydroformed frame results in a truck that’s nine times more rigid than the outgoing model, which along with suspension improvements should produce much better handling, Ford promises. Suspensions are double-wishbone independent in front, Hotchkiss axle with wider leaf springs in the rear. Four-wheel drive is of course an option across the lineup, with either manual or electronic shift on the fly capability. Rack-and-pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes are standard on all F-150s, as are anti-lock braking and electronic brake-force distribution.
2004 Ford F-150Enlarge Photo