2009 Ford F-150: First Drive

October 17, 2008
Full-size trucks have never been better than they are today. Period. No arguments. GM's Silverado and Sierra (introduced in 2007) are handsome, capable, good-driving machines. Dodge's new 2009 Ram 1500 is exponentially better than the model it replaces. Now, the new 2009 Ford F-150 has arrived.

We've driven the truck that is on sale now in parts of the country. It's better than the model it replaces. What makes it better? For some buyers, it will be the added capabilities. For others, it will be the added comfort and refinement. Still others won't care, simply because it is the next new truck to wear the blue oval.

The model overview goes like this: seven trim levels including a new Platinum edition that are available over a line of different cab/bed/driveline configurations. Every truck is quieter and more efficient, as well as offers more features.

Ford engineers claim that across the line, efficiency is improved. The availability of six-speed automatic transmissions across the lineup (except the 4.6-liter two-valve, which uses a four-speed automatic) extends the range from every gallon. In particular, their new SFE (Superior Fuel Efficiency) model, a two-wheel-drive Super Crew model achieves 15/21 city/highway mpg. This is unsurpassed in the realm of full-size trucks, matched only GM's new XFE trucks. The Ford's advantage in this comparison is that it maintains a higher payload capacity and the ability to tow 7,500 pounds--500 pounds more than the GM brethren.

Quietness in the 2009 Ford F-150 improves because of reductions in road, wind, and powertrain noise. The advances make the new pickup truck quieter than the old by a significant amount.

In terms of new features, popular items from the Super Duty have migrated to its little brother. For the first time, the integrated tailgate ladder and box side-step are options. Safety is enhanced with standard stability control with roll mitigation, anti-lock brakes, six airbags (including side canopy units), and trailer sway control.

These new features are wrapped in a shape that evolutionary for the F-Series. The burlier look of the Super Duty has migrated, but the F-150 team added some classy details such as the undercut character lines over the wheel wells and the bars across the tailgate. One thing is for sure, no one will every mistake this truck for a Toyota.

On the road, no one will mistake it for a Toyota, either. The 2009 Ford F-150 drives tighter and with greater response than the Tundra could ever dream of. When we reviewed the 2009 Dodge Ram, we praised its on-road handling (a benefit of a link-coil rear suspension). The F-150 comes close to matching the Dodge's on-road ride but delivers greater payload and towing capabilities plus more steering feel, something we felt the Dodge could have used more of.

The interior's style is mostly carryover, although virtually everything is new. Anyone familiar with the 2004-2008 F-Series will recognize the theme's circular vents within vertical trim stacks. However, the added comfort for the new seats is immediately recognizable because you sit in them instead of on them. This is a big and welcomed change. (You can see more 2009 Ford F-150 photos here.)

Ford loyalists have plenty of reasons to like their new truck. For them, the 2009 model is better enough. However, for owners of other trucks, these enhancements may not be enough to make them switch brands.

It's important to note that the current crop of full-size trucks were developed during a time when manufacturers thought that trucks would be selling in huge volumes forever, so they spent huge amounts on their development. It shows. Your author predicts that we'll never see such refinement in full-size trucks again, as these vehicles return to their more humble station in life as working vehicles for working people.

My point: Get 'em while they're hot, because these are the best full-size trucks the world may ever see--but you probably don't have to hurry, as GM, Ford and Chrysler will likely extend their product cycles (these trucks will be around in their present form for quite some time).

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