2009 Ford F-150: First Drive0
VehicleVoice correspondent Jim Hossack attended a 2009 Ford F-150 driving preview – and reports that it was well worth it. The Dodge Ram is the other big truck news of this season, so we decided to bring you reviews of both trucks this week.
Hossack says Ford put on a very thorough, very professional series of presentation, with plenty of opportunity to evaluate the new F-150 and facing competition under a variety of circumstances. Hossack was about as impressed with the passion and enthusiasm of the guys working on the program as with the truck itself.
What’s so good about the 2009 F-150?
The 2008 F-150 is a pretty good pickup, sales are best in the segment and often even best in the industry. What’s improved? Everything!
The 2009 truck has more towing capacity, more hauling capacity, more comfort and convenience features, better ride, greater durability, greater safety/security, better fuel economy, and improved vehicle dynamics, and an even more capable off-road version.
Though Ford has apparently put their light-duty diesel (once due a year or two after launch), there is still plenty to talk about under the hood. For 2009, the V6 engine has been deleted, and the 4.6L (available in two valves per cylinder and three valves per cylinder versions) and 5.4L 3V were updated a bit. Maximum power is increased to 320 HP, sill less than the top engines offered by Chevrolet/GMC, Dodge, and Toyota. There is no official word yet on an EcoBoost engine for the F-150, but most expecte it as fast as Ford can make it available (this could be three to five years down the road, however; EcoBoost will be applied to passenger cars first). It is EcoBoost (along with general indecision and second-guessing common to Ford programs), though, that put the future of Ford’s 4.4L V8 F-150 diesel in jeapordy: with the EcoBoost gas engines and today’s gasoline to diesel fuel price differential, the diesel has economic challenges.
Manual transmissions are no longer available (take rate was tiny, so there is no point) and six-speed automatics are available with the 4.6L 3V and 5.4l 3V engines – a significant improvement, as the drive evaluation confirmed. The new transmissions also feature a sophisticated tow/haul mode.
A new electronic locking differential for the FX4 4×4 model improves off-road capability. Most models are now available with taller final drive ratios, which help F-150 to claim class-leading fuel economy. Higher numerical ratios are available for those with serious towing or mountain driving in mind.
The new F-150 comes with a revised frame with greater use of high strength steel, offering 10 percent more torsional rigidity and still 15 pounds lighter.
Unlike the 2009 Dodge Ram, which has gone to a coil spring rear suspension, the F-150 retains a leaf spring rear suspension. Dodge claims improved rough road ride, but Hossack’s drive evaluation showed the F-150 to be equally comfortable, either empty or fully laden.
Service brakes are improved with a fully integrated trailer brake control and trailer sway control. All models feature an improved electronic stability system, Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control, to enhance crash avoidance capability.
First off, the new style looks just a little more rugged and tough, entirely suitable for a pickup. The interior is also re-styled, and looks both contemporary and functional. The Crew Cab has a six-inch longer wheelbase and a flat load floor for improved rear-seat package.
Ford introduced a bed-step and assist pole system on the 2008 Super Duty. It has been a marketing success, and this feature is now available on the 2009 F-150. Wish I had it on my pickups! No factory spray-in bed liner is available, as it is on the Super Duty – at least not yet.
Among the delightful new available features is a rear view camera (very useful when hooking up a trailer), the SYNC system complete with electronic navigation system utilizing a large eight-inch screen. Even shows you the weather and tells you nearby fuel availability and prices, just like the Lincoln MKS and Flex. The new Sony-brand audio system sounded great, and pickups have come a long way. Each successive generation continues the trend toward comfort and no compromises.
The Drive Evaluation
The event included the opportunity to drive the 2008 product along with the 2009, and Hossack says it was good with respect to on-road ride, handling NVH and power. But that just set the stage, as subsequent drives showed the superiority of the 2009 model.
The drive included pulling a 7,000-pound trailer around the so-called “hills” of Romeo, Michigan, with not only the new F-150 but also a comparably equipped Silverado, Ram, and Tundra. The F-150 may be down on max horsepower, but not on performance. First-in-class. Off-road, the FX4 with its new electronic locker was outstanding, even in deep, slippery mud. On the rough road surfaces the new F-150 again came in tops. On the handling circuit, again the new F-150 was the leader, either with standard wheels and tires or the larger twenty-inch wheels and lower aspect ratio tires, which did offer improved handing, but at the price of ride quality.