One V6 and two V8 engines, the larger available as E85 compatible (for ethanol), and two transmissions are offered. Nearly every derivative is available with two- or four-wheel drive.
On-going refinement following a major 2004 redesign makes the Ford F-150 a refined, easy-to-drive pickup. It offers familiar and comfortable surroundings for previous Ford owners.
The smallest, least-expensive F-150 isn't boring, it leaves room for customization and keeps overhead down. With the segment's only rear-hinged side access doors, the Regular Cab gives excellent recline space and an easy reach to everything dropped behind the seat. At the other end of the scale, premium models include two-tone leather seats, polished 22-inch wheels and other touches: Within those extremes lies something for everyone.
2008 marks the first availability of an XL-grade SuperCrew with 5.5- or 6.5-foot bed: maximum people space with a work truck ethic. Detail changes for 2008 run the gamut from functional to decorative, the latter a Wheels and Stripes package for STX models, the former a standard tachometer for XL and STX with manual transmission, tire pressure monitors on the heavy-duty package, plus the availability of a cargo management system, remote start, telescoping towing mirrors, and a rearview camera (that does not require purchase of a navigation system).
With one of the deepest beds in the half-ton pickup segment, the F-150 has generous cargo volume out back and a maximum payload rating of 3,050 pounds. A properly equipped Regular Cab F-150 is rated to tow up to 11,000 pounds; other models max out in the 9000-pound range.
Ford F-150 XL Regular Cab 2WD long bed ($17,645); STX SuperCab 4WD Flareside ($29,045); XLT SuperCab 4WD short bed ($30,295); FX4 SuperCab 4WD LWB ($32,295); Lariat SuperCrew 2WD LWB ($32,595); King Ranch 4WD LWB ($38,795); Harley-Davidson AWD ($39,500)
The door edge that allows a lower glass line at the front is stylish but also very useful; it allows a better view of front quarters near the truck and means you can have a good-sized mirror that doesn't limit forward vision because you look over it rather than around it. For 2008, extendable dual-element towing mirrors bring the F-150 in line with the bigger Super Duty pickups, as well as the Ram, Titan, and Tundra. Any cosmetic sacrifice is well worth the extra visibility with a trailer behind.
Pillars between the doors may yield a blind spot for those who sit more rearward and everyone should appreciate the windshield pillar designed to help preserve forward vision. Relatively square shoulders on the hood make it easy to see the edges of the truck, a bonus for tight parking lots, plow operators, and squeezing between trees or rocks en route to outdoor recreation.
The F-150 is a rarity in modern pickups in that it offers two bed designs. The Flareside is shaped to mimic pickups of old, where the box walls were between the wheels and you could stand on the sides for loading. The Flareside really is more stylish than the Styleside bed, that which is essentially a box with some character lines in the sheetmetal, and more space within. In either case you can get a locking tailgate and a rearview camera in the gate latch fitting.
The Harley-Davidson Edition features black paint with red stripes in a scheme that's in keeping with the tradition established by this model. The chrome Harley badges are a bit much for some of us, but it drew many admiring looks.
Mindful that you can't have everything for $18,000, the basic XL is quite respectable and a good value given a single option tab on a bigger pickup can be nearly half the XL's purchase price. Generous fleet owners will pop for AC for their employees but in typical field work plain is preferred.
At the other end of the spectrum the King Ranch chairs may look like a fine saddle (and require the same maintenance in some climes) but you want to ensure the jeans are clean and spurs off before you climb into this cowboy clubhouse. Virtually everything you might need is either standard or available, and much the same degree of luxury in a more subdued style can be found in Lariats, which follow a more eclectic approach to decor and make one wonder if eight colors and surface textures might be one or two too many.
The front bench is still split three ways: The center section flips down to reveal a console with storage and cup holders. The console is flat, so you can put a clipboard on top of it and it won't slide off until you stop, start or change direction quickly. Captain's chairs on FX and Lariat models, especially with power adjustment and the optional adjustable pedals, provide good driver positioning for virtually everyone. Finding it may take some time because the backrest angle adjustment is manual and the power controls are on the side of the seat with the door very close. The seat bottoms lacked thigh support on the Harley-Davidson model we drove, which could become tiring on long drives.
Controls are simple, lacking arcane icons or any hint of a universal controller, so everyone from 8 to 80 can find their favorite music or change the temperature instantly. Displays are easily read in polarized shades or at night; full instrumentation is typical but the secondary gauges (oil pressure, volts, etc.) are not numbered and rather lethargic. Ford's black temperature controls are not the most attractive (and they look better in silver as found in the Lincoln Navigator). Most gadgets will remain powered until you open a door, even if the key has been removed. Bench seat models use a column-mounted shift lever, while some bucket seat models use a substantial floor shift lever; both work well although we'd often prefer overdrive as a shifter position and not a thumb-button press.
The navigation system works really well. It's easy to program destinations and features like context-sensitive volume make learning how to use it relatively intuitive. We'd say it's better than most. The screen is a bit small, however.
Pickups without space are pointless and the F-150 won't disappoint. The Regular Cab is roomy enough to fit three adults across and has plenty of space for the miscellaneous debris and detritus that tends to accumulate in trucks. SuperCabs have a full-width back seat best-suited to kids and short rides for bigger adults since legroom is the squeeze point; it's similar in size and intent to the Chevy Silverado or GMC Sierra extended cab or the Titan King Cab. For larger families or routine four-passenger service, the SuperCrew's extra six inches of rear legroom and regular back doors will be welcome in a space slightly larger than a Ram Quad Cab or Tundra Double Cab.
Any engine will get the job done so long as you pay attention to load ratings. The 4.2-liter V6 gives 202 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, enough to get around town or tow a small boat over nominally flat terrain.
Ratings for 2008 models weren't out at posting, and most recent '07 numbers put the V6 at 16/21 with the manual and 16/20 with the automatic. In general, fuel economy ratings drop by 1 mpg for each increase in engine size or addition of 4WD. Subtract 4-5 mpg for E85 on the 5.4 V8 or be a realist and smile when you get a V8 into the teens.
The 4.6-liter V8 on base 4WD versions was updated last year to 248 horsepower and 294 lb-ft of torque, and it need not be revved a lot to deliver that power. You could spend money on the 5.4-liter (or on a shorter axle ratio) if you tow a lot or live in hilly areas, but the 4.6-liter is more than satisfactory and will return better fuel economy, perhaps by 5 percent to 10 percent.
Ford's 5.4-liter V8 is the only truck engine with overhead cams and three valves per cylinder, yet it delivers the grunt earlier in the rev range than many traditional pushrod pickup engines: 375 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 and 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm. It is paired exclusively with a four-speed automatic transmission that shifts gently and as soon as possible for highway economy.
There are two big reasons the F-150 is not the quickest half-ton pickup or fastest tow vehicle. First, it is usually heavier than similarly equipped models from the competition, and second, like GM's Silverado and Sierra, it has to make do with a four-speed automatic where Dodge, Nissan and Toyota offer a five- or six-speed automatic. (We are expecting to see six speeds in the 2009 F-150 because the Expedition's 5.4-liter already has it.)
The F-150 needs no excuses for ride quality, however, whether it's empty of loaded. We've tried all six wheelbases over the worst freeways in Los Angeles and Ford has a handle those expansion-jointed roads, with better-controlled pogo-sticking (bobbing) that plagues many mid-length (say 138-150 inches) wheelbase pickups. Resistance to shuddering is very good too, although it's nearly impossible to rid any two-body-on-frame vehicle of it.
Suspension follows typical light pickup design, with coil-sprung independent in front and leaf springs out back. Aluminum is used to save weight in components in protected positions, with steel parts where they may scrape on a rock. Unlike most pickups the rear shocks are mounted outside the ladder frame, in theory allowing more precise control of the spring, but in actuality the performance of the shock absorber makes more difference than the outboard mount.
And in this regard the F-150 parallels other pickups in that the best ride quality anywhere except a racetrack comes with the FX4 (off-road) package. Off-highway performance strongly depends on keeping the wheel in contact with the ground, and using the most available suspension travel is the best way to do that. Such off-road packages are tuned to take advantage of all available travel, typically with only the slightest reduction in response to turns. Some off-road packages also offer the biggest tire sidewall, the first impact absorber in any suspension system, although the FX4 uses 18-inch wheels and stronger LT tires as an option.
All F-150 models use power rack-and-pinion steering and have been singled out in more than one comparison as the best in class. The F-150 is quick to respond to steering inputs without feeling too light or going too far, and directional stability is superb. Add in the rela
The Ford F-150 delivers a strong combination of style, interior comfort, performance, ride and handling. With six major trim variants and a choice of drivetrains and body styles, there's an F-150 for every type of pickup owner.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Jim McCraw reported from Dearborn, Michigan, with G.R. Whale and Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.