Ford carries on its pick-up tradition with the latest rendition of the F-150. The example delivered to our garage was a 2009 model with a Supercrew cab in Lariat trim. Stepping way up into the cab, which has four doors and room for five, you leave the rugged truck exterior behind for a plush interior decked out in leather and fake-wood trim.
Ford bridges the gap between an old-school truck and all the modern accouterments we love and expect, equipping the F-150 with its Sync system and inviting occupants to hook up cell phones and MP3 players in a vehicle that can carry 1,700 pounds and tow 7,100.
On the road
Our 2009 Ford F-150 4X2 Supercrew Lariat edition showed ready acceleration and easy maneuverability, given its size, thanks to the over-powered steering and good visibility to the front corners of the vehicle. The sides drop off like a cliff, so there are no hidden protrusions that might end up scraping parking garage supports. Rear visibility is aided by a rear-view camera, part of the Lariat Plus package. As our truck wasn't equipped with the optional navigation system, thus lacking an LCD in the dash, the rear-view camera display was shown on one side of the rear-view mirror, complete with distance lines.
At faster speeds, the truck-suspension becomes obvious, delivering jounces and jolts to the cabin. To accommodate heavy payloads, the F-150 is sprung high, offering a view of the side rails under the truck. Ford claims the frame is 10 percent lighter than on the previous generation of this truck, yet more rigid. As our truck was configured, the bed was only 5 feet and 7 inches long. Getting up into that bed is made easier by a step and a pole that locks into a vertical position, all integrated with the tailgate.
With the top-of-the-line 5.4-liter V-8 in our truck and rear-wheel-drive, acceleration was good, showing no problem dealing with everyday traffic on freeways. That engine makes 320 horsepower at 5,000rpm and 390 pound-feet of torque at 3,500rpm. It's tuned for work, rather than high-speed antics. A six-speed automatic delivers power seamlessly from engine to wheels. It has no real tricks, just a drive mode and three low ranges, which is appropriate for a truck.
We were disappointed to see, after a couple of days of mixed driving on highways and in traffic, that the fuel economy sat below 16 mpg. The EPA puts a rating of 14 mpg city and 20 mpg highway on the F-150 with the 5.4-liter V-8. This engine is also capable of running on E85, yet that will drag mileage down to 10 mpg city and 14 mpg highway. An emissions rating for the F-150 had not been published at the time of our test.
In the cabin
Our time in the F-150 was made substantially more pleasant by the Sony audio system and Sync, which makes playing music as simple as saying, for example, "Play artist Led Zeppelin." A USB port at the bottom of the stack accepts iPods, Zunes, other MP3 players, and USB thumbdrives, indexing the music on any device and making it accessible with voice command. The Sony audio system is another luxury in the F-150, using 10 speakers and 700 watts of amplification.
Selecting music through the switchgear isn't quite as easy, especially if you have to scroll through hundreds of artist names. Lacking a dashboard LCD, a small monochrome display at the top of the stack shows track information, along with climate control info. This screen is better than a classic radio display, as it's bigger and is better positioned so the driver doesn't have to take his or her eyes far off the road.
This display also serves to show phone information for the Bluetooth integration. As with the music system, you can use voice command to dial. Sync lets you say the name of anyone in your contact list and it dials them, even asking which number to dial if there are multiple entries.
We've seen the available navigation system in other Ford cars, such as the 2009 Ford Flex, and in our opinion, it's a must-have. Not only does it show you traffic problems, but it also has weather and gas prices--the latter integrated with the points-of-interest database. That lets you find the cheapest gas around, which is very useful with this truck's thirst.