When I heard that the 2009 Ford F-150 was going to be unveiled at this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, I was almost surprised at how quickly the new half-ton truck was developed. The light-duty truck market seems to me like the most rapidly evolving vehicle segment in the world, and after seeing the ‘09 F-150 up close, I’d bet it will continue to be a top seller in the ultra-competitive light truck class. A range of significant developments starting with the frame and extending into the interior has improved the F-150 from the ground up. At a recent preview event, I didn’t get to drive the ever-evolving half-ton, but I did get a good look at the features that should make the ‘09 F-150 a leader in its class.
Trucks are becoming more and more comfortable but they still need to be able to earn their spot in the yard. Trailer Sway Mitigation strikes me as one the coolest standard features ever developed for pickups because that’s what a truck simply must do well. This system from Bosch is standard across all ‘09 F-150 models, along with Roll Stability Control, which not only helps every ‘09 F-150 driver out there, it makes for a safer vehicle which is a benefit to everyone on the road.
What’s the foundation of the ‘09 F-150 like? Ford says the new half-ton’s frame is even stronger than the ‘04 F-150’s because it’s built from higher strength steel yet weighs less overall. Rear leaf springs measure three inches wide and are six inches longer than the current model’s spring packs. Another structural improvement is the increased use of Quiet Steel, featured when the ‘04 F-150 was introduced. Quiet Steel, which incorporates plastic laminates to help reduce noise and vibration has been employed in certain areas around the cab, specifically in the dash panel.
A quiet ride is one of the most desirable qualities in a pickup, whether you’re driving home from the job site or the office. Reduced noise from the outside world is just something customers have come to expect in modern trucks, and bigger engine mounts have been developed to help reduce vibration. However, safety is right up there with ride quality, if not more important, and the ‘09 F-150 has been engineered to better withstand the impact of a crash by utilizing a tubular rail structure that goes up the A-pillar and into the roof structure. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes continue to deliver the stopping power.
When it comes to the heart of the ‘09 F-150, the all-V8 lineup of 4.6L 2-valve, 4.6L 3-valve and 5.4L 3-valve gasoline engines provides the horsepower. To help these trucks save on fuel, the RPM at idle has been lowered and all engines feature fuel shut-off during deceleration. A new six-speed automatic transmission will be offered in addition to the four-speed automatic.
Working our way from underneath the truck and into the box, the F-150 design team has pushed load management further than ever by installing a dual-channel cargo management system. Moveable 600-lb load rings allow more options when securing cargo and the cargo divider keeps gear in its place. An available bed extender is unique in that it’s hinged at each corner of the bed but latches in the center. The two halves of the bed extender fold out of the way when not in use to keep bed access wide open.
In terms of bed rail height, as with all contemporary pickups, it’s on the high side. This makes for awesome looks and a deep bed, but it can be tough to reach over the rail to grab a tool box. The ‘09 F-150 surprises you with two features that should improve bed access in a big way.
First, there’s a tailgate step which stows inside the tailgate. After pulling the tailgate step out of the top of the gate, the step folds down toward the ground. Next, the handle/post that also stows in the gate fits in a secure, upright position, perpendicular to the tailgate, providing a solid handle to help you step up into the bed.
Second, below the outer front corners of the 6.5 and 8 foot Styleside beds, a 500-lb capacity step is ready for you, even when carrying something that’s got your hands full. Kick the step, which is secured to the frame, and it drops down enabling you to step up and reach over the side of the box.
As any pickup owner knows, cargo is never limited to the bed, so the ‘09 F-150’s crew cab gained another six inches in length. With crew cab models, which make up over 50% of F-150 sales, drivers will experience better visibility from the B-pillar being moved back. What’s even cooler is that the rear seat floor is flat, with the rear seats folding up out of the way of cargo. Gear can be slid right into the rear cab area without getting hung up on the old transmission hump. This back seat cargo area measures an amazing 57.6 cubic feet.
Matching the ‘09 F-150’s work ethic and range load-managing capability is a new body that lets people know it comes from Super Duty genes. The proud hood sits above a broad, mainly horizontally-oriented grille with strong vertical sections on either side, resembling the cross-section of an I-beam.
Out back, check out the taillight assemblies, whose chrome details appear to flow into a stamped channel spanning the width of the tailgate. Details like these should help the ‘09 F-150 stand out when you’re waiting in line behind one at the dump. You certainly won’t be able to miss the blue oval Ford badge which owns the center of the tailgate, surrounded by plenty of chrome.
Lastly, after selling out of last year’s King Ranch F-150s, Ford has brought the ‘09 model to a new level of refinement. You’ll still find the richest, premium leather upholstery inside the available King Ranch model but the new Platinum trim level delivers actual brushed aluminum interior trim and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. The word here is class – combined with all the expected F-150 ability.
If you’re not planning on sinking the maximum amount of bills into your ‘09 F-150, you’ve still got a total of seven trim levels, in ascending order: XL – the workhorse, STX – sporty with color-matched bumpers, XLT – plenty of available options, FX4 – tuned for off-road performance, Lariat – leather, luxurious, King Ranch – ultimate luxury with a country feel, and Platinum – all-new level of finish with an urban feel.
The advancements made to the new ‘09 F-150 will keep this truck in a commanding position in the marketplace. As design cycles go, I wonder what the next F-150 will look like and how soon it will arrive. Ford certainly didn’t wait long improve upon their best seller which keeps the light duty truck manufacturers on its toes and pushing each other to rule to road.
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