2009 Ford F-150 Review – New and Improved! But you probably didn't notice.

Tuesday June 23rd, 2009 at 9:66 AM
Posted by: Kurt Gensheimer

2009 Ford F-150 XLT
By Kurt Gensheimer

Blings:

  • Luxo interior and ride quality
  • Microsoft Sync – the only endearing Microsoft product in existence
  • Gutsy and fuel efficient Triton V8

Dings:

  • Mundane exterior styling…
  • …except for the obnoxiously large faux chrome grille
  • Cargo loops in bed smaller than a needle hole

Ruling: Although you might not notice at first glance, Ford’s F-150 really is new and improved.


Ask any industry analyst about the current state of the pickup market, and they’ll be heard to mutter words like “vile”, “murderous”, “destitute” and “take a wild guess, Sherlock.” Take for instance Ford’s prediction of nearly 2 million retail and fleet sales of the F-150 in 2009, down 900,000 units from 2008; a sales year everyone would like to forget. Yes, it’s grim, but you already knew that, and this is a review about a pickup truck, not another moth-eaten piece of shoddy journalism about our miserable economy, so I’ll share something you might not know. Despite the economy, Ford is actually seeing a significant boost in sales of their fully-optioned F-150 Platinum and King Ranch models.

That’s right. Although there are many buyers abandoning the pickup market – a place where they probably shouldn’t have been in the first place – those that remain are opting for more luxurious, Comstock loaded F-150s. And with the recent release of the completely redesigned 2009 F-150, a truck which has stepped up the game significantly in the luxury department, Ford’s redesign couldn’t have come at a better time.

First Impressions

To the layperson, and even a truck enthusiast who just takes a quick glance at the 2009 F-150, from the outside it might not seem that anything has changed. But rest assured my fellow toy-haulin’, mobile office workin’, neighborhood Home Depot-run whipping boy, the 2009 F-150 is an entirely different beast. And from the exterior photos, it plainly obvious that these differences are with the interior and the places only the manliest of men (AKA most knuckleheaded of knuckleheads) would venture to put their greasy, grimy hands while pondering the inevitably injurious question; “hmm, what’s this do?”

For starters, the interior boasts improvements such as more refined, luxurious leather upholstery, a redesigned instrument cluster, six extra inches of length for cavernous rear seat room, and larger bins for storing bigger and better ‘stuff’ – the second most important feature for Americans behind cup holders. At its core, the F-150 also boasts a redesigned, fully-boxed frame chassis which according to Ford achieves 10 percent greater torsional rigidity. Also new is a six-speed automatic transmission which, in our test vehicle, was mated to the traditional 5.4 liter V8 recently modified to FFV status so that all those corn shuckers out there can run E85 fuel.

Performance

The chassis is stiffer, the payload capacity is up (3,030 lbs. max) as well as the towing capacity (11,300 lbs. max) and the transmission has not one, but two extra gears.  One would conclude then that the powerplant must be a real stump puller, but your conclusion would be incorrect. Don’t misunderstand, the 310 horses and 365 lb. ft. of torque the 5.4 liter V8 puts out is perfectly adequate 99.9 percent of the time, however, when stacked up against its peers like the 390 horsepower Hemi-powered Fiat…I mean…Dodge Ram, the F-150 falls short in brawn.

However, life is all about balance, and the F-150 balances power with fuel economy better than any other truck on the road. It easily returns 20 miles per gallon on the freeway (14 in the city), while still being able to clock in a sub 8 second 0-60. This kind of performance begs the question, “how much power do you really need?” If you’re going to be towing 11,000 pounds all day, then okay, maybe stepping up to the Hemi or even a diesel truck might be a wise decision. But again, for 99.9 percent of most people’s usage, the F-150 won’t flinch an inch at the task.

Build

One of the most noticeable developments with the automotive world in the past few years -besides the fact that Koreans can actually build nice cars – is that Ford’s build quality is light years ahead of where it used to be. Take for instance interior noise at freeway speeds, an element which consumers inevitably associate with exceptional build quality. The F-150, like almost every one of Ford’s new vehicles, is more hushed than a Berlin Bibliothek. Yes, it’s built far better than its predecessors, however, the F-150′s interior serenity was  interrupted by the grating sounds of a rattling passenger seat. But I think Ford engineers figured that the F-150 had to retain some sort of truckish element, so why not bless it with the classicly truckish rattle seat.

2009 Ford F-150

Interior

This is where the F-150 is far and away the most improved. Step inside and you might almost forget you’re driving a truck. That is until you reach for the tree shifter and yank it into ‘D’. Aside from the aforementioned quietness, the F-150′s interior is paired with refined leather upholstry that make this machine a true delight on long road trips. As evidenced by the increased sales of Comstock loaded F-150s, it seems even the most aggro, minimalistic, old-school F-150 owner appreciates the modernity of pickup interiors. I mean, why sweat your jockeys off in the summer on a bench seat that’s harder and more unforgiving than a pew in a Catholic Church when you don’t have to?

Speaking of bench seats, the F-150 also has a nifty front center console which converts into a third front seat. And yes, the console has cupholders aplenty in various shapes and sizes. For rear seat passengers, they’re really in for a treat. The six additional inches of cabin space open up rear seat legroom significantly, resembling the back seat of a Lincoln Town Car. Town Car luxury in an F-150 pickup is almost as blissful as vanilla ice cream on apple pie. Of course, this added cabin space comes at a cost to the shrunken 67-inch long bed, shorter than both the Dodge and Chevy.

2009 Ford F-150 - Leather-wrapped steering wheel w/climate controls2009 Ford F-150 - 700W Sony audio system w/SYNC2009 Ford F-150 - 10-way power adjustable leather-trimmed captain's chairs

On the communications and media front, the F-150 is available with Microsoft’s Sync product, which we consistently pick as the least annoying and most intuitive voice-command system in all of autopia. But a word of advice – don’t even think about trying to manually type addresses into the nav system. If you don’t end up murdering yourself out of paralyzing frustration, you’ll most definitely murder your passenger.  Besides, how much more brainless is it than pressing a button with the image of a phone on it and following instructions. You can follow instructions, right?

The F-150 also boasts optional features like a 10-speaker, 700-watt Sony stereo with Sirius, rear view camera with reverse sensing system (isn’t both overkill?), and a very cleanly integrated trailer brake controller.

Exterior

Not much happening here besides a redesigned front grille that is rather large and obnoxious. And what’s with the massive, gaping hole beneath the front grille? Is there some kind of optional winch that we’re not aware of? And one other minor issue was with the cargo loops. They were so small in diameter that you couldn’t even fit a u-lock through them to secure any loose, stealable items laying in the bed.

Although on the outside the F-150 doesn’t differ much from its predecessor, a tire shop employee astutely commented, “hey, ain’t that the aught niner?” We were astonished, not only at the fact that he knew it was new, but also because he referred to it as an ‘aught niner’. We still can’t figure out why the whole ‘aught’ moniker didn’t take off in 2000.

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