Full 2009 Ford F-150 Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Ford F-150 has been fully redesigned, with styling changes inspired by the Super Duty Series trucks and mechanical changes inspired by the competition. The former include a taller hood line and more macho grilles, while the latter includes higher-output engines along with a new six-speed automatic transmission.
Crazy as it sounds, the best-selling vehicle for nearly all of the past 30 years has been Ford's F-Series pickup truck. Although that prestigious title technically belongs to Ford's entire F-Series family (meaning it includes the Super Duty rigs and commercial-use chassis cabs), most of the sales numbers were generated by the F-150. If you wanted to label something as "America's truck," this would be it. And for 2009, Ford has revamped the F-150 in an effort to retain that title.
Ford's magic formula for the F-150 has traditionally consisted of strong towing and hauling capabilities, solid durability and a dizzying variety of body styles, trim levels and options. In recent years, this formula has been expanded to include a smooth, quiet ride and an easy-to-drive demeanor. If you can't find something you like in an F-150, then maybe you don't really want a pickup truck. Nonetheless, stiff competition in the large pickup segment has compelled Ford to give the F-150 a thorough freshening this year.
Making changes to a perennial cash cow is not something a company's going to take lightly. As such, Ford has made careful but key upgrades to the F-150 that address some of its former shortcomings. There's a six-speed automatic in place of the aged four-speeder, for example, which provides better low-speed acceleration as well as more relaxed and fuel-efficient cruising. Additional changes for the 2009 Ford F-150 include Super Duty-inspired front-end styling and a new high-zoot Platinum trim level. The SuperCrew also gets more "super" via a 6-inch cabin stretch, which provides a flat rear floor and limolike rear passenger room as well as the ability to carry really large objects within the cab. Other neat and useful features include a capless fuel filler, steps that deploy to ease access to the bed, Ford's Sync multimedia voice command system (which can also provide weather, gas prices, sports scores and movie times via Sirius Travel Link) and an integrated trailer-brake controller. As before, there are numerous features that optimize hauling and reduce stress, such as a cargo management system and a rearview camera.
Nonetheless, the F-150 still can't touch a Tundra in a stoplight drag race, even when it's got the top-shelf 5.4-liter V8. And while towing and hauling capacities are impressive on paper, real-world testing lays bare the F-150's under-hood deficiencies, as the Ford struggles to keep up with brawnier rivals like the Tundra, the new Hemi-powered Dodge Ram and the Chevrolet Silverado. Still, with its user-friendly features and pleasant driving dynamics, the F-150 remains one of the easiest half-ton pickups to live with on an everyday basis. And with the wide range of available body styles, trim levels and equipment, you're sure to find one that meets your needs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Ford F-150 full-size pickup truck is available in three body styles: regular cab, extended cab ("SuperCab") and crew cab ("SuperCrew"). Cargo box size choices vary as well: regular cabs come with a 6.5-foot or 8-foot cargo bed, while SuperCabs can have either of those or a garage-friendly 5.5-footer. The SuperCrew can have either the 5.5-foot or 6.5-foot bed. Reverse-opening rear doors are standard on regular and SuperCabs for easier cab access, while SuperCrews have four full-size doors.
No fewer than seven trim levels are offered: base XL, sporty STX, popularly equipped XLT, rugged FX4, luxurious Lariat, leather-saddle-inspired King Ranch and blinged-out, top-dog Platinum.
Geared toward commercial use, the bare-bones XL comes with 17-inch steel wheels, vinyl seating, an AM/FM radio, air-conditioning and not much else. The STX is similarly equipped but adds body-colored bumpers and grille frame, sportier wheels, a cloth 40/20/40-split bench seat and an upgraded sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The volume leader XLT features chrome exterior trim (including the grille), an upgraded cloth interior, cruise control and full power accessories. The FX4 (4WD) shares its color-keyed bumper and grille styling with the STX and also features a towing package, 18-inch wheels, underbody skid plates, retuned springs and heavy-duty shocks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, bucket seats with center console, a six-way power driver seat and satellite radio.
The Lariat trim offers an upscale ambiance with two-tone paint, a silver mesh grille insert, brushed aluminum and wood interior highlights, leather upholstery, 10-way power driver and passenger seats, heated front seats, power-adjustable pedals, the Sync multifunction voice command system, automatic climate control and a trip computer. Like the Lariat, the King Ranch has two-tone paint and the fancy grille, but it adds western saddle-inspired leather upholstery, a six-CD changer and heated/cooled front seats.
The new Platinum trim tops the line and features 20-inch chrome wheels, a unique grille design, monotone paint, chrome accents, premium leather upholstery, the heated/cooled seats and unique wood-grain accents.
Key F-150 options include the SFE (superior fuel economy) package that's available on 2WD SuperCrew XL and XLTs with the 4.6-liter high-output V8. The SFE package includes the 5.5-foot bed, a 3.15:1 rear axle ratio and low-rolling-resistance tires. Other options include a premium Sony audio system, remote engine start, a navigation system, a back-up camera, a cargo management system, a stowable bed extender, reverse parking sensor, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system and a sunroof.
Aimed at those who work out of their trucks, Ford's Work Solutions options include an in-dash computer with Internet access, a Midbox storage system (a lockable compartment located between the cab and bed) and a "Tool Link" system (which allows one to keep tabs on tools stored in the truck's box via radio-frequency tracking).
Powertrains and Performance
There are three main engine choices in the 2009 Ford F-150 lineup, all of them V8s: a 4.6-liter that makes 248 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque, a higher-output 4.6 with 292 hp and 320 lb-ft and a 5.4-liter unit with 320 hp and 390 lb-ft. The base 4.6 is paired to a four-speed automatic transmission, while the high-output 4.6 and 5.4 are mated to a six-speed automatic. The brakes have a soft feel about them, but stopping distances are quite good. In instrumented testing, we stopped a four-wheel-drive Super Crew from 60 mph in an impressive 127 feet.
As expected, buyers have a choice between two- and four-wheel drive on all versions of the F-150. When it comes to working capacity, the F-150 can't be beat -- on paper, at least. Properly equipped, an F-150 with the 5.4-liter V8 can tow up to 11,300 pounds and carry a 3,030-pound payload. In practice, however, the F-150 struggles to keep up with more powerful rivals in towing and hauling tests, particularly when going up grades.
Fuel mileage can be as high as 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined for an F-150 2WD SuperCrew with the SFE (superior fuel economy) package. A more typical 4WD SuperCrew with the 5.4-liter V8 gets EPA estimates of 14/18/15 mpg.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, trailer sway control and a full complement of airbags (including front seat side and full-length side curtain) are standard across the board.
Interior Design and Special Features
In SuperCrew form, the 2009 Ford F-150 can comfortably seat five or six people. Backseat comfort rivals the best in the segment thanks to an abundance of legroom, a flat floor and a seatback angle that's not too upright as in some rivals. Carrying three passengers in the backseat is still possible if you get a SuperCab, though legroom will be noticeably less generous.
All F-150 versions offer simple controls and materials of pleasing quality. Order the navigation system and you'll get a large (8-inch) screen. Lower trims have a standard 40/20/40-split bench seat with a column shifter, while the upper trims feature captain's chairs and a console shifter.
Hauling large items is no problem in SuperCabs and SuperCrews, as the backseat quickly folds up to make way for cargo. The SuperCrew's flat floor allows for secure transport of pets and big-screen TVs alike.
Thanks to its stiff frame and double-wishbone front suspension, the 2009 Ford F-150 delivers impressive ride and handling dynamics for a full-size truck. The powertrain enhancements this year also make the truck feel noticeably livelier, thanks in part to the six-speed automatic's well-spaced gears and cooperative nature. Yet the F-150 is still down on maximum power -- to the tune of 60-80 hp compared to the big V8s in the Ram, Tundra and GM trucks -- so if you need or want serious oomph, there are better choices.