New Car Reviews

2009 Ford F150

When you sell as many variations of a vehicle as Ford does with the F-150, there are bound to be a couple of stinkers in the mix. This extended-cab truck with a 6.5-foot bed just isn’t the best example of the 2009 F-150. I’ve probably driven seven different 2009 F-150s, and all of them felt better to me than this one does. Most of the other trucks were crew-cab models, so it’s possible a lot of my complaints are due to the lack of a B-pillar in the cab. Overall, the truck just felt a little floppy, and there was far too much dive under braking. And the 5.4-liter V-8 is nothing to write home about.

Fundamentally, the F-150 is a fine truck. There is an endless array of configurations available, and there should be a model that suits any potential half-ton truck buyer. However, I walk away from the 2009 version completely uninspired. It just doesn’t feel different from the 2008 model. GM trucks underwent a much-needed upgrade and returned so much nicer than the previous models, it was virtually impossible to drive a 2007 Silverado and actually purchase a leftover 2006 model. Toyota‘s Tundra went from a joke to an oversize and way-powerful modern truck in 2007.

Last fall, Ford and Dodge introduced new half-ton pickup trucks at the same time. The press drives were only weeks apart, and each company was rather worried about what the other product was like to drive. The 2009 Dodge Ram is a very different take on the half-ton truck and uses a much more advanced rear suspension design. Critics complain that the Ram didn’t gain capability as every other half-ton did in recent years, but the truth is: nobody needs to pull more than 8000 pounds with a half-ton truck. You really need a heavy-duty truck for that sort of towing if you plan to do it more than once in your lifetime. So the 2009 Ram made the 2008 model instantly obsolete, just as the Silverado and Tundra did to their predecessors.

Ford’s truck guys decided the only way to sell trucks would be to keep adding capability (as well as weight) to the platform and advertise it as being bigger and therefore obviously better. Sure, the 2009 F-150 is more refined than the 2008, but the 2008 was already pretty quiet. The only real advantage I see for the 2009 F-150 owner is a six-speed automatic transmission. Don’t get me wrong, I love the transmission. But I also know there are 10,000 new 2008 F-150s sitting on dealer lots right now, with what must be a considerable discount. I’ll bet a comparably equipped 2008 F-150 is selling for about half the MSRP of this 2009 model. Unless you’re towing on a daily basis, I see no reason to get the newer truck.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

It’s pretty hard for me to judge any suspension today, as I creep along through a raging blizzard. Instead, going slowly allows the sumptuous men’s club quality of the ‘s cab to seep in. A very subtle, elegant change has come over the ambience of the F-150, making it a gorgeous accessory to the confident, professional man about town. The combination of color, material, and textures is really striking, beginning with the black dash pad, a heavily textured vinyl that looks very manly. A stitched black leather visor juts over the instrument panel, which is finished in an unusual matte grey that extends through the actual gauges. The numbers and hash marks light up blue at night.

Chrome rings gauges, cupholders, and vents. Big planks of faux wood panel the doors, the center stack, and the new six-speed automatic’s shift knob. Echoing Phil Floraday: Love that transmission. It ought to be kick-ass on hillclimbs in the woods, which is how I most often used my three full-size pickups.

Everywhere you look in here, you see thoughtful designer touches: the manually operated air vents are tabbed for easy handling. Door pockets are deep and wide. Every little cubby (and there are many) in, on, and around the dash has a rubber inset, some ridged to separate the little things you’ll throw in.

The stereo speaker grilles on the doors are attractively ridged to reduce visual mass.

And may I say, I think I can no longer live without the voice-activated connectivity offered by the Sync interface.

Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief

I spent the weekend with this Lariat and enjoyed piloting it around town. I managed to escape the office on Friday promptly at 5:15, which put me into downtown Ann Arbor’s rush hour traffic, on lightly snow-covered streets. People tend to get out of your way when they see this big, chrome-grilled thing coming, and I threaded my way through the glut of commuters quite quickly.

I agree with Phil that the doesn’t drive that much differently from its predecessor, although of course six forward speeds in the transmission is a good thing, indeed. The F-150 drives like a truck, which is probably what most of its buyers want. Steering feel is perfectly decent, and you know what’s happening at your tires’ contact patches, even though you sense that the tires are yards and yards away, so tall do you ride in this jacked-up 4×4. Ride quality is not at all what you’d call plush, but neither is it unduly harsh. Again, this is a truck. I have no real issues with the F-150’s on-road comportment.

I ran eleven miles on Saturday afternoon (in 15-degree weather, mind you) and was utterly exhausted when I finished, but I still had several hours of errands to run. I was happy to have the F-150 Lariat’s handsome, luxurious cabin to escape to; in fact, I ate lunch in it. I had no choice. I was near the University of Michigan campus, and I couldn’t find a legal, on-street parking space big enough to accommodate this beast, so I idled at the curb while scarfing down a Chipotle burrito, seat heaters on high, thank you very much. Anyway, the F-150 proved plenty comfortable for my sore self as I went about my rounds, and of course there was more than enough cargo space inside the cab for my gym bag, my dry cleaning, and my bags of groceries.

As nicely tailored as the cabin is, though, I have one major beef: No matter how I adjusted the power-operated captain’s chair, I could never quite arrive at an ideal seating position. The problem seems to lie with the seatback and the headrest, which is canted too far forward. To alleviate that, I would try reclining the seatback, but then I’d have to scoot the seat bottom forward, so I could comfortably reach the steering wheel. I dunno. It just seems like the headrest should be more adjustable.

I wish the F-150 weren’t so tall. I recall when I first saw the face-lifted F-series a year ago at a Ford event in Dearborn, one of the engineers boasted that they had increased the ride height by an inch, because dealers told them that many buyers were paying the dealers to put lift kits in their trucks anyway. You know, sometimes car companies should not cater to stupid people. You want your truck to ride an inch taller for no good reason other than that you want to tower over the guy next to you at a stoplight? Then pay your dealer’s service department to install the lifts. Let the rest of us drive trucks that are a little easier to get into and out of and that have the aerodynamic efficiency advantage of a lower ride height. Jeez, the optional bed step with the recessed grab handle in the tailgate is cool, but it shouldn’t even be necessary.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

Jean Jennings is right – the interior of the Ford F-150 Lariat does look the part of a luxury liner – but it sure doesn’t feel like one.

See those leathery textures that cover the new dash pad and the instrument binnacle? They may look soft (a deception that is enhanced by faux stitching), but they’re actually quite hard. The same goes for most other dashboard plastics, as well as the upper door panel – a spot where you’re likely to rest your arm while trucking down the highway. Perhaps most disconcerting are the headrests, which feel like cinderblocks wrapped in leather trim. They’re not what I’d call comfortable, unless you happen to be wearing a hard hat.

Although I like the looks of this new F-150 and some of the features it offers (the tailgate step is a novelty, albeit a useful one), I’m still inclined to choose the new Dodge Ram on its interior and ride refinement alone. So what if it tows “only” 9100 pounds – how often do you pull more than 4000 or 5000 pounds?

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

Why, oh why, did I not take the gravel road into work on this snowy morning? Instead of exercising the F-150‘s brute winter awesomeness by bounding across several miles of barely plowed country road, I automatically took the normal highway route, which left me creeping along in traffic for almost an hour. Sigh …

My time stuck in traffic allowed me to come to some of the same conclusions as my colleagues: This is a very nice-looking interior and a very nice place to spend time. However, some of the hard plastics are out of place, as Evan noted (I, too, was disappointed by the hard dash top and door caps), but they’re certainly better than most of Ford‘s recent efforts.

The new six-speed transmission is nice, but to be honest, I didn’t even notice that there were six gears when I was driving the vehicle. The gear selector still has the old 1, 2, 3, D choices, along with the O/D button, so there was no easy giveaway without counting shifts during a drag race to the pickup’s top speed.

I agree with Joe on at least two points: I couldn’t get comfortable in the driver’s seat, and I’m shocked that Ford actually bragged about making this truck taller. I’m anxious to compare this with the new Dodge Ram, because the consensus seems to be that the Dodge is more useable as a daily driver.

Still, the ’09 F-150 looks really tough in person, especially when it’s covered in snow. The power-sliding rear window was very helpful for clearing a view out the back window, since the snow in the bed kept swirling back onto the glass. (What, do you actually think this monster could fit in my garage?)

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

Nothing makes a short person like me feel more absurd than driving a massive, I’m-compensating-for-my-height pickup truck like this F-150 Lariat extended-cab 4×4. The parking lot attendant, who’s seen me pull up to his booth in some pretty ridiculous vehicles, had to stifle a laugh and was compelled to ask, “Are you okay?”

Needless to say, this is not my kind of transportation. But I still appreciate how much trucks in general have improved over the years. The interior, as others have noted, was fantastic. Truck owners everywhere can thank the now-passing luxury-SUV phenomenon for bringing their cabins up to modern spec.

Dynamically, the F-150 was easy enough to manage. I had just finished a weekend in the and was able to avoid crashing into anything despite the extra four feet in length. Of course it helps that, as Joe noted, people get the hell out of your way as soon as they see you coming. Acceleration wasn’t stellar, but the F-150 cruised with much greater ease on the highway than the four-speed-automatic F-150 I drove last fall.

I found the ride harsh, especially over train tracks, just as one would expect with an empty truck bed. Like everyone else, I’m anxious to see how the Dodge Ram performs with its rear coil springs. I’m honestly surprised that Ford, with its dozens of F-150 variants, was not the first to think of offering at least a few versions of its best seller with such a setup.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Base Price (with destination): $36,905
Price as tested: $42,960

Lariat Chrome Package – $1295
– Chrome step bar
– Chrome power heated signal mirrors
– 18-inch chrome-clad wheels
– Cargo Management Accessory Package – $200
– Bed divider
– Header bar
– Load bars
– Cargo management system
– Tailgate step – $350
Stowable bed extender – $195
Power-Sliding Rear Window with Privacy Tint – $250
Cargo Management Rails – $115
Trailer Brake Controller – $230
Full Coverage Rubber Floor Mats – $95
Navigation Radio with In-Dash Screen – $2430
Leather-Trimmed Captain’s Chairs w/Heated/Cooled Seats – $895

Fuel Economy: 14 / 18 / 15 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 5.4L V-8 with E85 capability
Horsepower: 310 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 365 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm

Safety Ratings (in stars, 1-5):
Frontal Crash Driver: 5
Frontal Crash Passenger: 5
Side Crash Front Seat: 5
Side Crash Rear Seat: 5
Rollover: 3

Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic Transmission

Weight: 5520 lb (estimated based on configuration)

Wheel/Tire Info:
– 18-inch chrome-clad wheels (size)
– 275/65 R18 all terrain tires

Buying Guide
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2009 Ford F-150

2009 Ford F-150

MSRP $21,565 XL 2WD Short Bed Regular Cab


14 City / 19 Hwy

Towing (Max):

11,300 lbs.

Payload (Max):

1,690 lbs.