Is Bigger Still Better?
The half-ton pickup market has been an arms race for the past couple of years. Each new offering seems to grow in size, weight, and capability, and the marketing efforts are just a step above the name calling found in political ads. But somewhere in the middle of this melee gas prices rose to $4.00 per gallon and the nation ended its affair with the pickup truck. Well, for a few months, anyway. Fuel prices are back to reasonable levels, at least for the moment, and Ford is releasing a bigger F-150 for the 2009 model year just as truck sales return to a normal level of the overall U.S. sales mix.
It sounds like a script right out of Hollywood, where the hero appears just in time to save the day. But will the F-150 remain Ford's savior at a time when the automaker needs every penny it can scrounge up, or is the bigger and badder F-150 too much truck for today's market?
The Song Remains the Same
The 2009 Ford F-150 doesn't bring any wild new hardware to the table. There's no two-mode hybrid like the 2010 Chevrolet Silverado and 2010 Dodge Ram will offer. Leaf springs still connect the rear axle to the frame, unlike the 2009 Dodge Ram which uses coil springs. Ford may introduce a diesel F-150 to compete with the upcoming diesel trucks from Chevrolet and Dodge, but the company seems to favor the impending EcoBoost engine which will combine direct injection and turbocharging to deliver diesel-like performance without the prohibitive cost of a diesel engine or diesel fuel. In true Ford fashion, this engine will not be available at launch.
The only significant changes for the 2009 Ford F-150 are the introduction of six-speed automatic transmissions, a larger crew cab, and a new 4.6-liter three-valve V-8 engine. The rest of the truck is just a freshening of the 2008 F-150, something you realize just as soon as you hit the road.
A Dizzying Array of Choices
Ford is very proud of the fact that the 2009 F-150 offers more possible configurations than any competitor truck. If you decide to buy an F-150, you'll first need to determine which cab style fits your needs (regular, super, and crew cabs are available), then decide how much bed you require (there are three choices ranging from 5.5 to 8 feet in length), and, finally, determine how luxurious you'd like the truck to be, since there are seven different trim levels. Once you've figured out all of that, you can choose among the three V-8 engines, then decide between rear- and four-wheel-drive. There are 35 different core configurations for the F-150 just taking cab size, bed length, and trim level into account. Fourteen of those possible combinations are available with the SuperCrew cab.