On paper, then, everything looks pretty rosy for Ford's star seller. You're looking at class-leading fuel economy and capability, along with almost limitless configurations of cab size, bed length, and interior trim. But then you get behind the wheel, and the new F-150 doesn't feel significantly different from the 2008 model. Engineers boast about weight reduction (up to 100 pounds less than the previous truck, depending on configuration), but dropping 100 pounds from a 5000-plus-pound behemoth doesn't exactly lend it razor-sharp reflexes.
If you're a die-hard fan of Ford pickups, the 2009 F-150 is everything you'd expect, but the bottom line is that it isn't that much different from the '08 model. Everything from the design to the powertrain has evolved slightly, but there aren't any brilliant advances beneath the sheetmetal. Whether that's enough to keep the F-150 in the running for the sales crown remains to be seen.
On sale: Now
Engines: 4.6L V-8, 248/292 hp, 294/320 lb-ft; 5.4L V-8, 310 hp, 365 lb-ft
Drive: Rear- or 4-wheel
Every Mile Per Gallon Matters
Automakers are scrambling to deliver better fuel economy across the board, even in pickup trucks. According to Ford, fuel economy moved from tenth place to third in a list of buyer considerations when purchasing a new truck.
Last summer, General Motors introduced the 2009 Xtra Fuel Economy GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado, which use a combination of cylinder deactivation, taller final-drive gearing, slight aerodynamic enhancements, low-rolling-resistance tires, and reduced mass to squeeze EPA ratings of 15 mpg city and 21 mpg highway from a 5.3-liter V-8 with a six-speed automatic.
A month later, Ford conveniently released information on the Superior Fuel Economy F-150, which is equipped with a 4.6-liter 24-valve V-8, a six-speed automatic transmission, and taller gearing. Its EPA fuel economy ratings match those of the extrafrugal GM trucks.
Both the XFE and SFE trucks are available only as rear-wheel-drive crew cabs and feature prominent badges to identify them as new models, which qualifies them for a standalone EPA rating (since there are similar models with the same drivetrain and worse fuel economy ratings).