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

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