I spent the weekend with this Ford F-150 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 2009 Ford F-150 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 4x4. 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