A 1/2-Ton That Thinks Like A 3/4-Ton
Back in the late '70s you could buy a Ford F-150 with a coil-sprung Dana 44 front axle, a Ford 9-inch rearend, and a frame that could bear weight beyond the 1/2-ton designation. This vintage of the F-150 was often heralded for its built-tough mechanicals and lauded for the over-built engineering. For 2009, Ford continues the trend with its improved F-150 that again widens the gap with class-leading payload, towing, and improved fuel economy, while narrowing the gap between the F-150 and F-250 Super Duty.
For 2009 the more aerodynamic F-150 gets a new look that shares more of a family face with other Ford newcomers like the Flex and reintroduced Taurus. It also gets a bit larger, while losing some weight and gaining capability. The Super Crew is 6 inches longer (now with a flat load floor), thanks to new front doors that are shared across the F-150 lineup. Previously the four-door regular cab shared front doors with the SuperCrew, while the Super Cab had its own longer doors. But for 2009 all F-150s have the same front door and the regular cab reverts to a two-door model, giving up the rear mini doors. This lessens manufacturing complexity, at the same time improving fit and finish and lowering wind noise.
The roof of the '09 F-150 is also 15 mm taller to accommodate the side-curtain airbags and is full of other safety features from standard Advance Trac with Roll Stability Control, a full complement of airbags, and four-channel ABS to Ford's Personal Safety System and optional reverse camera system.
The foundation of the 2009 F-150 is a new fully boxed frame that is up to 15 pounds lighter than the outgoing frame, yet gains a 10 percent improvement in torsional stiffness. Composed of hydroformed and high-strength steel side rails with through-frame crossmembers, the new frame delivers a class-leading tow rating of 11,300 pounds. Rear leaf springs have also been lengthened 6 inches for better ride and lateral control.
Other towing advances include a standard Trailer Sway Control and an optional integrated Trailer Brake Controller system, which, when ordered in tandem work together to sense and manage dangerous trailer sway, using both the F-150's braking system, as well as the trailer's braking system. And because of its integration with the F-150's electronics and braking system, it doesn't have to infer driver intent from the tow vehicle braking system like an aftermarket unit does and makes for a less cluttered dash.
Ford has also upgraded the hauling portion of the 2009 truck with a slew of available equipment, including a tailgate step and collapsible bed extender, similar to the Super Duty, as well as a new box side step for helping to access the F-150's box over the tall bedsides and a new cargo management rail system that can hold up to 600 pounds per cleat and use a number of available accessories, such as lockable boxes, that can mount to the rails. Payload numbers haven't been announced as of this writing, but Ford assures us those numbers will also be best-in-class.
The engine lineup will be familiar to any Ford truck owner, with a number of V-8 choices. The 4.2L V-6 has now been replaced by a 2V 4.6L V-8 backed by a four-speed automatic, which will get the same fuel economy as the outgoing V-6-powered truck. The middle engine will be a new 3V 4.6L V-8 and the top engine will again be the 3V 5.4L V-8, backed by Ford's new six-speed automatic transmission. A deep 4.17 first gear in the six-speed has allowed Ford to offer taller rear axle ratios across the board to improve fuel economy, while still maintaining off-the-line grunt. Unofficially, the flex-fuel 5.4L is said to make 320 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque across the F-150 lineup, and average mileage is up 1.5 mpg over the old truck. Ford will be announcing the official horsepower numbers for the rest of the engine lineup later this year.