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2009 Ford F-150 FX4 - First Look

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 1, 2008 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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.

The 2009 F-150 interior is an exceptional execution and looks great from the base model to the top-of-the-line Platinum.

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.

Here are the '09 F-150 FX4 and '08 Chevy Silverado side by side on the same RTI ramp.

As expected, the interior continues the Ford tradition of mixing leading-edge style with high-quality materials and is beautifully executed with even more storage than before. The serenity of the cab has been improved by 9 percent in wind noise, 5 percent in road noise, and 5 percent in NVH thanks to a new acoustic headliner, a quiet steel dash, and other sound-deadening tricks. There is also a new 8-inch screen that comes with the voice-activated navigation system that now is Sirius Travel Link and SYNC compatible. Ford's Work Solution RFID tool tagging system is also available for the professional customer.

The 2009 model will be available in no less than seven trim levels, which include XL, STX, XLT, FX4, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum with other variants rumored to be on the horizon.

Most exciting to the Four Wheeler crew is the new FX4 package that is not just a trim level, but a real off-road package, complete with an electronically activated rear locker that can even be used in 4-Hi up to 20 mph. The FX4 model also boasts a best-in-class crawl ratio of 41:1 and unlike the competition, the FX4's air dam doesn't compromise approach angle. Ford engineers also worked hard to make a more flexible suspension that sees an 8-percent improvement in the RTI. Other equipment that you get when checking the FX4 box are real skidplates that tie in to the frame, a unique transmission shift strategy in 4-Lo, special shocks, and available LT275/70R17 Goodyear A/Ts with a much more aggressive tread than Ford usually offers. We'll have driving impressions of the FX4 model in an upcoming issue of Four Wheeler.

The 2009 F-150 is a satisfying upgrade over the previous generation, especially in the interior where most of your time is spent. And with increased capability that encroaches on the F-250 Super Duty territory, Ford is essentially offering two 3/4-ton trucks-one for those who want the better ride of IFS and one for those who need the increased brawniness of a solid axle. With major competition coming from the 2009 Dodge Ram, with its lower capacities and coil-sprung rear suspension, it will be interesting to see which strategy pays off in the real world.

What's Hot:
FX4 package, generous accommodations and features

What's Not:
Super Crew gets bigger, top engine output down from competition

Our Take:
With capability and size like this, who needs a 3/4-ton?

Vehicle model: 2009 Ford F-150 SuperCab FX4
Engine Type: 3V 5.4L V-8 flex-fuel capable (gasoline/ethanol)
Valvetrain: SOHC
Aspiration: EFI
Mfg.'s hp @ rpm: 310 (gasoline) / 320 (E85)
Mfg.'s torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 365 (gasoline) / 390 (E85)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Axle ratio: 3.73
Suspension (f/r): SLA independent with coilover shock/Multistage leaf spring
Wheels/Tires: LT275/70R17
Wheelbase (in.): 133
Fuel capacity (gal.): 26.0
Seating capacity: 5

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