Base MSRP Range: $19,125 to $35,750
Base Invoice Range: $Not Available
MSRP As Tested: Not Available
Versions: XL, STX, XLT, FX4, Lariat
Cab Styles: Regular (2 doors), Supercab (2 full doors, 2 partial doors), Super Crew (full 4 doors)
Cargo Box Styles: Styleside (standard), Flareside (side steps)
Cargo Box Lengths: 5 1/61/
Vehicle Category: Full-Size Pickup Truck
Engine Location: Front Engine
Transmission: 4-Speed Automatic
Engine and Transmission as Tested: All combinations with the larger V8 engine.
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): This truck will not receive an EPA fuel consumption rating as it is a commercial vehicle and therefore remains untested.
Standard Safety Features: Driver and front passenger airbags, front passenger Occupant Sensing System, 4-wheel vented disc brakes, "> Antilock Braking System, Traction Control, Daytime Running Lights, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Remote Keyless Entry.
Competition: Chevrolet Silverado, Dodge Ram, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra
Gruen, Texas - Driving the 2004 Ford F-150 on Texas Hill Country roads is like putting on a favorite old sweater; it feels comfortable and familiar, it has plenty of room, and is a reliable standard. This truck is meant for country roads and heavy work. But it can do anything you ask it to from carrying a load of wood, pulling a loaded horse trailer or taking the family out for burgers and a movie on Saturday night.
Frankly we wondered why Ford would take us to Texas in the middle of the summer to test drive a truck. The last thing a company wants to do is to have a passel of hot and tired automotive journalists reviewing their products. But the heat afforded them one important factor: the journalists were definitely going to spend all their time in the trucks with the air conditioners on full blast. That made for a comprehensive test drive, under real-world conditions. On the other hand, Texas is where the F-150 was originally launched and where 1 out of 5 are sold.
Ford introduced their first pickup truck, the Model T, in 1917. It was sold as a basic cab and chassis. The customer would add a body they could make one themselves, or hire coach builders and carpenters to do the work. In 1932 Ford introduced the Model B truck powered by the new Flathead V8 the first V8 truck built for the mass market.
The first F-Series truck was introduced in 1948. This was Fors first post-war truck and one of the first consumer vehicles to be produced. Passenger vehicle production had been suspended during the war because there were no materials, and the factories were utilized for military production. For example the familiar Woody came to be, because wood was more available, and vastly less expensive, than metal for body structures. And in 1953 the F-Series numbering system was introduced with the F-100 and F250.
The F-Series pickup trucks have been the top selling pickup in the US for the past 25 years and the top selling vehicle, of any sort, for the past 20 years. Sales exploded in the 1990s, going from approximately 450,000 vehicles in 1991, to 911,597 in 2001.
Full-Size pickup trucks account for nearly 2.3 million of all the new vehicles sold each year (between 16 and 17 million.) So pickups account for around 13% of all US vehicle sales. In major regional truck markets, like Texas, full-size pickups account for 24% of all vehicles sold. Three of the top-ten best-selling vehicles in the US are full-size pickup trucks. And pickups account for 23% of Ford's overall sales. According to Ford, 5 F-Series trucks are sold every minute in the US and one of those is in Texas.
Very critical numbers to Ford, we might add.
Perhaps the most important historical fact is that the F-150 can be the product that resurrects Ford from its financial difficulties. Given that they will sell nearly a million of them this year, that can make the company.
Changes Over the Previous Model
The Ford F-150 is now all new.
The new frame is now nine times stiffer than its predecessor improving durability, ride quality and quietness.
The exterior has been completely redesigned. It looks more like the larger F-Series SuperDuty trucks. I
Interiors have been added that make the new trucks enticing to people who prefer more comfortable surroundings. They range from simple and practical to lavish and refined while still practical.
The cabs are larger for more storage, especially behind the drives seat and in the versions with two rows of seating, there is more legroom. The cargo box is deeper dramatically increasing the carrying capacity.
The new Triton 5.4-liter, V-8 engine produced 15% more horsepower than the predecessor along with improvements in low-speed and peak torque. Certainly the driving experience has been improved.
There are so many variations to the F-15s exterior that it is difficult to describe them all almost every version of the vehicle can be had with any combination of cab, or bed. When shopping for an F-150 make sure to look at all the variations. And when purchasing one, make sure to order the one you expect as there are so many combinations several dozen -- of cabs, engines, cargo boxes, grills and trim levels it might be possible to make a mistake.
Certainly Ford attempted, and succeeded, in bringing the F-150 into the design fold of their, larger pickup trucks. The design DNA is now more consistent. For example, as on the larger trucks, there is a step-down, belt-line by the front window.
There are two grills. The one on the XL, STX and FX4 resembles a 3-step ladder design similar to what is on the SuperDuty trucks. The one on the XLT and Lariat is a honeycomb design. It is a little less muscular looking vehicle, but more refined. It resembles the current Expedition.
The cargo boxes come in two different styles styleside and flareside. The styleside has design cues that run from the front of the vehicle to the rear. It is a bit more elegant looking. The flareside is a throwback to the stepside pickup trucks of the 1950s. It has steps on either side of the vehicle's rear wheel wells, making it is easier to put things in the bed. It also has external tie downs, which are handy when carrying loads that need to be covered.
One of the best improvements to the F-150, and one that makes the vehicle a stand-out, is Fors new Tailgate Assist. This feature makes it MUCH easier to open and close the tailgate. It uses a torsion bar to help raise and lower it so that when you drop it down, it doest fall hard. When closing it, it feels light and controllable.
Any trim level SuperCab, with the 5 1/ bed will fit in a standard garage. This gives the best people and cargo capacity combination while still fitting in the garage, without a major remodel.
The trucks look great. But do be aware that there are so many variations and combinations of vehicle attributes that both the salespeople and the shoppers are going to be confused. Be ready to study the brochures and read your purchase contract carefully to make sure you get what you expect.
The Ford F-150 can be purchased in versions ranging from purely utilitarian to nearly luxurious. This is one of the biggest improvements over the previous model and it demonstrates Ford's ability to learn the needs of consumers.
One of the things Ford learned is that people who buy the truck for work dot want a plain bench seat and a simple steering column. Contractors and construction workers drive lots of miles and spend lots of time doing paperwork in their vehicles. They need comfort, space and works surfaces.
Second lots of people buy trucks for reasons other than work. They tow trailers, boats, buy heavy furniture and carry a mix of sturdy and delicate items. Trucks have to work for everyone and there are versions of the F-150 that will work well for family uses.
Third Ford realized that the growth opportunity for the overall pickup truck market is women and their families. They designed more attractive interiors with better amenities, for more people. They made it easy to add features more on that below. And they made some interiors that are as cushy as a livingroom. Now there are version of the F-150 that can take their owners from the cow pasture to the country club.
One of the best new convenience features on the market is Fors dual rail system we bet it ends up in other vehicles. It runs up the inside of the roof standard in the XLT, FX4 and Lariat SuperCab and SuperCrew models. Accessories that need power can be popped onto the rails with ease, and it has an integrated power supply. You can even add a DVD entertainment system with a flip-down screen to the SuperCrew models. The rail also holds additional storage compartments for a flashlight, a first aide or toolkit, and a holder for 2-way radios. This is a totally cool feature. We cat wait to see what the aftermarket dreams up to hang from those rails! (Put your suggestions in the Comment area below keep it clean boys!)
Compared to other pickup trucks the interiors are more refined and less bulky. More attention has been paid to the colors and texture combinations. While there are few over-large knobs, most are small, fit well and the resistance of the buttons is good they feel solid when you depress them.
The instrument cluster is under a simple cowl. There are different configurations available (of course.) The FX4 has more gauges and looks aviation/high tech is the tough, off-road model. The Lariat is the high-end, luxury model. Its gauges are larger, chrome-rimmed and more elegant looking. In all the versions the controls and gauges are where they should be.
The standard front row seating is a bench with a 40/20/40 split. The 20% portion in the center folds down and provides storage, cup holders and a work surface. The FX4 and Lariat models give you the option for Captains Chairs and a fixed center console with loads of storage and a center-mounted gear selector both firsts in the full-size pickup truck market. We think it looks great. So does Ford.
But along our drive route Texans, particularly women, said they didn't like the center-mounted gear selector. They are truck purists and wanted steering column mounted shifters. The also didn't like the console because it took up space they needed for people and stuff.
The legroom in the SuperCab's second row was a little tight, despite the size. Otherwise it is a very comfortable and relatively quiet truck. We enjoyed riding in it.
If you are going to tow, get the 5.4-liter Triton V8. Dot think twice. This engine develops 80% of peak torque at 1,000 rpms. That's going to get a very heavy load moving safely not fast enough to win a race but to pull loads properly. Acceleration is smooth and the vehicle felt confident towing 7,000 pounds of lead shot.
That doesn't mean the other 4.6-liter, V8 was a problem. The 4.6 can tow a trailer weight of 6,500 pounds. The 5.4 can tow 8,300. But that's huge difference when yore towing heavy equipment.
On the highway there was little difference in the way the two engines performed. They felt and sounded about the same. Acceleration and passing were easy. The felt fine.
Ride and Handling
As they often do, Ford had us drive the old version of a product before allowing us to drive the new model. That's important something other automakers dot often risk because it helps us to remember what the old vehicle was like, and the truth about the extent of the improvements.
Trucks dot generally go exactly where the drivers aim them all the time they just dot respond like a car. But the F-150 does a better job of going where you ask it to. The handling was more taught than the previous version. The ride is more confident than the previous version and better than most of the competitors.
Ford arranged for us to test the F-150 against a Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram and the Toyota Tundra. Assuming that there had been no monkey business with the trucks, the F-15s handling more stable than the Chevy and the Dodge. Under braking it was dramatically better than the Silverado the Chevy's brakes were scary. The Dodge was better. The F-150 and Tundra had the most in common. However the Tundra is significantly smaller and lighter and that could account for some of the better handling.
Ford also arranged for us to tow the same set of vehicles. We towed trailers with 7,000 pounds of lead shot in them. The tung weight (the weight on the hitch) was the same for all the vehicles. In this test the F-150 was the best in the field for all the same reasons we mentioned above.
The Chevy's brakes made us really nervous we weren't sure how quickly they could stop us. The Dodge was noisy and it seemed to strain more. It rattled and we felt less confident controlling both the vehicle and load.
Again the Toyota and the F-150 performed the best. Neither felt like they were working too hard. Both were comfortable to drive with a load. The brakes were stable and we were more in control of the payload. The Ford was quieter than the Toyota. But the Ford had power and chassis capability to go, and the Toyota was much closer to its limit.
Is a truck. Remember that. It is not a car.
That said, it has crush zones in the front and a stiffer hydroformed frame under the passenger compartment.
Fors Personal Safety System is standard. This is their way of discussing the various restraint technologies that protect you in a crash while adjusting to the severity of the crash and the occupants. They expect the truck to do well in the NCAP and IIHS crash tests.
Safety belt use and seat position sensors determine the extent of front and side airbag deployment for the driver. For the front-passenger a single weight sensor determines deployment. From what we can tell, there are no airbags protecting the second row seats.
The steering wheel is collapsible. There are three-point seatbelts for all seating positions with the exception of the middle of a front row bench. That has a lap belt only. Otherwise the vehicle contains the Federally mandated features, like the child safety seat LATCH system, etc.
The Ford F-150 is vastly improved, and improved in all the right areas; is more comfortable, harder working, better looking and easier to accessorize. The new interiors are really nice. The new frame along with the 5.4-liter Triton engine provides towing confidence and the bed carries more than it used to. Is got style, but it ist over-dressed. Clever ideas like the powered overhead bars make adding fun stuff to the interior easy. There is a combination for everyone whether you use it for work or the family.
All that and it beat its competitors in the Ford towing and handling tests and yove got a winning combination for a truck. If you can afford the price, which is commensurate with the cost of other pickups similarly attired, then Ford has yet another winner.
Pros: Loads of variations and combinations so that you get just the truck you want and need. Great tailgate. Great towing, handling and ride. Much improved.
Cons: Loads of variations and combinations of vehicle attributes make this truck difficult to shop for, because it will be confusing. Be careful to order the one you want. It will be easy to make a mistake.
- Style: 8
- Performance: 8
- Price: 7
- Handling: 8
- Ride: 8
- Comfort: 8
- Quality: 7
- Overall: 7.7
Where Built: Dearborn, Michigan U.S.A.
Major Options: Rear Obstacle Detection System and tons of other stuff too numerous to list here.
Seating: 3 or 5
Number of Rows: 1 or 2
Crash Test Ratings:
- NHTSA Frontal Impact/Driver Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
- NHTSA Frontal Impact/Passenger Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
- NHTSA Side Impact/Front Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
- NHTSA Side Impact/Rear Seat Crash Test Rating: Not Yet Tested
- NHTSA Rollover Resistance Rating: Not Yet Tested
- IIHS Frontal Offset Crash Test: Not Yet Tested
Length in Inches: Ranges from 125.8 to 163.0
Warranties: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion, 3 years/36,000 miles free Roadside Assistance.
Weight in Pounds: Ranges from 4,788 to 6,495
Cargo Capacity in Pounds: Ranges from 1,500 to 1,850
Gross Maximum Vehicle Weight in Pounds: Ranges from 6,650 to 8,200
Towing Capacity in Pounds: Ranges from 6,200 to 9,500 with optional payload package
Gas Tank Capacity in Gallons: Ranges from 26.0 to 35.7
Destination Charge: $795