Base MSRP: $32,115
Engine: 5.4L Triton V8
Mileage: 15 mpg city / 19 mpg highway
Over the last few decades the F-150 has gone from farm boy to city slicker. Once only found hauling hay and equipment along the outskirts of town, it can now be seen in every socioeconomic suburb, from middle to upper class (at least in Texas). It's as much a family mobile as it is a workhorse. And for Ford, it's their pride and joy, as it continuously achieves numerous sales records and rakes in enormous profits for the company. In 2003 alone, Ford's total F-150 sales reached nearly one million units.
One reason for the F-150's success is its litany of "best-in-class" awards, which include towing capacity, payload, low-end torque, quietest interior, cargo box volume, interior volume and securable interior storage space.
Indisputably tougher than other trucks, another reason the F150 has found its way into garages all over the U.S. is its ability to be hard on the outside, but a real softy on the inside. More so than any other F-150 model, this is true for our creme-de-la-creme test vehicle for the week, the F-150 Lariat.
The Lariat's interior is roomy, quiet, and comfortable and has one of the most handsome instrument panels we have ever seen in a pickup. Think of it as a luxury sedan in a 4x4's body.
The cockpit's ivory-colored gauges (as opposed to the more traditional stark white) are ringed in a shiny chrome that elegantly accents the chrome-covered shifter knob, door handles and air vent trims. The seats are wide, the armrests comfortable and the grab handles are well placed. Accommodating drivers of all shapes and sizes, the Lariat also features adjustable pedals, which enables drivers to adjust the closeness of the accelerator and brake pedal without having to move his or her seat up against the steering wheel.
Other upscale features include brushed aluminum and wood highlights, available heated seats, satellite steering controls and automatic climate controls. In addition to the intricate details, we gave the Lariat thumbs up for its uncluttered and intuitive layout. There is no second-guessing which button or knob correlates to a particular function. It's all very simple.
Of course, interior features and suave styles are great, but in order for a truck to appeal to hardcore buyers, it has to be the real deal. Under the hood there needs to be nothing but Herculean muscle and brawn.
Just as the Lariat impressed us with its debonair side, it proved that it was also up to the task when it came to performance.
Boasting a 15-percent improvement from previous years, our 5.4L 3-Valve Triton V8 delivered 300-horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 365 ft.-lb. of torque at 3,750 rpm, where 80% of the peak torque is actually reached at 1000 rpm. Though, we never loaded our F-150 with stacks of lumber or cement, we did put it through a couple of drives to Houston and several in-town trips. All the while, this 5,400-pound behemoth was composed, quiet and remarkably smooth.
Of course, with such bulk and power comes one factor that we did find rather difficult to adjust to: size. When transporting large items, there's nothing you want more than a big truck. However, for common everyday tasks such as navigating parking lots, narrow streets and parking garages, the F-150 requires concentration, excellent judgment of distances and sometimes a second person to help you back out. After a while, you either adjust or you give up and end up parking far away from all other vehicles.
New for 2004
We've already touched on some of the improvements that came with the F-150's redesign, such as interior quality and stronger engines; however Ford had a few a more surprises up their sleeve for 2004.
Before you ever unlock the door, the most notable difference for the new models are their firmer, more geometric stance - especially in the cargo area. Gone are the rounded, gentle curves. Boxy is in.
Other improvements include a frame that's nine times stiffer torsionally than its predecessor, 6-inches of extra passenger space in Regular Cab and SuperCab models, a cargo box that is more than 2-inches deeper, which adds 20-percent more cargo volume than previous years and new outboard rear shock absorbers and wider rear leaf springs, which have both been applied to the chassis.
Overall, think of the F-150 Lariat as the James Bond of the truck world. It's debonair, polished and sophisticated, handling the demands of city life with grace and ease. At the same time, when duty calls, its sheds its suave attitude and gets the job done.
Warranty: 3 year / 36,000 miles
Horsepower: 300 hp @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 365 lf.-ft. @ 3,750 rpm
Maximum Payload: 1,530 lbs.
GVWR: 7,200 lbs.
Major Standard Features
- Chrome front and rear-step bumper (with monotone paint)
- Arizona beige front and rear-step bumper (with two-tone paint)
- Chrome grille surround with brushed-nickel honeycomb insert
- Deluxe mirror package with self-dimming rearview mirror
- 18" bright aluminum wheels
- Leather-trimmed 40/20/40 front seat
- Power driver's seat
- Power adjustable accelerator and brake pedals
- AM/FM stereo/clock/single-CD/cassette
- Rear window with fixed glass, privacy glass and defroster
- Visors with lighted, covered mirrors
- Homelink universal transmitter - garage door & home security interface system
- Electronic automatic temperature control system
- Color-coordinated floor mats
- Leather-wrapped, color-coordinated steering wheel
- Electronic message center