The new F-150 has been restyled to give it an aggressive stance and a contemporary aero look. The front end bears little resemblance to previous noses, although the oval Ford logo immediately identifies the truck. The grille opening is changed, the headlights have a new shape, and the lower bumper has been redesigned. Note here that the F-150 comes in so many permutations that what is said about a design specific on one may have little to do with another. The tail features new-look taillights that are inset and wrap around.
Overall, the truck has surprisingly rounded lines. Ford says that vehicle ruggedness traditionally had been characterized by angular forms. But all those sharp edges played havoc with aerodynamics, which meant lower fuel economy and more wind noise. So Ford designers went for a look that was more aero, but still conveyed ruggedness.They came up with a form that, the designers feel, uses rounded, muscular shapes that say tough without being hard edged.
Part of achieving a successful design, according to Ford research, is in knowing who buys your truck and what they buy. And why they buy it. Ford knows F-150 owners very well indeed, and has broken them down into major groups.
Know anybody who fits one of these categories? The first buyer is the Adventuresome Youth, just out of high school, who needs a truck for work and/or play. He buys a Regular Cab Flareside XL and represents one sale in 10. Next is the Youth in Transition, who is married, with a mortgage, under 30. He needs a truck with simple amenities, so he buys a Styleside Regular Cab XL like our test truck. Also one in 10 sales. Next is Established and Stable with kids in school and wife back to work. He buys a higher-series XLT, maybe a SuperCab. Three of 10 sales, so an important customer. When this guy ages, he enters Free-Spirited Senior land, and he goes for the top of the line XLT or Lariat and maybe SuperCab. He's good for another three in 10 sales. The other sales go to fleet and commercial buyers.
One of the most noticeable design features on extended-cab models is a third door on the passenger side. When Ford was doing its marketing homework in preparation for the new truck, time and time again the researchers heard owners of extended cab trucks plead for more room behind the seats, and easier access. Which is precisely what they'll get in the new truck with the new passenger-side third door option.
Like all pickups, the new F-150 is available in a variety of shapes and sizes. There is a short and long wheelbase Styleside Regular Cab, a short and a long Styleside SuperCab, a short Flareside regular cab and short Flareside SuperCab. The Flaresides have aerodynamic lower moldings, a side step and other cosmetic features.
The standard engine for the new truck is a new 4.2-liter V6 that produces a hefty 205 hp at 4400 rpm, which is a considerable advantage over the competing standard engines. Chevrolet's C/K has 180 hp, the Dodge Ram has 170 hp.
The Ford V6 also produces 255 lb.-ft. of torque, with 92 percent of that available at 1500 rpm. That means low-end acceleration and more trailer-towing capacity. Platinum-tipped spark plugs mean 100,000 miles between tuneups.
Naturally, the F-150 offers V8 power. A 4.6-liter with 210 hp is available now, with a more powerful 5.4-liter V8 due this fall. the smaller V8's advantage over the standard six is more torque: 290 lb.-ft. vs. 255.
All engines come with a 5-speed manual standard, with a 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic optional. All models are available with 4-wheel drive.
After decades of Twin I-Beam, the F-150 finally has a new front suspension, which Ford describes as upper short and long arm (SLA). On 4x2 trucks, the SLA suspension uses coil springs that react against a forged upper arm and a cast spindle, with control arms bolted to the frame. At the rear is a solid axle with a leaf spring on top of the axle.
The 4x4 truck us
The interior of the F-150 is far more car-like than before, surprisingly so, in light of the truck's rugged (Ford would never say macho) image. The basic instrument cluster contains gauges for the important functions, but no tachometer. The usual controls are to the right in a soft-cornered rectangle. The radio has a real on/off knob, but tunes with a rocker switch.
Organic shapes abound-door handle, glove box handle, ashtray door, vents. Not your standard truck fare, but Ford feels its traditional buyers will like the looks inside and out, and also feels the new look will attract more of those buyers who want a pickup for non-work driving.
The regular cab has more head room and more seat travel. The standard seat is a 3-person bench with a 40/60 split bench standard on some models. There is increased storage area behind the seat and more clearance for the optional reclining seats.
The SuperCab has more rear-seat leg room than the previous F-150. A split bench rear seat is available. The lower cushion of the rear seat can be folded into a flat floor.
Nice touches include extra-large cupholders, a second power point on the instrument panel for laptop computers and the like, an optional driver's side secondary visor shade, a glove box handle oriented toward the driver, adjustable D-rings for greater ease of shoulder belt adjustment, two large coat hooks and a passenger grab handle.
F-150 models are available in Standard, XL, XLT and Lariat interiors. The XL interior is standard on the Flareside.