New Ford F-150 Gets to Work
The 2009 Ford F-150 Lariat strikes a pose at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds on a crimson and gold day in October. The new F-150 has three cab styles, four box options and seven unique trim levels for 35 unique configurations.
It's a good time to be a work truck buyer. With high gas prices driving the image buyer (termed "air haulers" by some truck engineers) out of the market, manufacturers are back to courting fleets, its core business, more so than ever before.
So said Jim Farley, Ford's marketing chief, during the launch of the next generation F-150 at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds in October. Indeed, the percentage of Ford's commercial buyers in the full-size truck segment has increased from 15 percent in 2003 to 25 percent today.
Farley called the ground-up development of Ford's top-selling vehicle a "handshake with the customer, the working guy. Those customers ring in our ears every day," he said.
To see if the truck lived up to that promise, BF gave the new F-150 a beating no fleet driver should.
Capable? Prove it!
During two days of track testing, the one word Ford's marketing and engineering teams kept on drilling into our heads was "capability." The truck's fully boxed frame is constructed from hydroformed high-strength steel side rails and offers more torsional rigidity than previous models. In other words, you can tow 11,300 lbs. across all cab configurations and haul a payload of up to 3,030 lbs.—both best in class.
For the payload test, the 2009 F-150 took the tight turns on a cone course with barely a notice of the 750-lb. weight in the bed. The truck drives smaller than it is and the cabin is "luxury car" quiet. If you're managing heavy loads, take the 20-inch tires over the base 17. You'll notice the firmer grip on the road.
In the towing test, our STX model had more than enough power to take a 7,000 lb. trailer over some hilly terrain. The truck never hunted for any of its six gears and experienced little sway at high speeds and around turns.
Trailer safety is augmented by the F-150's four-channel anti-lock braking system, AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control and Trailer Sway Control, as well as an available integrated trailer brake controller. (You can finally lose the ugly aftermarket under-dash thingamabob.)