Experts say the redesigned 2009 Ford F-150 is not only the most hardworking full-size pickup truck you can buy, it's also one of the most passenger-friendly. Add excellent crash-test scores, good reliability and resale value and a unique set of very useful features, and most reviews conclude that the new F-150 is the best all-around pickup in its class.
"This truck can be whatever a buyer wants it to be," editors of Truck Trend say of the Ford F-150 -- a strategy that could prove extremely smart, as experts predict that the slow economy will see fewer people buying trucks solely for recreation or driving around town.
Most reviewers see the Dodge Ram 1500 (*Est. $21,270 to $43,240), also redesigned for 2009, as the F-150's main competition. Dodge concentrated its redesign around a powerful top-level engine and super-smooth ride. Some reliable experts say it's the better truck, but most say the new Ram neglects its working-class roots too much. The Ford F-150 boasts enormous maximum towing (11,300 pounds, more than 2,000 pounds more than the best-equipped Ram) and payload capacities (3,030 pounds, more than 1,000 more than the Dodge Ram). Some testers say the F-150 grows sluggish under load, but others say it tows more easily than other pickups.
Truck shoppers will find the Ford F-150 also includes a lot of helpful extras you won't see on other pickups, reviews say. The rear floor is flat for easy cargo loading. You can opt for a built-in trailer brake controller and steps to help you into the bed from either the side or the back of the truck.
On pavement, testers say the Ford F-150 more than holds its own. It posts one of the quickest times in one autocross test, and its excellent steering "had many judges lauding the F-150s for feeling smaller and nimbler than their Dodge counterparts" in Motor Trend's 2009 Truck of the Year competition (which the Ford F-150 wins). The F-150 does have a big turning circle, and testers differ on its ride and braking. Some say the Ford's stiff chassis makes for a serene ride, and braking distances are short. Others say the F-150 takes a long time to come to a stop, and it delivers more of the pickup jitters than the smoother-riding Dodge Ram. Critics do agree on the F-150's interior. It's enormous, seating up to six with ample legroom in back for 6-foot-tall passengers. Materials are high quality and upper trims are plush, reviews say.
The Ford F-150 comes in three cab styles. The regular cab has a 6.5- or 8-foot cargo bed and room for three with a 40/20/40 split front bench. You can get either of those beds or a short 5.5-footer on the extended SuperCab, which has narrow reverse-opening doors and room for up to six with a 60/40 flip-up rear bench (front captain's chairs are available). The Ford F-150 SuperCrew comes with either the 5.5- or 6.5-foot bed, four full-size doors and room for five or six.
Edmunds.com does a good job differentiating between the F-150's seven confusing trim levels: "base XL, sporty STX, popularly equipped XLT, rugged FX4, luxurious Lariat, leather-saddle-inspired King Ranch and blinged-out, top-dog Platinum."
The entry-level F-150 XL (*Est. $21,565 to $32,835) has vinyl upholstery and very few features, except for air conditioning and a radio (XL SuperCrew cabs get power accessories and a few more conveniences). The Ford F-150 STX (*Est. $24,365 to $30,860) adds cloth seats, a CD player and sporty wheels and body trim.
The F-150 XLT (*Est. $25,535 to $35,510) is a popular model, with power accessories and cruise control. The off-road Ford F-150 FX4 (*Est. $34,100 to $37,810) includes four-wheel drive, a locking rear differential, skid plates and a towing package, plus conveniences like satellite radio. An F-150 in this trim level lagged behind competitors in an off-road comparison test conducted by Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off-Road.
Reviewers say the F-150 Lariat (*Est. $32,655 to $38,760) is plenty luxurious, with leather seats, the Sync voice-command feature for phone and entertainment systems, automatic temperature control and more. But the Ford F-150 comes in two even more richly appointed versions: the F-150 King Ranch (*Est. $39,310 to $42,755), with saddle-inspired leather seats (heated and cooled up front) and a six-CD changer, and the F-150 Platinum (*Est. $40,910 to $44,355) with 20-inch chrome wheels and its own special interior and exterior trim.
The Ford F-150's base 248-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 is paired with a four-speed automatic transmission. A more powerful 292-horsepower, 4.6-liter V-8 and top-level 320-horsepower, 5.4-liter V-8 are both mated to a six-speed automatic. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says fuel economy is best with the middle-sized engine and rear-wheel drive (15 mpg city, 20 highway and 17 combined) and worst with the biggest engine and four-wheel drive (14 mpg city, 18 highway and 15 combined). Edmunds.com points out that the best-towing F-150s get the worst gas mileage, even though that won't show up on the window sticker.
"The EPA doesn't require re-certification for each axle ratio, so this truck has an impressive EPA rating," editor Dan Edmunds writes. But when he tests the F-150 with the maximum towing capacity -- and the 3.73:1 axle ratio necessary to achieve it -- he gets only 12.6 mpg, "well below the window sticker ratings of 14 mpg city and 18 mpg highway (which were achieved with the standard 3.55:1 ratio)."
Experts note that if you don't plan to tow or haul extremely heavy loads, you probably don't need a full-size pickup truck like the Ford F-150. The midsize Honda Ridgeline (*Est. $28,200 to $36,530) offers spacious front and rear seats in a very reliable, high-quality, rollover-resistant truck, reviews say. The compact Toyota Tacoma (*Est. $15,170 to $27,075) is adequately roomy, with better fuel economy than bigger trucks.
The Ford F-150's reliability has been at least average, experts say. It carries a three-year, 36,000-mile basic warranty and five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain coverage.
Just about every major auto publication has reviewed the 2009 Ford F-150. Most of them (including the first 12 reviews listed here) test the F-150 head-to-head against rivals, but it's a good idea to read several of these to get a complete picture; some experts prefer a truck that tows a lot, while others pick a winner because it accelerates quickly or has great on-road manners. Kelley Blue Book doesn't test trucks directly against each other, but it does name a Recommended list of pickups (including the F-150) and its full reviews estimate the resale value of each truck. We found official fuel-economy ratings at the EPA and safety ratings at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. J.D. Power and Associates bases its ratings on owner surveys.
1. Motor Trend
The Ford F-150 wins Motor Trend's annual Truck of the Year award. Judges like its best-in-class towing and hauling capacities and conveniences like cargo-bed steps and a flat rear floor. They say the F-150 feels more nimble than its rival, the Dodge Ram 1500. In this contest, the F-150 competes only against new or redesigned trucks for 2009.
Review: 2009 Motor Trend Truck of the Year: Ford F-150, Frank Markus, Dec. 2008
PickupTrucks.com puts together an all-encompassing truck shootout that pits all the '09 models -- new and old -- against one another. The Ford F-150 comes out on top. Like other reviewers, editor Mike Levine notes the F-150's lack of power, but its handling, fuel economy and useful features give it the edge.
Review: 2008 Light-Duty Shootout, Mike Levine, Nov. 14, 2008
3. Truck Trend
Truck Trend takes part in the competition organized by PickupTrucks.com, which includes all six of the major full-size pickups on the market, whether they're redesigned for 2009 or not. Here, the 2009 Ford F-150 places second behind the Chevy Silverado. Subjectively, testers like the F-150 better, but the Silverado wins statistically with a bigger engine, more horsepower and better acceleration while towing and climbing hills.
Review: Half-Ton Fight Club: 2009 Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge vs. Nissan vs. GMC vs. Toyota, Mark Williams, Nov. 2008
4. Edmunds Inside Line
The Ford F-150 finishes last in this comparison of the bestselling 2009 full-size pickups. Its engine is its weakness: the F-150 struggles to tow uphill and feels "ponderous" even unladen.
Review: Chevy Silverado vs. Dodge Ram vs. Ford F-150 vs. Toyota Tundra, Dan Edmunds, May 3, 2009
The Ford F-150 beats four major competitors (the Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan) in this test. The F-150 outclasses the others with its stiffer chassis, bigger backseat, more convenient features and better work capability.
Review: 2009 Full-Size Pickup Truck Comparison Test Drives: Exclusive, Larry Webster, Oct. 17, 2008
6. Car and Driver
The Ford F-150 places second in this comparison, falling behind the Dodge Ram when testers here -- like those at Edmunds.com -- find it sluggish under load, despite its massive towing and hauling capacities.
Review: Dodge Ram vs. Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado, Tony Swan, March 2009
ConsumerReports.org buys then exhaustively tests the Ford F-150 and most other pickups on-road, with emphasis on handling, comfort, fuel economy, safety and reliability. Although towing and off-road tests are discussed from time to time, they are not a major part of the reviews.
Review: Ford F-150, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
This video review shows why the 2009 Ford F-150 edges out its rival, the Dodge Ram 1500. Autoblog's Chris Shunk appreciates the F-150's flat rear floor, interior quality and cargo bed steps, but he ultimately chooses it over the 2009 Dodge Ram because he finds the F-150 to be a more useful work truck.
Review: Video: 2009 Ford F-150 versus 2009 Dodge Ram, Chris Shunk, Feb. 23, 2009
The 2009 Ford F-150's superior steering feel and rigid body make it a better daily driver than the Dodge Ram 1500, reviewer Andrew Ganz says. However, he awards first place to the more powerful 2009 Dodge Ram pickup. No towing test is conducted.
Review: Showdown: Dodge Ram Laramie 4x4 vs. Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4, Andrew Ganz, Feb. 5, 2009
10. The Truth About Cars
TheTruthAboutCars.com�s Justin Berkowitz provides a full review of the 2009 Ford F-150, including a head-to-head towing test between the F-150 and comparable Dodge Ram 1500, Chevy Silverado and Toyota Tundra models. They all handle the task, but the F-150 makes it much easier for a towing layman, Berkowitz says.
Review: Review: 2009 Ford F-150, Justin Berkowitz, Oct. 17, 2008
11. The New York Times
Christopher Jensen tests and compares the 2009 Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500, but he doesn't pick a favorite. He says the F-150's handling feels more confident and precise than the Ram's, but the Ram's ride is smoother.
Review: Carrying a Load for Two Automakers, Christopher Jensen, April 23, 2009
12. Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off Road
This magazine's off-road shootout includes five 2009 pickups: the Dodge Ram TRX4, Hummer H3 Alpha, Ford F-150 FX4, Hummer H3T Adventure and Suzuki Equator Crew Cab RMZ-4. This results page shows that the Ford F-150 leads the pack in only one category -- load-carrying capacity -- but there are no details here about the test.
Review: 2009 4x4 of the Year Results, Fred Williams
13. Kelley Blue Book
Both the Ford F-150 and Dodge Ram 1500 make Kelley Blue Book's 2009 Recommended list. However, editors have much more praise for the Ford's work ethic and resale value in this full review.
Review: 2009 Ford F-150 SuperCrew Review, Editors of Kelley Blue Book
Fuel economy varies for different versions of the Ford F-150, this chart shows. The Environmental Protection Agency includes fuel-economy estimates here for most of the F-150's competitors, as well.
Review: 2009 Standard Pickup Trucks, Editors of FuelEconomy.gov
15. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
The Ford F-150 gets perfect five-star ratings in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests. In rollover tests, the rear-wheel-drive F-150 gets the same score as most other pickups (four stars), but its rating drops to three stars for the four-wheel-drive version.
Review: 5-Star Safety Ratings, Editors of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
16. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
The 2009 Ford F-150 is a Top Safety Pick here, earning the highest rating of "good" in all crash tests conducted by this nonprofit agency.
Review: Top Safety Picks 2009, Editors of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
17. J.D. Power and Associates
Among large pickups, the Ford F-150 ranks second behind the Toyota Tundra in J.D. Power and Associates' most recent dependability survey. Owners who bought their trucks in 2006 were surveyed for the 2009 rankings, so note that the truck being recognized is the previous-generation version. Click on the Ratings tab to see rankings for initial quality and consumer appeal; the F-150 earns average-to-good ratings in these categories.
Review: 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study -- Large Pickup, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates