2005 Ford F-150 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New models expand superb new lineup.
Ford F-150 has been the best-selling full-size pickup for 27 consecutive years, and it's the most important, most profitable vehicle Ford makes. Last year Ford threw away the old formula and created a new F-150 from the ground up. The 2004 F-150 earned numerous awards, including North American Truck of the Year.
The F-150 more than delivers on all the truck attributes of toughness, strength, and cargo capacity, with a maximum tow rating of up to 9,900 pounds and a maximum payload of up to 3,000 pounds. Being able to get the work done is important, but the F-150 offers new levels of refinement, comfort, style, driving dynamics, and safety.
For 2005, the F-150 gets an expanded lineup. At the top is a new King Ranch model lavishly outfitted in Castano leather. At the bottom is a new V6 model available with an automatic or manual transmission. An inexpensive Work Truck model has been added as well. In between is the industry's widest variety of body configurations: three cab styles, three bed lengths, two bed styles, and a choice of V8 engines. Six distinct trim levels are thoughtfully designed to address the needs of individual buyers with distinct needs and wants.
The F-150 is bigger, heavier, and more costly to build than the previous version, but it offers excellent handling, a quiet and refined ride, and comfortable interiors that show attention to detail. The F-150 comes equipped with dual frontal airbags designed to deploy according to the severity of the crash and who or what is occupying the seat. Seat belts, your first line of defense in any crash, are equipped with pre-tensioners and energy-management retractors.
Ford offers six distinct trim levels of the F-150 to better meet the individual priorities its owners. The XL, STX, XLT, FX4, Lariat, and King Ranch each boast their own interior style and features. Engines, suspensions and cab configurations are designed to meet specific needs. A myriad of configurations and options within these model lines ensure buyers can select the right pickup for them.
Three engines are available: a 4.2-liter V6, a 4.6-liter V8, and a 5.4-liter V8. The V8s come with four-speed automatics (different ones), while the V6 offers a choice of automatic or five-speed manual.
XL is the budget-priced truck with a work-truck interior: 40/20/40 bench seats in vinyl or cloth, an all-plastic dashboard, and black vinyl floor covering. XL is readily identifiable by its black grille and fascia and 17-inch steel wheels, though it comes with chrome bumpers. XL is available in regular cab or SuperCab (extended cab) styles. An F-150 XL 4.2-liter V8 Regular Cab 2WD automatic short wheelbase retails for $21,455, but a V6 manual will lower that price to $19,610; a long-wheelbase 4x4 V8 automatic SuperCab is priced at $29,690. (Manufacturer's suggested retail prices are subject to change and do not include the destination charge of $795.)
STX is sportier than the XL, with a body-colored grille-surround for the black bar grille, and 17-inch cast aluminum wheels. STX comes in Styleside (flat) and Flareside (fendered) body styles, in regular cab or SuperCab, with either a 6.5-foot or a 5.5-foot cargo box. An audiophile sound system with subwoofer and six-disc CD changer is optional. STX starts at $22,285.
XLT is the most popular model, nicer and better-equipped than XL though not as luxurious as Lariat. It comes with a honeycomb grille that sets it apart from the other models. XLT comes in regular cab, SuperCab or SuperCrew, with a choice of 5.5-, 6.5-, or 8-foot bed lengths, and Styleside or Flareside body styles. A premium cloth interior is standard on the bench seats or optional captain's chairs. The XLT instrument panel gets more flash than either the XL or STX dash. SuperCab, as well as SuperCrew versions, get power windows for the rear doors. The XLT also features an overhead rail console system that the owner can tailor to his or her needs. Fog lamps come standard on 4X4 XLTs. An XLT SuperCrew 4x4 5.4-liter V8 automatic retails for $35,275.
FX4 is a special off-road model. The interior features chrome trim and markings, and a floor shifter. FX4 is available in regular cab, SuperCab, and SuperCrew body styles, with either 5.5-foot Styleside or 6.5-foot Flareside or Styleside bed designs (no 8-foot bed). The standard engine is the 5.4-liter V8. The FX4 has its own instrument package as do the rest of the models, with carbon mesh accents on the metallic dashboard. Captain's chairs in cloth or leather are optional, and 18-inch cast aluminum wheels are standard. An F-150 FX4 SuperCrew retails for $34,605.
Lariat is the luxury model. It has its own grille design and comes standard with 18-inch wheels. Lariat features black-on-cream instruments, lots of wood trim and brushed metal, a multi-function steering wheel, and a shiny floor shifter mounted in a floor console. A power 40/20/40 split bench seat with seat memory is standard, along with power-adjustable floor pedals, an in-dash message center, and climate control. Heated power leather captain's chairs are optional. Lariat 2WD models are available in all three body styles, but 4X4 versions are only available with Styleside fenders. An F-150 Lariat SuperCrew 4x4 starts at $35,875.
King Ranch features rich Castano leather designed to capture the spirit of the historic Texas cattle ranch. It comes as a SuperCrew distinguished by with a color-coordinated grille, Arizona Beige running boards, and other special trim. Inside are power-adjustable and heated captain's chairs in front, a 60/40 split bench seat in back, and unique interior tri.
Redesigned for 2004, the Ford F-150 looks much more manly than the previous-generation models. Its tall shoulders, bold front end and crisp lines give it a more utilitarian look that leaves no doubt that this is a serious truck. It's at least as stylish as the much-heralded Dodge Ram, but is totally different. In fact, the F-150 has a unique look, no small feat when designing within the hard parameters imposed by a pickup. In short, we think the new F-150 is a great-looking truck.
The F-150 has picked up styling cues from the handsome Super Duty pickups, including the sharp cut in the forward part of the door, allowing a clear view of the massive outside mirrors. A high beltline gives the truck visual strength and makes occupants feel more secure. The roofline is somewhat reminiscent of chopped-top custom street trucks.
The whole nose is shaped more squarely than the previous generation, which featured more feminine, more car-like curves. The grilles are larger and bolder. The front fascia wraps around to the fenders for a precise, sophisticated appearance. The bodyside and cargo box sheet metal is chiseled, though it looks more slab-sided at the same time, a theme that carries through the tailgate, giving the F-150 an upscale, utilitarian look that's very appealing.
The different trim levels are quite distinctive. Just one example: XLT and Lariat have a honeycomb grille (black on XLT, brushed-nickel on Lariat), while XL, STX, FX4, and King Ranch use a bar-style grille.
Practical considerations are a big part of the design, and some of this can be easily seen. Every bed, no matter which length or style, is two inches taller than previous-generation's beds to give more margin when hauling larger cargoes. All models, including the regular cab, have four opening doors on the body with storage room and/or seats behind the front seat. The SuperCab (extended cab) doors are larger than the vestigial doors on the standard cab. The giant SuperCrew has four full-size crew cab doors.
The F-150 features six distinctly different interiors, and your take on each will vary according to how you think your pickup should be outfitted.
The XL is surprisingly nice, as we learned driving a 2005 model. At the other end of the spectrum is the King Ranch, which evokes images of Montana and cowboys. We love it, but it's not for everyone.
In Lariat trim, an F-150 rivals luxury cars in terms of design, materials and completeness, with beautiful, rich wood trim, both shiny and matte metallic finishes on major panels, and a lovely three-pod instrument panel behind the multi-function steering wheel. Our F-150 Lariat SuperCab 4X2 Styleside featured beige lower trim and a beige leather interior (Arizona Beige, that is).
The Lariat is one of the classiest, quietest, most completely equipped pickup truck interiors we have spent time in. Lariat comes with every known amenity.
We found the XLT's front bench seats attractive, but they were flat and lacked support. The front bench is split three ways. The center section flips down to reveal a center console with storage and cup holders; the console is flat, unlike GM's, so you can put a clipboard on it.
The FX4's optional captain's chairs were much more comfortable, offering decent support for the hips and back. They also looked great, trimmed in black leather with light gray stitching. Adjusting the power seats may be a little awkward for drivers with big arms because the clearance between the door armrest and the seat is a little tight; rake adjustment on the power driver's seat is manual, and raking it forward can be a bit awkward. The center console between the captain's chairs is deep and holds a lot of stuff and features a pair of big, solid cup holders. The floor shifter for the automatic works very well.
The radio and HVAC controls are plain but straightforward and easy to operate. Delayed accessory power means you can turn off the ignition, remove the key, and continue to operate the power windows and run the radio until you open the door.
Ford redesigned this latest-generation F-150 very carefully and the attention to detail is obvious. Giant mirrors afford an excellent view rearward. There's a hook for your dry cleaning. Rear park-assist helps greatly when parallel parking one of these big rigs. It beeps ever more rapidly as you back toward something and even turns down the radio. A set of overhead storage bins is available that snap into rails; Ford offers five different sets of these bins, and the aftermarket is making additional versions with overhead entertainment systems and other specialty items built in. One of our few grips is that the clear plastic over the instrument panel is too reflective in bright sunlight, making the instruments hard to read. Everything else inside functions very well and looks beautiful.
The SuperCrew (crew cab) models offer a roomy back seat. Full-size adults should find the accommodations here comfortable and convenient. The big difference in the back seats between SuperCrew and SuperCab (extended cab) models is rear legroom: 39.0 inches for SuperCrew, 32.7 inches for SuperCab. The rear seat bottom flips up for carrying cargo behind the front seats.
As mentioned, the 2005 model year brings a choice of three engines to the Ford F-150 lineup: a 4.2-liter V6 rated at 202 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque; a 4.6-liter V8 rated at 231 horsepower and 293 pound-feet of torque; and a 5.4-liter V8 rated at 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque.
We found the 5.4-liter engine smooth and quiet. It delivers quicker acceleration than previous-generation F-150s, but doesn't seem as responsive as, say, the Nissan Titan. The 5.4-liter Triton V8 is an overhead-cam engine with three valves per cylinder (as opposed to the two-valve 4.6-liter). Ford says it offers the best fuel consumption of any V8 engine it has ever built with an EPA-rated 15/19 mpg City/Highway with two-wheel drive. The new 4R75E high-capacity four-speed automatic transmission that comes with it is smooth and responsive, downshifting quickly and crisply when you punch it, and shifting almost seamlessly when cruising.
The 4.6-liter V8 is an overhead cam engine with aluminum heads. Ninety percent of its torque is available at just 2000 rpm for strong towing performance and solid acceleration when hauling heavy loads. It's rated 15/19 mpg.
The 4.2-liter V6 is an attractive option for work trucks. It's a nice, smooth engine and we liked the 2005 XL model we drove with it, though performance is sluggish by modern standards. A V6 two-wheel drive automatic rates 16/20 mpg.
The power rack-and-pinion steering in the F-150 is exemplary. It's responsive, without hesitation or delay without being darty or overly quick or nervous. The truck tracks like a laser beam, turns in quickly, and recovers very quickly even with no load in the bed.
The brakes are smooth and responsive. They start slowing the truck just a little way into the pedal travel, and the more you push the pedal, the more acute the braking becomes; the absence of dead space in the pedal travel is a welcome relief from typical truck practice. All F-150s come with four-wheel vented disc brakes with ABS.
The F-150 rides smooth and firm, more like a Lincoln LS sports sedan than a truck, with a minimum of body roll in the corners, and a nice, plush ride over cobbled pavement, rutted dirt roads, and freeway slabs. We found this to be true in all the models we drove. Among them: an XLT SuperCab 4X4, a Lariat SuperCab 4X2 Styleside with a 6.5-foot bed, an XL with a standard cab, and an FX4 SuperCrew. We were delighted by the ride of the FX4. It seems smoother than most off-road pickups. It offered a firm but comfortable ride around Los Angeles even with no weight in the bed to smooth out the rear suspension.
The F-150's excellent ride and handling are benefits of its fully boxed, partially hydroformed frame, stronger, stiffer and heavier than any previous Ford pickup frame. It's the seven-crossmember skeleton onto which everything else bolts, and accounts for quite a bit of the nearly 675 pounds more weight of the new F-150 compared to the old truck. The frame is nine times more resistant to twisting and 50 percent more resistant to bending than the old C-shaped frame.
The front suspension is a completely new double-wishbone style for both 2WD and 4WD versions. The rear suspension now has outboard, rather than inboard, shock absorbers to control the rear end of the truck better in quick maneuvers, along with wider, heavier three-inch leaf springs. The shock position also provides better control on washboard surfaces, reducing the tendency to skate around in bumpy corners. Liquid-filled motor mounts and other a long list of other measures keeps vibration and noise to a bare minimum.
There's never been a better time to buy a full-size pickups. They're all good trucks, and the Ford F-150 is among the best of them. For a while there, Dodge had the hot hand in terms of truck style and function. Then the title went to Chevrolet and GMC for chassis refinement. Then the new Ram one-upped them again. Some say the F-150 is the new leader, though others will argue.
Regardless, the Ford F-150 delivers a combination of style, interior comfort, performance, ride and handling that's hard to beat.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Jim McCraw reported from Dearborn, Michigan, with Mitch McCullough reporting from Los Angeles.
Ford F-150 XL ($19,610); STX V8 ($22,380); XLT ($24,640); FX4 ($30,955); Lariat ($29,755); King Ranch ($35,530).
Louisville, Kentucky; St. Louis, Missouri; Norfolk, Virginia; Dearborn, Michigan; Wayne, Michigan.
Options As Tested
5.4-liter V8 engine ($1,645); electronic 4-speed automatic overdrive with higher torque capacity ($1,095); electronic shift-on-the-fly ($160); 255/70R17 tires ($325); limited-slip rear differential with 3.55 axle ratio ($300); trailer tow package ($350); platform running boards ($250); AM/FM Stereo w/In-Dash 6 Disc CD Changer ($300); keyless entry keypad ($75); reverse sensing system ($245); power driver's seat ($285); two-tone paint ($225).
Ford F-150 4WD Flareside SuperCrew XLT ($32,535).
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