2009 Ford F-150
2009 Ford F-150; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

Preview and photos by Haney Louka

Photo Gallery:
2009 Ford F-150

Edmonton, Alberta – Quiz time: what is Canada’s best-selling vehicle? If you guessed the Honda Civic, the best-selling car in Canada, you’d be mistaken. That’s because the top seller isn’t a car, but a truck. The Ford F-Series takes that title, five years running. And what better venue for Barry Engle, Ford of Canada’s newly appointed president and CEO, to introduce the new F-150 truck than in the heart of the Canadian Prairies? Engle tells us that four of Canada’s top ten Ford dealers in terms of sales volumes are located in Alberta’s capital.

The current F-150 was introduced in 2004, but trucks are starting to go through life cycles as fast as cars. Since that last Ford hit the market, we’ve seen new entries from General Motors and Toyota, and Dodge is coming out with a new Ram for ’09 as well. So Ford needs to stay fresh to stay ahead. And ‘fresh’ this new truck is.

2009 Ford F-150
2009 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge

Set to hit showrooms this fall, there is very little that carries over from the current model. There’s a 16-valve, 4.6-litre V8 engine with no mechanical changes, but refinements have been made to engine control software that will enhance its power and fuel consumption characteristics. An optional 24-valve V8 of the same displacement is new, and the E85-capable 5.4-litre eight-pot is undergoing significant improvements.

Ford has chosen to provide buyers with an all V8 lineup, meaning that there’s no longer a six-pot engine in the base model. The upshot, according to F-Series chief engineer Matt O’Leary, is that the base eight will have fuel consumption figures close to those of this year’s six, so it’s win-win.

2009 Ford F-150
2009 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge

By 2010, look for a diesel engine and an “Eco-Boost” V6 in the F-150 lineup. Eco-Boost is Ford’s term for smaller engines with turbocharging and direct injection technologies that permit the performance of a larger engine with the efficiency of a smaller one. That’s nothing new in the car industry (it’s common in German cars) but a first for full-sized trucks.

Specs are hard to come by at this point – expect horsepower, payload, towing, and fuel consumption figures to be released closer to the on-sale date.

One look at the new F-Series and it’s clear that we’re talking about a new truck. Wheelbases have been lengthened by six inches for a couple of reasons: First, the front doors are now longer to improve access to the interior and increase visibility by moving the B-pillar out of the driver’s peripheral vision. Second, the extra six inches goes directly toward increasing rear seat legroom which, in the four-door SuperCrew, is substantial.

The six-foot-three O’Leary slid the front seat all the way rearward and then jumped into the back seat to show us that his knees didn’t touch the seat in front of him. Perhaps more importantly, this is done while providing the rear seatback with a comfortable angle that is likely to be well-suited to long trips. Pickups have come a long way indeed.

2009 Ford F-150
2009 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge

Ford’s designers have placed special emphasis on the versatility of the rear seat area. For starters, the floor in the rear part of the cabin is completely flat with no centre hump, allowing large pieces of cargo to be well supported. The rear seat bottom is cantilevered forward from the back of the cab and quickly folds up and out of the way for a wide open space. Ford’s product literature shows a photo of a 52-inch TV box fitting quite nicely back there.

Cargo management in the box is given its due as well, with more options than ever available to owners, both with respect to the flexibility of the box as well as access to that space. The 2004 F-150 had a dramatic increase in box height to maximize the volume inside. O’Leary said that while customers appreciated the extra capacity, they had trouble lifting loads over the sides. So rather than lowering the box height, Ford decided to supply an optional side step just ahead of the rear axle that pops out with a swift kick and goes back in just as easily.

2009 Ford F-150
2009 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge

Borrowed from the Super Duty trucks is a tailgate step that, while useful, doesn’t work with the same simplicity as the side step. It also is optional, and incorporates a grab-pole that folds neatly into the tailgate.

While it’s easy to write off these new accessibility features to the fact that trucks are higher than they used to be, the truth is Ford acknowledges that its customer base is getting older and will welcome the higher level of user-friendliness.

The cargo box incorporates an abundance of aluminum rails with tie-down cleats that have a 600-lb. capacity. The cleats move easily with the pull of a spring-loaded knob that allows a slide-and-lock motion that is simpler than the more common screw-based knob. Ford has also developed some accessories for the new rail system like cargo boxes and a divider to maximize versatility. And a rail across the front of the box just behind the cab’s rear window provides a handy spot for tie-downs.

The cargo box and tailgate are more sculpted than most, giving the rear of the F-Series its own identity. Other exterior enhancements include a wind-tunnel shaped cab that tapers off slightly at the rear to reduce drag, and an innovative fuel filler system that finally does away with the removable fuel cap.

2009 Ford F-150
2009 Ford F-150. Click image to enlarge

Up front in the cab, drivers are greeted by a completely redesigned interior. As before, the appointments vary from bare bones in the XL to maximum bling in the new range-topping Platinum edition. I had a close look at the mid-range FX4 model, below which are the XL and XLT and above which sit the Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum versions. The two trucks on hand were ready-for-production prototypes, and they point to good things to come for the mass-produced versions.

The FX4 has quite a pleasing interior devoid of fake wood. The leather seats have aggressive bolstering and tasteful stitching. Among the 30-plus storage areas identified by Ford is a centre console bin that can store file folders or a couple of notebook computers.

Pricing for the 2009 F-150 has yet to be announced.

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