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New Car Review

1998 FORD F-150 4x4 SUPERCAB XLT

by Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 25,495
Price As Tested                                    $ 31,450
Engine Type                 SOHC 2-valve 5.4 Liter V8 w/SFI
Engine Size                                 330 cid/5403 cc
Horsepower                                   235 @ 4250 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               330 @ 3000 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  138.8"/79.5"/222.3"
Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     4498 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  25.0 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                                    P265/70R/17
Brakes (F/R)                                Disc/drum (ABS)
Drive Train                   Front-engine/four-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                      four-passenger/three door
Domestic Content                                 90 percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.45


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
   city/highway/average                            13/17/15
0-60 MPH                                        9.3 seconds
Payload                                         1400 pounds
Towing capacity                                 7200 pounds
     * Sequential fuel injection

(We all know most pickups are "personal transportation" vehicles rather than blue-collar work horses. The Hagins, Matt and Bob, reflect on the ongoing metamorphosis of the pickup during this, the 50th anniversary of the multifaceted Ford F-Series truck.)

BOB - As a high-school kid, I drove my boss's '48 Ford F-1 pickup to chase parts for the shop. It was four years old at the time, but it already rattled and banged like it was falling apart. It had a boat-anchor six-banger engine and a wide ratio three-speed transmission. Nobody liked to drive it except me, so I was left to me to herd that old truck around town.

MATT - Times have changed in a half-century, Dad, and now pickups outsell sedans by a pretty good margin. For 1997, the Ford F-Series line was the best-selling vehicle in America for the 16th straight year and that includes sedans, SUVs, minivans and all the rest. Most of those F-Series trucks that were sold went into "personal use" service and not used to haul stuff to construction sites or as parts runners. The XLT Super Cab we tested this week is a good example of how pickup trucks have changed. The original F-1 you drove as a kid had a solid front and rear axle. In '65, Ford trucks switched to the much-maligned Twin I-Beam front suspension, then finally went to independent suspension in recent years. But in '48 as it is now, the Ford F-Series uses a rugged ladder frame with a live rear axle sitting on top of leaf springs.

BOB - That original F-1 had an interior design flaw that no doubt added to the dislike my fellow workers had for driving the thing. The cockpit was so short that the back of your head almost touched the rear window. The F-150 we drove alleviated that problem with its stretched cab and back seat. And the current pickup trend of providing a third door on the passenger's side makes it much easier to crawl into the back. It's still pretty cramped for adults in that rear jump seat, but it makes riding back there or loading groceries a lot easier. And to eliminate the flaw I talked about earlier, the rear window area of the new trucks are "stepped" a few inches over the truck bed to give more head room. And it's got rear quarter windows that can be flipped open a crack for cross ventilation.

MATT - Power for the F-150 line starts with a 4.2 liter, 210-horse V6 engine as standard equipment and a 4.6 liter, 220-horse single cam V8 as an option. The XLT Super Cab we had packed the biggest gas engine available in the F-Series. It's not that large in displacement at 5.4 liters, but it's modern enough to sport an overhead cam on each head. It puts out 235 horses and 330 pound/feet of torque which makes it a great tow vehicle since most of its pulling power comes from an engine's torque figure. It will tow 7200 pounds and that makes it great weekend get-away machine for a family into outdoor recreation. And with its "shift on the fly" four-wheel-drive and a limited slip rear differential, that family can go almost anywhere and drag along the family boat as well.

BOB - That "anywhere" sometimes includes fire trails and creek beds, Matt, and rocks and boulders have been known to get past the skid plates that protect the underside of 4X4s. But if that happens on a new Ford 4X4 and the cooling system gets damaged, the electronic engine control system has a "limp-home" feature. It fires alternate cylinders to keep the temperatures down and the engine running. It's slow going from then on, but much better than being stuck 100 miles from nowhere.

MATT - The interior of our fancy XLT version featured cloth-covered captain's chairs that were power adjustable six ways, air conditioning, a six-disc CD player and a keyless entry system. Inside, it's almost a twin to the Lincoln Navigator SUV that we had last year. And that thing was totally plush.

BOB - Matt, its a good thing that the F-1 I had to drive 46 years ago didn't have all that fancy stuff. If it did, all the older guys in the shop would have wanted to drive it and my job would have been history.