NEW CAR REVIEW

1997 Ford F-150

by Larkin Hill

SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide

There's nothing better than the feeling of superiority and prestige in a brand new big truck. Particularly if it's the newly styled F-150. In a marketing ploy that I presume was meant to get the jump on the competition, Ford introduced a new streamlined version of the F-150 in 1996, but called it 1997. They also continue to offer the older boxy styled model as a 1996. But the truck I test drove in 1996 was the 1997, although it's really a 1996 model year vehicle. Got that? Okay.

Yes, the new F-150 will get you some looks. It's large and in-charge, sleek and sheik, a big rig!

However, while this baby has size, compared to the rest of the full size pickups in it's class, it's significantly less powerful. The F-150's 4.2-liter engine outputs only 205 horse power, for a full size truck that is on the weaker side, especially if you need to tow anything significant. Compared to it's competitors, the Dodge Ram which has many stronger variations, and the Chevy GMC Sierra with it's absolute lowest being 4.3-liter, the F-150 is for those of you who just want a cool looking big truck.

Aside from its lower overall hauling performance (it's biggest downfall), the Ford F-150 surprised me with its greatness. First of all, it's massive...which is what you really want if you're shopping for a full size pickup. The F-150's new streamlined figure is similar to that of the Toyota T-100, actually it looks as though it could be its slightly older brother. One of the benefits of the styling change is its larger front window; allowing more viewing area, 25% more than the older model.

The F-150 is about the same length as it's competitors, but it's slimmer than both the Ram and the Sierra, making maneuverability a bit easier. However, the interior does not seem to suffer from its apparent narrowness. In fact, the interior is the best part of the entire package. It's large and roomy, soft and cushy, making the ride smooth and comfortable. There's adequate head and leg room, for those of you big boys. And there's power seat adjusters for those of you who get behind the wheel after the big boys are gone.

The extra cab style has enough room to fit the kids when they're still small (it's about the same as all the other full size pickups). There's all the necessary gadgets; a nice stereo, good air conditioning and vanity mirrors. The best part, though, is the standard dual airbags. The Ford F-150 is the only truck in its class that offers this great safety feature! Not only is it standard but if you're transporting a child in a rear facing infant seat, you have the option of shutting the passenger side airbag off. You'll need a key to turn it both on and off, and there's a helpful dash light that illuminates when the airbag is turned off, just so the next drivers are alerted if you can't tell them personally.

Overall, I'm impressed. I had heard some negative things about the F-150 series...mostly regarding its lack of power. For those of you who are concerned by this oversight, wait until next year (or is it really this year - anyway, it's when the 1998 model is released), for Ford's next upgrade; a 5.4 liter 16-valve V-8 power plant with 235 hp.

The interior, exterior, and driving performance all impressed me. While it was a beast, it was a graceful and manageable beast. The only thing that really disappointed me was the exterior door handle...there was no grip...at all. Usually if you have a large heavy door there is at least enough of a handle to hold onto, however the F-150's felt like a flat piece of metal (meaning if you had any oil or grease on your hands they'd just slip right off). Despite the minor flaws the Ford F-150 thoroughly made a positive impression, it has size, power, and best of all comfort. A real truck!

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