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New Truck Review: 2004 Ford F-150

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Ford hits a homerun with 2004 F-150

By: Walter Hager

We can’t say we didn’t see it coming, and the moment is finally here. Last year, trucks finally outsold cars in all but four states – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. In fact, the top-three selling vehicles so far this year are the full size trucks from Ford, Chevy, and Dodge respectively. Since the early 1990’s these trucks have been gaining in popularity, and with the 2004 F-150, Ford wanted to be absolutely sure it remained at the head of the pack.

One key to their success is the fact that they offer a lot of model variations. Chances are they can build a truck for your needs, whether you need it for the job site or for personal use. Ford offers a total of five trim levels on the new F-150. The base XL model is the first regular cab truck to provide four doors as standard equipment, but it actually has two full-size doors and two small rear-access doors. The STX builds upon the XL’s features and offers a Flareside bed style. At mid-pack you’ll find the XLT, which is the first trim level to offer the popular SuperCrew option containing four full-size doors. If you like going off the beaten path, the FX4 package is your ticket out of town. The top-end Lariat package is hard to beat for those who want a luxurious, good-looking truck. Pricing for the XL begins around $22,000 and the Lariat will end just over $40,000.

The number of choices goes down to two, however, when it comes to engines. Ford’s improved 231-hp 4.6L Triton V8 will be the base engine in the XL, STX, and XLT. The new 300-hp 5.4L Triton V8 can be ordered as an option on the XL and XLT, and is the only engine available in the FX4 and Lariat models. This engine features three valves per cylinder and dual equal-variable valve timing resulting in a 15% improvement in power and best-in-class low-end torque. The new V8 is also equipped with aluminum heads and an improved cast-iron block for quieter engine operation. On the road, the 5.4L V8 scoots the F-150 from 0-60mph in a little over eight seconds, and fuel mileage is estimated at 14mpg/city and 18mpg/highway. The 4.6L V8 checks in around 15/city and 19/highway.

An area where Ford really excelled is the F-150’s interior. One of those amenities is the segment-exclusive modular overhead rail storage system. In addition to holding multiple overhead storage compartments and interior lights, it also has the capability to hold Ford’s optional rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Ford designed a distinctive interior environment for each of the five models, and no matter which F-150 model you buy, you’ll be sitting in the roomiest and quietest interior of any full-size pickup. The high seats provide a good view of the road ahead, and there is plenty of room in the four-door SuperCrew trucks to haul 3 or 4 good-sized passengers. Behind the wheel, you’ll find a new dash layout that is better than the previous generation F-150’s. The FX4 and Lariat models can be had with a floor-mounted shifter in the center console, another segment first.

Although Ford spent big bucks improving the interior, they didn’t forget about the rest of the truck. Another area that Ford wanted to tackle was the exterior styling. Some critics of the 1997-2003 F-150’s said the exterior styling was too soft and needed to be more like Dodge’s big-rig styled Ram truck. So Ford designers went back to the drawing board and came out not only with a truck that looks bolder and more muscular than the previous models, but looks downright luxurious in Lariat trim.

The new trucks also boast best-in-class payload capacity and towing capability, thanks in part to a stronger boxed ladder frame that is nine times torsionally stiffer than the previous trucks. The new frame also helps provide better handling and a quieter interior, and it minimizes the usual truck bounciness and shudder that is evident on the highway with an empty bed. Ford also added a segment-exclusive double-wishbone front suspension and cast-aluminum lower control arms to provide better directional control on rough surfaces.

Ford knows trucks, and the fact that the F-150 has been the best-selling truck for 26 years in a row is testament to that fact. Although the full-size truck segment is getting increasingly competitive, the new F-150 has what it takes to keep Ford on top of the game. If you’re in the market for a new truck and haven’t considered the F-150, you might follow Ford’s slogan and “look again.”