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2009 Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 Platinum Edition Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

SEE ALSO: Specs for Ford F-150 Pickups


By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

Ford’s popular (best selling vehicle in the US for 30-some years) F-150 pickup is our tester this week. We have the long wheel-base (157-inch) Platinum Edition, 4X4 with SuperCrew cab and Lariat trim. In doing some research on the official Ford Web site we find perhaps more iterations - trim packages, wheelbase options, bed sizes, etc. - than any vehicle I’ve reviewed. You can really create one to your liking.

The basic F-150 is the XL version that starts at $21,380. At the other end of the spectrum is the Harley-Davidson edition starting at $42,690. Altogether Ford offers 10 distinct models. Our Platinum tester shows a base price of $43,885 including the Lariat trim option without which it would be $42,075. Options on this one include: 3.55 limited slip rear axle costing $300, floor mats for $95, Cargo Management Package at $200, Cargo Management System costing $115 (What’s the difference, you ask? More later.), Stowable Bed Extender at $195, Pick up Box Access Steps for $325, a Trailer Brake Controller at $230, and the coolest option of all, the Tailgate Step for $350.

That makes the bottom line, with destination charge of $975, a whopping $46,670. Now, we also noted that the Web site indicates incentives are currently available on this beautiful truck to the tune of $4,500 cash back or 0% financing with $1,500 cash back.

We’re looking at a mighty dressed-up work truck. This one is a dramatic (when clean) shiny black with just enough chrome to dress it up nicely. The most recent redesign was evolutionary keeping it distinctly looking like a Ford F-150 with just a bit sharper edges and more panache. It’s a shame to get it dirty working it too hard since it looks so good. The 20-inch chrome wheels with medium profile (55-series) all-terrain Pirelli tires add to the dressy appearance.

Inside it’s even more luxurious and pretty. First you’ll notice the automatic, power step the full length of both doors that drops into position allowing you to step easily and gracefully into the cab. Rich, dark-brown leather with bold stitching covers the generous, comfortable bucket seats, the brow over the instrument cluster and other areas inside. Brushed aluminum panels integrate with wood and other materials to define the attractive dash. The pistol-grip shifter looks and feels like it belongs in this functional but aesthetic environment. Though we’re surrounded by lots of colors and materials I don’t get the sense of unnecessary busyness. Controls are well laid out and easily managed.

Integrated into the inside rearview mirror is a screen with remarkably good resolution fed by a rear-view camera that shows what’s behind anytime we have the F-150 in reverse. While we don’t have a navigation system in this one we do have Ford’s MicroSoft-developed Sync system with voice-activated audio controls and wireless communications capabilities. All my techie friends just love the Sync system, though I have not gotten acclimated to it yet.

The rear seat area in our SuperCrew cab is huge, featuring 60/40 split seats that fold up and out of the way easily with just a gentle push. The Ford engineers have done a great job with the ergonomics back there as well.

This was yard sale week here. My pretty blonde and my sister-in-law organize one about once a year. They’re still trying to get rid of the stuff left over from deceased parents plus all the stuff we just don’t want to have cluttering up our lives anymore. The ergonomic tricks in the rear of the F-150 set the tone of easy, safe hauling.

The tailgate step may be my favorite. When we drop the tailgate we find a rectangular panel integrated into the edge. A twist and push releases a wide bar that extends, drops and folds inward to make a wide, sturdy step halfway between the ground and the tailgate. A tall handle releases and extends vertically to assist. We grab the handle and step up and into the bed easily. We first saw this on the redesigned Super Duty trucks a few years ago and it has become wildly successful.

Inside the bed we have a panel and two bars across to help separate and secure cargo. We easily removed them for our purposes. They popped back into place remarkably easily when the time came to return the truck. I was pleasantly surprised as I expected them to be awkward.

Outside, we have a little step on each side at the front of the bed, just behind the rear doors. Just a kick and it pops out, and just a push with your foot and they reseat.

Finally, we have the bed extender, a dual gate arrangement that folds mostly out of the way inside the bed and can be rolled out and hooked together with the tailgate down to prevent cargo from sliding out when we’re using the whole length of the bed plus the length of the tailgate. Made out of a hard plastic it is just flexible enough to fit together easily.

All of these systems were easily managed without having to revert to manuals or instructions - another testament to the skills of the Ford engineers.

Three engines are available to power the F-150 line – a 2-valve 4.6-liter V8 and a 3-valve V8 of the same displacement plus the 5.4-liter, 3-valve/cylinder Triton V8 we have in our test truck. It makes 310 horsepower and a substantial 390 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, this 4X4 application is expected to get 14mpg in the city and 18 on the highway on regular fuel. In mixed use we managed 17-mpg on our one tank of fuel.

Without load and with our large but light yard sale load we had plenty of power to get this big thing going expeditiously. Acceleration is brisk. Towing capacity is listed at 9,800 pounds with this 3.55 axle and long wheelbase. Payload is listed at 1,500 to 3,000 pounds depending on a variety of available towing packages. This is a full-frame, solid axle, leaf-sprung, traditional truck, of course, and is expected to work for a living as well as look nice.

Front suspension is independent with double wishbones, coil-over shocks and stamped control arms. Power rack-and-pinion steering and an adequate turning radius contribute to good drivability. While the suspension is stiff enough to accommodate it’s hauling potential it’s not too harsh for empty driving, like many trucks used to be. We even ended up on a washboard dirt road once this week and it did not jump around at all.

Pickup trucks sure have come a long way. There was a time when they were primarily utilitarian vehicles that rattled and shook, banged and clanged, even when new. Now they are as sophisticated and civilized as any automobile, but still have amazing utilitarian capabilities – quiet, smooth and good looking and competent. As fuel mileage continues to improve with mechanical innovation these trucks will soon be as efficient as many automobiles. It will not be long, I predict, before the F-150 gets the turbo, direct injected treatment.

The F-150 is one sophisticated hauler. Ford has kept ahead of the pack in design and technology in spite of the intensifying competition.

The new F-150 is still the one to beat.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved