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New Car/Review

1997 FORD F-150 4X2

By Matt/Bob Hagin


SEE ALSO: Ford Buyer's Guide


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 14,700
     Price As Tested                                    $ 17,912
     Engine Type                            4.6 Liter V8 w/MPFI*
     Engine Size                                 281 cid/4604 cc
     Horsepower                                   210 @ 4400 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               290 @ 3250 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  138.5"/78.4"/220.8"
     Transmission                           Four-speed automatic
     Curb Weight                                     4027 Pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                    30 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                                     P255/70R16
     Brakes (F/R)                                Disc/drum (ABS)
     Drive Train                   Front-engine/rear-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                       Three-passenger/two-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                               .45


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            16/21/18
     0-60 MPH                                        9.1 seconds
     1/4 Mile (E.T.)                     17.1 seconds @ 79.6 mph
     Max Towing Capacity                             8200 pounds
     Max Payload                                     2435 pounds
     * Multi-point fuel injection

(The best-selling car in the U.S. isn't a "car" at all. It is, in fact, a pickup truck, and more specifically the Ford F-Series in all its many forms. Matt and Bob Hagin try one of the most common versions with a short cab, a long bed and two-wheel-drive. They have slightly differing opinions on this civilized roughneck.)

BOB - The F-Series has been around since my high school days, Matt. While I was still a senior, I worked at night as a pump-jockey in a gas station that used a '48 F-1 as a parts chaser. It's immediate successor, the F-100, has acquired the status of a collector's item and there are even special aftermarket shops devoted to their restoration.

MATT - The new F-Series Fords haven't gotten to that level of veneration yet, Dad, but it sure is popular. Over 450,000 of them were sold in '96, but that includes the bigger F-250 and the F-350, too. Ford was so hot to get this all-new '97 version in production that it started making them late in 1995 at a couple of its truck plants and in the beginning of this year, dealers could get both versions to sell simultaneously. The '97 F-Series has had considerable upgrading and it underwent a lot of major changes.

BOB - And the changes started with the suspension. The old Twin-I Beam swing axles are gone from the front and have been replaced by a more modern short-and-long "A" arm system. The two-wheel-drive version like the one we had uses coil springs up front, but the 4X4s use torsion bars for springs. I read in the Ford press kit that the Twin-I Beams had to go in order to fit Ford's hot overhead cam engines under the new, lower hood of the F-150, but for whatever reason, it gives this F-150 a ride that's more like a car. That's bound to be a plus for shoppers who are leaving a sedan for a more versatile pickup. And to alleviate that crowded feeling that tall drivers get in a standard cab pickup, Ford has given the new cabin a slight overhang over the bed so that the reclining seats can be tilted back.

BOB - The engines Ford has put under the hood are new. too. They begin with a 205-horse 4.2 liter pushrod V6 as standard equipment, which comes with either a five-seed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic. Next up on the list is Ford's new overhead cam V8 that puts out an additional 20 ponies. That's the engine that was in our test truck and although its strong and is more powerful than the old 302-inch pushrod engine that the F-Series has used since '70, it's still a bit on the small side compared to the V8s that the competition uses.

MATT - But Ford has an answer to that, too. There's a 5.2 liter overhead cam V8 available that puts out 235 horses. The horsepower isn't that much greater than the other engines but it puts out 75 more pound/feet of torque than the V6, which comes in very handy come summertime. This would be the obvious engine of choice if someone were going to do a lot of boat towing with a new F-150.

BOB - If a buyer was going to go into recreational towing of a boat or a camper trailer, I think that the extended cab version of any of the F-Series pickups would be a better choice than this short cab version. It has an optional third door on the driver's side that keeps passengers from having to crawl over the front seat and it makes stowing and locking gear back there lots easier. The interior is more car-like now and Ford has even put in a second air bag for the front passenger, and the driver can disable the second bag in the event that there's a baby being carried in a car seat. All the F-150s have anti-skid brakes on the rear, and four-wheel ABS is offered as an option.

MATT - The Ford designers have even gone so far as to put a lock on the tailgate to keep them from being ripped off. That's become a big problem now that pickups have become so popular with American drivers.

BOB - Matt, nice as these new pickup are, I kind of miss the days when they weren't so popular. Back then, I didn't have to worry about having the tailgate on my old Ford Courier stolen.

MATT - That's true, Dad, but maybe the reason your's wasn't stolen is that it was so rusty and beat-up nobody wanted it.