It doesn't take long to appreciate the freshened exterior of the '09 F-150, as the front end, tailgate, and larger cab add to the Ford's bold appearance. Moving in a new direction for '09, the front end features an in-your-face chrome grille with horizontal bars displaying the Ford Blue Oval and vertical bars backed up to rectangular mesh inserts. A new hood design for '09 with a center emboss on the hood's raised plateau creates an intimidating leading edge. Moving to the rear, a pair of bed molded taillights blend in nicely with the rear bed corners reducing any aero drag. The telescoping side mirrors help create a greater peripheral rearview while towing.

The padded black leather cover with white stitching accents the unique Lariat dash with a look that is both rugged and classy. By moving the B- and C-pillars back 6 inches on the Super Crew cab it allows for longer front doors and incredible rear seat leg room. This also helps eliminate driver blind spots when looking over the shoulder because the B-pillar is not so close to the ear.

While one staffer found the large display to be a distraction, others were very impressed with the SYNC audio/nav/bluetooth system. The display is large and very high-resolution. There's plenty of room on the touch screen to show the map, the HVAC settings, the satellite radio station, artist and song, as well as the compass heading and outside temperature. Voice recognition was 100 percent accurate and allowed us to change audio, navigation, and climate control settings with a single push of the steering wheel button.

The major complaint: The 12-way electric adjustable driver seat doesn't seem to move in concert with bottom and back supports. This made it difficult for all staffers to really get comfortable. The back seats, however, were comfortable and we appreciated the rear A/C vents. To say the cab is quiet is a huge understatement, as the most commonly used phrase was "quiet as a vault."

The rear suspension has been upgraded with longer leaf springs for a better ride and it seems Ford has really honed the ride to be comfortable. Hauling or towing provided the best ride, while driving with an empty bed did bring out some bouncing. Handling was solid, as is the case with all '04+ F-150s. Long road trips seem to fly by thanks to the first-class chassis and steering feel. Off-road, the F-150 proved itself time and time again. Thanks to a low first gear to help get it over climbs, a quiet chassis/interior inspiring confidence, and 4x4 suspension able to soak up bumps, the Ford had no problem in the dirt.