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.

The six-speed automatic transmission gave some new life to the 5.4L, and definitely helped when towing, but the competition has really been aggressive in offering high-power V-8s that leave the F-150 behind. The F-150 has the highest payload and tow ratings, but who'd want to pull 11,000 pounds with it? It's just too heavy of a truck for the 5.4L. Fuel mileage was average, but we expected more with the new tranny. If Ford debuts some new powertrains in the F-150 then it will be a contender, but we were blown away with the HEMI, i-Force, and Endurance, while the Triton left us wanting more. Two extra cogs make a huge difference but combine that with 70 more horses and might be handing over the hardware.

Ford improved an already capable and solid platform, upgraded the interior to an even higher luxury, and breathed new life into its drivetrain with two extra gears but after 1,500 miles of testing, the F-150 fell short in the same area it has been struggling in for 5 years, power.

Pros:
* Larger SuperCrew cab
* Six-speed tranny
* Quiet as a vault
* SYNC is more than impressive

Cons:
* 5.4L still lacking
* Uncomfortable front seats
* Lack of telescopic steering wheel

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