When we get a truck or SUV for First Look, it's usually in the $40,000 range. We don't plan it that way, but media fleets are usually populated with the high-end models to show off the best of what the vehicle can be, fully optioned with all of the newest goodies. In case you haven't priced a new truck lately, options add up quickly. When we found out that our local media fleet company had a mildly optioned F-150 STX we were eager for a change. Not that we've got anything against leather seats and navigation, mind you, it just made sense for us to get behind the wheel of something more realistic that the everyday buyer would be more likely to drive home.
Rather than the typical SuperCrew we test, our SuperCab model had two rear-hinged doors that opened 90-degrees to reveal decent rear-seat room. There's room for four adults but you do have to draw straws for who has to sit behind a tall driver, as the front seats can encroach into legroom quite a bit when they're fully rearward. The 6-inch stretch in the front doors that came in the '09 models is appreciated by all, the one drawback is that it is tougher to get in and out of the truck when parking spaces are tight, a worthy compromise for added visibility and increased comfort.
This was the first '09 F-150 we've tested with a column shifter. We didn't really miss having a giant center console, they tend to take up more room than necessary and we usually end up banging into them with our knee, although they do look good. In a truck with an automatic transmission there's little use for an overly-complicated gated shifter, so we appreciated the simple column shifter that operated the four-speed automatic transmission. Coupled with the base engine, a two-valve-per-cylinder 4.6L V-8, the F-150 was a bit lethargic compared to the more powerful V-8s we usually get to play with, but the 3.73 ring-and-pinion gears still got it up and around without putting our foot into it too much. For a base powertrain, it's hard to complain: it sounds good, while no drag racer, it performs well, and it goes pretty easy on the wallet with overall mileage of nearly 17 mpg.
The important parts that we liked about our decked-out $50,000 Lariat we had for our 2009 Truck of the Year were still present in this $30,000 STX. The interior fit was great, the SYNC, even without navigation, proved to be highly useful and its voice recognition was spot-on. However, as with our high-end Lariat, the real stand-out aspect of the STX was the feel from behind the wheel. If you're not used to being so isolated from the road it can be a little odd at first, but jumping from an older, thinly-insulated truck into an '09 F-150, you can tell the Ford engineers did their homework on making the F-150 as solid and stiff as possible. Vibrations are dampened in the steering wheel and washboard roads don't bother it one bit. We've driven lifted 3/4-ton and 1/2-ton trucks over the same road and nearly lost fillings, while this 2WD F-150 sailed over the uneven road and felt collected the whole way. Competitively priced, the F-150 STX offers good utility on a solid chassis, but with a driving experience that is short on thrills.
* Built like a vault: solid, sturdy, quiet
* Isolated from rough roads
* Great interior
* Built like a vault: drives heavy
* Desperately needs a grille insert
* Midsized HP in the base engine
* Jury is still out on Amber Gold paint