We received an invitation from Ford to check out what they have been up to with the venerable F-150. It's been a few years since the automaker has rolled out a ground-up redesign. We felt the competition was catching up quickly to the F-150 during our Of the Year testing for 2007, but that doesn't mean Ford isn't incrementally improving this product. Part of Ford's demonstration attempted to address the claims that Toyota has been making in its advertising regarding the huskiness of the Tundra's components. Ford made a point to show how the F-150 frame is 20-percent stiffer than the Tundra, and the F-150 uses stronger fittings in certain areas, such as the bolts to secure the leaf springs which are wider and longer than the Tundra's. Then they played a video, which showed how stable the vehicle drives and how secure the bed is on a tortuous test trail. (Ford was most stable, followed by the new Chevrolet Silverado, then the Tundra). The conclusion was the F-150 is over-engineered to perform above the published specs, and we gather this gave the F-150 a technical margin--that has helped it stay in the game--that other trucks are steadily chewing into.
Ford also showed off some nifty add-ons for the truck. You've seen the Midbox that Truckin', and other publications, have pictured. It's basically an enclosed cargo box mounted to the front of a shortened bed. It's accessible from both sides and contains some cargo management solutions. Pretty cool. We also like the rearview camera that's going to be included in the tailgate handle this year. It shows a wide-angle view of the hitch and the area immediately behind the truck on a small monitor that is integrated into the rearview mirror. Ford had to walk the line between preserving the reflectivity of the mirror and ensuring the viewability of the monitor. A busy background--such as a brick wall--might make it a tad difficult to decipher between the reflection in the mirror and the video image in the monitor, but this is an elegant solution overall. When asked if the camera would be integrated into an in-dash navigation system, the answer was, "Stay tuned." A pair of electronic lines that appear in the monitor help to measure the distance behind the truck, as well as guide the truck into a narrow space. Once coupled with the usual backup sensor, this system works well for parking. We're guessing it's useful for hitching a trailer when you are traveling solo, too.
The company says the crew cab market is growing, so it has come up with the lower-end XL Crew and the top-end Lariat Limited packages for 2008. (The Lariat is pictured on this page). More on the latter: It will come in one color, White Sand, with matching bumpers, grille, and chrome, as well as White Sand wheels. The headlights and taillights will be smoked. The interior will be textured by medium pebble and will have matching tan leather seats with flint inserts. Those colors will carry throughout the embroidered dash and the steering wheel. -- Words by Mark Halvorsen. Photo by Ford.