Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
There are reasons why it's the best-selling vehicle in the world.
Ford Motor Company has made billions of dollars of profit by providing a pickup truck for every conceivable family, recreational and commercial use, with the broadest possible spectrum of models. Over the years, Ford has continued to lead the pack in overall design, with more and more passenger car features folded into the truck mix every year until it's hard to distinguish between the two from the inside.
For 2000, Ford carries on the tradition. Changes include a more comfortable flip-up 40/60 rear seat and an improved 18-degree rear seating angle in the F-150 SuperCab. A new overhead console and left- and right-side visor vanity mirrors are standard on XLT and Lariat F-150 pickups, optional on XL models. A driver's-side keypad entry system is available on Lariat models. Chromed steel wheels and 17-inch tires, previously available on 4x4 models only, are available on 4x2 models as well. New colors are Island Blue Clearcoat Metallic and Chestnut Clearcoat Metallic. Functions previously handled by the under-8500 GVW F-250 pickups now go to a new F-150 7700 payload group with all of the attributes of the F-250, including heavier frame, larger brakes, higher-capacity wheels and 8,800 pounds towing capability.
Like its worthy competitors, the Ford F-series is offered in an astonishing array of models, with a standard 4.2-liter V6 engine, an optional 4.6-liter V-8, and an optional 5.4-liter V8. F-250 models also offer a 6.8-liter V10 engine and a Power Stroke diesel V8. Aside from engines, there are 5-speed manual and 4-speed automatic transmissions, short and long cargo beds, standard and four-door SuperCab extended cabs, flat (Styleside) and fendered (Flareside) bed styles, two- and four-wheel drive models, and four trim levels: Work, XL, XLT, and Lariat. That means, with colors and options thrown in, it's easy to order a truck that only a few others will have, because the model matrix is so huge.
Our test truck was a standard cab two-wheel-drive F-150 with a Flareside bed, the optional 4.6-liter V-8 engine, automatic transmission, and the XLT package. The near-luxury XLT offers the buyer chrome front and rear bumpers, color-keyed door handles, a chrome grille, chrome aerodynamic power mirrors, color-keyed wheel openings, standard pickup bed tie-down hooks, a cargo box light, a removable tailgate panel, an underhood lamp and polished aluminum wheels with chrome hubs.
This is a very pretty truck, with much more attention paid to aerodynamic performance than either the Dodge or GM pickups. It is rounder, friendlier and much more like a car than the competition. That may be part of the reason it outsells all other pickup trucks by a considerable margin. The new Chevy and GMC trucks are only a year old, but they already look a bit dated next to the Ford, which was mildly restyled last year. The Dodge Ram has lost its luster, too, compared to the slick F-150.
We find the Ford F-150 interior superior in flavor to the GM and Dodge competition. The F-150 takes its interior design cues from the company's successful passenger cars, such as the Ford Taurus and Lincoln Continental. The designers adapted these cues to the pickup's large cab. The curves, surfaces, textures, instrumentation and graphics inside the Ford F-150 are more adventurous, more modern, and better executed than the competition, big and bold but not outsized for a big vehicle.
The F-150 XLT has dual air bags with a passenger-side deactivation switch. It comes with air conditioning, a back panel cover and rear storage tray, dual map lights, map pockets, an upper vinyl applique, courtesy lamps, color-keyed carpeting and headliner, complete instrumentation including a tachometer, an auxiliary 12-volt power point, power windows and locks, an electronic AM/FM stereo cassette system with four speakers, cloth split bench seats with recliners, armrests, and manual lumbar support on the driver's side, speed control, tilt steering wheel, cloth-covered visors, and speed-dependent interval windshield wipers.
Compared to full-sized cars, pickup trucks come with ample amounts of head, leg, hip and shoulder room. They offer a lot of interior space for the money. Even in this F-150 XLT standard cab, which comes without the rear seats and without the extra rear doors, there is plenty of room to stretch out. The XLT has new seats this year with cloth covering, a recline feature and a lumbar support on the driver's side for even more driving comfort.
Obviously, all standard pickups share another trait: a relatively high ride height, even on 2x4 models. That can be a blessing when you're trying to see out over the traffic ahead and a curse if you're trying to go around corners at high rates of speed. But since we do a lot more of the former and very little of the latter, we like the high ride. We especially like the Ford F-150 because, unlike the Dodge, Chevrolet or GMC, the aerodynamic hood falls away very rapidly from the base of the windshield so it's easier to see what's immediately in front of the truck; that's handy for maneuvering and parking as well as dealing with traffic ahead.
Two-wheel-drive F-150s use conventional steel leaf springs at the rear and a coil spring independent front suspension. This yields a pretty solid ride when it's unloaded, but quite a good ride when you're hauling a refrigerator over bad pavement. (The 4X4 versions use a torsion bar front suspension.)
The power steering is over-assisted to make it easier to park and maneuver in tight quarters. We find the brakes on Ford trucks to be average in stopping power and average in fade characteristics.
Although the optional 4.6-liter V8 engine is rated at 220 horsepower and 290 foot-pounds of torque, we don't think it's as good a performer in many respects as the small V8 engines from GM and Dodge. It's a good, solid engine, with millions of examples on the road, and it sounds good at full throttle, but we find it a little duff for all-around street use, and we would certainly find it wanting if we had to haul anything heavy or tow a trailer up a mountain road. For any customer contemplating those kinds of duties, the 5.4-liter V8 engine is a much better choice.
There's not a lot of new stuff on the 2000 F-150, since it had a major facelift last year, and the body shell is already four years old. But Ford's F-150 is still the most car-like of any of the domestic full-size pickup trucks, with slick looks, pleasing performance, a nice, comfy cabin, and a proven powertrain that will get the job done for hundreds of thousands of truck buyers.
Street trucks aren't for everyone, but if you're looking for one, you may want to start looking right here, at the world's best-selling truck. For less than $24,000, you can haul whatever you need wherever you want in comfort and style.
4x2 Styleside 120-in. wheelbase Work Series ($15,285); 4x2 Styleside SuperCab 157-in. Lariat ($25,990); 4x4 Flareside 139-in. XLT ($26,780).
Options As Tested
4.6-liter V8 ($750), automatic transmission ($1095), Sport Group ($495), air conditioning ($805), upgraded tires ($125).
4x2 XLT Standard Cab ($19,205).
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