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2004 Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew

Blue Chip Stock


Ford’s redesigned F-150 Lariat continues the company’s tradition of capable pickups.

When it came time to redesign the F-150 in 2004, Ford Motor Company had a lot on the line. For 26 years, it had been the best-selling truck in the United States and the best-selling vehicle for 21 years. As anyone who has invested in the stock market knows, past performance is no guarantee of future yields. To say the stakes were high for the new F-150 qualifies as somewhat of an understatement.

However, the 2004 F-150 is as much about substance as it is about style. Ford boasts a full complement of mechanical changes and upgrades, all aimed at making the new F-150 durable and a pleasure to drive.

For instance, the front frame rails, which bear the loads of suspension components are hydroformed for greater strength. Further, all of the ladder-type frame rails are fully boxed for increased rigidity and feature cross members that are welded into laser cut holes through the inner and outer sides of the rails. The result, according to Ford, is a frame that is nine times stiffer than that of its predecessor. According to notes from our test log, the chassis felt noticeably stiff, with little of the high-frequency vibrations you can feel when traveling over bumpy pavement.

Ford also devoted considerable engineering effort to the rear suspension, which featured a solid axle with 3-inch-wide four-leaf springs and an industry first, outboard shock absorbers. The outboard shock position purportedly provides better axle control to reduce “skipping” and “skating” on washboard-type surfaces. The leaf springs are 20 percent wider than those of the previous F-150 and Ford says they help reduce sway during cornering and improve towing stability.

When we had no trailer in tow, we felt the ride was outstanding for a half-ton truck, if not a bit soft in the rear. The rear end seemed to be a bit floaty on undulating patches of freeway. Compression dampening felt good, though we felt that more rebound damping would alleviate that floaty feeling.

The outboard shocks did make for a much better ride when crossing speed bumps and other bumps at an angle. The jolts were far less abrupt than any truck we’ve driven with a live axle and conventional inboard shocks.

When we had a trailer hooked up, the truck felt just right. The rear end didn’t sway and get tugged around as much, as if it had far less overhang in the rear.

We also liked the powertrain. The transmission worked about as well as anything we’ve tested. Shifts were crisp and quick without being harsh at any throttle position. Even at full throttle with a trailer in tow, the transmission still felt slick and refined. And if a gearbox is going to shift harshly, it will be at full throttle under heavy load.

Under the hood, the 5.4-liter V-8 featured three-valve configuration (two intake, one exhaust) and variable cam timing. So dressed, it produced 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 365 foot-pounds of torque at 3,750 rpm. That’s 40 more horsepower and 15 more foot-pounds of torque than the previous 5.4-liter, but still 25 horsepower shy of GMC’s 6.0-liter Vortec. Acceleration was adequate, but we thought it could use more power or at the very least a lower gear ratio.

However, the 3.55:1 gear ratio likely was responsible for the generous 14 mpg fuel economy we experienced during our week with the truck. What’s more, it runs on the cheap stuff, 87 octane.

Ford also did a lot of work on the brakes. Four-wheel discs seem to be de rigeur these days for pickups and SUVs and the new F-150 has them. Power and feel were good and the antilock system was buttery smooth right up till the last 20 or so feet of stopping distance, where the tires chirped a bit. The system worked quietly and did just what you expected it to.

Along with powertrain refinements, Ford greatly enhanced the interior of the new F-150. The Lariat instrument panel was elegant, with chrome-bezel, beige-face gauges on a black background. The bucket seats were adequate, but they could use more adjustment, more thigh and lateral support.

The Lariat model we tested featured silver tone and woodgrain accents and a thick vinyl  padded dashboard. The Lariat edition also came with a center console with a shifter and an overhead rail storage system, which also is available with a DVD entertainment system. Perhaps the coolest option was the power sliding rear window. Not only was it pretty nifty, it also added an element of theft protection since conventional sliding windows often can be popped open from the outside. From our experience with the F-150 Lariat SuperCrew, its title as the best-selling truck should be as safe as blue chip stocks.

SPECIFICATIONS

PERFORMANCE
Fuel Consumption:
Towing...             > 12 mpg
Non-towing... 14.2 mpg

ACCELERATION
0-60 towing... 24.52  seconds
40-60 towing... 14.05 seconds
0-60 non-towing... 10.76 seconds
40-60 non-towing... 5.8 seconds

POWERTRAIN
Engine... 5.4-liter, three-valve V-8
Horsepower... 300 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque... 365 pound-feet @ 3,750 rpm
Compression ratio... 9.8:1
Transmission... four-speed electronically controlled automatic

CHASSIS
Axle ratio... 3.55:1
Fuel capacity... NA
Tire size... P265-60R-18
Brakes... four-wheel disc with antilock
Suspension... Front: coil on shock, long-spindle double wishbone; Rear: rear live axle with leaf springs and outboard shock absorbers.
Tow rating... 9,500 lbs.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating... 7,050 lbs.
Gross Combined Weight Rating... 16,550 lbs.

DIMENSIONS
Overall length... 224"
Maximum width... 79"
Wheelbase... 139"
Curb weight... NA
Base price... $32,115
Price as tested... $36,175

TRAILER TOWED
Formula 271 FAS3Tech
8,000  lbs.

INFORMATION
Customer service... 800-392-3673
Web site...www.fordvehicles.com

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