2004 Ford F-150
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
For years, Ford's television ads conditioned Americans to think of Ford trucks as "Ford Tough."
In 2004, it seems, they're also more refined.
Oh, don't worry. The re-engineered 2004 F-150 still is brawny and big. In fact, maximum towing capacity now is 9,900 pounds, there's more V8 power than before, pickup beds are deeper for greater cargo volume, and Regular Cab and Super Cab models offer more interior room.
Thanks to a new, stiffer frame, improved brakes and steering and a lot of attention to detail, the ride is smoother and quieter now. New interiors—yes, "interiors" plural—draw lots of compliments.
Ford officials didn't just improve on the old model. They innovated.
For example, the 2004 F-150 has no two-door base models. Instead every base, Regular Cab has a body with four doors—two of them small, rear-hinged, so-called access doors.
The new F-150 also innovates in the way it mixes and matches pieces of the dashboard inside and grille and bumper treatments outside to customize different appearances for each style of truck buyer—and it's all done at the factory.
There's another new element, too: A Super Cab model with a shortened, 5.5-foot-long pickup box that's easier to fit inside a garage.
Two F-150s during 2004
The predecessor model will continue to be built—and sold as the 2004 Heritage F-150—while production of the re-engineered F-150 ramps up fully.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for the 2004 Heritage model is just over $19,100 for an old-style Regular Cab model with two-wheel drive and a V6.
The all-new F-150 starts at more than $21,200 for a base XL Regular Cab 4X2 with 4.6-liter V8. This is another change from the previous model. For 2004, no V6 is offered.
For some 20 years, the F-150 has ranked as the best-selling vehicle, car or truck, in the United States. It also has been the best-selling truck, period, in the United States for 25 years.
The F-150 is critical for Ford, accounting for approximately 23 percent of the automaker's U.S. sales.
Competition is becoming the fiercest ever in the full-size truck segment in this country, with Nissan launching its first entry, the 2004 Titan, and Toyota to follow with a new full-size truck in a couple years.
Peak F-150 sales were in calendar 2001, when they totaled 911,597.
Exterior styling sticks close to old model
Sure, the old front styling is emboldened in the new model as the hood is raised—it's also weight-saving aluminum now—and grilles are different.
The overall look still doesn't stray far from the 2003 model.
This probably explains why most of the attention tends to focus on the interior, where Ford designers split the dashboard into three areas and tailored the looks for each of the five trim levels accordingly.
Thus, the new FX4 trim level oriented for outdoor enthusiasts has jazzy, "warm steel"-look center console with floor shifter—the first in a full-size pickup. The Titan will offer a floor shifter, too.
Meantime, the top-of-the-line 2004 F-150 Lariat, which was the test truck, is oriented to those preferring some luxury in their pickup.
Accordingly, the dashboard here has some woodgrain touches and unique gauges with cream-colored background.
The SuperCrew tester provided good room for up to six riders, with rear legroom an impressive 41.3 inches. This compares with 41 inches in the 2004 Dodge Ram Quad Cab and 38.8 inches in the 2004 Silverado Crew Cab.
Thank goodness there were running boards on the test F-150. It can be a big step up to get inside a 4X4 model.
Two V8s now
Horsepower now is 300, an increase of 15 percent from before. Ford officials boast best-in-class low-end torque, with more than 80 percent of the 365 foot-pounds of torque available at 1000 rpm. It tops out at 3750 rpm.
Ford increased the tow rating for the new, light-duty F-150, putting it at 9,900 pounds. This leads the class.
Engine sounds from the 5.4-liter Triton V8 are confident but don't intrude often or much into the passenger compartment. Neither do many other sounds, thanks to Ford's efforts to insulate the cabin via door seals, thicker front-door windows and noise-and-vibration-absorbing engine mounts.
A 231-horsepower 4.6-liter Trion V8 remains the base engine for the re-engineered F-150.
Both V8s are paired with four-speed automatic transmissions.
More refined ride, for sure
In fact, I felt bouncing only occasionally, on broken-up pavement and some off-road terrain. Otherwise, the ride felt quite controlled and pleasant.
Steering, too, is much improved and provides a direct-feeling response not necessarily found in a pickup truck. This new model has the largest rack-and-pinion steering system ever put in a Ford vehicle.
Wheels and tires are upsized this year, so even the base F-150 rides on 17-inchers, and brakes are larger and discs at all four wheels.