2004 Ford F-150
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Forget sexy cars or alluring sport-utility vehicles when looking to see what vehicle is topping the sales chart. A pickup truck, of all things, has held the No. 1 spot for more than 20 years.
That pickup is the Ford F-Series, which has been significantly redesigned for 2004. This is Ford's crown jewel in terms of sales and profits, and was last redesigned for 1997.
The original F-Series was introduced in 1948 as a handsome truck with a recessed grille and square fenders. It was bought by farmers, manufacturers and small businessmen, who needed a solid new truck to help them cash in on the post-World War II prosperity.
The 1953-56 F-Series pickup put the F-Series name more solidly on the map. It was longer, lower and wider than its predecessor and had larger, brighter interiors not expected in pickups.
Nearly 28 million F-Series trucks have been bought since 1948. In 1995, the F-Series surpassed the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling nameplate—car or truck—in history.
The 2004 F-Series initially arrives with the popular F-150 designation. It's roomier, longer and wider, besides being built more solidly. (Heavier-duty, lower-volume versions arrive later.)
Styling is more aggressive because some critics felt the old look was too "soft" for a rugged truck. There are muscular contours and exaggerated features, which even include an oversized blue Ford oval insignia.
Ford says the F-Series will have the industry's widest variety of body and trim configurations. There are seemingly endless ways you can order this truck. Sit down with all its specifications and you've got a good recipe for a headache.
The new F-150 costs more to build than its predecessor. Prices for the 2004 model range from $21,215 to $35,570. Comparably priced 2003 models went from $20,970 to $34,935.
(Some versions of the 2003 F-150 continue unchanged as the F-150 Heritage through the 2004 model year with pricing starting at $19,125.)
Various Trim Levels
The regular cab and SuperCab have standard rear-hinged "half doors," while the SuperCrew crew cab returns with four front-hinged doors, which are a lot more convenient.
Neither engine will get a fuel economy prize, but they work with a responsive 4-speed automatic transmission.
The 300-horsepower V8 delivers strong acceleration to 65 mph, but provides average 65-75 mph passing times. That shouldn't be surprising because the SuperCrew is large and heavy, with a 139-inch-wheelbase. It's awkward to park and often impossible to put in an average-size garage. Those with barns are ahead of the game here.
However, an increasing number of people prefer huge, roomy pickups.
A strategic option is the $245 reverse sensing system. It warns of unseen objects behind the truck.
The firm ride is composed on decently paved roads, but the back end hops on bumpy surfaces with an empty pickup bed.
My nicely painted test SuperCrew didn't have many options, but could have done without the $300 black tubular running boards. They look good, but are too narrow to be of much use when getting in this high truck, a maneuver that requires extra effort.
Large outside door handles can be easily grasped, as can the inside handles. Also, substantial front grab handles can make it easier to climb aboard.
My test truck had a sporty "FX4" interior with "warm steel" (like aluminum) accents on the instrument panel, console, doors and steering wheel. The instrument cluster was aircraft-inspired and the dashboard had carefully positioned chrome-ringed vents. The shifter look as if from a sporty car.
The $595 front "captain's chairs" were firm, but supportive. They had "sporty cloth" and also are offered with "sporty leather."
The old-style foot-operated parking brake is definitely out of place, and the plastic glove compartment door needs a more solid feel in keeping with the improved interiors.
No side airbags or features such as GM's 4-wheel steering are offered, but the new F-150 shows that Ford is trying hard to keep this truck in its No. 1 spot.