It’s never easy to make the best better. When it comes to automobiles, “best” is clearly a subjective judgment, but if nearly three decades as America’s best-selling vehicle is any indication, a sizable share of buyers would apply that superlative to Ford’s F-150 pickup.


 


It’s never easy to make the best better. When it comes to automobiles, “best” is clearly a subjective judgment, but if nearly three decades as America’s best-selling vehicle is any indication, a sizable share of buyers would apply that superlative to Ford’s F-150 pickup.

The full-size truck is back for 2009, but in an entirely new skin. And there are plenty of noteworthy changes, inside and out -- enough to win the F-150 honors as the 2009 North American Truck of the Year.

Among the most significant updates, an improved box frame means a 10 percent increase in torsional rigidity, and that translates into both a more stable ride and increased towing and hauling capabilities.

Standard Roll Stability Control minimizes rollover risks, while the new Trailer Sway Control reduces the risk of accidents while towing. An updated, foldaway bed extender makes it easier to carry oversized loads.

Meanwhile, Ford adds several additional versions of the F-Series for 2009, notably including the luxurious Platinum Edition, moving further from the old one-size-fits-all approach to pickups.

Ford’s approach to the ’09 redesign is in marked contrast to the also all-new Dodge Ram, which emphasizes on-road driving manners. The 2009 F-Series is more comfortable than the old model, but many of the new features debuting on the ’09 model are designed to keep the truck safe and sure-footed no matter what the driving conditions.

Let’s face it: A disproportionate share of full-size pickups are used either for work or what you might call “serious” leisure activities, such as hauling a boat or RV. And that’s likely to become even more so going forward.

Though fuel prices may be down -- at least for the moment -- expect to see a shift in the full-size truck segment. Going forward, there are likely to be fewer folks buying vehicles like the F-Series for the pure fun of owning a big pickup.

Even so, the full-size truck segment is likely to remain one of the largest and most competitive in the American automotive market.

Paul A. Eisenstein is an award-winning journalist who has spent more than 30 years covering the global auto industry.  His work appears in a wide range of publications worldwide, and he is a frequent broadcast commentator on subjects automotive.


FORD F-150

Miles per gallon: Typical 14 city/18 highway for four-wheel drive models or 14 city/20 highway for two-wheel drive, depending on body style, powertrain and other factors.

Engine options: Numerous, including base 4.6-liter, 248-hp V-8, and 5.4-liter, 300-hp V-8

Manufacturer’s suggested retail price (base): $19,633

Cost fully loaded: $53,000