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Ford F150 XLT 2009 Pickup Truck

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Ford makes the best pickup trucks in the known universe, and this is easily the best one they’ve ever built. More fun to drive than is probably legal in some jurisdictions, brilliantly thought-out, ruggedly constructed and enjoyable to look at, it’s enough to make one believe that all the bad press automobile manufacturers have been receiving of late was entirely the work of some inveterate journalists and a large bag of mushrooms.

This F150 replaced a 1999 F150 with pretty much the same configuration. That earlier truck ran for a decade with a remarkable lack of significant repair bills and other serious expenses.

You can order the 2009 F150 in a substantial palette of configurations, from a simple work truck right on up to a floating palace with leather seats and on-board entertainment. We got the XLT package, which is located between these extremes – it has power everything, more toys than most people really need and a price that isn’t likely to require that any economists recalculate their projected GDP numbers.

Yes, the aforementioned inveterate journalists and their large bag of mushrooms have done some impressive damage to truck prices of late.

In driving a 2009 F150 for the first time, it’s hard to miss the sense that every fiddly detail therein has been the object of someone’s consuming attention. Everything’s been done right. The body design is understated. The seats are comfortable. The dashboard controls are intuitive. The tailgate’s easy to open. There’s a jack in the dashboard to plug in an iPod.

The power train of the 2009 F150 is a masterwork of sneaky engineering. Its 4.6 liter V8 engine develops 32 more horsepower than the 5.4 liter engine in our 1999 F150 did. Unless you plan to drag a trailer around with this truck, the smaller engine will do anything short of climbing the side of a building. I loath trailers, and I refuse to have anything to do with them.

That engine is bolted to a six-speed automatic transmission, which is a peach to drive. It shifts much more smoothly than a five-speed, with some additional torque at its low end. It also saves a considerable amount of fuel, as it allows the engine to remain in its optimum speed range as the truck accelerates.

Our truck gets 10 liters of gas per 100 kilometers highway — about 23 miles per US gallon, or 28 miles per imperial gallon.

If you plan to drive one of these things beyond the comforts of suburbia, the optional limited-slip differential available for the F150 is worth what it costs. It keeps the back wheels from spinning in heavy snow. So equipped, our truck has a claw-like grip upon whatever it drives over, even if whatever it drives over is glare ice punctuated by lesser vehicles protruding from the adjoining ditches.

The manual four wheel drive in the F150 is flawless – it can be switched on as needed, and it will get the truck through terrain that would worry a tank. Ours arrived during a northern Ontario February, and it had largely figured out what it was in for by the time it got home.

The interior of the 2009 F150 is huge – while it’s unlikely that it’s really bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, it feels like it is. The “split bench seat” of the XLT is actually two comfortable bucket seats with a tricky center console that folds down into a third seat in a pinch. It’s unlikely you’d want to go any distance with three full-size adults in the front seat, but for short hauls, that third seat’s a lot more comfortable than riding in the box. When the center console’s being a center console, it features four cup holders and two spacious storage areas.

Our F150 has a standard cab – just two front seats. As is traditional, we’ve always managed to keep a vast amount of stuff behind the seats. The 2009 F150 was clearly designed for such applications – the space behind its seats is exceedingly generous.

The electronics in the F150 are state of the art. It features an in-dash digital compass, an exterior temperature display, satellite radio, an AM/FM radio connected to a monster of a sound system, the aforementioned iPod jack – actually, any audio device can be plugged into it – an extra twelve-volt power point and a digital message display, rather than innumerable cryptic dashboard lights. The sound system is extremely nuanced – for example, it can be configured to turn up the radio when the vehicle speed increases, to compensate for road noise.

The digital message display will tell you things like your average fuel economy, or exactly what the truck’s doing as it switches its four wheel drive in and out.

The center panel digital display insists on mentioning that the truck’s “built Ford tough” every time you start the beast. We’re still looking for the menu item to disable this.

One of the F150’s better concessions to the exigencies of the new millennium is its automatic door locks. Shortly after you start driving, the truck will lock all its doors, protecting you from any itinerate truck-jackers in your neighborhood.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the manual for the 2009 F150 includes a number of discrepancies between how the truck’s technology is described on paper, and how it actually works. None of these are serious head-bashers, but you probably will have to work at issues like setting the clock or calibrating the compass.

As with most North American vehicles, the 2009 F150 is available in a number of discrete trim levels. This can be a bit disappointing if you’d like an option that’s not included in the trim level you’re after. For example, this truck looks massively cool with twenty-inch wheels, and Ford makes twenty-inch wheels for it, but they’ll only let you order them if you buy one of their higher-end trim packages, for upwards of fifty grand. Our shopping list includes some after-market wheels.

One of the design elements of the 2009 F150 that contributes to its stability on slippery roads is its width. This particular design element has a sting in its tail, however – with its side mirrors in their normal positions, the F150 is too wide to fit through a standard single-width garage door. You can address this – as we did – by folding the mirrors into the sides of the truck before you park it. This works well if you habitually go everywhere with a passenger.

Full-size pickups are supremely loathsome in the eyes of urban eco-weenies, who seem to feel that they’re the primary harbinger of the end of civilization as we know it. If you need to move objects larger than the cargo area of a Prius, however, or if you need to get through snow, mud or bad landscaping, something with big wheels and an engine that doesn’t start with a pull rope is clearly called for.

I suspect that as pickup trucks go, this one’s pretty green. I further suspect that when it’s two in the morning and twenty below zero, the green-ness of the F150 will be the last thing I’ll think about.