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When we got our first glimpse of the interior at Ford’s technology seminar last summer, we were impressed. Many of the features inside are reminiscent of an SUV interior, and will be a considerable factor in vehicle purchase for those looking for more than basic utility.

The logic behind the design was a modular approach: make the arrangements fit different needs and trim levels.

The instrument panel is comprised of bold vertical bands that allow the interior to work with a variety of colors, textures and materials that almost customize each truck across the vehicle offerings. For example, the FX4 features “warm steel” effect bands and a carbon mesh surface for the IP center stack and door panel trim. The Lariat, on the other hand, steps upscale with woodgrain trim pieces. There are also three different IP clusters depending on the model, but all clusters, gauges and vents feature a round theme.

In the middle, if you opt for the captain’s chairs up front instead of the 40/20/40 split bench seat, is a flow-through center console that houses a floor shifter on FX4 and Lariat models. The stick design shift lever is in bright trim, and falls to hand easily for the driver. The center console also sports an armrest, storage bin and two cupholders. Move up from the center console to the dash and you’ll find the HVAC controls. If you get a bench-seat-equipped F-150, the center stack is reconfigured so there’s more leg room for the center seat passenger.

Overhead is Ford’s rail storage system, a unique design that allows the owner to customize his storage and entertainment options. The rail system is standard on XLT, FX4 and Lariat SuperCab and SuperCrew models. Each compartment is designed to snap in or out, depending on what storage bins your require. The two brushed aluminum rails are integrated into the headliner and extend from just behind the rearview mirror all the way to just behind the second row of seats. At the front of the rail system is a dome light console and large storage bin. It comes with an integrated power supply, so you can modify and configure it to your heart’s desire. Ford’s suggestions include holders for first-aid kits, tool kits, flashlights, and two-way radios. There are so many different variations, Ford is still deciding on which bins to manufacture first. It won’t be long, though, before the aftermarket takes over and has more bins available than can be imagined. The 2003 SEMA show will be an interesting place to scout out the options.

Cool storage bins and a nice-looking dash are all well and good, but unless the seats are comfortable, the rest is useless. Ford understood that basic need, and spent a lot of time on the seats and seating arrangements inside the F-150. The standard seating is a 40/20/40 split bench. Starting with the XLT model you can get front captain’s chairs with a center storage console, and the FX4 and Lariat SuperCab and SuperCrew offer the chairs with the console and floor shifter. All SuperCab and SuperCrew models have a 60/40 split rear bench seat that flips up for cargo storage.

On the SuperCab, Ford addressed something that’s been a gripe for anyone who has ever sat in back: the seat rake angle. For 2004, on the rear seats, the SuperCab now offers a new backrest recline of 21 degrees, which matches the seating position on the SuperCrew. This makes it much easier on the rear seat riders, as well as the driver who won’t have to listen to comfort complaints any more.

Overall the cabin is wider and longer than before, with six more inches of length in Regular and SuperCab configurations, and the front seats offer more room. Grab handles are abundant for ease of entry and exit, and opening the rear access doors only requires using a single, double-acting handle that replaces the inner/outer door handles on the current model.

Even the Regular Cab features four doors, a first in the segment, which makes it a breeze to reach behind the front seats. And you’ll be doing a lot of that, since Ford incorporated 13 inches of floor space behind those seats. That space will easily fit five gallon paint buckets, tool boxes, or even golf clubs.

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