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In back, the rear suspension is a Hotchkiss design, and is optimized by moving the Sachs shock absorbers outside the frame rails, another first in the segment. By moving the shocks outside, the amount of lean or body roll is reduced, especially during transient maneuvers. This setup also helps reduce rear end skipping or skating over washboard roads. The live axle suspension utilizes leaf springs, which seems like an outdated system, but the engineers assured us that this combination works best for the ride and control they were looking for in the new F-150. The leaf springs are now 3 inches wide—20 percent more than last year’s model and the same as on the Super Duty trucks. It should provide better towing stability and control.

The new suspension will help improve towing characteristics on the F-150. The resistance to side loads is stronger, and limited-slip is optional on vehicles with either the 3.55:1, 3.73:1, or 4.10: 1 rear axle ratios. Although the engineers did not release towing figures, the press book notes that the standard truck can tow up to 8300 lbs, while the beds have a payload capacity of 2000 lbs. The optional Tow Group Package comes with a 7-pin trailer wiring harness, frame-mounted hitch receiver, and a heavy-duty electrical/cooling package.

Safety and Security, or, Protecting the Investment

While Ford’s Personal Safety System has been in place on many of its sedans, coupes, and SUVs, this is the first time it will appear on the F-Series.

The Personal Safety System is a compilation of active and passive features that combine to provide the occupant with a high level of crash protection. Features include frame and body crashworthiness, seatbelt and airbag restraint systems, and accident avoidance features like the anti-lock brakes discussed earlier.

The new F-150 is the first Ford product to meet the newest Federally required safety standard 2008, which calls for protection of smaller occupants and those who are out of position or unbelted. This means the passenger seat has a weight-sensing technology that shuts off automatically when it senses, by weight, an undersized person such as a child or small adult. The front airbags also are dual stage, and will deploy either partially or fully depending on many factors, including crash severity, seatbelt usage, and seat positioning.

The F-150 is manufactured with the prerequisite crumple zones, as well as a collapsible steering column, pyrotechnic pretensioners in the belts, adjustable head restraints, and steel door beams for side impact protection.

For those who don’t trust technology, the Regular Cab has an airbag shut off switch that can be activated manually. In addition, the new truck meets another federal requirement for rear impact protection, which is designed to maintain the fuel tank integrity in a 50-mph, 70-degree rear offset crash.

Security-related features include the SecuriLock coded electronic key system, standard locking tailgate on all models, standard keyed lock on the spare tire, battery saver feature that turns off the interior lights if accidentally left on, and an available Reverse Sensing System as found on the Super Duty pickups.

Conclusion, or, Do We Have a Winner Here?

As you can see by the information in this article, Ford knew just how big a task it had when redesigning the F-150. Too much at stake and too many competitors means this has to be the most important launch so far in the new millennium.

We had a chance to ask a few questions about the competition. When grilled about why Ford isn’t offering anything along the lines of GM’s Displacement on Demand or its QuadraSteer setup, Ford responded by saying that with the trucks being used so much for hard work, there was really no large benefit of the 4-cylinder to 8-cylinder back and forth, especially during towing and load hauling. As far as QuadraSteer, Ford says it will keep an eye on the market, and if the customer demand is really high, it will revisit a four-wheel steering system if necessary.

Jeff Marentic, F-150 product marketing manager, also gave us a few tidbits about his feelings toward Nissan entering the full-size marketplace. He noted that Ford was flattered Nissan benchmarked the F-150 for its new truck, but Ford will do nothing different as a result of Nissan entering the marketplace. However, he did say Ford will be keeping an eye and ear on what Nissan’s doing, from a product and image perspective.

Nothing and no one is going to get in Ford’s way when it comes to being number one in the truck market. and as Marentic noted, Ford has every intention of maintaining its leadership position.

If the ride and handling live up to the press, he’s got a strong chance of making that happen.

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