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2009 Ford F-150: Popular pickup got a power boost

2009 Ford F-150.

Ford/Wieck

In 2009, Ford's F-150 pickup had been the best-selling truck in North America for most of the past 42 years. So the legend goes, if you parked every F-series truck ever sold in Canada front to back, you'd have a line stretching from Halifax to Vancouver.

Yes, there were upstarts in the wings – mainly from Toyota and Nissan – and General Motors was a constant presence, but Ford still owned the full-size pickup truck market, and had had plenty of time to develop its trucks. 2009 was a year of refinement for North America's best-selling vehicle.

Unsurprisingly, at the top of the list of "must-haves" for buyers was more power but with better fuel economy, so in 2009 Ford dropped its V-6 engine from the F-150's lineup and offered three V-8s for motivation: two versions of a 4.6-litre and an optional 5.4-litre Triton unit. All three were mated to either a four-speed or six-speed automatic transmission and, said Ford, the engines featured substantial fuel economy improvements, thanks to different calibration and controls. Ford's now commonplace Eco-boost powerplant was just around the corner, as was a new diesel engine.

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You could get the F-150 in 2WD and 4WD, and Ford offered seven trim levels, from the base XL going up to a chrome-festooned and wood-trimmed Platinum version, not to mention 35 different cab/bed configurations.

Also new for this year was Ford's patented Easy Fuel cap-less fuel filler system, which eliminated the possibility of gas vapour escaping during fill-up. The F-150 also featured a slightly revised body style, with a prominent new front grille treatment featuring pronounced "nostrils" on each side and an integral "spoiler" built onto the tip of the tailgate, both for aerodynamics and aesthetics.

For those who were actually serious about putting their trucks to work, a taller box with a fold-out side step for improved access came onstream this year, as well as 272-kilogram capacity side cleats inside the box for tying down big loads, and longer rear leaf springs and a strengthened frame for improved ride comfort and more torsional rigidity.

Interior refinements included improved rear seat legroom in the extended Super Cab and Super Crew models, an articulating rear seat, restyled side windows and roof pillars, and more than 30 different storage nooks and crannies.

Options were many, including a back-up camera, voice-active navigation, fold-out bed extender, leather upholstery, Sirius satellite radio, Ford's Microsoft Sync audio system, an integrated trailer brake controller, and the unique rear tailgate step.

Two safety recalls for the 2009 F-150 are on file with Transport Canada. One concerns possibly flawed interior door latches that may not close properly or cause the door to pop open in the event of a side impact, while the other has to do with glitchy rear brake lights that may not illuminate adequately. In both cases, dealers will handle the repairs.

Some 25 technical service bulletins are on file with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and they range from rear doors in the extended cab models that may not lock properly, to hard-starting complaints after refuelling, to body trim issues with the Platinum models, to wonky brakes that may cut in randomly if the vehicle experiences acceleration problems.

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One thing prospective buyers should also keep in mind is that pre-owned F-150s might have been used by their owners as a tradesman's vehicle or taken off-road on a regular basis and may have seen tougher duty than many other vehicles.

Consumer Reports gives this generation of the F-150 an average used-car verdict, noting that braking power was vastly improved for 2009 and handling was "secure." Owners also have plenty to say: "Good value for the money," "Ground clearance for a 4x4 is fairly low," "I'd move the ignition switch to a more visible place" and "Acceleration is good for the small V-8" – these are typical comments. An overly large turning radius is also a common complaint.

Interestingly, one of the F-150's rivals – the Toyota Tundra – received a better-than-average used-car prediction from the magazine in this year, garnering a "Good Bet" designation, while the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 collected a worse-than-average rating. The F-150 landed somewhere in the middle.

Ford offered the F-150 in a vast number of different models in 2009, with a dizzying array of options and extras – always has, but prices range from the mid-teens for a base regular cab 4x2 Styleside, going up to the mid-$30,000 range for a loaded SuperCrew 4x4. The popular King Ranch model is slightly less pricey than the platinum, depending upon options and drivetrains.

Tech specs: 2009 Ford F-150

Original Base Price: $24,199; Black Book: $15,225-$35,775

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Engines: 4.6-litre and 5.4-litre V-8

Horsepower/Torque: 248 hp/294 lb-ft for 4.6; 320 hp/390 lb-ft for 5.4

Transmission: Four/six-speed automatic

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 14.7 city/10.6 highway (4.6-litre with four-speed trans); regular gas

Drive: Rear-wheel/four-wheel

Alternatives: Chevrolet Silverado 1500, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra, GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram 1500

globedrive@globeandmail.com

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