Ford's F series trucks have been the number one selling
vehicle in America since 1982. Ford trucks set the precedent
by which other trucks eventually follow. Ford raises the
bar, once again,, by completely
redesigning it's half-ton hero for 2004. Sitting a top
Ford's F-150 food chain is the Lariat. A truck which packs
luxury around utility, aimed at a very specific buyer
profile. Ford's media literature describes the Lariat
this way: "The ultimate in truck refinement, the
F-150 Lariat combines truck toughness and comfort, geared
to buyers who view their trucks as a reward for achievement."
However it's not only the truck that is refined, but the
owner as well. We see the Lariat driver as one who wants
a truck for work, rather than one who needs a work
truck. The Lariat reflects his interests, his tastes,
and his desire not to compromise. The Lariat is about
taking clients to the new property on Monday, dinner in
the city on Friday, and towing the race car on Sunday.
We recently tested the 2004
Lariat SuperCrew 4x4 as if we had this level of
refinement in our lives. For one week we lived in the
lap of Lariat owner luxury. We towed around the winningest
car in American Iron series history (see side bar) at
Infineon Raceway. We reclined in the comfort of the Lariats
leather seats and wood grain dash while a dirty project
motor sat in the bed on it's way to the machine shop.
We straightened out the crookedest road in America using
a leather wrapped steering wheel behind 5000-plus pounds
of American engineering.
With it's broad stance, four full doors, and tall ride
height the 2004 Lariat is manly, like Rodin's Thinker,
appearing to be chiseled from the most solid of rock.
The departure from the rounded edges of yesteryear F-150's
scores high marks in our books. The heavy emphasis in
the mid 90's to create aerodynamically appearing vehicles
resulted in rounded hood lines which dropped quickly off
the vehicles horizon. Drivers of large trucks had
poor ability to discern the boundaries of the front of
their trucks and SUV's. The return to squared-off front
ends reestablishes where the front begins and ends, and
certainly makes it easier to navigate through tight areas.
We're impressed by the quality
and detail inside the Lariat. The
selection and combination
of interior materials, the use of metals where one normally
finds plastic, are qualities to be expected if Ford's
Lincoln or Jag line introduced a truck. Buttons, dials
and stalks are all sturdy and offer up proper tactility.
Nothing seems prone to breakage if used in late-to-work
heavy handedness. The Lariat's sporty gauge cluster inspires
by day and mesmerizes by night.
Driving the new F-150 is noticeably different than F-150's
of the past. This is indeed due to Ford's complete redesign
of the F-150 for 2004. The truck is tighter, more stable,
and car like in it's quietness and smoothness. The F-150
frame received major enhancements in design. Load bearing
sections of the frame are now hydroformed, a process which
does not weaken the steel as does pressing and bending.
The entire length of the frame is now boxed and not "C"
channel, resulting in a platform 50% stronger than the
preceding design. The body itself received
similar strengthening enhancements. A special adhesive
now fills the gaps between spot welds, forming a continuos
seam. The increased body stiffness (75% over the last
F-150 model) not only reduces cabin shakes and rattles
but interior sound levels are now better than many high-end
passenger cars. In our testing we measured less than 80
decibels cruising at 70 mph. This sort of quiet is unheard
of for a truck.
The front and rear suspensions have also received ground-up
redesign. Up front, coil-over-shock assemblies replace
the antiquated MacPhereson
the front wheel caster shimmy which occurs at speed
over ruts and Ford will have closed the gap between
car and truck steering and handling. "
Chirag Asaravala, Editor
are hard to find in the '04 Lariat, however one
which you'll be reminded of constantly is the reverse
obstacle sensor. Apparantly not a single engineer
realized when a trailer is hitched this audible
feature becomes an annoyance."
Jon Mikelonis, Editor
strut setup. An aluminum
lower front control arm helps reduce unsprung weight.
Much of the car-like precision is attributed to the
trucks new rack and pinion steering system rather than
the previous recirculating ball mechanism. At the back
Ford now mounts the shock absorbers outboard of the
frame rails and larger, 3-" wide, leaf springs
combine to increase lateral stability and reduce lean
upon turning. Front track are rear wheel track has been
widened by 1.5". We like what the wider stance
does for the F-150's handling but perhaps more so for
it's looks. The F-150 is no longer dwarfed when standing
shoulder to shoulder with Dodge Rams and Chevy Silvarados.
The Lariat gets its drive from Ford's new 5.4L Triton
V8. The iron block and three-valve, single overhead
cam, aluminum cylinder heads are controlled via the
fifth gen EEC processor. It's the first modular V-8
Ford engine to use variable-cam timing to optimize intake
and exhaust valve operation across the rpm range. The
result is both lower-speed torque and high-speed horsepower
while minimizing exhaust emissions. The 5.4L produces
a mighty 300 HP at 5000 rpm. Torque is hearty at 365
lb-ft, of which 80% is achieved at 1000 rpms through
the new charge-motion control valves in the intake runners.
The valves enhance air-fuel mixing at low rpm improving
low-end torque. However even with low transmission and
axle ratios barely serve to mask the Lariats portly
2.75 ton curb weight. It's the slowest amongst other
four-door boxes in its class, running the quarter mile
at around 17 seconds flat. Fuel economy from our 20,000
Lariat averaged a respectable 16 mpg in split highway
and city usage.
NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) engineers did not
spare the Triton engine design from their overall goals
to reduce sound levels in the new F-150 cabin. The composite
intake manifold has ribbing and optimized shape to reduce
air flow noise. The pistons have longer side skirts
than in the past, which helps to control piston slap.
Solid metal is used at the points where the front cover
bolts to the engine block, but a rubber gasket damps
vibrations between mounting points. This refinement
alone is responsible for a one-decibel reduction in
overall sound levels.
The new Triton motors are not connected to the right
foot via mechanical throttle linkage or cable. We were
apprehensive about these new throttle-by-wire systems,
however the advantages became apparent upon pulling
into a tight parking spot, or during low speed and rough
terrain 4x4 driving. The computer senses accelerator
position and factors in vehicle speed, engine operating
conditions, and other variables to optimize throttle
tip-in response. The result is very smooth low speed
driving. While we loved to chalk up smooth and consistent
driving under these conditions as "driver skill",
the real credit goes to Ford's electronic throttle control.
The combination of newly designed suspension, frame
and engine for the 2004 F-150 yields a completely new
towing experience as well. The truck is overall stiffer
and handles better when pulling heavy loads. Class IV
towing capacity is now over 9000 lbs. for the Lariat
SuperCrew. If it weren't for the rear view mirror we'd
have forgot we were towing a Mustang race car around
the rolling hills of Sonoma's Infineon Raceway.
one short week the Lariat erased for us the line between
what is work and what is play. The Lariat didn't care
what we hauling or pulling and neither did we. Its cabin
treated us just as comfortably taking the family to
the mountains as it did with a crew of six on its way
to the job site. This is quite possibly the perfect
blend of recreational and functional vehicles. Ford
aims to sell a record one-million trucks this year,
and judging by the quality of the new design we don't
see them missing this target.
We wonder just how many individuals will see themselves
as deserving of such a reward as the Lariat.
The Lariat is luxurious and functional.
Towing around the Griggs
GR40 Mustang racer was effortless.
With a wider wheel base and track, as well as increased
height, the 2004 F-150 stance commands respect on and
New frame and body designs combined
with an all new front suspension results in sedan-like
agility from a one-ton pickup.
The 2" deeper cargo box
for 2004 makes it easier to load and haul heavy items
such as our big block 460 Ford project motor.
Lariat SuperCrew 4x4
Price as tested: $39,905
Exterior Colors: Aspen Green/Arizona Beige
Interior: Pebble Leather Bench
||5.4L Triton V8
|V-8 iron block,
Ignition System controlled by EEC-V computer
|Bore x Stroke
|3.55 in x 4.17
|330 cu in, 5409
|300 @ 5000 rpm
|365 lb-ft @ 3750
3 valves (2 intake, one exhaust) per cylinder.
Variable Valve Timing.
||I: 2.84, II: 1.55,
III: 1.00, IV: 0.70
long-spindle double wishbone independent, cast
aluminum lower control arm
non-independent live, leaf springs and outboard
||Power assist, ABS
Alum. with P275/65R18 All-Terrain
F-150 Lariat Supercrew 4x4
Weight and Towing (pounds)
|Base Curb Weight
|Max Towing Capacity
|9200 (3.73 axle ratio)
8200 (3.55 axle ratio)
||15000 (3.73 axle ratio)
14000 (3.55 axle ratio)