According to the 2003 TransWorld Motocross Reader Survey, the most popular truck among our loyal readers is the Ford F-150; the full-sized pickup garnered a commanding 30.9% of our readership’s votes. And it’s no wonder, either. The Ford F Series have been America’s best selling line of trucks for 26 years in a row and the F-150 is Ford’s best selling vehicle in the world.
For 2004, the popular F-150 was completely redesigned and bears little or no resemblance to its predecessor. Having driven both the older style and the all-new models personally, we can easily report that the new ’04 F-150 has done for full-sized pickup trucks what the Honda CRF450R has done for four-stroke motocross bikes. Yes, it’s that good.
We’re not automotive testing specialists, and we’ll not pretend to be by wasting space running down all the technical mumbo-jumbo about the fully-boxed frame rails with hydro-formed sections, or the new outboard-side mounted rear shocks. What we are, however, are full-time motocross riders who use and abuse our bodies, bikes, and vehicles on the way to the track, at the track, and on the drive home from the track. Unlike tennis players or extreme inline skaters who can store their gear in the trunk or backseat of a car, motocrossers need a truck, van, trailer, or some sort of bumper rack to get their motorcycles to and from the track. Obviously, a truck is the most popular and most convenient option, and when it comes to what works and doesn’t work for hauling numerous bikes, we know our stuff.
The most obvious change made to the new F-150 is the taller bed. Though it’s only 2 deeper than the box found on previous F-150s, the bed looks monstrous in comparison and seems to swallow up the bikes loaded inside it. Our particular test truck is a four-wheel drive FX4 Super Crew Cab with four doors and a 5.5′ bed. Though it is equipped with the smallest bed in the F-150 lineup, the length of the box is absolutely not an issue for a motocrosser, thanks to the addition of the optional AMP Research Bed X-Tender. (When hauling only one full-sized bike, the tailgate can easily be shut if the bike is secured diagonally.)
At 65.2 wide, the box is plenty wide enough for three full-sized bikes, provided the middle bike is either loaded backwards or staggered back by a toolbox or bike stand. Perhaps the best thing about the taller box sides is the fact that the top sides of the box are in no danger of being gouged up by the bike’s footpegs. We know several riders who have hit a dip in the road with a little too much speed, only to have their bikes bounce and crush the sides of the bed with the footpeg. Plastic caps on the top rails of the bed look good and protect the painted surface, making it perfectly acceptable to climb all over the top of the box while cramming it with bikes, gearbags, and spare parts.
The taller box also adds peace of mind that your gearbag, folding chairs, bike stand, and ice chest are also less likely to bail out. (Believe it or not, Swap has lost all four of those items on the road at one time or another!) Four excellent tie-down mounts are located at each corner of the bed, and are designed in such a way that the hook of an unused tie-down will not slip loose. The construction of the bed is sturdy and the front panel is plenty strong. Thanks to the sturdy construction that includes an indented panel for added strength, the front of the bed does not flex forward into the cab when your bike’s front tire is cinched down against it by tie-downs. Over the years, we’ve seen many trucks with caved-in beds that actually come into contact with the cab.
One of the coolest features of the new bed box is the Tailgate Assist feature, which is basically a set of torsion springs that are mounted inside the tailgate itself. The system makes opening and closing the massive tailgate an easier task. For reference, it is easier to lift and close the tailgate of the full-sized F-150 than it was to do the se on our previous Ford Ranger. For security, the tailgate may be locked when it is closed. When hauling only a single bike, this is a great feature when you decide to grab a bite to eat after your ride.THE RIDEInside, the cab of the Super Crew is breathtaking. The dash board of the FX-4 model has a space-age look that is reminiscent more of an aircraft than that of a bomby old pickup truck. Our test truck is equipped with the optional floor-mounted shifter, which gives the truck an even meaner interior appearance. The big chrome shifter is easy to operate and a hundred times cooler than the standard steering column-mounted design. Plenty of storage space is found in the console between the two front seats; we’ve even used it to store our camera gear on occasions when we left the vehicle unattended. The seats are as comfortable as those found in high-end luxury cars, and definitely the most welcoming that we’ve ever encountered in a pickup.
The back seat of the Super Crew cab is gigantic; certainly larger than those found in most compact and mid-sized sedans. The rear seats flip up with the tug of a lever to make room for several gearbags. Thus far, we’ve managed to pack it with two full-sized gearbags, a toolbox, and an ice chest. On one particularly cold day, we went so far as to fold the front seats forward and use the rear of the cab as a changing area. Who needs a van?
The ride inside the cab is unbelievably quiet with little or no detectable wind or road noise, and it is obvious that Ford went to great lengths to construct the truck as tightly as possible. Unlike most trucks, there are no rattles or creaks to be heard, and as ridiculous as it sounds, the F-150’s ride more resembles that of a luxury sedan than that of even a high-end SUV. Without a doubt, the test ride is what will help win potential customers over. There’s a particularly windy section of freeway on the way to Glen Helen Raceway Park, and it’s coincidentally also a very fast section of the highway, where the average speeds hover around 80 mph. Even in these cross-winded situations at high speeds, the F-150 has proven to be virtually soundproof. All of the doors and windows seal perfectly, keeping the comfort level inside ideal. We’ve actually found ourselves listening to the stereo at lower levels, as there is no road noise to overcome.
Handling-wise, the new F-150 is just as impressive. For a big truck, the thing turns on a dime and has repeatedly caught us off guard with its tight turning radius. U-turns and tight parking spots are no sweat in the big Ford, that’s for sure. Even when loaded down with two bikes and all the related gear, the truck remains tight and responsive, with little or none of that side-to-side, wallowy feel that some trucks get when loaded down.
With or without bikes in the back, the F-150 has a precise feel at the wheel and the suspension has a sporty, stiff feel that at the same time is plush and comfortable. In case we haven’t made it perfectly clear yet, the new F-150 handles and feels like no other truck on the road.
As far as the power of the new 5.4-liter Triton V-8 engine goes; well, we’ve found nothing to complain about. Since we’re not fast and furious street racers in little Honda cars we’re not too concerned with how well the thing will peel out and go from 0-60 mph, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t crave plenty of passing power or onramp acceleration beef when the bed is loaded down with bikes and gear. The engine cranks out 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 365 foot-pounds of torque at 3,750 rpm, which is more than enough to get the job done, even if you tow a big, enclosed trailer. With bikes in the back, we’ve averaged about 14 miles per gallon, though the truck has proven to grow more economical as it breaks in.
Having grown accustomed to beater trucks that are uncomfortable, noisy, and cramped over the years, we still have a hard time believing that the 2004 Ford F-150 was made with the same purpose in mind. Hauling motorcycles to and from the track has never, ever been more pleasurable, and the F-150 is hands-down the best truck we have ever driven. Earlier in the article we compared it to the Honda CRF450R, a motorcycle that has set the standard for motocross bikes in recent years and won immeasurable praise from its owners and the media. The F-150 is all that and more in the truck world… Let’s just say that compared to everything else on the market, it’s like driving a factory works truck, worthy of a champion.
e purpose in mind. Hauling motorcycles to and from the track has never, ever been more pleasurable, and the F-150 is hands-down the best truck we have ever driven. Earlier in the article we compared it to the Honda CRF450R, a motorcycle that has set the standard for motocross bikes in recent years and won immeasurable praise from its owners and the media. The F-150 is all that and more in the truck world… Let’s just say that compared to everything else on the market, it’s like driving a factory works truck, worthy of a champion.