Last month's review of the new Dodge Ram 1500 emphasized comfort and convenience. If I had to sum up its chief competitor — the 2009 Ford F-150 — in one word, it would be “capability.”
There's a difference between performance and capability. The former comes from horsepower and torque; the latter from structure and strength. With its 390-hp Hemi engine, the Dodge leads Ford in horsepower; but Ford's chassis and suspension enable greater payload and towing ability.
Ford's biggest engine, the 5.4-liter three-valve (for greater torque) V-8 cranks out 320 hp with 390 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque, 17 lb.-ft. less than the biggest Dodge. Dodge's smallest engine is a 210-hp, 3.7-liter V-6, while the smallest Ford is a 248-hp, 4.6-liter, two-valve V-8. In between, Dodge's 4.7-liter V-8 cranks out 310 hp/330 torque, a bit more than the Ford's 4.6 liter, three-valve with 292/320.
Fuel economy ranges from 14 mpg city/18 highway to 15/21, depending on engine and configuration.
The F-150 payload ranges from 1,320 pounds for the 133-inch-wheelbase SuperCab 4x4, to 2,010 pounds for the 145-inch-wheelbase 4x2 regular cab. The Ram's maximum is 1,690. With the optional HD (heavy duty) package, the F-150 payload goes to 2,700 pounds in 4x4 and a massive 3,030 pounds in 4x2.
Its class-leading payload is matched by class-leading towing of up to 11,300 pounds. Capacities depend, of course, on configuration. The lighter regular cab can carry 300 to 400 pounds more pay-load than the SuperCab or SuperCrew. Four-wheel drive takes 100 pounds out of payload and towing due to the transfer gear, extra drive shaft, and differential.
Sometimes cube capacity is as important as weight; and the F-150 leads there, too, with box (bed) lengths of 67 inches, 78.8 inches, and 97.4 inches, and an inside box height of 22.4 inches for all boxes. That's 2.4 inches taller than the Ram's.
To access the box, the F-150 features an integrated tailgate step that was introduced on last year's SD (super duty) F-250 and F-350 pickups. With the tail-gate down, the step slides out and swings down to support up to 300 pounds. A handle, stowed in the gate, swings up and locks in place as a climbing assist.
On the 6.5-foot and 8-foot boxes, optional box side steps on each side help access the front of the box. Push a release with your toe and the 11-inch step slides out. Push it back in and it latches in place. Each supports 500 pounds.
The F-150's reverse camera system is a big help backing or hooking up trailers. The display can be integrated into the navigation system or as a stand-alone display in the rear-view mirror. Not only does it show distances, the 180-degree view also has red and green lines that show direction and distance to the target trailer, dock, or worksite.