New Fords Power Up

Everything about Ford's all-new F-150 is impressive, from its extra-heavy-duty frame to its smartly set-up towing and hauling package to its intelligent onboard computer workware options. Buyers have almost three dozen cab, cargo, and trim packages to choose among in 2009, including a King Ranch "GC" package and new, high-end Platinum model, which replaces the manufacturer's discontinued luxury Lincoln Mark LT pickup.

The F-150 has been improved in every aspect for this makeover, starting with a chassis that's lighter yet more torsionally rigid, thanks to generous applications of high-strength steel and hydroformed frame geometry. This extends up into the cab frame, and combined with Ford's Roll Stability Control, Trailer Sway Control and AdvanceTrac traction control systems–all standard–it makes the F-150 one of the safest, best-handling vehicles on the road today.

Payload, cargo space, and towing specs for the F-150 improve as well, with a trailer rating now up to 11,300 pounds, maximum bed load weight of 3,030 pounds, and 65.5 cubic feet of bed load area. Ford also stretched the cab and interior of its SuperCrew models to increase passenger and storage space. Anyone who works out of his truck will appreciate the larger center console "office" that's fitted out for laptop computers and hanging file folders.

Ford's power lineup for '09 includes three V8 engines matched to 4-speed or new fuel-efficient 6-speed automatic transmissions. They include a base 4.6 liter (248 hp/294 pound-feet of torque), the same 4.6 liter with three valves per cylinder and electronic fuel injection (292 hp/320 pound-feet of torque), and a 5.4 liter, three-valve mill (320 hp/390 pound-feet of torque).

Perhaps the most innovative upgrades to the F-150 are the computer software options that Ford calls Work Solutions. These include an in-dash computer system that links to a home or office computer through a high-speed Internet connection and lets you access files and print documents right in the truck. Other Work setups include an electronic inventory system that uses radio-frequency tags to keep track of tools and other items stored in the vehicle, and a fleet-monitoring service that tracks multiple vehicle locations and records data for maintenance schedules.

New Ram Muscles in

It's an all-new day for the Dodge Ram 1500, and its 2009 wheels-up makeover looks every bit as potent as the manufacturer's fast-moving, fast-selling Charger and Challenger muscle cars. It's no accident that the Ram takes its cues from those vehicles, from its aggressive "grille-forward" styling to its high-power Hemi engine.

Beyond the macho good looks, this new Ram has a few truck innovations all its own. It has a unique coil-spring assisted, multilink rear suspension that supports a solid axle–unlike most pickups, which have leaf springs with solid axles for better towing and load-carrying. Dodge claims its setup provides a better ride and handling as well as improved traction with or without a trailer or bed load.

A first for this truck is a four-door Crew Cab model, which offers large, easily accessible, water- and weatherproof optional RamBox storage compartments in the cargo box sides. Regular and Extended Cab models with front-opening access doors are still available. Eight models make up the new 1500 series, including Dodge's popular R/T (road and track) performance package. Full 8-foot and short 5.7-foot beds are available, depending on the truck model, with a load maximum of 1,850 pounds and peak towing capacity rated at 9,100 pounds.

The top engine option–a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 with variable valve timing and dual exhausts–is new and offers better fuel economy and power (380 hp/404 pound-feet of torque) than the previous version. It also has an improved automatic Multi-Displacement System, which lets the engine run on just four of its eight cylinders when full power isn't required. Two other engine options–a base 3.7-liter V6 (215 hp/235 pound-feet of torque) and a 4.7-liter V8 (310 hp/330 pound-feet of torque)–are also available.

Keeping pace with the competition, the Ram 1500 includes electronic stability and trailer sway-control systems as standard equipment.