While the SLA suspension softens minor pavement aberrations and smoothes the edges of larger hazards, rough, undulating pavement (such as a concrete road with large expansion gaps) elicits moderate bounce-though notably less than we've experienced in competitive pickups. The F-150's suspension nonetheless provides a quantum leap forward in overall ride compliance that will serve as the new high-water mark for full-size trucks.

Despite the relatively plush ride, the F-150 hasn't sacrificed handling abilities. The 4.6-liter Flareside held on to the skidpad with 0.73 g of lateral grip and threaded through our 600-foot slalom at 57.8 mph. Despite its larger size and weight, the 14.9-inch longer, 5.4-liter F-150 SuperCab also scored respectably, with 0.71 g on the skidpad and 56.7 mph through the slalom.

Sizable 16-inch wheels and tires are standard equipment on two- and four-wheel-drive F-150s, with massive 17-inchers available on 4x4s fitted with the Off-Road Equipment group. Stopping power is provided up front by twin-piston ventilated 12-inch discs and 11-inch drums with standard anti-lock out back. Four-wheel ABS is optional on most trim levels and standard on the luxo-themed Lariat. The lighter F-150 Lariat Flareside we tested came to a halt from 60 mph in 148 feet, predictably stopping shorter than the heavier F-150 SuperCab, which needed 153 feet to come to a standstill.

You Name It, They'll Build ItIt would take a mathematics professor on sabbatical to calculate the number of possible powertrain, wheelbase, bed type, suspension, transmission, and seating combinations offered for the '97 F-150.

Starting in econocar territory, a base-level F-150 with the brawny V-6 stickers for an ultrareasonable $14,430. For a flashier look, the Flareside in XL trim begins at $16,460, and the fiery 4.6-liter V-8 can be added for only $635 more. Luxury features abound in the Lariat Styleside at $20,480, but as a daily driver, it might be worth anteing up for the three-door Lariat SuperCab at $23,110. Serious-but-civilized off-roaders may want to go all the way with a Styleside 4x4 in Lariat trim with the mighty 5.4-liter V-8. Whatever your tastes and budget, there's an F-150 to fulfill your needs-and likely exceed your expectations.

The do-it-all '97 Ford F-150 sets the new benchmark in versatile transportation. Overflowing with such virtues as potent powerplants, exceptional ride compliance, luxury-oriented passenger accommodations, the invaluable third door, and massive cargo capacity, the all-new F-150 is deservedly named the Motor Trend 1997 Truck