We accumulated nearly 25,000 miles on the F-150 during its tenure at Motor Trend, making the user-friendly Ford earn its keep day in and day out. Regular servicings and a steady diet of fuel were all that was needed to keep the pickup running in prime condition. The only glitch in an otherwise perfect record was an annoying accessory belt squeal, perhaps attributable to the grime-flinging Truck of the Year photo shoot. This was painlessly solved by our dealer, as was a power steering pump noise.

After 12 hard months, the F-150 still looks and feels great, virtually none the worse for wear (excepting tires). Even with our traveling-salesman-like mileage, the "Kelley Blue Book" wholesale and retail prices remain high at $19,525 and $24,345, respectively. Given the respectable equity retention, this would suggest attractive lease deals would be available. But at the end of our formal loan period, we can understand why so many survey respondents choose to purchase-who'd want to part with such a valued friend? Certainly not us, which is why we acquired the truck and now welcome it as a member of our permanent vehicle fleet (watch for future aftermarket upgrades to it in our "Truck Trends" department).

Owners were equally pleased, as evidenced by surveys returned overflowing with gushing praise. A professional truck driver from Florida wrote, "I really love my F-150. Everyone always tells me how good it looks. It rides like a Town Car, handles like a Mustang GT, and is the best vehicle I have ever owned." With a great ride, smooth powertrains, outstanding versatility, and carlike creature comforts, the F-150 truly is a truck for all occasions.

We upgraded the standard 4.6-liter/220-horsepower SOHC V-8 to a 5.4-liter/235-horsepower engine for $550, gaining 40 pound-feet in the deal for a total of 330.

A modern, flowing dash with well-designed controls at easy reach marks a decisive step forward in truck interiors. Details like passenger-airbag shutoff, third door, and flat-folding rear bench add significantly to the truck's value and versatility.

Daring styling didn't pay off for the Taurus, but the curvy look has delivered in spades for the F-150, as stellar sales attest. However, survey owners rated the third door over styling for inspiring their purchase.

Our staff appreciated the convenience of bed security offered by the aftermarket SnugTop cap, though it does compromise rearward visibility.

Although our long-term F-150 racked up lots of commuting miles, we frequently exploited its work talents by pulling a variety of trailers, including Editor-at-Large John Pearley Huffman's street-machine Camaro.

CONSUMER CHECKLIST
Yes No Opt.
Integrated child seats o o o
Roadside assistance o o o
Security system o o o
Anti-lock brakes o o o
Cupholders 4
Power outlets 2
Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles

MT Thumbs Up: Invaluable third door Smooth, compliant rideTruck-tough reliability

MT Thumbs Down: Love-it-or-hate-it stylingAverage fuel economy