A new full-size truck doesn't come along every year, so you can imagine our excitement when we have two, essentially from the ground up, coming for '04. Within about a month of each other, we had the chance to take an early look at some prototype vehicles and test out the powertrains. We even were allowed to test each of the new trucks with a few closely matched competitors. This helps us get an idea of what's coming to market, but it also gives the manufacturers an opportunity to get some early feedback from us. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't. What follows are some early observations about two new trucks--one looking to bust into the segment with nothing to lose and the other looking to maintain its longstanding supremacy with everything to lose. Here's what they're thinking.

Thinking New
For now, the F-150 stands atop the last significant domestic-dominated product segment: full-size pickups. But can the iconic Ford stay there, against fiercely competitive players like Ram and Silverado/Sierra? Furthermore, can it handle the upcoming Nissan Titan and, eventually, a true full-size truck from Toyota?

Alongside a shrinking, profit-poor car market, Ford sold more than 800,000 F-Series pickups last year. Any time an automaker remakes its best-seller, it's a risky proposition. Dearborn hopes to fortify its market position by creating a new F-150 with a stiffened frame, increased power, more refined steering and ride, upgraded interior design and equipment choices, improved quality, and a bolder edge on its appearance.