This time, Ford has brought every possible F-150 configuration to the table where other makers are being measured. In other words: No one will accuse Ford of bringing a knife to a gun fight. Plenty of buyers will appreciate this, Ford's Baskin-Robbins approach to truck building, with more than 31 flavors from which to choose. But can Ford keep making so many flavors when the economy and truck lovers have gone on a crash diet?

The new F-150 features an updated, fully boxed frame to act as a more rigid platform, which allowed suspension engineers to make incremental improvements. Nothing revolutionary here. In fact, the overall suspension strategy of the truck is no different from the previous model (front coil-over shocks with double A-arms, and a rear live axle on leaf springs). The rear spring pack is wider and six inches longer, while the front uses a stronger stamped-steel lower control arm. Ford also uses two separate steering ratios, depending on which wheelbase and towing option package the truck has, to improve the often criticized numb F-150 feel. And it works.

We recently sampled several of these new varieties under a host of conditions at the manufacturer's proving grounds. Steering feel in our SuperCab tester proved a bit soft on center but had a firmer, quicker feel when cornering, and directional stability has been improved. The ride on our SuperCrew around uneven concrete and blacktop surfaces of Dearborn, Michigan, was noticeably absorbing just about every rut and pothole (and there were many). Likewise, on several around-town freeway loops, where concrete was broken and rutted, our empty Ford tester hunkered down and swallowed up the hits. A drive around the racetrack, however, revealed an oddity in the suspension. Off the line, at or near wide-open throttle, we encountered a notable axle-hop oscillation. A simple adjustment on our takeoffs ended up putting 0-to-60 times in the eight-second range. It's possible this was a track-surface anomaly, but we'll keep our eye on it.