It's pretty clear that the '04 F-150 is a popular truck, but there's always room for improvement - as the saying goes, "Friends don't let friends drive stock."

For instance, on paper, the F-150's optional 5.4L Triton boasts 300 ponies, a hearty 365 lb-ft of torque, three valves per cylinder, drive-by-wire throttle, and variable camshaft timing. This SOHC V-8 is silky-smooth and just about utterly silent in operation.

Yet, a common first impression when driving the new truck is that it feels heavy and is slow to respond to throttle input. While the latest F-150 is in fact heavier than its immediate predecessor, the real culprit responsible for this somewhat lethargic response may well be its factory processor calibration, and in particular, the programming of its drive-by-wire system. Also important to sport truck enthusiasts is that the F-150 driving experience may be just a bit too silent.

Paul's High Performance in Jackson, Michigan, has a fix that adds about 15 rear-wheel horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque to the 5.4L's output compared with the stock engine's power curve. That may not sound like much until you compare the increase across the whole of the stock power curve. Compared this way, we see point-to-point rear-wheel gains as high as 19.9 ponies at 4,500 rpm, and a walloping 45.9 lb-ft of torque at a mere 1,900 rpm. Our dyno sidebar tells the whole numbers story.

These results were achieved by using a combination of a free-flowing air induction system, a Bassani 3-inch stainless exhaust, and a revised drivetrain-management calibration from Superchips Custom Tuning.

This power combo gives the 5.4L Triton a rather dramatic personality makeover, resulting in seat-of-the-pants satisfaction far beyond the peak power improvements. In the before-and-after driving comparison, the stock F-150's too-quiet demeanor and tepid throttle response have been banished. Response to throttle input is dramatically improved, taking far less pedal travel to build up a head of steam.

Another benefactor of the recalibration is the F-truck's electronically controlled 4R70W transmission, for which the calibration provides notably crisper shifting, and raises the full-throttle shift point from a mere 4,000 rpm up to 5,000 to take advantage of the newfound power. And where the stock 5.4L speaks in a hoarse whisper, that voice is now deeper and much more authoritative, with just the right amount - and quality - of exhaust and induction snarl. But it only growls when you want it: Brawny as it now sounds under acceleration, the PHP-modified F-150 reverts to calmness and serenity mode on the highway. In other words, there is no tiring resonance or drone to drive you nuts on a long trip.

Overall, the net effect is as if our test mule F-150 4x4 underwent simultaneous speech therapy, weight loss, and fitness programs, culminating in a pickup that now sounds and responds as good as it looks. Now, it's not only built Ford-tough, it sounds and acts it as well.

On the Dyno
The following dyno results chart the considerable horsepower and torque benefits of the PHP package. It's important to note that these results are with a regular-gas calibration; more could have been gained by tuning a more aggressive spark curve for premium fuel, but the subject SuperCab is a work truck, so the owner opted to trade some power for the ability to run regular. Speaking of fuel, the truck's owner - a building contractor - reports a good 2-mpg gain after the modifications, and that the pumped-up F-150 now handles his heavy trailers with much less effort. More power, better driveability, and less fuel burn is a combo that's hard to beat.

  Baseline (Stock) PHP modifications Gain (Loss)
RPM HP Torque HP Torque HP Torque
1,700 84.7 261.8 88.1 272.1 3.4 10.3
1,800 86.4 252.0 99.2 289.4 12.8 37.4
1,900 89.5 247.3 106.1 293.2 16.6 45.9
2,000 96.7 254.0 112.8 296.2 16.1 42.2
2,100 104.9 262.5 118.1 295.3 13.2 32.8
2,200 112.2 267.9 123.7 295.3 11.5 27.4
2,300 120.2 274.4 128.8 294.1 8.6 19.7
2,400 126.2 276.2 135.5 296.5 9.3 20.3
2,500 132.7 278.8 141.5 297.3 8.8 18.5
2,600 136.8 276.4 147.0 297.0 10.2 20.6
2,700 142.6 277.4 153.7 299.0 11.1 21.6
2,800 153.2 287.3 162.9 305.6 9.7 18.3
2,900 162.3 293.9 171.6 310.8 9.3 16.9
3,000 169.2 296.2 179.5 314.2 10.3 18.0
3,100 174.2 295.2 186.2 315.5 12.0 20.3
3,200 183.2 300.7 193.7 317.9 10.5 17.2
3,300 190.5 303.1 202.9 322.9 12.4 19.8
3,400 197.6 305.3 211.2 326.2 13.6 20.9
3,500 202.3 303.6 217.6 326.5 15.3 22.9
3,600 213.2 311.1 223.4 325.9 10.2 14.8
3,700 219.7 311.8 228.4 324.1 8.7 12.3
3,800 223.5 308.9 232.6 321.5 9.1 12.6
3,900 223.1 300.5 236.4 318.4 13.3 17.9
4,000 223.9 294.0 241.2 316.8 17.3 22.8
4,100 227.8 291.8 244.9 313.7 17.1 21.9
4,200 229.4 286.9 248.1 310.3 18.7 23.4
4,300 231.6 282.9 250.7 306.2 19.1 23.3
4,400 233.6 278.9 252.3 301.2 18.7 22.3
4,500 233.2 272.2 253.1 295.4 19.9 23.2
4,600 234.5 267.7 253.2 289.0 18.7 21.3
4,700 234.5 262.0 252.7 282.4 18.2 20.4
4,800 236.8 258.6 250.6 274.2 13.8 15.6
4,900 237.5 254.6 248.2 266.0 10.7 11.4
5,000 238.0 250.0 244.9 257.3 6.9 7.3
SOURCE
Paul's High Performance
3715 Commerce St.
Jackson
MI  49203
Bassani Manufacturing
2900 E. La Jolla
Anaheim
CA  92806
866-782-3283
www.bassani.com
Superchips
134 Baywood Ave.
Longwood
FL  32750
407-774-CHIP
www.superchipscustom.com