Friday, November 4, 2011

Big Ford F-150 is a hard-working brute

Sacramento, California – I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’ve never been a big truck guy.

I have nothing against big pickups; I’ve test driven scores of them over the years. It’s just that they don’t fit my urban/suburban lifestyle. If I was running a farm or a ranch, or making a daily run to a construction site, things would be different.

But in my world, I’m looking for a big pickup’s cargo area perhaps two days out of the year – one maybe to help someone make a house move, and another to transport a tall Christmas tree down from the Sierra Nevada foothills.

And so when I took delivery of a Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCab (145-inch wheelbase with Lariat Series equipment), I was flat-out intimidated. It was enormous. Parked next to a Jeep Patriot sport-utility vehicle, the F-150 looked entirely capable of swallowing the Patriot in its giant cargo bed and ripping down the road.

I did not step into the F-150; it was more like a boyhood flashback of climbing up to the top level of the playground monkey bars. Up in the F-150’s cockpit, I could see surrounding homes for miles around.

Right away I feel like I’m in trouble. The exterior mirrors stick out so far that I’m fearful of bumping off sidewalk pedestrians as I drive down the street. Thankfully, the mirrors fold inward once you’re parked. And parking is best executed in a wide, expansive area. I avoided taking the F-150 into anything resembling a tight parking lot, believing I’d get struck and be trapped there for life.

People who drive big pickups on a regular basis have every right to call me a city-fied wimp, because everything I fear in a big truck is exactly what its fans love. In the tester, that translated to plenty of room for up to six folks, the cargo-carrying capacity of an aircraft carrier and enough comfort/convenience features to make your driving chores seem like a vacation on Luxury Island.

I must say that I was impressed with the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, which I initially guessed would be overmatched by the F-150’s imposing frame. Not a chance; the EcoBoost powered the big brute along with impressive ease. Fuel mileage is a tepid 15 miles per gallon in the city and 21 mpg on the highway, but hey, I understand that buyers of this truck aren’t looking for Prius-like numbers.

Interior comfort and ride were excellent, and the F-150’s steering was delightfully light. Dashboard controls were large, easy to see and a snap to use.

I did not like the turn signal shifter/control that does not snap into place like most others do. This is probably more of a “me” thing as I just can’t get used to this particular turn signal device. I’m never quite sure what to do when I’m changing lanes, and it seems like I’m always turning the signal too far or not far enough. Turn signal-challenged? I plead guilty.

This particular trim level of the F-150 is a nearly $40,000 investment and should be treated as such. You buy this truck to do some serious work for a long period of time. And while I may be a pickup wimp, I’ve driven enough of them to know that the F-150 is a hard worker that is not likely to let you down.

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