Bigger is better when hauling is the subject.
My first impression, when I climbed up into the leather captain’s chair to take the helm of the Ford F-150, was that this was one huge pickup truck. Of course, this could be because my everyday ride is; a Nissan pickup that was considered mid-size when it came off the assembly line in 1994 and which now weighs in as positively puny. But I like the fact that the Nissan can be driven like a car and parked in compact spaces, and while it’s only marginal as a tow vehicle, it’s adequate for my purposes. So when I started driving the Ford, I initially thought it represented the worst of our supersizing ethos. (It didn’t help that I happened to be on a bumpy stretch of the 710 that showcased the downsides of the pickup’s stout boxed frame and live rear axle.)
But a few days later, when I started packing for a trip for a race weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, I had an epiphany: Size matters when you’ve got tons of *** to haul. In my Nissan, accommodating all my gear requires methodical storage. But the Super Crew F-150 was like a black hole that stuff just disappeared into (though, happily, I was able to extract it later). Better still, the pickup – equipped with a capable 300 hp 5.4-liter V-8 – towed like a dream. For long stretches of the drive, in fact, I completely forgot that I was pulling a tandem-axle open trailer with a race car mounted on top of it. I just set the cruise control to the limit-plus-two, cranked the CD player and boogied on down the road.
When the current F-Series debuted in 2004, it was a revelation. Since then, a lot of worthy rivals have materialized, especially from Japan, and a lot of them boast better numbers than the Ford. But I still think the F-150 offers the finest and most organic package of comfort, utility and style. Speaking of style, I happened to be driving the King Ranch edition, which features truly impressive swathes of exquisitely stitched saddle-quality leather and lots of tasteful wood trim. I have to admit that; I’m not clear about what Ford sees in these special-edition models. (Remember the Bill Blass Lincolns?) And personally, I find an MSPR north of $40,000 hard to stomach for a pickup. But the two-tone paint was undeniably eye-catching, and the truck was clearly a hit in the manly man paddock at Laguna Seca.
That said, my larger point is just that – that larger is better, in many cases. Not as a statement that we believe in conspicuous consumption. But because more space means more possibilities, and that’s a good thing no matter what your political persuasion. Contrary to what many environmental activists believe, Americans don’t buy big cars and trucks because manufacturers build them. On the contrary, manufacturers build them because Americans buy them. I’m not sure if I’m ready for a full-size pickup myself. But if and when that day comes, the F-150 will be on my short list of possibili