On my way to breakfast in the F-150 King Ranch, a box fresh Rolls-Royce Phantom cut me off. The similarities between the two vehicles are striking. Both are enormous rigs; BMW’s high-end Roller is one of the few vehicles on the road not dwarfed by Ford’s biggest ever F-150. Both machines are gas-guzzlers sold on image and luxury. Sure the prices are several hundred T-bills apart and the Ford’s a lot less dirt aversive, but the most important difference is that the Roller is an aristocrat by birth. The F150 King Ranch is Horatio Alger on wheels, an affordable icon. Or is it?
Make no mistake: the new F-150 is a beautiful vehicle, easily the best looking pickup truck crafted by hand of man. Head on, it laughs at the Rising Sun’s weedy take on aesthetic intimidation and shakes its head in disbelief at the overwrought big-rig wannabe nonsense peddled by The Dodge Boys. The General’s new GMT900s are (still) the F-150’s only competition, but they are just evolutions of older, uglier vehicles; the F-150 is a modern, clean-sheet design that simply nails it. If Carl Jung were alive, he would designate Ford’s brot-und-butter pickup the archetypal pickup.
A leisurely stroll around the behemoth confirms the sentiment. With bed’s walls that rise to the level of my neck (I’m 5’11”), the gargantuan machoness cannot be denied. In fact, any small design missteps that might exist are rendered moot by the sheer scale of this handsome monster. For instance, the aluminum wheels are gorgeous, but you would never know that the King Ranch rolls on 20” Dubs. They wheels appear pint-sized beneath this giant’s fenders.
Much ink has been spilled by journalists fawning over the F-150’s luxurious cabin. I’m saying it here and now; they’re all high, every last one of them. The quality of plastics found within is exactly the same as the hell-hole cockpit of the lowly Focus. It’s the same radio– in a $40,000 vehicle! Besides being cheap, most of the controls are hidden behind the Texas-sized steering wheel or literally out of reach. With my shoulders planted against the back of the chair, I could get a finger on the volume control, but not a thumb.
Of course, worrying about achieving a proper driving position in a vehicle of this magnitude is a waste of energy. Besides, the King Ranch’s pre-worn leather captains’ chairs are big enough to seat two. With your left hand holding the tiller at 9 O’clock, there’s nothing for your left elbow to even touch, let alone rest upon. Within five miles your arm will be dangerously on top of the wheel, gangsta/moron style. The situation is even worse for your left foot, which has no option but to flail about.
The F150 King Ranch drives like a… big truck. Everyday bumps make the pickup’s chassis shudder so badly you’ll swear it’s epileptic. The steering offers drivers less feel than a leper’s fingers. Even with a 5.4-liter V8 kicking out 300 horses @ 5,000-rpm and 365 foot pounds clocking-in @ 3,700-rpm, gunning the F-150 does little except increase oil companies’ stock values. Yes, you could tow your house around town if you wanted to– provided your double-wide weighs 9,500 pounds– but serious schleppers will opt for an F-250 with a turbo-diesel and 570 ft. lbs of torquey delight.
The King Ranch’s configuration could be its greatest drawback. As a SuperCrew four-door, the bed is only 5’5” long. Even if you can get your tall, power lifting buddies to load it, you can’t haul much. Those much heralded 8’x4’ sheets of plywood? It ain’t gonna happen. Unfortunately, KR’ing the kiddies to the mall for Justin Timberlake’s latest presents its own set of problems. Chief among them: parking.
The King Ranch stretches the tape at over 18’5”. Maneuvering the behemoth into a tight spot is a task I would gladly wish upon my worst enemies. Luckily, is comes with back-up sensors. Unfortunately, there are no sensors up front. Seated as high an elephant’s eyes, the parking ain’t easy. Get used to leaving your Ranch a few blocks (counties?) from your destination. (XXXL drivers should consider the exercise a benefit, but won’t.)
Let’s be honest. The F-150 is America’s Camry, outselling every other vehicle in the nation for three decades straight. Not because Americans lead active, outdoor lifestyles, but because we’re too damn fat. Both physically and mentally. However, the permanent reality of $3 a gallon unleaded and a 30-gallon gas can are already changing things real fast. Call me an out-of-touch left-coast elitist, but going for donuts in a 5281-lbs. passenger-vehicle is irresponsibly idiotic. Unless you use the F150 King Ranch for work, you– we can’t afford it.
[Ford provided the vehicle reviewed, insurance, taxes and a tank of gas.]