Since we both live in Houston, and I have aspirations of writing more material for TTAC in my copious lack of free time, it only made sense that Sajeev Mehta and I should eventually get together and hang out, so that’s exactly what we did at Ford’s come-kick-our-tires event for the new F150 trucks, including their new EcoBoost (turbocharged) V6 truck engine. Since I’m the epitome of not-a-truck-guy, I thought I’d toss in some random thoughts from somebody coming to this experience completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into.
First, when did Ford start building decent car interiors? The last time I spent any quality time in the interior of a Ford was a long-term loaner of a 2002-or-so Ford Mustang Convertible with the pokey V6 (loaned to me for most of 2007). That car had no power, had radically inconsistent and ugly panel gaps, and had just no soul at all. Comparing that to a 2011 Ford F150 makes me want to reevaluate my opinion of the whole brand. Maybe Ford’s finally got it figured out.
Okay, these trucks have insane amounts of (unnecessary?) ground clearance, and different models have a variety of different devices to give you a step to get up. (Some fixed, some that fold down and fold back up again by themselves. I’m sure those things never break.) The seats are comfortable. Notably, the back seats of the crew cab models, with the front seat all the way back, yield excellent legroom. Stunning! Also impressive is that Ford seemed to do a decent job of human factors engineering. The dashboard isn’t quite as space-cadet-like as a modern Honda/Acura, yet there was some definite attention to detail. Buttons were, for the most part, suitably large sized.
This contrasts with the Chevy Silverado they had, for drag-racing comparison, which to my mind totally flunks any human factors test. Its radio and a/c buttons are unnecessary tiny and far away; somebody at GM needs to go read up on Fitts’s Law. Furthermore, the Silverado’s door handle is colored the same as the panel it’s mounted in, and mounted below the arm rest, giving me a few seconds of bemusement before I sorted out how to get the damn door open. I also tried the Dodge Ram Hemi thing they had for comparison. Its interior wasn’t as tricked out as either the Chevy or the Ford, but there was at least some evidence that usability engineers had input into the design.
I tried plugging my Android phone (a Droid X running the latest Froyo) into the SYNC connector. It “connected”, but the car failed to see any of the music on my phone; it did at least give power to charge my phone. Some web pages I’ve read seem to indicate that Ford will be coming out later with something called Ford SYNC AppLink that will fix this problem. For now, you can still use the analog audio jack.
From my car-centric worldview, these monstrous trucks have a bouncy ride on uneven pavement, although I suspect that’s part of the compromise you make. Aside from that, they drive, accelerate, brake, and handle quite reasonably. I was also impressed with the gas mileage. On the maybe two-mile loop they let us drive, the EcoBoost model got me 16.3 mpg, driving in a “normal” fashion (i.e., neither hoontastic nor hypermiling). From my 2005 Acura TL, I’d expect maybe 18 mpg doing the same thing, which is all the more impressive given that a Ford F150 is radically larger and heavier than my TL.
Would I buy an F150? I don’t think it would even fit in my garage! No, this isn’t the car for me, but if I was shopping for a full-size truck, I’d certainly consider it. (Note to Ford: next time, bring along some Japanese competition. I’d like to see an F150 side-by-side with Nissan and Toyota’s latest.)