Ford F-150 XL MidBox Review

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
ford f 150 xl midbox review

I suspect that a large number of readers are dismayed by America’s love for the full-size pickup truck. It may be an inconvenient truth about cars, but there are still plenty of working people who love the gas-guzzling genre with a passion undimmed by concerns about global warming and America’s [entirely theoretical] energy independence. Drilling down one of Houston’s warehouse districts, the Ford F150 XL MidBox got more thumbs-up than a popular gladiator bleeding on the Coliseum floor. Admit it: other than all that PC stuff, what’s not to like about a workhorse with steel wheels and rubber floors?

Thankfully, mercifully, the F-series’ form follows blue collar function, creating an inherently beautiful vee-hicle. While the F150’s chrome accents and aluminum hoops make it suitable for rodeos or Rodeo Drive, the XL-grade trimmings render it the perfect partner for a new generation of WPA artisans. You know, if things keep heading in that direction…

Amongst the pickupscenti, the F150 XL’s MidBox option is its claim to fame; it's a design so ingenious that one wonders why it took FoMoCo so long to put it into production. Our long wheelbase tester’s integrated toolbox was wedged between a short wheelbase bed and a regular cab. With its OEM handles and locks, door strut-assists, interior lighting and a multitude of storage options; the MidBox keeps a clean shop.

Considering the value of work site tools and the ever-present danger of theft, the $3500 MidBox option works hard to earn its keep. For those who still find a cramped toolbox more appealing, a mid-cycle upgrade ties the MidBox’s locking doors to the key chain’s idiot-proof remote transmitter. How great is that?

Use that fob to get inside the F150 and you'll discover that the standard cab is actually an extended cab. Open the F-150 XL's rear-hinged doors and there’s room for a change of clothes, work boots, several shotguns, loads of jerky (and beer) and a month’s worth of paperwork. Gaze upstream of the surprisingly comfortable split bench seat and it’s standard fare F150. Aside from the XL’s utilitarian use of flat black and drowsy gray trimmings, the cohesive design and top-notch ergonomics are still the high watermark for the class.

That said, the XL is the anti-luxury truck. You get air conditioning, cruise control and a somewhat respectable AM/FM stereo with a high-tech digital clock. And that’s about it. Of course, nothing else is needed from a work truck; (component) failure is not an option when your livelihood is on the line.

Of course, getting to the workplace is kinda important too. The F-150’s optional 4.6-liter V8 is better than the standard wheezy V6, but it takes 4000 revs to achieve 294 lb-ft of torque. Even with assertive throttle mapping and a relatively flat powerband, the entry-level V8’s mediocre acceleration (zero to sixty takes around ten seconds) ensures Hoon-proof job security and respectable fuel efficiency for the corporate balance sheet.

While the F-150’s no longer the truck world’s freshest face, its chassis and suspension tuning still help it cut through onramps with authority. Drive smoothly and the F-150 XL feels refined and– dare I say it– taut. Upset the beast’s momentum, and the front end plows harder than a John Deere snow blower. Bottom line: the F-150’s safe enough for government work, and the vented disc brakes (with ABS) take some terror out of a panic stop.

While pickups aren’t known for their ride quality, the MidBox-saddled F-150 XL wafts better than many a luxury car– although this configuration features extra body flex on rough roads. Oh well. With the cruise control engaged and a Zeppelin rock block on the beat box, I couldn’t help but imagine how much cooler my job would be if I fixed actual things rather than cubicle concerns. Cruising in the MidBox makes the dream seem more palatable, more believable. Bob Vila, eat your heart out.

But all work and no play make the F-150 a dull toy. Load the grille in the bed. Carpet the MidBox in ice cubes and frosty beverages, stock the shelves with ribs and fixins and the XL becomes the largest freezer this side of a refrigerated rail car. And when Miller Time makes way for nap time, pull the floor’s drain plugs and prepare for another week of work. Even better, the F-150 MidBox trumps the Honda Ridgeline’s supposed suburbanite practicality for way less coin. And it’s a real truck that holds 2000lbs with ease, Bubba.

While the F-150’s MidBox configuration isn’t for everyone, I reckon the [current] lack of availability in the Ford Super Duty is its biggest failure. But sometimes creativity separates the men from the boys, and the Magna-sourced MidBox is nothing if not innovative. Eye-openers like this are what the F-150 needs to stay ahead of its ever-stronger competition, and retain its sales crown.

[ Joe Myers Ford provided the vehicle reviewed]

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  • IronEagle IronEagle on Jan 25, 2008

    Rangers are good trucks i'd love to have a 4x4 version to take in the woods. I don't know why Ford has not done a rehaul yet.

  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Jan 25, 2008

    Steve Biro: Ranger will be dead. That could change, but its factory is slated to close come 2009. And since you mentioned it, a Ranger XL review is in the pipeline.

  • Chris P Bacon I had a chance to drive 2 Accords back to back as rentals. The first was a base ICE LX. I was underwhelmed. The next was a Sport Hybrid. Like night and day. So much so that I ventured on to the grounds of my local dealer. Was looking for a Sport or Sport-L. Autotrader showed nothing within 250 miles. Dealer confirmed. Told me I'd have to "get on the list" for a delivery, and there was a non-negotiable $3k "market adjustment". I guess I'll have to hope to see one on the Emerald Aisle again.
  • DungBeetle62 I just this past weekend rented one of these for 5 days in SoCal and with $5.29 the best I could find for gas, this ride's wonderful combination of comfort and thrift was welcome indeed. My biggest real beef is with the entire Accord product line - with that angle of backlight, not having this as a 5-door hatch seems a real waste of space.
  • RICHARD I bought my wife the exact car in the picture 3 weeks ago. Acceleration is average for the class. Smoothness of the powertrain, competent ride dynamics, quietness, and comfort are definitely pluses. The styling is restrained for sure, but we weren't looking for a shouty car that doesn't deliver on the design statement. She drives about 8,000 miles per year, mostly around town. At the current rate, we expect to buy about 16 gallons of gas per month. This really is a car that appears to do everything well rather than excelling at a few things to the detriment of others.
  • Ajla "2010-2019 Borrego"The Borrego only had model years 2009 - 2011 in the United States. The Borrego/Mohave did exist in international markets beyond them but the NHTSA of the United States would not be handling a recall on those. It's annoying that apparently the manufacturer, the federal regulator, and automotive press didn't notice this.
  • SilverCoupe The last Accord I test drove was in 1978, but I ended up buying a VW Scirocco instead. The Accords have put on quite a bit of weight since, then, but then again, so have I!