If you want a vehicle that has all the modcons, is as comfortable as your favourite armchair and offers a whisper-quiet driving ambience, you might want to think about checking out a full-size pickup.
Yes, you’ll give up handling, ride comfort and manoeuvrability, but I’ve driven full-size trucks from all of the major manufacturers during the past few months and, in every case, I’ve been pleasantly shocked at the upscale ambience these rigs offer. I have no way to prove this, but I’m willing to bet that if someone compared the decibel level readings of pickups and luxury cars, the trucks would come out on top.
They’re not too shabby when it comes to occupant-pampering goodies either. Ford’s F-150 Lariat Platinum Supercrew, for example, has all the basic requirements. Leather interior, climate control, power tilt/telescoping steering, heated/cooled front seats, power sliding rear window, remote start, back-up camera, seating for six, and on and on.
Right from the moment you climb up to get into this rig, the modcons kick in. You open the door, and the power running boards automatically flip out, to provide a convenient little step, and make entry and exit a snap. This is a nice feature, and welcome to those who may be a little short in the inseam.
Inside, nicely contoured leather seats envelope you and although I hesitate to use the word “sumptuous”, that’s what they are. With armrests, too. You can warm or cool your fanny with a multi-setting heat control and, when you start the vehicle, the engine is hardly audible. I’ve driven $100,000-plus luxury-mobiles that have louder drivetrains than this.
My tester had Ford’s new Eco-Boost V-6, which pumps out some 365 horsepower and, in this case, is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and a 4WD system accessed via a dash-mounted rotary knob. Truck enthusiasts could argue the merits of a turbocharged V-6 versus a torque-y V-8 for hours, but as far as I can see, this powertrain has more than enough grunt and towing power and will pull up to 5,125 kilograms, according to Ford, with a 1,415 kilogram payload.
The truck also had the Sync system and, in a word, Ford’s overall control/switchgear layout sucks. The “message centre” can be navigated via a five-setting button on the steering wheel, and you can monitor things like fuel economy, the back-up camera, climate control, sound system, and so forth, but virtually everything requires you to take your eyes off the road. Even if it’s just for a second or two, this is potentially disastrous.
Ford has come under fire for Sync and its unnecessary complexity, and I’ve learned to loathe it. It detracts from what is otherwise a decent driving experience, and this applies to all its models, as far as I’m concerned. Memo to Ford: it’s time to rethink this. That said, the Lariat has a full whack of connectivity. This includes Bluetooth, an in-dash internet hook-up, and an “asset-tracking” ID system that allows you to keep tabs on any equipment stored in the vehicle. Clever.
Despite its robust construction, I can’t see this particular rig doing much off-road duty, although I suppose it could. My tester had the 1.6-metre box, which is absolutely miniscule and not capable of carrying any kind of a serious payload. It does have a flip-out bed extender, so you can get some cargo on it, and both a fold-down tail-gate step and handy grab bar make for easier access into the bed, but this is not a serious workhorse.
In fact, the whole idea behind the Lariat is to appeal to gentlemen ranchers and farmers. It’ll get you through most terrain, absolutely, but this is the kind of truck that the boss drives when he goes around to check up on things. It’s the contemporary version of the Ranchero and not really meant to get down and dirty, though it can.
Part of the reason for this is, of course, its price tag. Base price for the F-150 Lariat Platinum is around $60,000, and with extras such as the trailer towing package ($1,000), Platinum package ($1,000) and pickup bed extender ($350), you’re in the $65,000 neighbourhood, before taxes and extras. By the time the dust settles, and all the various levies have been paid, you’ll exceed 70 large, and that makes for an expensive off-road bush beast.
My tester was a 2011 model, but, according to Ford, there will be no substantive changes, either in pricing structure or specifications, with the 2012 model.
2011 Ford F-150 Lariat Platinum Supercrew
Type: Full-size, six-passenger pickup truck
Base Price: $60,499; as tested: $64,719
Engine: 3.5-litre, turbocharged V-6
Horsepower/torque: 365 hp/420 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Drive: Rear-wheel with 4WD
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 14.0 city/9.5 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra, Dodge Ram 1500, Honda Ridgeline