Test Drive: 2017 Ford F150 Crew Cab XLT FX4 4X4

So many letters in what is ostensibly just an F150.

As noted in the Honda Ridgeline review, we’re testing a few things, and it’s been suggested to us that for a similar price to a midsize truck, or SUV, you can pretty much have a fullsize.

That’s sort of true, and sort of not.

The model we drove had an MSRP of $55,000 +/-. This is well out of our ballpark, but it was what they had on the lot – it’s a standard dealer thing, you always get to test drive the best, as people will often miraculously find features they didn’t know they couldn’t live without. And trucks are notoriously profitable on a per unit basis. That said, the sales guy was fantastic, very knowledgeable from the back seat, and extremely confident in the product he was selling (he found us an “off road” segment to play on, which was cute, even though it would have been manageable in a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria).

So, exterior first.

It’s fucking big. It just really, really is. We decided the best way not to waste the sales guys time was to go straight home, and make sure it fit in the driveway, lengthwise. It did, but only with a foot or two to spare.

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As equipped, I don’t know what the total length was[1] but “long” would be the fair statement. Four doors and a standard bed will do that. It’s actually a pretty good looking truck, too – I’m a big fan of the drop in the front window/sill. It breaks up what is a staggering amount of sheet metal, and gives it some character. Otherwise, yeah, it’s a big truck. The grill is massive, as is the tailgate, and the 20″ wheels look positively diminutive, with 65 series off-road M/S tires on them. It rides tall, it rides high, and you sit up on it. That said, it drives smaller than the visual clues imply.

Nice Segue, eh?

So, in traffic, it’s not bad. It’s big. There’s no getting around that. I got honked at taking the inside turn on a two-lane at a light, simply because the other driver assumed I was going to run wide. And I got awful close to doing so, but I got away with it, and didn’t clip the median. But it took work to do so. Did I mention it’s big? And that size is bound up in length, when you’re maneuvering it. It fills most of a lane, and when I say “fills” I mean it. You pay attention, or you wander out of the lane, there’s not a ton of margin for error in a standard lane.

Big.

It’s also tall – and I can see the attraction. There was pretty literally nothing that I couldn’t see over in traffic, it dwarfs most vehicles. Again, it’s not bad, but you gotta pay attention, especially with the extra ride-height for the FX4/4×4 package, and big wheels/tires. With all that said, it doesn’t wallow through corners the way I’d have expected. It’s not exactly car like, but it does a reasonable approximation of a car going around a corner, or an on-ramp at speed. In other words, you never feel like it’s going to fall over. And those on ramps? Super easy. The 2.7L twin-turbo V6 is a pretty killer little engine. A lot of guys will only buy the V8s in a truck this size, but unless you’re seriously working hard with your truck (and if you are, you’re probably moving up to the F250 or F350 anyway) you really don’t need it. The 2.7TT has gobs of torque down low, and plenty of power in the mid-range. I didn’t wring it out in the high end, but…. that’s not the kind of vehicle this is. Realistically though, this is a better engine for this truck than a V8 would have been ten years ago. The transmission, same thing – it’s a well-tested 6spd automatic, rather than one of the newer 8,9, or 10 speeds that are becoming available, and it felt.. fine. You could feel shifts if you were into the throttle, but it wasn’t harsh. And it was butter smooth in traffic at low throttle too. The brakes seem adequate, but I’m willing to bet they’re a wear item you replace regularly, given the weight of this behemoth.

Back inside, and the driving position is good – like I said, you sit up on it, not in it. Sight lines are remarkably good, and that’s in part because of that dip in the front doors – you can see DOWN into traffic much more easily. IN terms of looking around you, the mirrors are huge, and so are the back door windows. It’s a full size, the headroom means a lot of glass, and that glass all round makes you feel confident in seeing everything you need to. The backup camera picks up the slack just fine, as well.
Sidenote: This, I think, is more why people are gravitating from cars to trucks & SUV’s. All that glass is like the cars we used to have, that you could actually see out of. Trucks haven’t (yet) been struck by the super-high belt lines, and high-arse of the typical sedan of any size now, that you just… can’t see out of awfully well. I mean, you can, but it does take effort. A modern compact sedan has similar sight lines and blind spots to my 2-door coupe, which is ridiculous.
As with most of what we looked at, there’s blind spot warnings as well, and they’re mostly unobtrusive.
Due to those sight lines, the BSWS is probably unnecessary, too, but it’s becoming expected. But so not necessary when you can see so damn much out of the truck, in all directions.
The Sync3 system for the stereo is great, I had my phone paired in seconds. No Android Auto at the time we drove it, but it was apparently coming. The interior seemed well put together (better than the Colorado you’ll read about next), and the storage is, unsurprisingly, ridiculous. You can hide a laptop in the center console. There’s outlets for everything. For our purposes, the back seat is actually kind of amazing: it’s so big back there that we could, I think, put the seats up against the back wall of the truck, and have the dog in his crate, for safety. It’s huge back there. The only thing I can think of that has more back seat passenger space is a modern minivan.

All in all, I liked it. We even got reasonable fuel economy, given it was brand new, with less than 70km on the clock, and a lot of that idling. We left with the gauge showing 19.7L/100km, and a romp up the highway and half an hour in city (Saturday) traffic had me down to 14.5L/100km. that says to me I was probably getting somewhere closer to 10L/100km in real time numbers. If you drive it sedately, it seems it’ll look after you at the pumps. Abuse it, and you’ll have some fun, but you will definitely pay for it. Or tow, for that matter. I can see anything approaching the ( lbs) tow limit seriously destroying your fuel economy. But it is a full size truck, so, no surprise there.

I can only imagine what it’s like with the 3.5L twin turbo/ecoboost under the hood. I really don’t see the point of the V8, these days. Unless that’s turbo’d too (it’s not).

SO, back to where we started – what can you get it for? Is it cheaper to buy a fullsize than it is to buy a mid-size?

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Not on paper, at least. There MIGHT be money on the hood, but again, Canada’s a bit different than the USA when it comes to pricing and discounts. If we waited for a sale, and took what was on the lot, yeah, we could probably get it down to equal, but I think it’s doubtful we could get this particular set-up for less than $40,000. So, best case scenario would be “same price as the Ridgeline”.

It’s not for us though. It’s just TOO BIG and TOO MUCH. It is 100% ‘murica. Bigger is better, and biggest is best, and that’s really not what we’re looking for. If we were though, I’d rather have this than the Chevy Silverado, or Dodge Ram. It’s… more adult feeling than those two (especially the RAM). Ford has really hit the “mobile office” nail on the head. And, yes, we could get into it in a spec we like, for about $10k less on the MSRP, and then whatever Ford has on the hood, plus financing. It would be workable, and yes, it would be about the same price, for about twenty-five percent more truck. I like it an awful lot more than I expected to, though. I can see how people end up commuting in them.

But at the end of the day, it’s a quarter truck we don’t need, want, or have anywhere to park.

Onto the next one!

[1]I’ll find out

Test Drive : 2017 Honda Ridgeline

So, this is a thing I’m gonna play with – Test Drives. We’re currently shopping for a replacement for the Lil’ Beast, a 2005 Subaru Forester 2.5XS. We bought it cheap from my folks, and it was only supposed to last a year or two. But, it’s been just shy of five years now, and it’s still kicking. But only barely. At this point, it needs rear (drum) brakes (ugh, my most loathed of brake jobs), endlinks, shocks, springs, emissions work (a regular P0457 – major evaporative leak keeps popping the check engine light) which could mean a new gas tank, charcoal canister, and/or vacuum lines. Probably needs new plugs & wires, too, and the engine has recently developed a mild knock, and oil leak.

That’s more than is worth fixing, on an 11 year old car, with 120,000 miles/200,000km + on it. The parts alone are more than the car is worth at this point, and that’s without any labour I can’t do myself.

So, test driving.

The spectrum is pretty wide – primarily because, no one will sell me what I really want: A midsize or fullsize wagon. Don’t really care for SUV’s additional ride-height, I don’t generally find it necessary. I’d rather have the space of an SUV, and the handling of a car.

But that’s a complaint for another time.

First on the list is… a truck?

I guess I should go over the list: I’ve kept it broad (for features and use) and tried not to exclude anything based on preconceptions. At the same time, I’m also trying to keep the cars interesting as well as utilitarian. Hey, I’m a car guy, and some kind of character to the vehicle is important.

So, the list is:

  • 2017 Honda Ridgeline
  • 2017 Ford F150 4×4 Crew XLT
  • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4×4
  • 2017 Subaru Forester
  • 2017 Toyota Rav4 hybrid eAWD

    For the moment, that’s it, but it’s subject to change/addition. Might throw the Ford Explorer in, and maybe the Subaru Outback, as well.

    So, back to the first on the list. A truck. A unibody, car-based truck at that.

    Thing is, @pingoderp (who this will also be partly/largely for) hates the Ridgeline. No, not kidding. She’s not a car person at all – she’s a home design person, I’m the car guy. But something about the 2006-2015 Ridgeline makes her literally apoplectic with rage when she sees one. It seems to be the flying buttress behind the cab – there’s something about the proportions that are thrown off in the design, well, look for yourself:

    So, when the generation two Ridgeline started making the show/review circuit, it was tough to bring it forward to her as an option. I mean, she REALLY hated the old one.

    But it really pushes all the utility buttons, so, we went to look.

    First off, a message to dealers. Telling me to pay a $500 deposit to bring a model in for me to test drive in a few weeks? Yeah, no. It may not be illegal, but it’s seriously immoral. And, it guarantees that I’m not going to do business with you. Civic Motors, Ottawa, I’m looking at you.

    So, second Honda dealership was much more accommodating. Walked in, asked about the truck, and was immediately offered a test drive.

    From this review out, I think I took pictures of the vehicles as we drove them, but I forgot for the Ridgeline.

    First off, the exterior is much less… controversial. It’s obviously a truck, but it’s a truck based on the same platform as the Honda Pilot – basically, from the B pillar forward, it IS a Honda Pilot.

    I’ve only got two complaints about the exterior. First, visually, it still does look very slightly “off” – the bed is slightly too short and it throws the visual balance off, for me. It’s not bad at all, though, just something I’ve noticed seeing a few “in the wild”. Second, however, is corporate bullshittery: You can’t get a color choice (ie. something other than black, white, or grey) until you spend up to the 2nd highest trim level, $10k over base price. That’s fucking bullshit. Color should never be trapped to trim level, and I’m truly tired of parking lots that are a sea of black and white. It’s boring as hell, and they can do better. This doesn’t help. That said, it can always be wrapped, but yeah. Full paint choices, from base on up.

    Ok, so, it looks good. Hows the interior?

    It’s very open. It is, in fact, big. For all intents and purposes, the “mid size” trucks of today are the fullsize trucks of yesterday. Well, about fifteen years ago. What that means is, with modern packaging as well, you can get a lot of space inside. With the Ridgeline, you get the added bonus of the base frame being an SUV. Technically, the Pilot (and Ridgeline) are front wheel drive (although the Ridgeline only comes as AWD in Canada) This really improves the interior packaging in a way that only a FWD base can do. There’s a ton of storage inside, and a good feature set, if you’re willing to spend the money. One of the big things for us is the ability to have a flat storage space inside. THere’s a 90lb Labrador retriever who currently lives in the back of the Subaru:

    Who needs somewhere comfortable. With a flat floor like the Ridgeline has, we can fold half the seat up, and give him a good spot to crash out, and again, with it being FWD/unibody, not body-on-frame, the entry point is lower for him too.

    I’m also pretty impressed with the seats. It’s tough to tell with only twenty minutes behind the wheel, but they feel good, and Honda has always done seats well (reference – 2003 RSX, and 1997 Integra) in my experience. Controls are logical and well organized, again, a Honda standard, and the infotainment seems good too – it was easy to pair my phone with it, and I was able to play music immediately. I don’t think it was Android Auto / Apple Car Play, at the time, but I believe that was an upgrade that was coming. It’ll be something we check on when we go back for a second test drive.

    I still have real problems with backup cameras. They’re helpful, there’s no doubt about it, and the Ridgeline’s is set up so that you can use it to align yourself with a trailer hitch (there’s an additional camera pointing downwards). Everything turns and twists with the vehicle, too, so it gives you a really, really good idea of where you are. It’s just really disconcerting to stare at that dash while you back up, instead of over your shoulder.

    At speed, wind noise is minimal, and that’s on the FWD/car/SUV based aero, rather than truck. And I think that’s part of the slightly off look of the vehicle – the droop on the nose makes it look less truck-like, and you get proportions you don’t expect from a truck. It’s not ugly, to my mind, but it’s “not truck” and that throws some people.

    There’s a ton of power. Honestly, a lot of guys swear that a truck isn’t a truck without a V8, but especially in this class, a nearly-300hp v6 is more than enough. It hammers down on ramps and merges seamlessly. The blind-spot warning is visible, but not intrusive – I actually quite liked it, and if it’s on, just hammer that go-pedal, and you’ll be clear in no time. Cruising on the highway at 115-120km/h, and it’s effectively silent in the cab. You can have a proper conversation with someone in the back seat without yelling at them. It’s really nice. Again, that’s that SUV/car DNA at work. There are real advantages to it. Getting back to the power, the tow rating is 5000lbs, and somewhere around a 1600lb bed load rating. Again, I don’t see this engine and (6 speed automatic) transmission combination having any trouble at all with those numbers. As you can imagine, it cuts the difference between SUV and truck in terms of (on paper) mileage. It’s a Honda, mileage will be good, but limited by the sheer mass of the vehicle. Throttle is progressive and does what it’s told (something that’s becoming rarer, thanks to throttle-by-wire). The steering has a remarkable amount of road feel, as well, despite being electrically boosted, not hydraulic.

    There’s a ton of trinkets and doodads we’re also not going to bother with – if you step up to the 2nd highest trim, the box doubles as a speaker for your tailgate parties. It’s a neat party trick, but that’s about all it is. It’s a shame you can’t get the auxiliary power outlets in the bed without this feature. The upside is, you get the super-hard bedliner and trunk at all trim levels.

    And that’s a major sell for us, as urban users. Lets face it, most of the “truck” use for us will be buying/moving furniture, and the home depot run. And the Ridgeline is the only truck with a trunk. At the back of the bed, under neath it, is a huge, lockable, weather proof storage area – a trunk. That is incredibly useful, and I can see other manufacturers copying it. It’s brilliant. Access to it is easy as well, as the gate on the bed opens to the side, and drops down traditionally, so easy to reach into.

    So, that’s first thoughts and a literal test-drive review. I’m going to do this for everything we drive/have driven. It helps me organize my thoughts, and it might even be interesting for you. They should be shorter from here out, too, as I’ve dealt with the preamble already.

    Of note. When we test drove, the price for the Sport was $39,999 CDN. According to Honda.ca, it’s now $41,488. Honda, what are you playing at? Oh, I see, Ok. Good job, Honda. They’re including freight/PDI in the MSRP, rather than hiding that $1500. That’s actually appreciated. I still think the freight/PDI costs Canadians pay are exorbitant, but that’s a different post.

    If any owners happen to read this? Let me know what your thoughts on ownership are! I’m interested if you’ve discovered any quirks and foibles with the truck.

  • Capsule Review: 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT

    Good Grief. I wrote this three weeks ago, and never posted it.

    My folks have had some Car trouble recently, and while @dogandgarden and myself may benefit from it in a round about way, really this is about them.

    Ok, it’s about me being able to do something I really enjoy. Test-driving cars.

    In this case, the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT, known elsewhere in the world as the Hyundai i30.

    I had the day off last Friday, and took full advantage. Went down to one of my two favoured dealerships, and asked for a test drive. Full disclosure to the sales guy: He wasn’t going to sell me a car that day: I was doing research for my folks purchase. I would suggest to them that they may get additional discounts were they to come up to Ottawa to make their purchase, but, otherwise, it was going to be a long time coming for a sale. He took me out anyway. Good guy.

    And, I kept the drive to a minimum. I didn’t want to chew up all his time, but at the same time, what I really wanted was driving impressions of the car.

    So, fifteen minutes of wheel-time gets me the following:

    1] It’s very quick on its feet. Not fast-like-the-engine, but quick. The steering is really light (that’s the electric steering, rather than hydraulic) and while it’s got a very different feel to it that I’m not a hundred percent about it, I adjusted really quickly to it. Also, with the shorter (2″ shorter than the sedan) wheel base, and 9″ less total length, it turns in QUICK. I pulled a full U-turn without hitting the shoulder. No drama, no BS. It just turned around like I asked it to.

    2] The engine is… adequate. with 148hp and 131 lb.ft of torque, it’s not going to win any races. But it’s enough that you can get your foot down and go, and merge pretty seamlessly. I think there’s probably a market for an “Elantra GT R-spec” optioned with the turbo GDI from the Veloster, but maybe that’d step on the Veloster’s toes in terms of sales.

    3] The transmission is great. They’ve finally got the auto/semi-automatic thing working. Not much in the way of noticable lag between manual shifts, and soft, progressive shifts when it’s in “D”.

    4] The suspension… well, see 1]. It’s no sports car, but it doesn’t list like the Titanic in agressive corners, and it handles transitions very, very well. It’s still, and this is a Hyundai problem still, equating ‘stiff and juddery’ with ‘performance and handling’. My own Genesis Coupe has the same problem. There is a middle ground where you can have good handling and comfort, and Hyundai’s approaching it, but they’re not there yet. I’d also be (personal preference here) have them put winter tires on the stock wheels immediately (in stock 205/55R16 size), let them keep the stock all-season tires, and go buy a set of affordable aftermarket wheels with dedicated summer tires. That’s just how I roll though.

    5] The seats seem great, for the fifteen minutes I was in ’em. Obviously, not as … encompassing… as my GenCoupe seats, but still, firm, comfortable, and relatively well bolstered for a compact economy car. The seat itself was maybe a little short for my liking, but definitely not bad. And it was easy to adjust the seat to find a position that was comfortable for me.

    6] Space. The passenger compartment is huge. It is, basically, the same as the sedan. Plenty of room in the back for two adults, and as is typical for a compact car, pushing it for three on the back seat. The trunk/hatch area is good for the class, but definitely NOT as spacious as the car it replaces, the 2012 Elantra Touring.

    I didn’t really get a chance to see, but the fuel economy, on paper, is stellar. That’d drop a little with my preference in tire set-ups, but I realize that for a lot of people, all-seasons are fine. I disagree. Whole-heartedly. But you can’t change everyone’s mind over night.

    All in all, it’s a really, really good little car. But I think the emphasis is on ‘little’. As it’s dramatically smaller than the sedan, it’s not a lot bigger than the Accent 5-door. I kinda wish Hyundai had left the wheel-base and length alone, and migrated this styling onto a longer platform.

    What I really hope is that, because they didn’t, we’re actually going to get the i40/Sonata Wagon in North America, soon.