To a farmer, this wouldn't be early, it'd just be go-time. Day's breaking and the road’s a-callin'; I don't have to get my hands dirty today, but I do have a little work to do. Miles south, straight through the heart of not one but two cities, there's a museum full of this thing's grandpappies. Saddle up.
Meet Canada's favourite modern pickup truck. Thus far in 2015, we've bought just about 60,000 of the things – by comparison, only half as many Honda Civics have been sold, year to date.
Surely there can't be that many hay bales needing hauled all over Hell's half-acre. Wait, how big are the prairies again? Well, okay. Maybe there's something to the rugged image of the F-Series pickup. There sure are a lot of wheat kings due east of here.
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But I'm headed South at daybreak, right into the quiet heart of downtown Vancouver. Half past five and there's hardly anyone on the road. It's a straight shot through the core, and then out along the Georgia Viaduct and down one of the big North-South roads, headed for highway 99.
Looking through the spec-sheet of my $56,449 tester, you might be forgiven for thinking that this big blue beast is a bit of a dude ranch for soft-palmed city types (i.e. me). Reverse camera. Satellite navigation. Panoramic sunroof. Power sliding rear window. Tailgate steps. Infotainment.
Hoo-eee boy, that's shure one purdy machine ya got there. Keep 'er real shiny, do ya?
Well, okay, yes, this FX4-badged truck is a bit never-done-a-hard-day's-work New Country, but it's still got proper roots. Cloth seats, for instance. A solid bedliner and tie-downs.
“Well it's a hell of a battle to try to raise cattle, in the prettiest place on the hoof,” sings Corb Lund on the stereo, backed up by his Hurtin' Albertans, “Oil refiners and lot sub-dividers, got land prices right through the roof.”
Amen brother – what ever happened to the workin' truck? But then again, deep discounting and cheap lending rates make it easy to get into an F-150 in pretty much the spec you want. Add in that the blue oval's Tonka-toy is pretty much the same price as a V8 Mustang, and the heft and practicality of the F-150 starts looking even better.
Then there's what it's like to drive, out here on the open road. Coming up on the US border, I slow speed, drop all the windows, and roll right up the booth without a car in front of me. “Mornin', sir – where's home?”
The briefest preamble and I'm out on the I-5, cruise control set and headed for Seattle. That's one city dusted off without a hitch, and I'm ahead of schedule. Pull out to pass a big rig and the twin-turbocharged V6 under the hood hisses briefly as we pick up speed.
Aha, know here's something interesting about the new F-150: modernity has arrived to the pickup truck with a huge drop in weight and the arrival of the smaller-displacement forced-induction engine. The 2.7L Ecoboost V6 makes 325 hp at 5,750 rpm and 375 lb-ft of torque at just 3,000 rpm.
That's plenty of poke, especially down low in the rev range, and the F-150 responds with plenty of alacrity. Curb weight is down to 2,130 kg for a Supercrew 4x4, pretty decent for a full-sized heifer like this. The extensive use of aluminum throughout the truck is to thank for the greatly reduced mass, and given how popular the F-150 is overall, you can expect some interesting things to start happening in the scrap metal market.
Right, well, I'm across the border now and it went smoother than expected – time for some coffee. I'm not about to venture far off the highway, and my stomach's rumbling too. The golden arches? Sure, maybe I'll do an extra mile around the park later this week.
One Egg McMuffin later, I'm back on the road, sippin' on java and making time. The closer we roll to Seattle, the worse the traffic gets. Closing in on the big Boeing plant in Everett, things start getting really heavy. It should be pretty annoying.
But the 2015 F-150 sits up high like a experienced mount in a herd of milling steers. It's big enough that people let you over, tall enough that you can see ten cars down to where some texting idiot is leaving a huge gap, and quick enough with the turbocharged scoot to make a lane change in a hurry.
It's also just a big ol' relaxed ride in here. Truth be told, I'm utterly in love with this thing after the first hour. Cloth seats don't get sticky in the heat, the stop-start system helped get me through Vancouver's seemingly unsynchronized traffic lights without feeling like I was wasting too much fuel, and the ride is better than I expected. Heck, even the wide sill of the door is at the right height for resting an arm out the window as speeds drop.
The F-150 is as well-behaved as a rather large car would be on the highway. Rough pavement and the occasional seam makes it shudder a bit, more than a unibody vehicle would, but it rides smoother and more comfortably than the last Toyota Tacoma I drove.
And it's more efficient too. Ford's claimed fuel economy for some Ecoboost offerings is at best optimistic and at worst misleading. However, the official 10.4 L/100 km that I'm supposed to get is just 0.4 L/100 km off the mark when I fill up outside Tacoma on that sweet, sweet, inexpensive American fuel. Wait, what's the exchange rate again? Oh. Damn.
I've given myself five hours to get to the LeMay Museum in plenty of time – it opens at 10 am. Actually, I'd indicated to their PR staff that I might be showing up as late as noon, given how sluggish Seattle traffic can be when the lineups start. Even so, I'm there a half hour early, in plenty enough time to log on to the complimentary WiFi and correct an article for submission in the parking lot. My laptop's low on juice: no problem, there's a plug right in the dash.
The LeMay Museum in Tacoma sits in a huge multi-storey building that looks half like a modern ark and half like a hi-rise hood scoop. Exhibits are always rotating through, and the place is a hub for the local collector community with car shows and the like; I'm here to see their collection of F-Series Fords on the top floor.
There's plenty to look at, from a customized F-1 to a purple F-100 with a Fordmatic transmission to a couple of early SuperDuty trucks. They're all shiny these days, but a few of these trucks spent their early days working, and simply survived.
In fact, one of them might be considered a spirit animal of sorts. The single example of a Mercury M-Series – an F-Series rebranding sold only in Canada – is an original Saskatchewan truck. They found it in a barn in Chilliwack, the place I was born. Er, that's the town I was born in, not the barn.
After filling my camera's card with photos, I head back out on the road, stopping in at a convenience store to pick up a sandwich. The F-150 has more cubby holes and hideaways than the Millennium Falcon, and I soon have them all filled with wrappers and empty water bottles. I head into Seattle to rendezvous with a friend, but he's got a new kid and plans are called off at the last minute. The F-150 squeezes through the narrow streets, up and down the hills without too much effort. I take it down to the docks and take a picture as one of the amphibious tour vehicles comes out of the water.
Then, a stop off to check out a collection of classic Subaru kei cars while rush hour tails off. Funnily enough, the Ford almost looks like it's painted World Rally Blue. How appropriate.
Then, the long drive back to the border as the sun falls towards the horizon. Stop-and-go. Slowdowns. Picking, inevitably, the slowest line at the border.
But, with time, the traffic thins. People are getting home, putting their feet up. By the time I pull into my street, I've been on the road for a dozen hours, not counting stop-offs.
Thing is, I'm not tired at all. The Ford's been as smooth as you'd like, easy to drive, and even the fuel economy wasn't that bad. It doubled as an office and a lunchroom, blasted away the heat, and carved up city traffic like a compact car.
You can see why they sell so many of these machines. Apart from cost and perhaps fuelling, there are really very few drawbacks to using a truck like this as your daily driver. Throw a couple thousand bucks worth of downhill mountain bikes or hitch up a boat for the weekend and you've fully justified it.
Instead, later in the week I head out to buy a single bag of kitty litter. This seems like overkill.
The Chilliwack boy in me half wishes I could justify this thing. Maybe if we lived east of the city, I could. But we're long gone from Saskatchewan out here, so it's not to be. A shame, that. I'll be giving this one back with a fond pat on the flank and a backwards glance. Good job, hoss.
Pricing: 2015 Ford F-150 Supercrew 4x4
Base Price: $41,549
Options: $13,100 (Electronic locking axle - $400; 2.7L Ecoboost V6 – $1300; Camera, rear parking sensors, XLT equipment - $6000; inflatable rear belts - $200; Blind spot monitoring - $650; panoramic moonroof - $1750; navigation - $800; box and tailgate steps - $700; side mirror spotlights - $250; 18” alloys - $500; bedliner - $550)
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $56,449