COAL 19: 2016 F-150 SuperCrew FX4 – A Crummy End of an Era

I had lost one of the key fobs for the old Expedition. It was right around Christmas and while waiting for the parts desk lineup to clear I wandered around the showroom to see what was happening. And what seemed to be happening was there were some good deals on trucks with really low interest rates. I had test driven a nice little 2.7 Ecoboost Supercab during the summer and I liked the way it drove. I especially liked that with the aluminum body, a new vehicle had actually gotten lighter than its predecessor.  So we spent a cold December 31st test driving a few F-150s.  I knew I didn’t need a great big long 3.5 Ecoboost powered monster.  But since the deal was right I guess I’d take one in a pinch.

For some reason I’m drawn to Ford vehicles when the company makes a bold move. So often of course with Ford, these bold moves go a bit sideways. From my readings on the internet, it seems somewhere between 130% and 140% of F-150 Ecoboosts will either; suffer catastrophic failure, not perform like a real truck or cause infertility in all those who drive them.  Anyways, despite some concerns, we drove two nearly identical trucks back to back. One had the Coyote V8 and one had the 3.5 EB.  The V8 one had the absolute nerve to downshift on a slight upgrade just like the old Expedition would do. The Ecoboost had a lot more low end grunt and that’s what I want in a truck, so twin turbo V-6 it was.  The truck had a bunch of good equipment on it: skid plates, rear locker, max tow package, heavy springs, trailer backup assist, navigation and all the other XLT stuff.  There was dumb stuff too like the twenty-inch wheels and black vinyl stripes that I maybe should have peeled off, but I’m used to them now and they help me figure out which truck is mine in the Superstore parking lot. These things are some popular in Canada.

This truck is close enough to a current offering that I suppose driving impressions might matter to some people.  The ride is a bit jiggly on the highway but other than that it’s pleasant enough, if not as comfy as the old Expedition was. The ride off road and unladen is heinous. Any coffee in the cupholders will be all over the place at the first bump if not securely lidded. I guess that’s what happens with the extra payload and low profile tires. I can’t imagine too many people haven’t driven an EcoBoost F-150 as they have been around for quite a while, but for those who have not, the power available at any speed is quite a bit more than adequate and available very low down in the tach.  It spends a lot of its time at 1500 RPM in 6th gear. Boot it at 40 miles an hour and the tires will chirp on the downshift.  If you are feeling relaxed and taking your time, fuel economy is reasonable, especially considering the capability on hand.  I had an hour in slow traffic and got 8.6 l/100 or so according to the readout which is I believe 27 mpg US.  Also note the tach down at 1400 where it should be.

I pretty much treat it like a diesel in terms of usage when I have the luxury.  No short trips, plenty of oil changes, and plug it in on cold days, so I have not had the timing chain and fuel dilution issues that some experience with this engine.  The sum total of what has been replaced in 7 years is one wheel bearing and some front brake pads. One rear electric door lock is temperamental and I should change it.

It’s been off road a bit which means that I should count front air deflectors  (Part Number FL3Z-17626-AA) as things replaced, they cost $48.96 each time they get removed by terrain. I’d leave them off but I’ve read they help with cooling.

Most of this truck’s miles are connected with skiing and winter activities. I wasn’t too happy with its icy road performance.  I put on Studded Nokian Hakkapellita winter tires on it which tamed some of its habits.  As it’s part time 4×4 it really pushes the front out and won’t steer in 4WD or the back spins out in 2WD.  It’s been at most of the major slopes in Western Canada at various ski races and spent more than half its miles on ice and snow so in the big scheme of things it is good enough in winter. And a better choice for hitting an elk.

Having all the room a full size crew cab offers is good for multitasking type days on the mountain.

Although it isn’t fantastic on an icy road, all the traction technology means it doesn’t get stuck easily. Lock the rear differential and floor it in high range with the traction control on and only one wheel has to find traction to extricate the truck from any ditch-type misadventure. Of which there have been several.

And if all else fails there are tire chains in the well-equipped toolbox.

In the summer it goes on camping trips.  Since my camper trailer is so small there is plenty of capacity left over for other things like a motorcycle.

And if there is a bigger trailer to pull, that’s no problem either.

I’ve decided that desk work is slowly killing me and so in the last few years have gotten a bit more serious about hiking again. Back in the day, I did quite a few epic hikes and one thing I did not do was take enough pictures.

I decided to rectify my lack of hiking photographs by starting to carry a proper camera again. So I have been on a mission to hit all the old spots and a few new ones while my knees and I are young enough to still come down the steep trails. It’s always the downhills that get me.

And to get to these spots it’s nice to have a truck that can get me there.  The pack is a classic Trapper Nelson from 1972.  Totally superseded by modern packs and for good reasons, but there is still some satisfaction to be gained in taking it to the top of a mountain.

I like knowing that when I get back to the truck it will just start and there will be no drama.  And the seat heaters will dry out my clothes a bit on the way home.

And some days you just feel like getting out and getting away for a drive looking for berries, rock hounding or just poking around in the truck to see what you can see.

Blue is an easy colour to work with when I’m practicing photo effects.

This F-150 has been as far North as Dawson City Yukon, pulling the little camper trailer behind. It was nice on the Alaska Highway having the giant 136 litre tank so I could avoid the more expensive places to fuel up. Despite the preparations people take, I think the ideal car for an Alaska trip would be a Lincoln Town Car or maybe a Toyota Camry.  I think there are a lot of old guidebooks out there or something as people seem to really take their preparing for that road quite seriously.

On that subject I have an observation. One hot day last year out in the bush I remember a couple of older smaller trucks prepped for overlanding; the big tires, the traction mats, hundreds of pounds of steel fancy racks and guards, spare fuel etc.  What they really needed was less weight and a better cooling system as one was seriously overheating with the load and steep grade. I figured that was probably me back in the day, and that maybe I was getting smarter with this big powerful truck.

I’m not afraid to do work with the Ford, though I don’t push the limits as hard as I did with the old white F-150.

It’s very hard to picture not having a truck in my life.  I am always moving heavy and dirty things.

Thirty five years after the first picture, still hauling mountain bikes in a blue Ford truck. Time passes so quickly.

On the subject of time passing too quickly and getting older. When I was young my Dad would often take me for a ride out in his F-250 crummy, sometimes over Premier Ridge, which is a great place to see wildlife. We would bounce along looking up at the mountains and he would talk about the mountains he had climbed and the ones we would soon be climbing together.  We would stop at Ta Ta Creek store for a Tiger ice cream on the way home.

Shortly after I had purchased this blue truck, my dad who appeared in a lot of these adventures of mine, sadly developed dementia and eventually had to live in a care home.  But every once in a while, I was able to get him out of there and we used that time to have an adventure or two.

The roles had now been reversed. I helped put him in my crummy, a distant descendant of his old 1970 Crew Cab, put some 1960s music on, so he could listen to something familiar, as we bumped along the same roads at Premier Ridge that he had driven a lifetime ago. We talked as we looked up at the mountains he had climbed when he was a younger man.  He was pretty content to do this and was happily planning for the next day’s hike that in his somewhat malfunctioning brain he thought we were going on.  That is when he wasn’t asking about which of the Beatles was still alive. Paul and Ringo I kept telling him.  And telling him.  And telling him.  Then we stopped for an ice cream.

Eventually the dementia got worse as it does as it runs its course. He passed away a year and a half ago now.  When we went to spread his ashes he took his last motorcycle ride, on a Harley, as BSAs are thin on the ground around here.

Once we hit the bush he was in the truck for a final ride and then finished his journey on his old Trapper Nelson Pack board so we could spread his ashes at a place he loved.

I miss you Dad.

Returning to the F-150.  Both my teenagers drove it, one quite intensively for a while developing their winter driving and especially their parking skills, which this very large pick up demands a bit more of than the Fiesta. Even for me, there is one glaring issue with a truck like this, it’s a rascal to turn around in the forest.  It’s alright if I know exactly where I’m going.  But sometimes exploring for new hikes a surprise bad spot can result in some long backups or  a 57 point turn.  It is enough of an annoyance that I decided that I should think about looking for a small off roader again. No point getting rid of the truck as it is paid for, the cost of a new one is stupid and it still does truck things well.  Every old truck was a new one once, so I guess this one will be my old truck eventually.  I filled it up a month ago in Alberta where the gas is cheap, drove 300 miles home and still have a quarter tank left today.  I expect this truck will last me a long time.

Next week, I find myself about to be an empty nester and experiencing an acute household car shortage, which leaves me with one of two vehicle options, one of which actually happens. It comes down to a 7 speed manual off roader which has absolutely caught my eye, or six horizontally arranged cylinders in a very big departure from anything I have bought before.