In my world, stories simply pop up when you least expect it.
A couple of weeks ago, an e-mail came from a public relations firm I usually deal with. They invited me to come to a local dealer for the unveiling of a special edition of the best selling vehicle in the USA. Normally, I would pass on such a thing. However, there is a thing to be said about timing.
Granted, I am not an outdoorsman. I have no interest in hunting, fishing, camping or anything that I had no reference for in the outdoors. But, I have a lot of respect for those who do and are able to pass their traditions down through the generations.
This is exactly what Pheasants Forever does. They promote the outdoors for enthusiasts to pass it down to their kin. It seems logical for this organization to use of a very popular pickup truck for three special package deals to be installed in them. That, along with additional accessories to complete the pheasant lifestyle.
This is where the truck comes in. The principals of Apple Autos, a Twin Cities-based dealership chain, just happen to be connected with Howard Vincent, the President and CEO of Pheasant Forever. The owner of the dealership chain just happen to be an avid hunter and a supporter of the organization.
The result is the Pheasants Forever edition of the 2014 Ford F-150 pickup. There are actually three – each with a level of accessories to appeal to outdoorsperson. The co-branding is actually subtle – a decal on the aft sides of the bed and a specific headrest design with the organization's logo. Initially, you can get these at Apple Ford-Lincoln in Apple Valley. It has been said that the dealership chain would make these special trucks available at other Ford stores throughout the Twin Cities and beyond.
While looking at these trucks, a thought came to mind. It has been several years since I last drove the F-150. I am certain a lot has transpired since my last turn in Ford's big seller. It also did not help that the new aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 was driven by my colleagues near San Antonio this past week.
So, instead of just mulling around outdoorspeople and looking at a few trucks, I had to drive one. More specifically, I had to drive the 2014 Ford F-150.
My tester came in a deep blue XLT SuperCrew with four-wheel drive. Making things more interesting, it came with the highly touted EcoBoost 3.5liter twin-turbocharged V6. This is exactly the configuration most retail buyers usually get. It was ripe for a nice test out in the nearby countryside.
There were plenty of questions to explore. Every one of them goes back to one simple fact: The F-Series – including the Super Duty – yields a sales figure of around 60,000 units per month. Ultimately, it presents a larger question: What makes the F-150 such a huge seller?
One drive answered plenty of these questions. For starters, the interior may be loaded with plastic, but it is one of the most comfortable vehicles to be in. It takes a good seat to keep someone's attention on the road. The F-150 has that seat. It is comfortable and instills an feeling of alertness. Heck, those seats are comfortable – good enough for me and the cloth thrones on the XLT model. Rear seat room is very good for adults and children alike.
Instrumentation is straightforward with a full compliment of gauges and a large enough TFT information screen. It has simple graphics and readouts that are clear to read on the fly. I could do with MyFord Touch and better steering wheel switches closer to the 9-and-3 position. This vehicle came with the simplified audio set up with fantastic speakers for superb sound.
If you had not looked at a 2015 model, then the 2014 remains a visible and recognizable machine. From a distance, it is a Ford F-150. It does not need fancy styling tricks or monster grilles. The F-150 is all business – which makes it actually quite handsome.
One thing that makes the F-150 very popular is the driving setup. The combination of a strong frame and a well-dampened suspension provides the key to Ford's success in full-sized trucks. The ride is controlled and smooth – even when presented with a dirt road attacked by overnight rain. Expansion joints and cracks are no problem to the F-150 as everything is absorbed with ease. Brakes are very good and require less distance for stopping, while the steering is exact and reactive.
The biggest surprise came from under the hood. The EcoBoost twin-turbocharged V6 offers a V8-like 365 horsepower powerhouse. There is simply no turbo lag with plenty of torque to go. While it feels like a V8, one would be concerned about towing and payload management. There is a rule when dealing with turbocharged gasoline engines and full-sized pickup trucks: Know your payload and towing limits and work below them. That way, you can face the naysayers and prove them wrong.
A six-speed automatic makes things smoother with the EcoBoost. Keep in mind, Ford states it would average 17MPG – a welcomed figure that truly needs to be tested, since my experience with full-sized gasoline-powered trucks kept fuel economy averages below 15MPG.
This 2014 EcoBoosted XLT SuperCrew example with four-wheel drive came with a sticker of around $44,000. When the 2015 models finally show up at your local Ford dealer, expect some serious bargains to move the older models off the lots.
You do not have to be a pheasant hunter or an outdoor enthusiast to truly enjoy the F-150. The reason why it sells around 60,000 units a month is because it attracts all comers to its comforts and strength that has kept it in front for 37 years. It is also a better F-150 than before, but the new aluminum-bodied 2015 model is promising much more than the outgoing model.
When it comes to leadership, you have to watch the leader. When it comes to trucks, well…Ford is a good first stop to look at. That, in itself, was worth getting the story on.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Apple Ford-Lincoln, Apple Valley, MN