Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The 4X4 Beer Can

The new truck came last Friday. It was an interesting and lengthy buying experience but finally I got what I wanted, a 4X4 beer can. Make it a tall boy.

For the past few years on many occasions we agreed a pickup truck would have served us well. Since both vehicles are over ten years old it's time. After researching the options and investigating a new innovation announced last year the choices narrowed. Last year Ford announced it was offering the traditional F150 with an aluminum body for 2015 and that was the beginning of the end of my search.

Think of it, this military grade aluminum being used will not rust and the weight of a similar model truck has been reduced by 600 or more pounds delivering better mileage while the competition continues to offer the same old repackaged steel.

The old 2014 Ford steel bodes were still being offered with very generous discounts when I walked into the dealer to place my order last April but I was pre-sold on the new aluminum. Ford took a big chance converting their F-150 into an aluminum body vehicle. I believe the new aluminum will be copied by other domestic competitors in all vehicle classes soon. Increasing government demands on CAFE standards leave them few options. Much to the displeasure of The United Steelworkers Union.

After months of reading, researching, observing the competitors as well as speaking to other truck owners it didn't take long to realize Ford sells the most trucks for a reason.

Past experience partnering with Jaguar and Land Rover, Ford's plunge into aluminum was into a deep pool of experience with aluminum body material and manufacturing. My every take on this innovation convinced me aluminum vehicles are a smart way to go. If it won't rot this could be my last vehicle ever.

Observing light duty trucks on the road for some time I noticed many Ford, Dodge and GM products with five years of age having wheel well, bumper and rocker panel rot, especially the Dodge Ram rust buckets. Look around on the road, pay attention and you'll see what I saw. No steel for me if there is now an aluminum option. On top of that Ford trucks have the best styling IMHO. Ram looks too much like an old semi truck cab and GM trucks appear stale and dated. Toyota or Nissan? Not in the same league style wise (though Toyota would have been my second choice). The 2015 F-150 has a contemporary chiseled sleekness that I find appealing.

I ordered my truck late last April and was told it would take 6-8 weeks for delivery. First I had to pick a wheelbase profile since it must fit into my garage. Originally I ordered the single cab with a 6.5' bed, a sport truck vs. the traditional 8' bed. It also kept the price down. After towing our boat to Canada last June with a friend's 2013 F-150 Supercab, which has a small rear seat and suicide doors I found it was very comfortable and more practical. After some redecorating in the garage the supercab option would fit if the boat could be stored in my parents vacant back yard second garage. The folks said yes and a call was made to the dealer. The $2000 super cab option was ordered and without any penally on the previous order.

Many rumors circulated claiming Ford was experiencing problems with the frames, the aluminum forming and bonding and neglecting to order enough material for either resulted in prolonged wait time. Rumors. Who knows, all I care is mine finally came in twelve weeks later.

When I ordered, the dealer could not estimate for me the final price. First, manufacturer rebates change monthly and those could make the difference of a few thousand dollars. The rebates are available only on the date of purchase and the best rebates are on existing dealer stock. Second, Ford could and often does raise the price unannounced by a few hundred to a thousand. All this impacted the final price because I was ordering custom, not buying from dealer stock on the lot.

They tempted me with hefty discounts on the leftover 2014's but most of them didn't appeal to me, besides they were made of steel and I had my choice set on the new 2015 aluminum model.

The final rebate offer upon delivery last week turned out to be extremely generous, just short of $5000 on top of the best dealer price (I was able to get the employee discount of 2% over invoice, don't ask how). The super duper rebate discount was just dumb shit luck.

We have not ordered a custom new vehicle for about 20 years. As a kid I recall going to a dealer with my dad. He was able to order his cars a la carte from the vast array of options available. Those days are gone. Now dealers offer options based on packages. This pissed me off. If I wanted an opening rear window and to get it I would have had to order an upgrade package costing thousands more with some of those luxury extras that were of no use to me. My truck has plenty of extras just the way I want them. I got nearly everything I wanted and nothing I didn't. Except the opening rear window which would have been nice.

These new F-150's can cost upwards of $60,000 figuring in option packages including off-road packages, towing packages, chrome packages, leather seats, 360 degree cameras, leather seats, climate control seats, a tailgate step, side bed retracting steps, foot massagers, 360 degree cameras and on and on. To me that is just more stuff that can malfunction.

At my age I wanted roominess and few vehicles offer the generous legroom and width of a pickup truck. This thing is a roomy beast with the surprising combined mileage of 20mpg, better than my Jeep Wrangler. I passed on the eco-boost turbo engine options. My research told me that turbos are temperamental, prone to carbon build-up and when they go bad it will cost more than a few thousand to repair or replace. From what I read turbos can go bad at less than 100,000 miles. My normally aspirated truck delivers enough shit-and-get to please me, I have no need for a race truck and will not be towing a double axle trailer carrying a backhoe very often. They one will handle towing the boat with ease, it's also made of aluminum.

The standard little stuff is pleasing to me especially the technology. While many have been enjoying hands-free voice command mobile phone operations for a while this is a first for me and I am digging' the satellite radio too. Being able to play tunes from my phone wirelessly is amazing as well. Again, I arrived late to the vehicle technology party and I'm sure there are many other built in options yet to be discovered. The owner's manual is 400 pages long.

The ride is not truck-like at all. Smooth and easy for it's size.

Now for the necessary aftermarket add on goodies. Have not decided to top off the bed with a roll back cover or a fiberglass cap, the cap costing twice as much. There will be custom fit neoprene seat covers, window vents, splash guards, hood bug shield and a bed mat dinging me in the wallet.

Of course there will be the redneck bitter-clinger bumper stickers to add along with an NRA decal and other obligatory doo-dads expected on a good ol' boy pickup truck out here in flyover country.


Carl from Chicago said...

That new truck sounds really cool and will last you forever.

Hope you get a lot for your jeep when you sell it!

Jonathan said...

That is a very nice vehicle. Congrats.