My first car was a truck. It’s what my dad always wanted for himself, but until I came along, he couldn’t close the deal with my mom. His breakthrough came in my adolescence, with a pact for the three of us: the truck (and its driver) would transport soil from the nursery to my mother’s flower beds. Pops would steal rides in it when he wanted. And I would drive it to high school. Deal.
And so, the truck endeared itself to me from an early age. Now, decades later, in New York City, I assumed there’d still be a connection to the utilitarian workhorse. But, when posed with a weeklong trip to the beach, a truck didn’t come to mind.
Proper beach rides are those equipped with a cabin to sit four and ample storage for beach bags and chairs. Bikes and boards would need to hauled, and decent ground clearance and all-wheel-drive were nice, but not critical. I involuntarily called to mind a CUV or SUV — the utilitarian workhorses we now associate with getting most domestic jobs done. A truck? Not for the beach.
Trucks hold specific associations, and the stereotypes surrounding them are strong and pervasive. That’s not by accident.
Trucks hold specific associations, and the stereotypes surrounding them are strong and pervasive. That’s not by accident. The stereotypes are proudly fostered by the companies that sell them — trucks are born to serve cowboys and construction workers who have and always will be tougher than most. That’s the truck stronghold and it’s a caricature that appeals to many; Ford’s F-Series line has been the top-selling vehicle overall in the US for 28 years in a row. But it doesn’t resonate with a casual trip to the shore.
Eventually, the roof rack did it. The thought of tossing sandy bikes and SUPs on top of a rig seemed ominous and unnecessary. They could, just as easily as a sack of potting soil, be tossed in the bed of a truck. The lightbulb clicked on; an F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew ($26,030) was booked.
The F-150 showed up a sink and takeout menu shy from a roving New York studio on 20-inch six-spoke painted aluminum wheels. The back seat was spacious — matching the standard set by most full-sized SUVs. Advanced creature comfort littered the interior. I discovered the USB ports expected these days, plus a 110-volt / 400-watt power inverter for good measure. The 8-inch MyFord Touch display sat smack in the middle of the blocky center console and leapt cleanly between 360-degree exterior camera views, the current Spotify track and turn-by-turn directions.
Engine: 3.5L V6 EcoBoost Engine
Transmission: Electronic Six-Speed Automatic
Torque: 420 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm
Drive System: 4×4
MSRP: $26,030 (base) / $52,010 (as tested)
Early experiences with parking and lane spacing inside the concrete walls of Manhattan were tenuous, but comfort soon settled when the city limits hit the rearview. The ride was smooth, convenient and quiet. More importantly, bikes, coolers, paddles and chairs, plus the sand that clung to them were relegated to the bed. A quick shift into low-range four-wheel-drive proved useful escaping dunes, and quickly the Hamptons seemed a lifestyle the F-150 was born to serve.
The experience sparked the thought that truck manufacturers like Ford could gain from a broader marketing approach. If their own press releases are to be believed, the average transaction price for F-Series trucks hit an all-time high of $44,000 in June — nearly $18,000 more than the truck’s listed entry price of $26,030. There’s no doubt the record was helped in part by the new Platinum edition of the F-150 launched this year that starts at $51,585. That’s certainly not cheap for a half-ton pickup, but it includes features once exclusively associated with luxury brands — like seats that heat and cool, dual-zone climate control, 360-degree camera views, collision warning, adaptive cruise control, a twin-panel moonroof, heated side mirrors, power running boards, and remote starting, just to name a few. A new Limited version set to launch with the 2016 model will take things up a step further with extravagances like massaging seats and matte wood trim.
Translation: Trucks aren’t solely the spartan tools they’re cracked up to be. So why do most seeking a car to match their active lifestyle go the SUV route? Is it the “rough ride” of a truck platform? Or the fear of rear storage exposed to the elements — an issue easily remedied by bed covers and roll tops? Fuel efficiency is a plausible jab, but I’ve seen Americans ignore this for far too long to think it’s the only answer. Maybe it’s that people have moved past the “bigger is better” mantra, and see trucks as vestiges of a bygone era of size excess? Or, maybe it’s all the marketing to the industrial worker or the cattle hand, and the impression that trucks are better suited in Texas ranches than Hampton beaches.
Either way, I walked away from a sandy F-150 lusting for a truck, while still living in a city where owning one made no sense. There’s some first-car nostalgia that still lingers, sure, but there’s also the point that the luxury trucks now offer matches that of most SUVs, all with an added area of storage out back. Pigeonholing trucks to steel-toe-boot workplaces alone is a disservice. The modern truck will get the job done, from family to farm, East Hampton to King Ranch.