Payne: Ford F-150, Swiss Army truck
I get this pickup truck thing.
As a lad I played with Hot Wheels and built go karts while other kids played with Swiss Army knives and crafted tree forts. We boys never really grow up. So now I play with sports cars. Those other kids? They drive oversize tools called pickups. Call 'em Swiss Army trucks. They can do anything.
Take the new, 2015 Ford F-150.
In America's perennial, ferocious Truck Wars, the light duty F is the latest, greatest, best-selling example of the most versatile tool on earth. Like its Chevy Silverado and RAM 1500 competitors, it'll ply a stream with a load of mulch in the morning, then comfortably chauffeur the family to evening dinner. The F-150's a big, lovable, aluminum-skinned Labrador retriever. Man's best friend.
These days Ford is rolling out fun F-150 accessories faster than Kim Kardashian can take selfies. Which is a welcome relief because the introduction of the F-150 a year ago was soooo deadly serious. When the F-150 was announced at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, it promised to "preserve the world for generations to come" in the words of Chairman Bill Ford. Global warming was roasting polar bears and gas prices were headed to $10 a gallon. The Ford pickup was made of aluminum, we were told, to prevent the ocean from lapping at our doorstep. Everyone was so dang grim.
But then gas prices tanked and winter temperatures got so cold that polar bears are wearing long underwear. All of which is good news for Ford because they can go back to selling Swiss Army trucks and their cool tools.
I've already told you about the F-150's side mirrors which can pool light on the ground like a theater usher, illuminate the landscape with spotlights, cover your blind-spot, and tie a bow tie (just kidding about that last one). The backseat will fit a boy's basketball team — or it can be folded flat for a space bigger than Beyonce's walk-in closet.
But with Detroit under 2 feet of powder this week, Ford's happy elves showed off the truck's snow plowing and snowmobiling capabilities.
"We know our customers better than they know themselves," smiled Brandt Coultas, F-150 Consumer Marketing Manager. Snow plowing has always been the domain of heavy duty pickups like Ford's F-450, not light duty. Heavy duties have more brawn, more ground clearance, more stump-pulling, diesel-fired torque. But Coultas' team heard their customers pining for the same capability in light duties.
Ford listened and engineered the F-150 from the ground up to take the rigors of plowing.
We sports car guys are obsessive about this sort of thing, too. When Chevy designed the new Corvette C7, they listened to their customers — from Dream Cruisers to race teams — who said they wanted a no-compromise car. So Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter & Co. engineered the C7 to be stiff and aerodynamic. Want a convertible? Voila! Chop the top — no re-enforcement needed. Want to race at LeMans? Behold! Downforce galore.
For my Swiss Army truck adventure, I brought along my neighbor Bob Gulyas, a construction company owner and certified pickup guy. Ford brought the BOSS plow team. With the plow-ready F-150, BOSS just wired up a 430-pound blade and we were good to go. No extra alternator to run the power steering. No suspension changes. No cab limitations.
We had a ball pushing snow around the Adoba Hotel parking lot at Fairlane Mall in a 4x4 V-8. So much fun that I wanted to call in the F-150 owners' club. Remember the 100 lucky Mustang clubbers invited to Ford Proving Grounds last Dream Cruise to witness the new pony's line-lock, burnout feature? They went bonkers like kids at a Stanley Cup final.
Now imagine 100 F-150 owners lined up door-handle-to-door-handle to plow the Fairlane lot. But I digress.
Neighbor Bob marinates in F-150 every day, but was still blown away by the pickup's new tools: Plow option, 360-degree camera, 170-degree SuperCab doors, rear-camera hitch assist, and so on. "The technology is incredible," he said.
But what if you prefer to play in powder than plow it? Say, in a 4x4 Can-Am Renegade all-terrain vehicle? Swiss Army Truck will help, natch.
Lightweight, aluminum loading ramps that store on the truck bed sides are available (just screw them into the removable BoxLink cleats. Genius) so they don't bang around under the ATV. Slide them into tailgate plate, back down the Can-Am, and you're pounding powder like a motorized lynx.
Will the F-150 save the planet? Nope. But it'll help you conquer it. The world is your backyard and Swiss Army truck has the tools to explore every inch. I wonder if that bed will fit my sports car?
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at email@example.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne.
2015 Ford F-150 with "plow prep," spotlight mirrors, BoxLink ramps, trailer hitch, and lord-knows-what-else
Vehicle type: Front-engine, rear-wheel drive, five-passenger pickup truck
Price: $26,615 base ($51,270 as tested, $4,600 BOSS plow (est) not included)
Power plant: 5.0-liter V-8
Power: 385 horsepower, 387 pound-feet of torque
Transmission: six-speed automatic
Performance: Towing capacity (4x4): 11,100 pounds
Fuel economy: EPA mpg: 15 city/22 highway/18 combined
Highs: Plow prep option just $50; Will do everything but tie your shoes
Lows: Can't sprout wings and fly