Texas®

As part of the best-selling vehicle lineup in North America for almost 30 years, the Ford F-Series is without a doubt one of the best choices for a pickup truck in the full-sized market. Now, the question is which one to choose, as they start with the 1/2 ton F-150 and proceed in increments of 100, from F-250 to F-650, for those who simply need a dump truck that only looks like a pickup truck.

I’ve always been one to appreciate a truck for being a truck, rather than a personal car with a big, open trunk. With that being said though, the pickup in Texas is a car, truck, personal expression, external display of one’s DNA, office and even a workbench.

Ford sent over a 6 cylinder F-150 a couple of weeks ago, and it was a very comfortable, competent, and solid performer. I was surprised the considerably smaller power capability didn’t result in any significant fuel economy increase. Obviously, this is something that’s becoming more important as gas prices continue to creep north of $3.50 per gallon. And for a vehicle over 1/2 ton, my personal choice is to go diesel every time.

Even with the recent spike in diesel prices I can always justify the enhanced price of entry (in Ford’s case it is a $7,000 premium) to achieve the long term reliability, durability and fuel-usage economy that comes along with the far more powerful, big diesel engine. It’s amazing how the technology on the power stroke direct injection system has evolved over the years. Most may remember the staccato beat of incoming artillery and black clouds of unspent crud coming out of the tail pipe in the old school diesels. But with the newer, cleaner and quieter systems, you will be hard pressed to actually be aware that you’re driving a diesel from inside the well insulated cabin.

This quiet, but still fantastically powerful, truck with its solid frame and all of the expected cargo and towing capabilities – which put the stamped “SUPER DUTY” across the front grill – makes quite the visual statement, as well. As someone who spends a great deal of time on motorcycles, the front facade of this truck is almost frightening, what with its large swath of chrome glistening in the sun. Simply put: It’s one of the sharpest looking, heavy-duty vehicles ever to bear a big blue oval that I’ve ever seen.

Anyone in the HD pickup market knows it is a very tough room, loyalties in this subset of the market run into warring clans with family dynasties of Ford owners who can’t imagine anyone driving another type of truck. I have to tell you, I learned how to drive on my uncles F100 as the first enclosed vehicle, after lawn mowers, motorcycles and farm tractors when I was 10 or 11 years old. I don’t really know if anyone else in the family was aware that I was out driving around the property in Uncle Charlie’s truck, but I have my own personal bias when I hop into the big Ford: It feels as much like home as the smell of my mother’s Brown Sugar cookies.

The Super Duty 4×4 crew cab 3/4 ton truck has an entry price-point of $44,500, and with the addition of the V8 Turbo Diesel, power everything, cloth interior, shiny wheels and satellite radio, the price as-tested for the “big truck” comes in just north of $60,400.00. But, if you also look at the fact that most who do buy this kind of vehicle almost live in them, as they have morphed into mobile offices that is really not that heavy major of a switch from the real thing.

Both Nissan and Toyota have ventured into the full sized market over the last few years, but have purposely not wandered north into the Heavy Duty Diesel market. If they ever do, they are in for a hell of a fight as the Dodge, GM and Ford competition is very intense, already.

From the high step into the Super Duty, to its large turning radius, there is nothing wimpy about its look or impression on the road. In town or on the highway, the 6.7l v8 single turbo’s dual impellers rocket you unencumbered from a stop and overtakes almost everything on paved or unpaved roads. I didn’t have any opportunity to test out the towing abilities, but it can handle nearly anything from small trailers to mobile homes with not so much as a blush.

Really, everything about this truck is spot-on spec, from its handsome exterior to effortless interior, but were I to be in this market, I would have a very difficult time making the decision on what to take home. Personal opinion: The Ram has a better interior, and the Chevy has a quieter drive train, but the Ford has one of the best combinations for the consumer. It’s a really tough choice, regardless.

One thing that may push you into the land of Ford is this new power plant is designed to run up to 300.000 miles before a major service. Judging from talking to owners all over the state in my travels, I have to report that they claim the 6.7 is the best diesel Ford has ever put in a pickup. This is a big deal, as problems with the prior big D had resulted in a bit of a black eye for Ford.

In many ways this truck reminds me a little of the Cattle Barron’s Ball – an annual society must-do every year, here in Dallas where folks get all dressed up in tuxedo’s and cowboy boots – it’s flashy chrome still comes with a whole bunch of real truck.

 

 

dinofeatThere are some mornings you feel like you are being followed by a T-Rex as you drive around North Texas, but in this case the big fella was a 48 foot tall animatronic dinosaur at the Heard Nature Museum in the area where McKinney, Allen and Fairview intersect.

The Heard is a unique location, a well-organized display of the natural history of the area where you are literally walking through an age  before humans roamed Texas. From the time when a prehistoric sea covered the land to present day displays of local snakes, toads and other animals, the Heard is a great place to head out for a day.

As suburbia slowly begins to encroach around the nature preserve’s 289 acres of protected woodland, the natural beauty of the center becomes even more important as a wild bird and animal sanctuary. Contained in the center is a small butterfly greenhouse where one can work on their inner National Geographic photography skills.

The entire center is a great learning experience for both kids and adults and an excellent place to wander around the 6.75 miles of nature trails. On these trails you can stumble across birds, insects and other creatures including the aforementioned dinosaurs and real fossils in the rocks.

Fossils and the use of fossil fuels are the main reason for taking the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid for the quick run up 75 Central Expressway. After exiting at the Stacy Road Outlets in Allen, you go east to Greenville. Head north for 2 miles and a right turn puts you in shouting distance of the front gates.

dinowebThe Silverado Hybrid is a unique vehicle as there is no other pickup truck in the market that has any sort of Gas Electric 2 Mode system. I have always had a bit of a problem with the hype over hybrids like the Toyota Prius. Replacing one small fuel-efficient low emitting vehicle with another – which also happens to have a couple of hundred pounds of lead and lithium batteries – just doesn’t make sense to me. But the Silverado does.

While a regular 8 cylinder Chevy truck will get around 14-16 mpg in the city, the Silverado Hybrid runs on its electric power plant and in stop and go situations you get an honest to goodness 19-20 MPG city and 20-21 MPG on the highway.

Logic would tell you the highway numbers should always be higher than city but the Chevy has brought the in town numbers significantly higher. On the highway the 6.0 Liter V8 uses the well-proven “Displacement on Demand” system General Motors started using a number of years ago. It shuts off 4 of the cylinders once the well-appointed four-door truck gets up to speed.

There are few vehicles in the market that have the owner loyalty that full sized pickup trucks boast. Family feuds, bar fights and tons of good natured ribbing goes back and forth between Ford, Chevy and Dodge truck owners who are more likely to be life long brand loyal customers. With Nissan and Toyota entering this highly profitable market in the last few years the competition has been getting fierce in Texas.

We buy more trucks in Texas than any other market in North America, so the fact that the Silverado stands alone with NO direct competition for the Hybrid market is truly unique.

I also discovered that the truck can roll through an entire school zone at 20 mph on 100% electric power, stealth mode, quietly rolling up and surprising a couple of crossing guards did give me a good chuckle. When you realize a lowboy cart full of Diet Dr. Pepper and Twinkies rolling across a Wal-Mart parking lot makes considerably more noise than a full sized truck, you can get some seriously evil ideas.

It has been a rough year on GM, having to tuck tail and file bankruptcy cost CEO Rick Waggoner his job, which is unfortunate because GM is now reaping the benefits of his leadership. The biggest problem they have is the perception that they still can’t build a quality car even, though their trucks are legendary. The first Hybrid Silverado I drove was one of the pre-production prototypes which had an option that, sadly, is not available on the production vehicle in dealerships today. It had a power inverter and 3-prong plugs in the bed that you could plug power tools into. If they brought that option back, I believe they could sell more of these trucks than the Oshawa, Ontario plant could build.

Until then the $38,995.00 well equipped four-door two-wheel drive pickup will become a hit slowly as long as gas prices stay relatively stable but if they spike like last summer this will be one of the best values on the market.

For those who think the large V8 powered pickup is a bit of a dinosaur, guess again, Chevy has a real winner here.

Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary

One Nature Place
McKinney, TX
972-562-5566