No matter how high the price of gasoline, or how much we all want to help save the environment, we Texans are not ready to give up our trucks. It’s a way of life that has been ingrained in most of us since childhood, when our ranching or farming relatives needed a truck that could haul feed from the county store, or take building supplies back to finish a fence or screen in a porch. These were things no sissy city car, not even a station wagon, could do.
Those of us who didn’t grow up in a rural area often spent blissful vacation hours riding in the bed of Grandpa’s pickup during visits to the family farm. In my case it was a favorite uncle who would take us for scenic trips through the back roads of my grandmother’s tiny home town of Tom Bean, Texas.
The day I graduated from riding in the back with all the other kids to sitting up front and riding “shotgun” was one of the proudest of my 13th summer. I can’t remember what make of truck my uncle drove, only that it had once been red, and that it could take all sorts of bumps and sudden curves on those gravel roads without once turning over or driving into a ditch.
The favorite truck of Texans in recent years has been the Ford F-150, voted Truck of Texas by Texas Auto Writers Association each year since I joined the group in 2006. The F-150 is also the best-selling model in the country, and was redesigned for 2009 with seven trim levels including the luxury Platinum level.
A few weeks ago, I drove a 2009 Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew Platinum Lariat, which in truck lingo means “as good as it gets.” This beautiful silver gray metallic behemoth handled like a dream for its size, and boasted a lot of power thanks to its 320 HP 5.4 liter V-8 engine with 6-speed automatic transmission. The flexible engine ran on regular fuel or E85, which was a definite nod to the environment. The only downside to driving the Lariat in town is finding a place to park, since most parking lots are friendlier to small, compact vehicles than they are to stretched-out crew cabs.
The interior of the Lariat is really beautiful, even elegant, with plush leather captain’s chairs welcoming the driver and navigator, color coordinated carpeting and mats, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. The crew cab’s back seat is amazingly roomy and could easily carry three passengers.
The real fun, though, is in the back of the truck, where the front grille pattern is reproduced on the locking tailgate. There are enough gadgets in the truck bed to occupy an entire afternoon trying out all the available configurations. The cargo box has a step that pulls out of the tailgate for easier climbing into the bed, a split bed extender, and a side step that is released by a button in front of the rear wheel that gives better access to the side of the cargo box. Heavy-duty partitions, crossbars, and a branded toolbox fixed to the box wall are other extra features that can help make any job easier.
The test model’s Platinum Package included OWL All-Terrain, power deployable running boards, power sliding rear window, chrome power folding mirror, universal garage door opener, 20-inch 16-spoke polished aluminum wheels, rear-view camera and reverse sensing system, along with heated/cooled front seats. Plus the Platinum has Ford’s famous In-Sync technology where the driver’s phones and other electronic gadgets work in harmony with the vehicle.
The F-150 SuperCrew Cab is priced at $38,760 on up, and the Platinum Lariat is definitely in the “on up” class. Estimated gas mileage in town was 14 mpg and on the highway 18 mpg, which Ford proudly claims is 1 mpg better than the year before. I think, if the notorious gunslinger Paladin was roaming the West today, his motto would be “Have Lariat, will travel!”
Jo Ann Holt is a Dallas-based journalist and columnist and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA).