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Driven a Ford lately?

I’ve never been a stranger to polarizing conversation whether it be politics, social issues, or religion.  Today I rush in, however, where angels fear to tread, the most polarizing issue of all: Pickup Trucks.  Recently I bought one: Ford F250, crew cab diesel, four-wheel drive.  Silver if you must know.  So you Ram and GM enthusiasts can get out your long knives.

I’m nearly sixty years old and I did something I’ve only done two other times: bought a new vehicle.  Last time it was 2005.  Time before that was 1987.  I avoid buying new cars for two reasons: Dealerships are horrible and new vehicles are bad economics.  I’ll leave the economics lesson for another day, but I am reminded why I’ve always choked on a dealer experience.

I did way more research than was financially justified.  Somehow I thought if I trained enough I would be able to beat a dealership at what they do every day and what I have done now twice.  I did learn a whole lot this time – last go-round the internet was not as user friendly as it is now – and I did get (I think) a pretty good deal.  The two most useful tidbits that stick out in my mind now are 1) Never negotiate in person, do it over the phone or online; and, 2) Every single dealer – every single one – told me that they were losing money on that particular deal.  That would explain their nice big buildings in prime locations.

Every dealer also told me that my best negotiation position would be my personal appearance at their dealership.  That is a patently false statement.  Your presence at the dealership benefits the dealership, not the customer.  That’s why they want you to do it.  It’s also why I refused to do it that way.  And my persistence on this point saved me about 10% on my purchase.  And, of course, the dealership lost money.  I know this because they told me so.  Yeah, right!

When I was zeroing in on the crew cab diesel the dealer salesman – a likeable and helpful chap – asked me what a lawyer needs with an F250.  I told him an attorney buying a diesel truck is a lot like a car salesman buying a Bible.  Both the truck and the book are highly under-utilized.

I have long been a fan of the Dodge/Ram Cummins diesel engine.  But my fondness stops there.  Ram trucks are poorly designed, not nearly as roomy, and are overwhelmingly . . . well  . . . chintzy.  I opted out of the Chevy for a very good reason: it’s a Chevy.

I shall perhaps be ridiculed for being a blind loyalists.  My last pickup truck was a Ford Diesel, vintage 2007.  If you know anything about that year, you know that it was in the middle of Ford’s Diesel Dark Ages.  And my truck was no exception.  In 2003 Ford abandoned the trusty 7.3 and embraced two versions: a 6.0 liter followed by an even worse 6.4.  Head gaskets were blowing everywhere.  The local dealership named a service bay in my honor.  Happy when I bought that 2007.  Even happier when I finally pushed it out of my driveway.

But the relatively new 6.7 liter has been around since 2011.  Time and a few million collective miles, led me to try again.  Vehicles change.  Dealerships not so much.

The Good.

The inside of the truck is cavernous.  No one in my family, with the possible exception of a grandchild or two, is little.  But there’s head room, leg room, and shoulder room a plenty.  The stock truck has a mountain of ground clearance, quite a bit really.  Even with my 36 inch inseam, I need the step bar to swing myself into the saddle.

I had test driven the gas version.  It made far more economic sense than the nine grand upgrade for the diesel.  Although the gasoline engine was adequate, it was both a heavy drinker (about 14 mpg in town; close to 19 on the highway) and seemingly anemic especially on the low end of the speedometer.  The diesel, while only a little less thirsty, generates the torque one would expect from a manly-man’s truck.  And this bad boy will roll for about 500 miles thanks to the 34 gallon fuel tank, which was a plus on my first road trip.  I’m glad I forked over the bucks for the diesel.

The Bad.

I’m not a bells and whistles kind of guy.  I don’t like paying for them.  I really don’t like paying to fix them.  And whatever luster they add fades faster than a Kardashian scandal.  So I stayed close to the south side of the range of options, which can easily add twenty to thirty grand if you want heated back seats and a sunroof.  But mine had a few trinkets that I have to admit were intriguing.

Visibility around this beast is by  definition, limited.  Previous editions of trucks that I’ve owned were equipped with backup sensors that beeped with an increasing tempo as your distance from an object decreased.  Sadly, those relatively inexpensive, highly helpful little devices have been replaced by cameras.  My driveway diva sports a total of five cameras: one under each mirror, two rear-facing, and one in the front grill.  One of the cameras has a loose wire or something because the image tends to flicker from that spy-cam.  I imagine it will be covered under warranty (it better!) I just haven’t had a chance to get back there yet.

You know those cameras that have famously caught images of Bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, and alien spacecraft.  Well those cameras with all their legendary resolution are now being purchased by Ford.

Seriously, you can get high resolution, inexpensive mini-cameras at WalMart.  What up with this garbage!  The cameras are really only helpful in perfect lighting and in near perfect conditions.  Night time? Not too much.  Raining?  Umm . . . no.  Hey, Ford, if I wanted chintz, I would have bought a Dodge.  In fairness, the one component of the camera set up that is nice (assuming decent weather and lighting) is the computer generated aerial  image that shows this hoss in the parking spot.  The truck is huge, parking spots are stingy.  Getting to see the bird’s eye view  is helps.  But the back up sensors are more functional, less expensive, and less problematic.  The only thing that rivals the cheapening impression of the cameras is the options “front license plate bracket” for $75.  It’s a rectangular ring of plastic with the tensile strength of a picnic grade plastic fork.

My truck is also equipped with Ford Sync, which I think is supposed to be an equivalent to Android Auto or whatever that deal is for iPhone users.  To sum it up, Sync is cumbersome, sometimes counter-intuitive, and doesn’t really live up to the hype.  It has slightly less utility than I get out of my cheap blue tooth headset.

I’d be happier if they took the cameras and the Sync out and put the money for those things back in my wallet.

The Ugly.

There is no ugly.  It’s a great looking, great driving vehicle.  It’s comfortable to me on the long haul and nimble enough around town.  Besides the backup sensors, an option that I might add would be the remote start.  That would be nice to get it warmed up on some of these brisker winter mornings.

If you’ve got a later model Ford diesel – or even if you’ve gone to the dark side of GM or Dodge – I’d like to hear what you like  or don’t like.