Let me start off by saying that I’ve been a Toyota guy my whole life. My first truck was an ‘81 Toyota single cab; I built a rockcrawler ‘88 4runner, beat the crap out of a ‘90 Extended Cab and fell in love w/ my ‘98 Tacoma, which I had for well over 10 years.
I’m a professional photographer, I’m an avid outdoorsman, and I’m starting an electric motorcycle company, which means I drive a lot. I put down miles on pavement, I test out suspension off the beaten path and I need room for gear. Miles aside, I also need to feel comfortable in the vehicle – both while driving, and while sitting passenger – and I continually need my trucks to act as remote work stations (charging camera gear, offloading large files onto harddrives, eating on the fly, hauling props, people, etc). And finally, it needs to be reliable, and okay, its does need to look cool (first appearances and all).
So when it came time to start looking for the next rig (w/ a new dog, a fiancé and a kid on the horizon, my ’98 Extended Cab Tacoma was becoming too small), I kept coming up short. I’m a loyal Toyota guy, so I test drove every new Tacoma that would come out, including the latest TRD Pros and Sports, and quite simply, I felt like absolutely nothing had changed from ‘95 to 2021. Sure they’re slightly bigger, have new trail control gimmicky stuff, but overall, they are still stuck in the 90s. And simply put, I couldn’t justify the the price tag of $40 – $50k on essentially what I already had.
Here’s my list of what I mean:
- Engine is essentially the same that it was since ‘95
- Seats are still uncomfortable as hell
- Technology is behind the times
- MPG is bad, fair if I’m going be nice
- Road sound is loud
- Engine is wildly underpowered (especially if you put on a lift and oversized tires… that and load on all your gear, and you’re not going anywhere fast)
- And despite the added size of the 2nd and 3rd gen Tacos, I still felt like they are limited in space.
BUT, I will say, they fit on most off road trails, they look boss, and will most likely never let you down.
So what then??
When the Ford Ranger came out, I was psyched by all the hype on paper: 28mpg, heated seats, Android Auto, best in towing, etc. But it was still a bit of a letdown – what about the Ranger Raptor?? And let’s not even talk about real world mpg!! I drove the Chevy Colorado and was in awe. This was a truck I could get behind, but when my fiance hopped in, she was unimpressed – as she would say, “It felt like a rental car.” I must say, the interior finishes were lacking, despite the amazing diesel engine, off-road chops and outside appearance (especially the Bison build). And like I said above, I drive – A LOT. So inside needs to be nice. Afterall, that’s what I’m looking at 100% of the time.
So against by trail thirsty thoughts, I started looking at ½ tons. I went back to Toyota, tried out the Tundra. I drove the Ram Rebel. I online stalked the GMC AT4 and walked around the Chevy Trail Boss at the local dealership. But not of the them really did it for me – they all seemed HUGE and had immense blind spots.
I finally landed on the F150 – afterall, it is the country’s no. 1 selling vehicle for a reason. Despite all the quips – found on road dead, fix or repair daily, etc. I was convinced that if it wasn’t reliable, it wouldn’t continue dominating the sales charts.
My first takeaways were:
- It didn’t look super aggressive
- It was fast (3.5 Ecoboost engine boasting 400hp and 500 lb-ft of torque)
- It was VERY quiet inside
- It was comfortable and it had all the latest technology (hello, Android Auto!)
- The manual transmission control was lacking (where’s the paddle shifters??)
- New, they get pricey quick
Researching more, I came to learn that I could get it w/ a factory locker. The 4wheel options are very competent, and when driven like a baby, it could get pretty good mpg. And then Ford announced the release of the Tremor package. It was the best I had found, and in fact, seemed like a perfect fit!
I didn’t realize it at the time, but 2021 was the launch of the Generation 14 F150, and as my luck would have it, it is quite a step up from the previous generations. The lines are sharper, the interior modern and stylish, the seats comfortable and come equipped w/ all sorts of modern features, and it practically drives itself – no joke: lane management and adaptive cruise are incredible!
Above all that, it didn’t feel like a massive truck. It’s hard for me to describe, but it just felt slightly bigger than a Tacoma. I know people will call me crazy, but the size just feels right. Even though it is essentially identical in size to the Tundra, it drives and feels way smaller!
But looks, feels and sounds shouldn’t be the only reason to buy a truck – especially a $60k truck! Resale should be considered, as well as reliability (backcountry safety is critical to me and my family), capability, and functionality.
Here’s a bullet list to those concerns:
- Since 2013 F150s have held their value; and since the pandemic, trade-ins and buy-backs are in high demand
- 2021 reliability is just as high as Toyota according to consumer reports (coming in just below the Tundra and beating out the Tacoma)
- FX4 packages comes with a locker and several drive modes including “Rock Crawl”, and overall the F150 is best in class in terms of towing (10k plus pounds)
- You can get them equipped w/ a Genset, providing 2kw of onboard power, powering all my camera gear on the fly, as well as my e-motorcycle
- Wireless Android Auto – enough said!
- 360 degree camera view
- Ample lights throughout and the door lock keypad (never again worry about locking keys in the truck)
- Flat floor under the backseat (this has really won me over!! Why the F*** don’t other companies do this!) – so much storage!
I honestly couldn’t get enough – I was sold. But as Covid would have it, I’d have to wait nearly 6 months to get a Tremor package, so I started looking around. I got lucky and found a ‘21 FX4 Sport w/ the 302a package rolling off the truck in July of 2021. It wasn’t the Tremor package, but it was everything else I wanted: onboard genny, factory locker, heated seats and the large infotainment system. As it sat stock, it wasn’t perfect, so I financed a Fox 2.5 lift kit and new wheels and tires. I also installed a tonneau and Yakima bedrack.
With the lift, and new tires, the truck goes anywhere my ‘98 Tacoma would go, get’s better MPG (when not spooling up the super fun turbos), has way more space, power and is damn comfortable. I’m 6’2” and for the first time in my life, I don’t have the seat all the way back.
It took me a few weeks to get used the new width (guilty, I do have a few unnecessary pinstripes), but I’ve taken it over 12k’ Hancock Pass, ripped it down Hole in the Rock road at 70mph, towed a raft trailer w/ 6 paddleboards loaded on, and charged my e-motorcycle on the fly. I’ve also used it as a remote work station: charging, loading and staging my RED camera w/ gimbal and DJI Inspire 2. The truck is insanely capable off-road and on-, it’s quiet like a luxury sedan and I’m honestly surprised by how efficient the motor is. Plus, it has a 36 gallon tank, so I spend WAY less time searching for gas stations.
I now have 13k miles on the odometer, and it is by far the best truck I’ve ever owned. I’m glad I got over my loyalty and made the switch from Toyota to Ford. I get compliments for days (even from Tacoma and Tundra owners) and as someone said, if you’re not looking back every time you walk away, you’re not in the right truck. Let’s just say, I now have a permanent kink in my neck!