First Drive: 2014 Toyota Tundra

Toyota has brought a refreshed Tundra to the market to do battle against Ford, Ram, Chevy and GMC.  The body was restyled, the interior gets a complete makeover, but is that enough to make a dent against the Detroit 3?  That is what we find out on this First Drive on Rumblestrip.NET and Ten Minute Test Drive

Reviewed: 2011 Ford F-150, V6 Power Takes On The World

There was a time, not all that long ago, that having a six cylinder in your half ton pickup was a non issue.  Everyone who made full sized half ton pickups had a quality six cylinder in their lineup that, while it may have been the base engine, got the job done.

We had some experience with the Ford 300 straight six back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The fuel injected straight six had a ton of torque and unless you were trying to tow 7,000 pounds didn’t sweat the work load.

Sometime in the late 90’s the culture determined that unless you had a V8 under the hood of your half ton, (insert Arnold Schwarzenegger voice over), “you, were a girly man!”  It was said you need a big V8, even if all you ever towed was a small Bass boat, or a couple of jet ski’s and the most you ever brought home from the home improvement store were three 4×8 sheets of plywood.  In the era when gas was $2/gallon, that was fine, but now when gas is $3.50 or more a gallon, things change.

Ford along with everyone else got caught out when in 2008 fuel prices spiked from $2.75 a gallon to $4.25 a gallon in two months, and sales of full size trucks fell off a cliff.  Not wanting to get caught out again Ford put together a program where they would revamp their entire engine line for the F150 pickup so they could retain their crown of the “best selling vehicle in the U.S.” and with it, keep money flowing into the company, since pickups and SUV’s are where a majority of the profits come from.

We had the opportunity to drive the two new V6 powered F150’s in back to back weeks.  We started out with the base 302 horsepower 3.7 liter V6, then the week after we had the 365 horsepower 3.5 liter EcoBoost V6.  The question to be answered is, by going with a V6 are you missing anything by not having a V8. 

The first F150 we had was was a 4×2 Supercrew in XLT trim.  Perhaps it’s our perception, but the Ford F150 seems to have gotten much wider in the last couple iterations.  The F150 now feels as large as the F250.  These truck are extremely wide inside, and outside as well.  The truck is every bit of seven feet wide, so you will be taking up most of the lane driving down the road, and if you live in an older neighborhood, it’s tight going down the street if cars are parked on both sides of the road.

In the Supercrew, the back seat leg room is huge.  There may be more leg room for back seat passengers then on a BMW 750iL sedan!  Seating in the back is comfortable too.  You can put three large people in the back and not have any complaints even if you have a  drive of several hours.  For the driver and passenger, the captains chairs were comfortable and had plenty of adjustment for us to find the ideal spot. 

The cloth that we had in our XLT model is quite good.  It had good heft and thickness and felt like it would hold up for a long time, even under hard use.  We would like to have seen the USB and AUX jacks that are are at the bottom of the center stack, moved into the center console which is absolutely huge.  This is not necessary for aesthetic reasons, more ones of security.  Even though the F150 sits up so high, you can still see wires connecting to devices in the cab, that just invites problems.

The F-150’s now have the 4.3” information screen that debuted in the SuperDuties a couple years ago in between the the speedometer and the tach.  This multi function display is laid out well and provides good information to the driver in an easy to navigate menus.  It has more information then you will probably need, but always nice to have.  There are sub menus that are relevant for off roading and for towing along with the usual trip/distance measurements, diagnostics and the clever average and instant fuel economy gages which are blended into one.


Once you are accustomed to the size of the truck, it drives quite well.  While we didn’t have a chance to hook up anything to tow while we had the 3.7 V6 it did make a few trips to Lowes for supplies.  No, a 4×8 sheet of plywood will not lay flat in the bed, however, when propped up to fit, it didn’t protrude much past the upright tailgate.  We would recommend getting the step that makes getting into the bed of the truck easier.  Unless you have a 36”+ inseam, it’s a big step to climb up into the bed of the truck.


We would also recommend the back up camera option as well.  Living in an older neighborhood, one built in the nineteen teens and twenty’s backing out of the driveway was a bit of an adventure a few times.  On one occasion we had to get out of the truck to  see just how much further we could back up without hitting the car parked on the other side of the street as it could not be seen in the rearview or sideview mirrors.

Now the big question is, does the 3.7 V6 have enough power?  The answer is yes.  While one could always use more power, the base V6 felt fine.  Again we didn’t load it up with a ton of weight in the bed, or tow anything heavy, but for driving around and hauling a few things it was fine.  The only thing that struck us as odd, is that under full throttle, this engine shifts at 7,000 rpm’s.  It’s very un-truck like and it takes a little getting used to having the power is up higher in the rev range then most traditional truck buyers are used to.  The question remains though is how people who will tow with the base engine will feel when they don’t have the majority of their torque right off idle.

Fuel economy for the base V6 in two wheel drive is rated at 17 city and 23 highway and 19 combined.  We saw 18 combined and 22 on the highway, so the readings are about spot on.  The base sticker on our XLT was $31,810, then with options came to $34,880.  It seems a bit high priced, however, go and option out a pickup from ANY manufacturer these days and they get expensive in a hurry.  Long gone are the days you could get a full sized half ton for low to mid $20,000’s.  Then again, the interior of trucks today are as nice as some near luxury cars!

Next up we had the EcoBoost V6 F150, again a Supercrew but this time it was a 4×4 and in Lariat trim.  The move to the EcoBoost V6 is an attempt by Ford to offer the power of the larger V8’s in this case the 6.2 V8, yet retain better fuel economy.  While the EcoBoost is down on horsepower to the 6.2, 365 vs. 411, they are near equal on torque.  

No matter how much advertising is thrown at you about “we have more horespower then insert brand here” in a truck intended for work, TORQUE is the most important thing.  You want as much as you can get, as low in the rpm range as you can get it.  With the EcoBoost, Ford is not only able to match torque numbers of the 6.2 V8, but through the use of careful computer tuning they can create a near flat torque curve so that 80-90 percent of torque is available from 2,000 rpm’s on.  The EcoBoost is rated to tow 11,000 and while we wanted to try that out, the person we know with the 32’ race car trailer was out of town, so we were again unable to hook up anything meaningful to really test this engine.

While testing by sites like has shown that when towing at near max capacity the advantage in fuel economy between the EcoBoost and the 6.2 V8 is negligible, it’s when driving around in “normal conditions” that the EcoBoost really shines.  We had some experience with the 6.2 in the Raptor that we tested some time back, and while that is a bit unique due to the 35” tires and it’s elevated stance, the best highway fuel economy we got in the Raptor as 14 mpg and we had to be very light footed to achieve that, 12-13 mpg was more the norm.  With this 4×4 Supercrew we pulled down 20 mpg on a 550 mile trip to Indiana and back.


Power with the EcoBoost is very good, in fact it didn’t take very much throttle to begin to feel the traction control coming in.  Put your foot down with the traction control turned off, and in two wheel drive, it would smoke the tires with easy.  Get the EcoBoost and the F-150 is an entertaining truck to drive.

The interior of the Lariat package was nice, but the level of materials in a few spots left something to be desired.  The leather material on the dash is paper thin, and didn’t have a real quality feel to it.  The wood grain for some of the interior trim looked nice, but the veneer appeared to be about 2 millimeters thick.  There was also quite a bit of hard plastic to be found as well, and while this IS a press vehicle with 8,000 miles on the clock, the fit and finish is not what we have come to expect from Ford of late. 

We bring these issues up because the out the door price on this very well equipped truck as $49,115.  Now, I don’t care who you are, when you are paying just shy of fifty large for a new vehicle there are some expectations that come with it, and we have to say, that the interior of this F-150 didn’t live up to it.  The rest of the truck was great.  It rode very well for a 4×4, it was very quiet in the cabin, the Sync and Nav systems worked well, but that price tag gives you cause to make that Jeremy Clarkson sucking air between his teeth sound that he’s not best pleased. 

We could knock $4,000 of the price pretty easy by ditching the $2,495 Sony Navigation Radio package and $1,450 for the Lariat Chrome package, and maybe another $995 for the sunroof, but we are still talking about a mid $40,000 truck at that point!  Again we know the cost of pickup trucks has gone up dramatically in the past decade, it’s just that we still have a hard time wrapping our head around those figures, and we know we aren’t the only ones.

Overall we do have to say, if you plan to tow frequently and with bigger loads you should feel very comfortable getting the EcoBoost V6.  Ford has spent quite a bit of time and money making sure it will hold up as good as any V8, and we think you will like the results.

In the end we like these F150’s, the base V6 does a fantastic job and will suit most people who don’t have need to tow very heavy loads.  Most contractors could get away with this V6 and be happy with it.  If we were to buy a new F150 we have to seriously consider this 3.7 V6 because the most we would be towing is 5,000 pounds and that would be maybe six or eight times a year to go to the race track, though that weight is at the top end of it’s tow rating.

To get the EcoBoost isn’t an expensive option up front, but to try and get one out the door for under $40,000 takes a lot of doing.  That said over 50% of the F-150’s coming off dealer lots right now are equipped with the V6’s and dealers are having a hard time keeping EcoBoost’s in stock, so no matter what some may think, consumers are voting with their wallet, and Ford appears to have hit it out of the park with these two engines.

The F-150 continues to be the best selling vehicle in the U.S. year after year, even when gas has become much more expensive, F Series trucks continue to sell at around 50,000 units a month and for October 2011 specifically 40% of those were EcoBoost models, it will be interesting to see if GM, Dodge, Toyota and Nissan follow Ford down this path, or come up with something of their own.  We should find out very soon.

Have a look at all of our photos of these two trucks below.

Reviewed 2010 Ford Raptor 6.2 – A Thirty Gallon Bucket Of Awesomesauce

Nothing succeeds like success, and few things are as enjoyable as excess and that, in a nutshell, is the Ford Raptor.  Built to give people a street replica of a Baja racer, but something far more than just a sticker job with some “special-edition-badging”, the Raptor feels as if with just a little prep, you could go out and run it in the 8100 class.

The Raptor starts out as a short bed, extended cab (crew cab available for 2011) and then goes in for some serious gym work.  There are 12 inches of suspension travel in the front and 13 in the rear, 35” tall BF Goodrich off road tires and some killer FOX Racing shocks on all four corners 

The front grill is unique to the Raptor, along with some additional running lights both on the front and in the back.  Our test unit came with the optional $1,075 graphics package, which is a blocky representation of dirt being thrown up on the truck.  It’s something that we’d skip.  We’ve seen the Raptor in several colors, our black test unit, Blue and in Silver without the graphics package and we prefer the cleaner look.  If we want the look of dirt on the side of the truck, we’ll take it into the dirt and mud and put it there the traditional way, thank you.

The five and a half foot box on the Raptor seems small and perhaps it is, but there is an optional bed extender that we would probably get. Also, Ford offers the integrated tailgate step as an option.  Neither was on our test vehicle but we can say, unless you have a 38” inseam, we’d highly recommend that tailgate step.  With the truck sitting as high as it does, getting up into the bed is not the easiest of tasks.


Not only does the truck sit high, but also, it is quite wide.  Our driveway is seven feet wide and the edges of the tires went over the edges and onto the grass on both sides!  Being that wide, it takes a bit of getting used to driving down the road as it takes up almost the entire width of the lane.  If you live in an area where the roads are narrow, it’s something that you’ll have to be mindful of when traffic approaches in the opposite direction.

There is a nice slab of steel for you to step up into in the cabin of the Raptor.  The step serves three purposes, (a) a step duh! (b) a nice skid plate when you go off roading to protect your doors, and (c) a payback mechanism for door dings.  If someone opens their door next to hou without paying attention, rather than your door getting a nick in it, their door will get a nice dent in its edge, coming against that nice bit of plate steel!


Once you climb up into the cabin, you have a lot of room. Driver and passengers are separated by a wide center console, which has a very deep storage bin.  There are also four auxiliary switches built in for your future modification needs like auxiliary lights,  winches, etc. Our test unit had the optional orange seat accents that are a take-it-or-leave-it thing.  They offered a nice contrast to the rest of the interior, but it may be a bit too much for others.  The steering wheel has a nice meaty feel to it and when you hold it at the ten and two position, it feels custom molded to your hands.

Being an extended cab model there is a back seat for three.  It’s a fairly useable space, though we wouldn’t want to ride back there for a long time unless the people in the front two seats were on the shorter end of the scale.  With the seats adjusted back for a six-foot plus person, legroom is tight; set for people of normal height, it’s okay.


Our test unit was also equipped with the 700-watt Sony sound system with full SYNC and navigation system.  This is not a cheep option at $2,430 but it’s so well done, it’s hard to argue not ordering this.  One thing that will be very useful is that SYNC, with the nav system, can direct you to the nearest gas station via voice command.  It’s a place you’ll become very intimate with, owning and driving the Raptor: the gas station, that is.

The big upgrade that came later in the 2010 model year was the availability of the 6.2-liter engine, which is now the only available engine for 2011.  While the old 5.4-liter engine can trace its roots back to the early 90’s 4.6 V8 that appeared in the Crown Vic, this is an all-new engine for Ford.  411 horsepower and 434 lb/ft of torque are the ratings for the 6.2 and unlike the 5.4, it has power across the entire range.  While we would never complain if more power was available, we can say that we were very happy  with what was on tap for this power plant, save one thing and we’ll get to that in just a second.  Driving in the city, getting on the highway, or just when you feel the need to romp on the gas, the 6.2 has power on demand and makes life oh so enjoyable.


When you buy a truck like the Raptor, fuel mileage is probably not high on your list of concerns.  If you can afford a $48,525 pickup truck, you aren’t worried about a trade off of gas in the tank or food on the table for your family.  All that said, when the window sticker says in bold face type, “FUEL ECONOMY RATINGS NOT REQUIRED ON THIS VEHICLE,” you know people at the Whole Foods store aren’t going to be smiling at you when you park in their lot.

To see what we could do for mileage, we went on the highway at night so there was little traffic, set the cruise at 75-mph and drove for 45 miles.  According to the readout on the dash, 14.1mpg is what we got.  There is an upside; in city driving, your mileage will only fall off about 2-3mpg.  Therein lies the rub: the motor has enough power to make the truck feel great yet the problem is that it comes at a pretty big cost in fuel economy although the 5.4 was not any better.

The engine we’d love to see under the hood of the Raptor is the EcoBoost V6.  Not that we’d expect it to get 20mpg, but if it could get something close to 18, that would be huge.  The EcoBoost is about to come on line for other F-150 trucks and Ford is going to run it in this year’s Baja 1000 so maybe, for 2012 or 2013, it will be an option.  It has similar power and torque numbers to the 6.2, but at a higher efficiency.  We’ll have to wait for the official EPA numbers to come out on the EcoBoost F-150 before we can calculate what that would mean for the Raptor.  Look: save it, we know where you are going.  Yes, we’d kill to have a turbo diesel, but you can find the PowerStroke Raptor at, all right?

The Raptor is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission and it does a good job.  In our highway mileage test, 75 miles an hour in sixth gear was 2100 rpm.  The transmission shifted smoothly and precisely and there was no slushy vague feeling in it.  It also had a tow/haul mode and an option to shift it manually.  While our test unit did have the trailer-towing package with brake controller, we didn’t have the opportunity to hook it up and pull anything in our few days with the truck.


On the roads and on the highways, the Raptor rides firm but it’s not jarring.  This is no Town Car pillow top ride; it is an off road truck after all but it is a comfortable ride.  For as high of a center of gravity as the Raptor has, and as tall as the tires are, it handles fairly well.  It’s nimble enough to handle tight parking garages and just fits under the 6’8” height limit of most parking structures around us.

While we didn’t get to truly run the Raptor off road on trails or fire roads, we did find a few fields to rip it up on, and the s&*t eating grin on our face didn’t go away for hours!  There were hidden ruts and holes in the field and the Raptor went over them like it was nothing.  Given what we believe the shock valving and spring rates to be, to a point, the faster you go, the smoother the ride should be.

There is one dangerous aspect to the Raptor: to your driving record that is. The truck goes 90 on the highway like most cars go 60.  There were several times we looked down on the speedometer and had to do a check up.  The Raptor is smooth and quiet at those speeds.  Most tires geared for off road are also quite noisy at highway speeds, not so with these BFG’s.  They made no more noise than your standard all season radials on the family sedan.


People love the Raptor. It doesn’t matter if it’s the young kids in the neighborhood, people in the Costco parking lot, or just driving down the road; people look at you and smile, tell you that it’s a cool truck and give you a thumbs up.  When you buy something like the Raptor, it’s doubtful that you are looking for affirmation from others about your purchase, but it is a nice thing to have.

The Ford Raptor is everything you hoped it would be and more, that’s why we describe it as a 30 gallon bucket of awesomesauce.  It’s a truck that exceeds your expectations, and you are always looking for an excuse to go out and drive it, even if it’s just on surface streets.  We wish we would have had the time to head out to Chrysler’s off road course in Chelsea, MI to really pound it on some trails and mud, but it wasn’t in the cards and couldn’t be arranged.

Would we buy this with our own money, you bet!  It’s a truck that’s worth $48,000?  If you consider that a similarly optioned F-150 FX4 is $43,000, then you would have to add wheels, tires and suspension, etc., to bring it up to the Raptor’s level, you are coming out at the same or higher cost, so yes.  Almost $50,000 for a pickup truck is amazing, but Ford, Chevy and Dodge, can all get you into three quarter and one ton trucks from north of $60,000 these days, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. 

If you get the chance, go drive a Raptor 6.2, you won’t be able to wipe the smile from your face for weeks and that, more than anything, is why trucks like this exist.