Back to Idyllwild, again.
This time in a damn impressive Ford F150 King Ranch truck, which carries the plushest of trims branded onto the inside of Ford's most reliable selling truck that is the cornerstone, pretty much, of Ford's entire operation for the last 30 years.
So the ever-reliable holiday cottage destination Idyllwild - about 100 miles east of LA in a great spot overlooking both alpine hills and desert expanse - was perfect to test the ups and downs of back country roads that a F150 is most likely to be driven. Or, in my case, ripped up, over and around (though always safely).
As with most of these uber-trucks, this one was huge: A beast that can tow up to 11,000 pounds at the top end and has a payload hauling capability of a ton and a half. The 5.4-liter V8 engine pushes out more than 300 horsepower and 365 pounds per foot of torque at 5,500 revs per minute. That's serious straight-line charging with a steer's kick behind it.
Quickly with big trucks, you tend to find that 1) they shift far quicker than you thought they would and 2) Everything you've heard about nightmarish maneuverability becomes apparent as soon as you're driving in something smaller than a paddock, like a 7-11 lot.
All-manner of sensing equipment that comes with the King Ranch trim will help you out, but chances are you're gonna have some pretty sore arms and a stiff neck at the end of maneuvering the F150, which has a 45-foot turning circle. Therefore, I'd seriously think twice about buying one of these to ferry the kids around in on daily town driving.
I used mine to ferry about the favorite auntie, who was in town for a visit. I would have transported the wife and dog, too, but that fine beige patent leather King Ranch trim and the doggy's paws digging in round corners don't necessarily mix, so we had to ride in convoy around much of the back country.
So I had a commanding view of the back of the wife's Nissan from near seven-feet high up in the F150's mammoth cabin. Of course I couldn't keep up around twisting roads - though the truck responded well with body roll minimized - but on the straights the torquey F150 roared through its four gears with acceleration that can, occasionally and with some exhilaration, leave you far back in your seat..
On road, so far so good. Bit lax of me perhaps but I couldn't find a decent track amongst the wildfire-charred tundra to take this one off-road, and I prefer manual shifters for maneuvers, obviously. Then again, all of these trucks are damn near superb off-road and, I'd venture, you're in pretty experienced, safe hands here.
Interior is the real statement in this car, of course: You pay a hefty premium to sit in fine patent leather and get all the dibbings that the schmo who uses it as a work truck just doesn't get: 18-inch seven-spoke King Ranch rims, heated driver and passenger seats, pueblo gold running boards and clearcoating. Further outlay will get you the impressively easy to use sat-nav console for $1995, an extra $995 gets you a great moonroof, $250 a sliding rear window and the test model came with additional 20-inch bad boy rims, which would set you back another grand or so.
Standard across the range is the 27-gallon fuel tank, tow hook and fog lamps, power rack and pinion steering and keyless entry. Gas is 14 and 18 town and freeway respectively and warranty is a reasonable 60,000 mile or five year powertrain guarantee with road assistance thrown in.
King Ranch? King of the road in Idyllwild, more likely.
*Ford F150 King Ranch MSRP is $35, 495*