I missed the recent Monster Jam event in Abu Dhabi which, by all accounts, was a blast. The trucks on show included legends Blue Thunder, Max-D and Grave Digger, but this didn’t bother me as I had my very own monster for the weekend; the Ford F-150 Hi-Rider.
It’s a beast, pure and simple. There isn’t a shadow of a doubt about it, and it performs absolutely as ferociously as it looks. People go on about supercars having loads of character and that they stand out from a crowd and the rest of it, but you can multiply that by 100 with this thing. It tops the lot — nothing compares in terms of sheer visual drama.
However, vehicles like these split opinion right down the middle; you either like them or you don’t. I knew how I felt about it long before our man at Ford, Tarek, delivered the monster at wheels HQ.
Having driven the SVT Raptor before, I kind of knew what to expect. Or so I thought. Tarek jumped out of the cabin, beaming from ear to ear. From that smile, I knew I was going to love it more than I expected. But before he gave me the keys, he gave me some instructions, “Don’t take it to any malls because it doesn’t fit in the car park,” was closely followed by, “oh, and it doesn’t do U-turns well. Do you still want it?” The scare tactics didn’t work, but I didn’t blame him for not wanting to hand it over; he loved this thing and couldn’t part with it, which is exactly how I felt days later when he came back to collect it.
Test cars rarely leave such a lasting impression like this F-150 did, thanks to its incredible capability, some great technology and a brute of a powertrain.
It delivered on every level — even though it meant mounting the curb every time I made a U-turn. No problem, because for every negative there were more positives, such as the fact it boasted several new technologies and driveline upgrades including the addition of Hill Start Assist and electronic-locking rear axles and the fact it looked an absolute treat.
I loved the 20in chrome wheels wrapped in massive 325/60 rubbers — the proportions were epic, as was the equally huge 3,683mm wheelbase. This didn’t just give the truck more presence (as if it needed more…) it also freed up a lot of space in the interior. It felt every bit as large on the inside as it was on the outside, and was exceptionally comfortable, offering a heck of a view thanks to a 152mm suspension lift.
It had all the mod cons you’d want, such as dual-zone AC, cruise control, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with reversing camera, 10-way power-adjustable leather seats with heating and cooling functions, a 4.2in LCD cluster and Ford’s Sync voice-activated communication and entertainment system.
The new FX appearance package just added to the drama, delivering a unique look with stealthy, flat-black accents. The projection chrome headlights with halogen lamps were so powerful they could probably see through walls, while the rear LEDs were a fab touch. But the X-Metal custom black grille and the off-road lightbar on the cab roof were my favourite features of the bold exterior.
That’s all fine and dandy I hear you cry, but did it go? Oh my word, did it. Its 5.0-litre four-valve dual-overhead-camshaft Ti-VCT V8 was a brute of an engine producing a whopping 360bhp at 5,500rpm (best in class) and more importantly 515Nm of torque from 4,250rpm, and was mated to a six-speed selectshift gearbox.
Undoubtedly, this engine was a beast; it wasn’t just bonkers though — it was smooth and refined too. Acceleration was commendable for something that weighed 3,333kg, but in the rough is where this F-150 came into its own. Armed with the 3.73 electronic-locking rear axle, the four-wheel drive Ford flattened the dunes with ease. It never got stuck, as there was so much power and torque in reserve that I didn’t even have to try in the sand.
Switch traction control off and set it in 4H mode and off you go. The rubbers dug in and tossed the golden stuff high into the air, while the front wheels acted like rudders. When the 4x4 system sensed a loss of traction, torque was transferred to the front wheels. Incredible fun.
But out on the road it handled just like what it was; a big truck. The steering lacked feel, while the chassis shuddered and hopped when I drove over speed bumps at anything quicker than 20kph. It had a somewhat unsettled ride even on smooth surfaces, but to me that was just part of the charm.
Its AdvanceTrac with roll stability control and four-wheel ABS meant it was perfectly safe, while it had a best-in-class 4,535kg maximum trailer tow — very impressive. Not so its fuel economy; good luck trying to get it to sip less than around 18 litres-per-100km.
Had I made it to Monster Jam in the F-150, I don’t think I would have been watching the action from the stands. One look at this Ford and the officials would have signed me up to battle the likes of Thor, Thrasher and Incinerator. Those trucks probably breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing that I stayed home.