Truck for Snow Country is about how this architecture firm has experienced hands-on what homeowners need in regions with heavy snow.
Previously, this firm extolled the virtues of the Honda Ridgeline AWD as the best mid-sized pickup truck. And those virtues remain. Except for one. If you encounter heavy snow and ice, AWD does NOT work as well as a real 4WD. Note: AWD= All Wheel Drive. 4WD= Four Wheel Drive. What’s the difference? To hear most automotive aficionados, not much. Unfortunately, this is NOT true.
Vehicle manufacturers and reviewers like Car and Driver and the like define both AWD and 4WD as transmitting the torque from the drivetrain to all the wheels. Unfortunately, our Senior Staff Architect discovered this is NOT true. And if you really read descriptions about AWD versus 4WD drive carefully, you will see that the reviewers recommend real 4×4 when in more substantial snow and ice. Although, of course, nothing can fight physics if you get on an ice slick.
His 2019 Honda Ridgeline RTL-T which has been an outstanding mid-size pickup truck under most circumstances failed miserably with about 7″ of snow about 10 days ago. What happened? Believing all the hype to be true, our Staff Architect confidently drove his Ridgeline out of his garage, down his driveway and into the street (unplowed), knowing that his SNOW MODE AWD would carry him through. (Note: photo above is not of this ditch situation). However, when he backed up, he hit the side of the road and gravity took over and his truck slid into a ditch about 18″ deep. He tried moving forward and backward, but it appeared that ONLY the left front tire was getting torque. It spun in the snow covered grass, digging into the dirt. All the other so-called “AWD” wheels didn’t seem to be doing anything. All tires were touching the ground. He was stuck. For 7 hours, until his insurance company’s tow truck could come and winch him out.
The Honda has a published ground clearance of 7.6 inches, which in most situations works just fine. But when you are in a ditch in snow, it is highly likely that a good chunk of your undercarriage may very well be in contact with the ground, further diminishing your ability to drive free. Once again: it seemed that only one tire was turning: the one that was stuck.
It was in this circumstance that our Staff Architect decided to trade in his Honda and get his previous standby truck: the hulking Ford F150 4×4. Why: because a 4WD truck actually DOES have all 4 wheels turning when you lock the transmission into 4WD. If an F150 4×4 had been in this same ditch, no doubt it would have been able to back out, WITH ALL 4 TIRES TURNING and pulling the vehicle out of there. So disappointed in the Honda.
So: do NOT believe manufacturer’s claims about AWD. If you end up in a ditch or in deeper snow (in excess of 6″), you’re going to wish you had a bigger, heavier truck with real 4WD and other characteristics to extricate yourself. And sure, you can point at the Honda and say: “I’m getting 22.1 mpg.” And so you are. And it just so happens that the new F150 Hybrid delivers over 24mpg. Amazing for such a large vehicle. Better mileage than the much smaller Ridgeline.
Here’s the F150 our Architect has ordered:
Image “built” by our Architect using Ford’s online Build software, courtesy of Ford Motor Company.
Ford F150 4×4 Lariat Hybrid SuperCrew with 9.4 inches of ground clearance (standard)
– 3.5L PowerBoost Full Hybrid V6 engine
– Hybrid 10 speed Hybird transmission
– 3.73 Electronic locking axle
– Lariat High 502a option package (includes many features, including power steering column, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, chrome package LED main adaptive headlights and more).
– FX4 off-road package
– Class IV trailer hitch
– Ford Co-Pilot 360 Assist 2.0
– Bed Utility Package (includes rear step, and more)
– Tow Technology package (with 360 cameras that let you see your tuck and the trailer from up above), and directional guidance controls for the trailer.
– 18″ Chrome-like PVD Wheels (some people opt for the 20″ but our Architect didn’t see why for about $1,400 more)
– 275/65R18 AT Tires (note: these are 32.1″ in diameter and nearly 11″ wide, which puts more tire in contact with the ground).
– Bedliner-Tough Bed spray-in
– Windows- power sliding-rear
– Twin Panel moonroof (yes: an elaborate indulgence that is sure to please clients and your family and you). Nothing quite like available on a mid-sized truck, but a normal sunroof is available on the Honda Ridgeline.
– Remote Start with remote tailgate release (a must if you take your dog with you shopping during the summer and want to turn the truck on with the A/C running (Ford specs report up to 35 minutes of runtime in this mode). Not available on the Ridgeline.
– On-Board Scales with Smart Hitch (amazing Ford system tells you how much weight you have just put in the bed or on the trailer hitch. Incredible. This F150 can accept 1,850 pound payload in the rear bed, which is almost a ton. Much improved from the past.
– Reverse Sensing System
– 2.4kW – Pro Power Onboard ( there are a couple of 120v electric outlets on the left side interior wall of the pickup bed (capable of running skillsaws, drills and other equipment). In other words, the truck becomes a mobile electric generator.
– LED foglamps and main headlamps that turn to 15* when cornering (ala the Tucker), called Adaptive headlights.
– LED side mirror spotlights
– LED box Lighting with zone lighting
– Side view power folding/controlled mirrors with directional signal and LED approach lamps.
– Angular extended chrome stepbar (continues to the rear wheelwheels so you can step on them to access your rear pickup bed from each side), and helps people step up into the truck.
– Black leather interior. Discovered that the Honda and other vehicles lighter colored leather seats can pickup clothing color stains when the seat heaters are on. Black might be the only color to conceal this.
– Privacy side glass
– Vinyl tray floor liners (no carpet desired)
– 10 way power drivers seat and power passenger seat
– Integrated trailer brake controller
– Interior folding work surface (the gear stick shift power-folds down and the console top folds out to give you a desk surface for lunch, work, or signing contracts with clients).
– Wireless charging pad for phone
– B&O sound system
– Connected built-in Navigation
– Sirius Traffic and Travel Link
– SYNC4 with enhanced voice recognition
– Huge ergonomics: (you could live in the rear crew seats and not be cramped, stow your briefcase on the floor behind the driver’s seat and easily slide it in and out (not so easy with the Honda). And family, medium sized dog crate and clients can sit back there with comfort (once again: more cramped with a mid-sized truck)).
– MUCH more expensive. Yes. perhaps $25k more than the Ridgeline. What? You thought all these improvements were going to be free? THAT’s why you pay nearly $70k for a nice truck these days. Note: the Ford F150 Supercrew XLT 4×4 offers many of the above features for a better value if you don’t need/want leather.
And after paying all that $ and having to have it custom built by Ford and waiting 7 weeks or more to obtain delivery, it is expected to get you the heck out of a snowy ditch. Just to make sure: the Architect will be having a Warn winch installed on the front bumper with a concealed mount type (there’s another couple of grand), which will guarantee that.