My usual qualifier for a good car is whether or not it constantly puts a smile on my face. This means I like a lot of cars that are, on paper, bad choices. A Nissan Altima has never made me smile, nor has a Chevrolet Cruze –- yet both are cars I'd recommend to people looking in those respective segments if they want quiet and comfort in a car. Why do you think I feature such lunatic, unreliable, impractical cars on Used Car Face Off every week?
The most recent thing to put a big smile on my face was a truck. A Ford F-150 Raptor Super Crew, to be specific. I know Matt loves the thing and Jason found out it would baby, but I just didn't think I'd like it quite so much – I don't have a toddler and I'm not from Texas. My automotive tastes run small and turbocharged, so a 19-foot long truck with a 6.2-liter V8 isn't normally something I go rushing towards.
But after 10 minutes behind the wheel, I was smitten.
If you don't know, the Raptor – or the Reptar, as I started calling it because the Terrain paint color made it look like a green beast in certain light – is an F-150 that's been fussed over by Ford's SVT office. It's got the most imposing front end out there, with the big black grille and big hood scoops.
All of this makes the Reptar look ridiculous. You're extremely conspicuous sitting at a stoplight and threading it through midday traffic near Santa Monica. And that's fine, because you're lording over traffic, enjoying this certain sense of superiority.
The weird thing is that I don't see these trucks so much in rural settings. I took it to some farmland and even though there was an F-150 passing every 17 seconds, the Reptar just looked silly next to the strawberry plants. Take it to the shopping mall, and it still looks out of place. People see you obviously sticking out of parking stalls, nudging those wide doors open to throw shopping bags.
The best things about the Reptar, though, is the smile it puts on the faces of others. Kids waiting for the school bus turned and stared. That V8 makes a shockingly good noise, which totally made up for the disappointing Sony audio system. I showed it to my mother, who eats stuff like flaxseed and drives a Smart (bad, but laugh-inducing), and she loved it and said it was the coolest thing in the world. She even suggested it to her friend looking to replace her Suburban – something tells me that won't fly, though.
Part of the reason may be that unlike some off-road minded trucks and SUVs, the Reptar is downright lavish inside. There are heated and cooled seats, navigation, full power adjustments for the pedals and steering wheel and the front seats, swathed in nice leather. There were a few problems as Ford tried to modernize its truck: The screen in the middle of the gauge cluster gives you three different ways to see how much fuel you're using, to which I say the answer is always going to be a lot. It takes up a fair amount of real estate in the IP, which forces the speedo to be small and difficult to read. I'd like to know how fast I was going because what felt like 50 was really 80.
Considering the $53,000-plus the Reptar I drove cost, the fact the interior is covered in cheap plastic that's probably meant for the government-fleet-spec F-150 is a turn off. It's not accurate to call it "serviceable," it's just crap. The steering wheel may have a cool red stripe on it, but it's spongey and it can't be wrapped in leather. And the rear bench is as forgiving as one you'd find in a park. But legroom is extremely generous, probably even for the basketball players who buy these.
While I was thankful the Reptar I drove came with a big screen with a backup camera and parking sensors, that meant I also had to put up with MyFord Touch to control lots of the equipment. I know, you're tired of reading reviews that bitch and moan about MyFord Touch, but using the navigation system was the most frustrating thing I've done since geometry. You can enter stuff with the slow, finicky touchscreen if you have 15 minutes of time to sit in a parking lot and have fourth-graders pointing at you. Or you can use the voice commands, and get into an argument with Ms. MyFord Touch. The only command she understands is "Cancel." Seriously, it's enough to give you road rage and people will also stare as they see you screaming in your car. Or maybe they'll just think you're really into heavy metal and singing along with it.
It does look like the biggest douchemobile and the fact they're friggin' everywhere in Malibu doesn't really help its case. So many people probably expected me to be wearing a Giants hat and a deep V-neck, which is why I felt kind of smug blasting the thing through Malibu listening to Passion Pit and wearing a Ben Sherman button-down.
The Reptar is classless and puts a big grin on your face, even if you're trying to thread it through the narrowest two-lane tunnel you've ever seen. It's a bit like the Golf GTI in the way that it can make a bad drive great – I didn't even mind that the off-road shocks gave it the ride quality of a pogo stick and curved on-ramps had to be taken at a snail's pace. Even the 12.8 MPG on the big dash display made me laugh. I never thought I'd fall in love with a truck, but I could live with the Reptar forever – provided I didn't live on a narrow street.
One of my friends, who grew up in a rural town, wondered why there are so many pickup trucks in Southern California. "Who around here hauls hay bales?" she always asks. Well, I don't have and have no interest in doing. I'd drive a Raptor, though, and put up with the sneers and judgment, because my only response would be, "You have to drive one."