You might recall that earlier this week I wrote about my life-affirming adventure of taking the cheapest EV in the world to the racetrack. You also may recall that the cheapest EV in the world, the Changli, can only go about 28 miles per charge and tops out at under 25 MPH. This means to get to the track within a normal human lifespan, I needed to transport the 800-or-so pound Changli in some other vehicle. Luckily, Ford loaned me that other vehicle, an F-250, complete with a ramp kit that made Changli-hauling a snap.
I freely admit that my own personal biases are not prone to be kind to really huge pickup trucks. I love a compact pickup truck, personally, and for the modern trend of genuinely massive pickups, I find their considerable bulk cumbersome to drive and park, and usually their needlessly high load heights make getting things in and out of the bed — arguably the whole raison d’etre of a pickup truck — needlessly difficult.
That said, there’s a right tool for every job, and it’s hard not to find this F-250 to be a very right tool for the job of long highway drives while carrying an 800-pound weird little electric car in the bed.
This F-250 Lariat (Tremor edition, even, a name that always sounds a bit like a medical condition to me) is fast and comfortable, a roomy, easy road trip car that ravenously gobbles up miles and defecates, um, you at your destination. Sorry, that metaphor got a little bit away from me there.
You get the point, though. This thing does long road trips very well. It’s a crew cab, so there’s plenty of room front and rear, with large, butterscotch-colored couchlike seats, an excellent 10-speaker B&O (I think that stands for Butter & Onions, but I’d have to check) sound system, wood, leather, all that. Everything in the cab feels very premium, to the point that it was hard to shake the sense that maybe I shouldn’t be in there.
For all its bulk, it’s a ridiculously easy machine to drive, too. It has all the driver-assist features you’re likely to expect in a modern vehicle — lane keeping, dynamic cruise and a lot of advanced safety systems that help compensate for the bulk and height of the vehicle, like cross-traffic alert systems and Pre-Collision Assist and emergency braking systems, since it seems Ford is as eager to avoid running anyone over as you are, and with all these systems active, you’re pretty unlikely to do that, at least by accident.
The truck loaned to me had the massive 7.3-liter “Godzilla” V8 pushrod engine, at huge new gasoline powerplant that makes 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Which gives it plenty of power and makes moving this two-rhinos-boning sized object surprisingly effortless.
The 10-speed transmission does its shifting in shameful privacy, with very little indication to the driver beyond the little dash display showing what gear it’s in, which, for my long highway drives, was nearly always 10th.
All those gears should help a bit with fuel economy, which, for this big-ass truck hauling the Changli, I was expecting to be pretty miserable. But it turned out to just be sort of objectively crappy on a scale of all modern vehicles: pretty good considering the context of a big truck hauling a small car, between 12.5 and 15 MPG.
Considering that the Changli was adding both weight and aero penalties, I’m actually impressed with the gas mileage I got from the rig.
The Tremor package on my test truck was, for the purposes of this trip, almost $4,000 worth of equipment I didn’t really need at all: off-road tires, upgraded springs, locking diff, an extra two inches of lift, a rock-crawling mode, skid plates. And I think the running boards were unique to the Tremor package as well.
Since I wasn’t off-roading it, at least not seriously, none of these things actually helped me, except maybe for the running boards. You see, I slept in the back of the cab a night or two, and when you wake up in the morning, those big running boards provide an excellent platform on which to stand and perform your morning micturition, all without having to go through the hassle of finding your shoes.
The rear seat was just a little too short for even my short body to fully stretch out, but it was comfortable enough, and the clever addition of under-seat storage in the cab made sure that it was easy to keep things uncluttered.
Oh, one actual disadvantage to having the Tremor package is that it’s only available with the 6.75-foot bed, which meant that the Changli’s butt hung out the back, not allowing the tailgate to close.
With the tailgate open and the Changli properly secured, it worked out fine, but it would have been easier if the whole vehicle could have fit in the bed, which it would have with the eight-foot bed option.
As proof, here’s the Changli (still in its cardboard box) in the bed of our own David Tracy’s Jeep J10 pickup:
That’s a much smaller truck overall, but it’s got an eight-foot bed.
Really, though, the whole reason I asked for a truck was so I could use it to haul the Changli, and the reason I was given this one was because it had the $695 Stowable Loading Ramps option, so let’s talk about those.
Dealing with ramps to get vehicles or other wheeled things into and out of pickup truck beds is almost always sort of a hassle. And while I can’t say that the ramp system for the F-250 is absolutely hassle-free, the volume of hassle is significantly reduced. It’s downright Diet Hassle.
The ramp setup here is very well thought out. The ramps have a sliding telescoping design so they can be collapsed to a smaller size for stowing, and there’s a pair of brackets on either side of the bed that the ramps fit into. They are kept well out of the way, enough so that I suspect you could just keep them in place almost all the time and use the truck without being bothered by them at all.
The ramps are held to the sides via two screws with handles on them, and for security there are steel cables at front and back, with the rear one incorporating a lock that you can open using the truck’s valet key inside the electronic key fob.
I also used these same cables to secure and lock the Changli’s axles when it was in the bed, which was convenient.
My favorite part about these ramps is this:
See that lip on the tailgate? The ramps slide onto it from the side, and by doing so make a nice, positive lock on the edge of the tailgate; this also lets the ramps be easily adjusted for wheel track/vehicle width and that sort of thing. It’s easy, secure and hard to screw up, and when you’re slowly climbing a steep ramp, those are good things.
Speaking of steep, my one real complaint about the ramp setup is less about the ramps themselves and more about the fundamental geometry of the truck: It’s high. Since a ramp and truck setup effectively forms a right triangle to the ground, the higher the truck bed from that ground, the steeper that hypotenuse of a ramp you have to climb, and in that 1.1 HP, kind of top-heavy Changli, really steep ramps just feel pretty nervy.
As you can see, on relatively flat ground, the angle is pretty steep. Steeper than felt comfortable driving the Changli up, if I’m honest. So, I found solutions, either by lowering the bed by positioning the truck facing downhill...
...or by driving the front end up onto a slope, to lower the rear:
...or even backing into a ditch, to lower the bed height even more dramatically, even though this one did require going into 4WD to motor out of:
Once made a bit lower, the ramps were great to drive up and down, providing good grip and excellent stability.
Oh, I should mention that at least in one context, the high bed height was an advantage, when I got to Munro’s facilities and was able to use their loading dock to unload the Changli:
With the help of a pair of small ramps for the rear wheels, the F-250 was able to back right up to the loading dock, letting the tailgate meld seamlessly with that ramp, forming a perfect little Changli bridge. This was by far the easiest loading and unloading of the car the whole trip.
This was less of a comprehensive review and more a review of a machine as a tool for a specific use: hauling a tiny EV on a long road trip. I’m happy to say that the F-250 with the ramp kit does it extremely well.
The F-250 is full of good details, like the power opening rear window and the appealing lighting design (even amber rear indicators, I was pleased to note), and it’s all abundantly clear that Ford knows how to build trucks very well.
That said, I’m still always a bit puzzled by things like the Tremor package: it provides a lot of very capable off-roading hardware, but are people really hardcore off-roading an $80,000+ truck with a luxury interior like this?
Maybe that does happen, but it still is puzzling to me. And, if I were to decide to live on the road and travel around with my Changli, fighting injustice wherever I found it, I’d still want a truck with smaller exterior dimensions and a lower bed height, no question.
There’s plenty of people who disagree with me on that, and if those people who want massive, expensive, luxurious trucks to take their Changlis across the nation, then you’ll do very well with an F-250.
Just skip the Tremor package and get the eight-foot bed. I’ll see you on the road, Changli-hauling fam!