WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -  One early summer weekend not long ago, near my home in the Berkshires, I got the fishing itch. I loaded up the King Ranch F-150 pickup and headed to the hills for an afternoon of fishing at a local pond known (well, mostly suspected) to be filled with largemouth bass and bluegills. My daughter Brooke brought her four-year-old half-brother Cayman and her Labrador retriever Lila.

It's not long before you realize why Ford's F-150 dominates the truck market. The best-selling truck in the United States for 24 years and the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 12 years, the F-150 leads the pack, with increasingly tough competition year after year from Chevy, GMC and Dodge, not to mention a capable Japanese truck called Tundra.

This year, like every other, the Blue Oval offers an almost staggering number of choices for the 2002 F-150 shopper, a wider variety of trim levels, bed lengths, interiors and drivetrains than ever before. But maybe this year's most notable and most enjoyable version is the one created by Ford and the saddle makers at Texas's historic King Ranch, to create the King Ranch SuperCrew, a limousine of a pickup truck if there ever were one.

Wide open spaces

Based on the fairly new F-150 SuperCrew, the industry's first under-8500-pound GVW full-size pickup truck, with four full-size doors and a full rear passenger compartment, the King Ranch F-150 SuperCrew is aimed at the more affluent truck buyer who wants the toughness of a pickup married to the luxury of a high-end sedan. The King Ranch SuperCab version also comes to market in 2002, with fewer options and a smaller cabin.

The King Ranch SuperCrew cab, like all SuperCrews, is 12 inches longer than the F-150 SuperCab, and boasts best-in-class rear-seat roominess and four doors for easy entry and exit. General exterior styling remains the same as with the 2001 model, though the King Ranch version features several exclusive paint treatments. Unique two-tone paint has a raised cutline in colors of Estate Green with Arizona Beige two-tone; Chestnut with Arizona Beige two-tone and Charcoal Blue with Arizona Beige two-tone. Fender badging and 17-inch, 10-spoke painted aluminum wheels are distinguishing touches.

The King Ranch SuperCrew is equipped with a standard 4.6-liter SOHC V-8, which delivers 231 horsepower and 293 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a four-speed automatic overdrive transmission, this engine delivers more torque at a lower rpm than the competition. Also available is a 5.4-liter SOHC V-8 engine, which boosts horsepower by almost 30 and torque by 57 lb-ft. The truck is available with either rear-wheel drive or electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive.

Ford's upscale Clydesdale comes fitted with four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The short- and long-arm independent front suspension enhances ride and handling, while staggered rear shocks help to control movement of the rear axle on bumpy roads.

Ford says this vehicle's capabilities also match or beat  any light-duty workhorse on the market. With GVWR ratings of up to 6750 on 4x4, 5.4-liter models, the King Ranch can haul a serious load in its 5.5-foot bed. Tie-down hooks are located in each corner of the cargo box, and a cargo light on the rear of the cab makes loading and uploading the pickup box easier at night. 

An optional Bed Extender allows more flexibility when transporting large items. The tubular steel bed extender is a curved cage unit, which attaches to the rear of the pickup bed. With the tailgate lowered, the unit pivots and locks into place extending the load-floor to seven feet. With the tailgate closed, the stowed bed extender provides storage that keeps smaller items from sliding around the bed while the truck is in motion.

Inside moves

Inside, evidence of this truck's day job disappears in the comfortable, classy cabin. Front and rear leather bound captain's chairs and console with embossed 'King Ranch F-150 SuperCrew' logo and two-way headrests are sumptuously inviting after a hard day in the saddle. A rear bench seat is available as an option, and the available leather trim is of the same skin that King Ranch makes their saddles from - it's not glossy like regular car leather, and weathers to a warm, well-used finish.

Brooke wanted to sit in the back with her dog where there was plenty of room for them, so we stationed Cayman in his car seat in the front of the truck. It was safe for him to be there, because Ford has added an on/off front-passenger airbag switch, which I disengaged with a quick turn of the ignition key. The King Ranch comes with twin front airbags standard, as well as the latest LATCH child-seat installation system. Anti-lock brakes are also gratis.

First- or best-in-class features shared with other SuperCrew models include standard power adjustable pedals, available power moonroof and the bed extender. Other features include an AM/FM/CD stereo, Electronic Automatic Temperature Control (EATC), an available rear seat entertainment package with VHS player and game outlets, lighted visor mirrors with a Homelink garage door opener and a Travel Note voice recorder for quick verbal reminders ('buy fish on the way home; pass it off as your own').

Whether your ranch is in Texas or Massachusetts, the King Ranch SuperCrew offers yet another choice in the already expansive F-150 lineup. Equipped with high-end features, it's a truck that doesn't compromise its blue-collar credibility. Combining hauling power with high-end appointments, this limo is sure to impress even the orneriest cowboy - or cowgirl.

2002 Ford King Ranch SuperCrew F-150
Base price
: $32,360
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 231 hp; 5.4-liter V-8, 260 hp
Drivetrain: Four-speed automatic, rear- or four-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 226.2 x 79.7 x 76.9 in
Wheelbase: 139.0 in
Curb weight: 6500-6600 lb
EPA City/Hwy: 16/20 mpg (4.6-liter; 5.4-liter, 15/19 mpg)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes
Major standard equipment: Power windows, automatic air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM stereo with six-disc CD changer, keyless entry, two-tone paint
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles

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