A combination Mother Nature never intended.

by Cheryl Jensen

What do you get when you cross a full-size sport-utility vehicle with a pickup truck? When it's a Ford Expedition mating with an F-150, you get the 2001 F-150 SuperCrew, which arrives in dealerships in February.

It's something we're going to see more of as the auto industry is about to send consumers down a new road with combinations that Mother Nature may have never intended.

The SuperCrew's passenger compartment - with a full rear passenger compartment and four full-size doors - is significantly larger than that of an extended cab and is offset by a smaller pickup bed, which helps keep the vehicle maneuverable.

The idea has already been presaged by the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab and the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab. But those are smaller pickups. That makes the SuperCrew the first full-size pickup adopting that concept to reach the market.

It is also the only pickup truck on the market with power adjustable pedals, making it a very flexible family and cargo hauler. No later than April, a hard, lockable tonneau cover for the pickup bed will be available, which will keep cargo secure and dry. Vehicles bought before that time can be retrofitted with the cover.

Pricing begins at $26,755 for a two-wheel-drive XLT and $29,975 for an XLT in four-wheel drive. The upscale Lariat models begin at $28,335 for two-wheel drive and $31,790 for four-wheel drive. (Prices include a $665 destination and delivery charge.)

F-150 genes and jeans

With its overall length of 225.9 inches and its wheelbase of 138.5 inches (two-wheel drive model) or 138.8 inches (four-wheel drive model), the SuperCrew is the same length as the extended-cab model called the F-150 SuperCab.

But the SuperCrew's cab has been extended a significant 12 inches over the length of the SuperCab's interior. That means not only full-size doors, making it easier to get in and out, but 4.6 inches more rear leg room than is available in the SuperCab. The SuperCrew has only two inches less leg room than you get in the second row of the Ford Expedition sport-utility.

That impressive amount of room means that the 6-foot-4 manly driver I had in tow could sit in the driver's seat and then move to the seat behind and still have plenty of head and legroom. Ford has also reclined the rake of the back seat a bit so the passengers are not sitting bolt upright.

Ford claims that the SuperCrew will carry six people with a bench seat in front, but I prefer the optional Captain's Chairs with a floor-mounted center console configuration that seats two.

If there are no people to be toted in the rear, the 60/40 split seat folds down, increasing the versatility of the interior.

The rear seats are equipped with three child-seat tether anchors. These offer a place to attach tethers, which are available through child safety seat manufacturers. By tethering the top of the safety seat to the tether anchors, it keeps a child seat from being thrown forward in a crash. Manufacturers have added these tether anchors to comply with a new government regulation.

A power point in the rear is a nice feature, which allows the use of electronic gear ranging from cell phones to computer games.

Seating for six

Up front, Ford tries to accommodate different sizes of drivers with its power adjustable pedals, which move back and forth three inches simply by pushing a button on the dash. One advantage is to allow shorter drivers to reach the pedals and still be as far away as possible from the airbag.

The 5.5-foot-long pickup bed on the SuperCrew is for larger or messier cargo than anyone would want to carry inside a sport-utility. The usual bed on a SuperCab would be either seven feet long or eight feet long. One $195 option on the SuperCrew is a fold-out bed extender. The bed extender is a tubular steel, curved cage-like unit that attaches to the rear of the pickup bed. With the tailgate down, the unit pivots out and locks into place to extend the cargo floor to seven feet. When the bed extender is inside the box, it is a convenient storage area to keep items from rolling around in the bed. And with the lockable tonneau cover, the cargo area is rated at 44.2 cubic feet, according to Ford.

With the 4.6-liter V-8, the bed on the two-wheel drive can carry 1765 lb. However, opt for the four-wheel drive and the payload drops to 1585 lb. Go with the 5.4-liter V-8 and the maximum payload is 1900 lb for the two-wheel drive and 1715 lb for the four-wheel drive.

The basic mechanical package is the same as the F-150's, with a few exceptions. One is that the leaf springs in the rear are stronger to compensate for the extra weight of the larger cab. In addition, the rear suspension's shock absorbers were staggered to improve the ride comfort for rear passengers.

The 4.6-liter V-8 is rated at 220 hp at 4500 rpm and 290 lb-ft of torque at 3250 rpm. The 5.4-liter V-8 is rated at 260 hp at 4500 rpm and 350 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm.

The maximum towing weight recommended for the 4.6-liter with two-wheel drive is 6600 lb and for the four-wheel drive, 6300 lb. Buy the 5.4-liter and you can tow 8000 lb with the two-wheel drive and 7700 lb with a four-wheel-drive model.

The only transmission is a four-speed automatic. Ford made a SuperCrew with a lovely 4.6 liter V-8 available for a short test drive. It is not surprising that it behaves much like a regular F-150, which is a good thing. The ride was trucky comfortable, even on a rough road. Its competent and predictable handling combined with a good brake-pedal feel makes driving twisty roads such as the Ortega Highway simple and worry-free.

The SuperCrew seems like a terrific concept that was cleverly executed. It should help Ford keep the momentum of its F-Series trucks going, while it offers families more flexibility and more choice.

2001 FORD F-150 SUPERCREW

Base price: 4x2 XLT $26,755 / 4x4 XLT $29,975
4x2 Lariat $28,335 / 4x4 Lariat $31,790
Engine: 4.6-liter V-8, 220 hp (standard); 5.4-liter V-8, 260 hp
Transmission: four-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 4x2 138.5 in / 4x4 138.8 in
Length: 225.9 in
Width: 4x2 79.1 in / 4x4 79.9 in
Height: 4x2 73.9 in / 4x4 76.9 in
Weight: 4x2 4581 lb / 4x4 4914 lb
Fuel economy: 14 city / 18 hwy (est.)
Major standard equipment:
Air conditioning
Tilt wheel
Cruise control
Power windows, mirrors, and door locks
Four-speaker AM/FM/cassette
Alloy wheels

© 2000 The Car Connection

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