On the heels of it being named the 2015 Canadian Truck of the Year, Ford invited Canadian journalists to the Charlevoix region of Quebec to experience the new F-150 in real Canadian Winter conditions. The first wave of journalists were greeted by bitter cold, with bright blue skies. The second wave, which Ronnie Fung and I were on, experienced constant snowfall and occasional spots of zero visibility. In other words, perfect Winter conditions!
Our trip began north of Quebec City, with dinner at the world famous Hotel de Glace, a 44 room hotel constructed entirely out of ice. While it wasn’t exactly an automotive setting as such, the F150 and assorted Ford logos looked great in the icy cool setting. Watching a guy with an electric Stihl chainsaw turn a chunk of ice into a dragon was pretty cool.
The following morning, our drive day, dawned snowy and grey, with the St. Lawrence river looking ominous beneath the historic walled city. Ford had outfitted the small fleet of 2015 F150 models with BF Goodrich’s new All Terrain TA KO2. This off road tire has been developed to meet the standards of the new mountain snowflake Winter tire rating required in Quebec. The conditions would put these tires to the test right out of the gate, as we pulled out of a convention centre onto a very steep, snow covered downhill road. The F-150’s stability control system looked after the traction where the tires were unable to on the way down the hill. At the next stop, this time an uphill, the ABS kicked in as soon as the brakes were applied.
This technology over tires would become a common thread over the next couple of hours.
As we made our way out of Quebec City, we entered a very wide highway that was almost entirely devoid of cars and totally snow covered. It was kind of creepy, in a Walking Dead sort of way, until the route began a series of broad curves. We still had the big Ford in two wheel drive and the limited traction afforded by the BFGs allowed for crazy drifting action at speeds as low as 70 km/h. great fun for us, but not exactly what the average consumer is expecting on their daily drive.
Further along, the road began to climb as we approached the Laurentians, still in two wheel drive, things began to get dicey. The climb grew steeper and the F150 began shaking its tail as the tires struggled for grip and the Ford’s electronics worked to keep things in line. When discussing the situation later, I was asked why I was still driving in two wheel drive. The simple answer is that most vehicles on the road only have two drive wheels and that a proper Winter tire would have looked after the traction issues. I should not need to engage 4×4 to drive on the highway.
Despite our limited traction issues, the ride was comfy and cozy inside, as we grooved to 1st Wave on the satellite radio. The new cabin is a space in which I felt instantly at home.
Eventually we made our way to the tiny Charlevoix airport, which would serve as our home base for the rest of the day, where Ford’s event team had prepared a number of exercises for us to experience the F-150’s skills. Mother Nature had added her own dose of challenge into the mix.
For those who wanted to see how the truck handled with a load, there were trucks that had been loaded full of a variety of construction equipment, but Ronnie and I chose to experience the truck the same way as many personal use buyers would: towing a trailer. We chose a six cylinder powered model with a dual snowmobile trailer tagging along behind. The Ecoboost six proved to be more than happy climbing the steep hills on the drive from the airport to the town of La Malbaie and back. With the transmission in towing mode, it would automatically downshift to control our speed as we descended said hills, keeping speed under control.
A rural quarry had been converted into a large off road terrain park which was said to be challenging in dry conditions. In our Winter wonderland, it was a even tougher, with the addition of snow filled ditches along the side of some trails that could not be seen by the inexperienced eye. In these conditions, with deep snow atop rough, loose rocks, the BFG rubber was in its element, as was the tough truck. The Ford clambered up steep rocky trails like they weren’t even there. Most interesting was the complete lack of any visible chassis flex when traversing an uneven section of logs. I love off roading and this was Ronnie’s first time – we could have stayed there all afternoon, except that the handling course at the airport was calling us.
Laid out on the runway and taxi strip, the handling course was buried in about a foot of snow, which the chunky BFGs and four wheel drive made quick work of. Naturally, I turned off all of the above mentioned driver aids to have a bit of fun and found that the big Ford was surprisingly nimble through the cones. Power on oversteer is easy to achieve in the deep stuff and is easily managed through long, sweeping turns, yet also willing to flick from one side to another for changing directions.
Canadian consumers love of practicality has led to substantial growth of the light truck market in recent years, driving overall vehicle sales up, even as demand for passenger cars lags. This trend no doubt is in part thanks to the F-150, which has topped the sales charts in this country for years now and for good reason. Ford is counting on the all new truck to continue that trend. With this redesign, they have created a vehicle which will feel familiar to existing F-150 customers, yet ads the promise of improved fuel economy. As prices at the pump are back on the rise, I suspect that the 2015 F-150 will continue to lead the pack in sales.
Transportation and accommodation were provided by the manufacturer.