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Pickup Truck Comments & Critiques
Reader: I read your report on your choice of the 2008 Ford Super Duty as Pickup of the Year (Mar. '08). I'm not going to complain about your choice-you picked what you felt was the best truck of the group. But I would like to offer an alternative perspective.
First, I should tell you I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Ford guy. Seven of the nine vehicles I've owned have been Fords (the exceptions were the Buick my wife owned when I met her, and a CJ-5). I put 182,000 miles on my first Ford truck (an '85 F-250) and 148,000 on my second (a '95 F-150). So I was pretty excited when I ordered a 2008 F-250 and took delivery of it in May 2007.
I loathe this truck. The three biggest problems are ones your truck wouldn't have had: The 5.4L Triton V-8, its engine management system, and the M6OD transmission.
The 5.4 Triton simply isn't a 3/4-ton truck engine. It'd be nice in a Mustang, and probably acceptable in a 1/2-ton, but it makes no power below 3,000 rpm. I've almost never had to run a truck engine above 3,000 rpm before (my other pickups both had 351 Windsors), and now I can't do anything but cruise below it-and I can't even cruise below 3,000 if the truck is loaded. I know I could have had all the low-end torque I'd ever want if I'd have been willing to pay an extra $7,000 for the diesel. But I'd always been perfectly satisfied with the 351W so it didn't seem like I should need to pay that much for an acceptable truck engine.
Making it even worse is the M6OD trans. I don't like automatics, so I was glad that I at least could get a manual. But this isn't a 3/4-ton truck transmission-it's a 21/2-ton tranny. And overkill isn't always a good thing. If I had a 600-lb-ft torque-monster engine, I'd maybe be willing to put up with the slow shifting that a heavy-duty transmission requires. But backing a Mustang engine up with a dump-truck transmission was not a "Better Idea."
Also completely unacceptable is the engine management system that provides no compression braking (it keeps the throttle open while coasting), doesn't allow effective double-clutching (it doesn't let the engine slow down fast enough to let the engine help slow down the oversized gears in the tranny), and doesn't allow you to slowly back a trailer in low-low (it keeps opening the throttle so you have to slip the clutch and ride the brakes. My old trucks would lug down the engine with the clutch completely engaged and maybe a light foot on the brake).
Any one of these three would make the truck completely unacceptable to me. In addition, there are scores of annoyances that I'd maybe be willing to accept if I otherwise liked the truck. Those big mirrors you like for towing require me to drive my wife's car to the bank drive-through (my old trucks fit); they don't slide in far enough to be effective without a wide load; and they cause road spray to collect on the side windows so you can't see the mirrors anyway. The cab is too high for my slide-in camper (I had to fasten 2x4s on edge to the bottom of the camper so it'd clear). The back edge of the tailgate is curved, so a topper window has to be flexed to allow it to latch. Styling, of course, is a personal thing, but while you like the look, I find it extremely in-your-face, which I don't like. Especially the gaudy chrome grille (at least I was able to get an XL with the black grille). I used to laugh at the mid-'80s Chevys that had such an identity crisis that they had to have "4x4" logos on both rear fenders to tell everyone what it was. This truck has eight "Super Duty" logos on it. To me, this screams "look at me, I'm insecure and trying to compensate."
Reader: OK guys, I've been quiet long enough. I've been a subscriber to this great magazine since 1974 when I bought my first 4x4, a new IH 200, which I owned for 22 years. The ol' Binder is gone now (thanks to my ex), but the big reason for this letter is about the 2008 Pickup Truck of the Year. I don't have any issues with your choice, and I understand why and how you pick the winner. I was a little disappointed that GM didn't have more than one truck there.
I've been partial to Cummins engines for a long time, and therefore somewhat interested in the big Dodge, so when I saw it in the lineup, I had to read your comments. While I agree it isn't the best off-highway, or the best trail rig, I had to laugh when I saw the last picture where it was stuck clear to the axles. Like someone put the pedal to the metal, and kept it there while it downshifted all the way to First gear, and kept going until all forward motion stopped when the front diff hit the dirt. Having never had a truck with a limited-slip diff, I've learned to turn off the testosterone and not let things get that bad, especially when I'm alone. My son did the same thing in a snowdrift a few winters back. He wasn't too happy when I pulled his big Chevy out with me Explorer. What happened to: "Hey, stop before it gets that deep"? Or, "Hey let some air out of the tires first! We don't have a limited-slip here."? Then feather the throttle just enough to move the truck without breaking traction. Simple! But hindsight is always 20/20.
Torque is the enemy when driving in deep sand, as you found out with the Ram. Plus its 7,000 pounds didn't help much. I agree the Cummins should be an option for the Power Wagon-when is Dodge going to wake up?
Reader: The butler did it ... again! As a long-time subscriber (15+ years), I always look forward to getting my monthly issues from you. I normally read them cover to cover, and I wanted to say that the last two issues have been extremely disappointing because you give away your winners for FWOTY and PTOTY right on the cover of each issue (Feb., Mar. '08) This decision seems to have been a last-minute change by someone at FW since the "On the Cover" text in the Table of Contents for both issues refers to a different (nonexistent) photo. If the intent of the change was to draw more people to buy newsstand copies, you may have had the opposite result. Why buy the issue when the answer is printed in bold font on the cover? Your editorial mentions reading the article to find out who comes out on top. Well, you already spoiled it. It's like publishing a mystery novel with the whodunit in the cover title. Of course, I still read the article to get details on each vehicle and compare the specs between them all.
I really enjoy your magazine but wanted to share my frustration with these latest spoilers and hope you reconsider this approach in the future.
Tiny Town, CO
Editor: Thanks for the suggestions. The discrepancy in the Table of Contents reflected the fact, as you surmised, that we did have two separate covers-one for the newsstand and one for subscribers-and one of the local bozos (er, editors) around here forgot to include that info on the Contents page. In other words, it wasn't a last-minute decision-we just goofed. We're always trying out new approaches on our covers to see what works and what doesn't with our readers, and we appreciate any and all feedback about our cover treatments. Thanks again.
About the big Ram: As a rule, we usually don't air down the tires on our test rigs during our FWOTY and PTOTY tests, preferring instead to "run 'em as they brung 'em" straight from the factory. This gives us a chance to test each tire at the manufacturers' recommended inflation pressures, and also to simulate how most everyday (i.e., non-hardcore) wheelers would run these (stock) rigs in the dirt. Also, while we realize we lose some tire adhesion by not airing down, we also minimize the chances of sidewall failure, which strikes us as an acceptable trade-off-we'd rather yank a stuck rig out of the sand than have to reseat a bead, or change a tire and wheel, on the trail. Finally, in our defense, the pilot of the stuck Ram was a grizzled 20-year veteran of the Rubicon and Moab who had never, ever gotten stuck on any trail before. On a related note, our Editor's nose is getting longer these days-and it was already pretty big to begin with.
About the Super Duty: You make some very perceptive observations. If we need some extra testdrivers for PTOTY next year, we'll keep you in mind. Can you handle Southern California in November?