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2006 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson

Har(d)ley-A-Davidson F-150

    There is a hitch about special-edition vehicles: They have to keep getting more special or the latest attempt risks being showed up by an earlier version. This commonsense lesson is taught on the first day of Special-Edition Vehicles 101, but Ford must have been asleep in the back row, or at the very least, sketching GTs instead of notes. All of this is relevant because it explains our disappointment with the 2006 Harley-Davidson F-150. In short, we’d rather have a pre-owned 2003 edition in our garage than this latest “greatest” version. Let us explain.
     The 2003 HD F-150 was a truly special truck thanks to a unique powertrain and a gorgeous two-tone paint scheme. You’ll recall Ford engineers capped that version’s 5.4-liter V8 with a supercharger that yielded 340 hp and 425 lb-ft of torque. You would expect the 2006 model, based on the latest and greatest version of the popular F-Series, to offer up power figures even beyond that—but you would be wrong. Instead Ford tunes the standard 5.4-liter V8 for a “more powerful, throatier rumble” and calls it a day. That’s it. We’ll admit the slash-cut chrome exhaust tip does emit a rumble that’s throatier, but what good does it do when you can’t get out of your own way? Twenty-year-old Silverados will give you a run for your money at every green light.
     On paper 300 hp and 365 lb-ft of torque would appear to be adequate, but the truck weighs almost 5,700 lbs. My handy dandy abacus tells me this translates to a power-to-weight ratio of 19 pounds per horse. That makes for a herd of overworked horses. The 4-speed automatic isn’t particularly helpful in the get-up-and-go department, and not even the acceleration-friendly 3.73 limited-slip rear axle can contribute a hint of off-the-line swiftness.
     We appreciate the available automatic all-wheel drive system and the ability to lock it in full-time if the need arises. For those who live in perpetually sunny climates, rear-wheel drive is standard and a slight bump in epa numbers is always welcome. As equipped our version is rated at 14 city and 18 highway and we saw 15ish in most driving. That will hurt when you pull in to top off the optional $95 35.7-gallon fuel tank. Our company credit cards melted like an ice cream cone in Death Valley.
     Owners will also not look forward to the stiff ride resulting from the “sport tuned shock absorbers” fitted to Harley F-150s. The ride is truly harsh on all but the freshest strips of asphalt. Imperfections are transmitted right through the chassis up to the steering column and every pothole sends jitters through the truck that last for five seconds after you’ve passed the offending area. We’re positive the gorgeous, but heavy, 22″ polished aluminum wheels are partly to blame for this, although Cadillac manages to offer up decent ride and handling with 22s on a similar suspension design in the Escalade. We don’t’ require Cadillac-level refinement in our Harley pickup, but there’s room for improvement here.
     To put it mildly, we are disappointed with the paint scheme on this truck. It’s just black. And that can be attractive, but after seeing the beautiful flame and pinstripe work done on previous editions, the red sticker running along the flank of this version is a major letdown. The chrome billet grille and blacked out headlights are appropriate, but the truck could stand to ride a bit lower (it’s already an inch lower) and a unique front bumper could add some much-needed aggressive character to the front.
     We preferred our 2003 edition’s crew cab configuration to this model’s extended cab setup. It improves the proportions by shortening the bed even further and has the added bonus of providing comfortable seating for rear seat passengers. There were complaints from the back-seat passengers about the stiff seats and short bottom cushions during even short drives. The front seats aren’t particularly comfortable either, but we did like the dark finish on the dash and center console and the thick black leather looks appropriately motorcycle-inspired. Ford could stand to show some attention to the gear selector (hint: leather wrapping may be a good place to start). We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating here: Ford’s corporate radio and HVAC controls desperately need refreshing. They’d look dated if this was 1996, let alone 2006. We appreciate the solid feel that comes from attention to build quality. The doors close with a solid thunk, for example. Large square mirrors are also helpful in navigating this full-sizer.
     We’d like to recommend the latest Haley-Davidson F-150, but we can’t. The real problem is this: It feels like a job half done. The 2003 model was special. It was desirable. It felt unique and well worth the extra cost. This model feels like a black F-150 and we can’t find many reasons (besides the attractive 22s) to sign over $42,585 for the stiff ride and tight rear seats. Instead, we’ll advise you to hold on to your money and hope, as we do, that Ford gives us something truly special with the next Harley-Davidson pickup.

The Good:
Monster 22″ wheels, all-wheel drive, deep exhaust rumble.
The Bad:
No engine modifications, slow acceleration, thirsty, extended-cab only, a ride as stiff as Al Gore.
The Verdict:
Does anybody have a clean, low-mileage 2003 version available?


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