2012 Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 Long-Term Tow Test
Try To Blend In: Towing a 1953 Chevrolet Hot Rod Along One of the Nation's Busiest Interstates
Interstate 40, the third longest highway in the United States, runs 2555 miles from Barstow, California, to Wilmington, North Carolina. Its long stretches of road run through eight states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina) and serves as a major throughway for the nation's infrastructure. Simply because of its sheer length, I-40 sees gets fair share of congestion with all the tractor trailers and other various trucks towing a wide variety of things. The majority of I-40 that runs through California is surrounded by a mix of desolate and rugged desert terrain. So when a fellow staff member asked if I could retrieve her 1953 Chevrolet Hot Rod, which was in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and return it to Los Angeles, I knew the better part of this ride would take place on Interstate 40 among these exact trucks bringing cargo in and out of California.
For the ride to Lake Havasu City, I got the long-term 2012 Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 as my escort out into the desert. The 3.5-liter twin-turbo V-6 EcoBoost engine, rated at 365 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque, would be working for a total of 622 miles; 460 of which would be on I-40. Before heading out, we topped off the F-150's fuel, pushing the range up to 529 to empty. This would be more than enough to get from Los Angeles to Lake Havasu City and then two-thirds of the way back without having to stop for fuel. It can get lonely on the open road, and as many who drive for a living can attest to, an extra passenger along for the ride helps the miles slip by, especially when stops are few and far between. That's why my dog Ziggy would be accompanying me on this adventure.
We started out battling the usual morning traffic that habitually clogs Southern California's roads, but the Ford's heated seats and Sirius XM radio took the edge off. However, the sporadic chiming that was the reminder to buckle the passenger's seatbelt made the ride a little unpleasant at times. This would be a recurring issue throughout the trip due to the fact that seatbelts aren't designed with a four-legged passenger in mind. Even so, it doesn't matter what species you are as heated seats are universally appreciated. Finally, we cleared the traffic and soon the pace picked up all while the surrounding geography became warmer, drier, and more barren.
The F-150 sailed along comfortably and quietly as we made our way farther out into the desert. The V-6 EcoBoost engine provided enough power to pass any tractor trailer trudging along in the lane up ahead. As we left civilization far behind, the Sirius XM radio kept a strong, clear signal, making it seem we were still in range of a local major radio station. The long stretches of asphalt road kept tire noise to a minimum and, because of it, my passenger did what he does best: He promptly fell asleep. Before we knew it though, we had arrived at our first of two destinations in Lake Havasu: the U-Haul store, to pick up a car trailer.
After mating the F-150's hitch ball mount to the trailer, we were on the road again for another short trek down the road to where the actual hot rod awaited. Soon, we pulled up to the storage facility and saw the bright yellow 1953 Chevy hot rod sitting out front. Obviously, the screaming yellow exterior paint color attracted attention, never mind the vehicle itself, and that reflected in the current traffic pattern in front of the storage facility as drivers slowed to get a better look. As soon as traffic dissipated, we started to (very carefully) load the hot rod onto the trailer and tie it down properly. A few minutes later, it was securely fastened down to our liking, and we set out back to Los Angeles. Before we hit the highway again, though, we stopped to top off fuel, but prior to resetting the tripometer, we observed an average fuel consumption of 18 mpg on the first leg our journey. We then hit the road, but were now losing daylight rapidly.
With the hot rod now in tow, the F-150 barreled down the dark desert road, forcing us to keep constant tabs on our speed. The ride now felt expectedly heavier, and without anti-roll bars, the trailer gently wagged back and forth as we passed through the cooler air. The ride back consisted of a pushback from the trailer every once in a while, but the factory-equipped trailer brake worked to keep everything composed. Until you tow something on Interstate 40, you can't appreciate what many truck drivers have to go through to pick up and deliver cargo at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. We rode among the tractor trailers on I-40 all the way until it intercepts I-15, where we hopped off and south toward Los Angeles.
We timed it right as the majority of evening traffic in Los Angeles had already left the freeway, so bringing the hot rod to its new home would be easy going. However, we had one more major obstacle to conquer before the smooth sailing truly began. This hindrance was the Cajon Pass, whose elevation of 3777 feet would seriously test the V-6 EcoBoost engine, trailer brake, and vehicle brakes. Just like that, though, we made it through the pass without issue. Keeping the recommended 50-mph speed limit in check descending through Cajon Pass makes it less of a white-knuckle experience.
Conquering the pass made us official honorary truckers for the day, and it was now a simple and straight run into Los Angeles to drop the hot rod at its new residence. The remaining freeway mileage quickly ticked down, and we were soon navigating through a quiet neighborhood, only a few short miles from our final destination. A few speed bumps and one-way streets slowed the end of our journey, but we finally arrived at the hot rod's new home. When the dust settled, we had wiped off 345 miles from the 580 mile range while observing an average fuel consumption of 15.7 mpg. This was a dramatic difference compared with 18 mpg the F-150 achieved when it wasn't towing anything.
In all, we traveled a total of 622 miles in one day, 311 of which were without hauling the 1953 Chevy hot rod. Over the course of our journey, we averaged 16.9 mpg, which is guaranteed to be more than what our accompanying tractor trailers getting. The long-term 2012 Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 performed just as intended, and the EcoBoost engine provided ample power with and without the trailer being towed behind. We set out at the beginning of the day to recover a 1953 Chevy hot rod and returned with a better understanding and appreciation for those large trucks that clog up the highway. It doesn't hurt to have a dog riding shotgun, either.