In no fewer than 17 places, the 2003 Ford F-150 SuperCrew King Ranch edition either says “King Ranch” or has the ranch’s brand visible somewhere inside and outside the truck. From side badges to floor mats to the center of the wheels, you are reminded it’s the flagship Ford pickup.
Not necessary, as two other things reminded us we were driving an F-150 King Ranch: One, the superb leather upholstery featuring hides from the King Ranch in Texas. And two: the fact that the truck costs $35,000, and still doesn’t have four-wheel-drive. You can get four-wheel-drive, but you’ll need to add about $3,000 to the sticker.
Price is not likely to be a consideration to the King Ranch buyer. Ford struck up a partnership with the 825,000-acre ranch in South Texas – a ranch that is, incidentally, bigger than Rhode Island – in 2000, in time to introduce the first King Ranch model as a 2001. The ranch was founded in 1853 by steamboat captain Richard King, and continues to produce cattle and crops in Texas, and on property the company owns in Florida.
Ford wanted to build a very upscale F-150, and King Ranch wanted to enhance its national profile, so the marriage prospers.
The King Ranch edition takes the already well-equipped Lariat model and adds the unique natural-leather upholstery, captain’s chairs, heated front seats, a center console, an upgraded stereo with six-disc CD changer, fog lights, illuminated running boards and special alloy wheels.
The 5.4-liter V-8 in our test truck was an $800 option over the standard 4.6-liter V-8; add to that $810 for a power moonroof, $195 for a tubular aluminum flip-over bed extender, $285 for a limited-slip rear axle, $740 for transportation, and – this is neat – $245 for a power sliding rear window, and the $32,375 base price moseys on up to $35,450. If you don’t need four full doors and the big rear seat, you can get King Ranch versions of the SuperCab F-150, which has a smaller back seat and a pair of abbreviated rear doors that open front-to-rear; that version starts at $30,920.
Make no mistake: This is a truck for the ranch owner, not for the cowboy. Quiet, comfortable and sure-footed on the highway, this particular “Oxford White” King Ranch – even if you opt for the four-wheel-drive version – does not like to get dirty. Its mission is to transport four people in – complete abject comfort – just four, not five, – due to the big center console in the middle of the rear seat – and if you want to do more, well, Ford makes trucks for that, just not this one.
In fact, new for this year are King Ranch versions of the heavy-duty F-250 and F-350 pickups, but those are more likely to go to customers who haul horses, not herd cattle. There is so much thick, creamy leather inside the King Ranch that a glance inside would likely spook the cattle, or, lacking that, a PETA representative – from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Even so, the test King Ranch pickup was prepared to do some light hauling. The 56½7-and-a-half-foot bed can be lengthened by putting the tailgate down, and flipping over the tubular aluminum bed extender. Or, to use the whole bed, the bed extender can be removed.
The upshot, then: For touring the King Ranch, the F-150 SuperCrew King Ranch is ideal. For working the King Ranch – well, it’s not so ideal.