As a showcase for powertrain innovations, the 2006 F-150 Harley-Davidson breaks new ground with the availability of all-wheel-drive. That's a first for any Ford pickup and another step in attracting active truckers in regions prone to inclement weather.
But the seventh edition of the alliance between Ford and Harley doesn't push the styling envelope. The familiar deep black paint, large chrome wheels, orange graphics and leather/chrome interior trim returns. It's a comfortable look and one that surely will appeal to Harley faithful. Maybe I'm getting a little jaded by the Harley-Davidson model, but finding aesthetic pleasure in another black-on-black truck is tough, especially when you look back at the surprises the Harley model has offered over the years.
Another disappointment is the return to the SuperCab configuration. The first H-D model in 2000 was a SuperCab followed by three years of SuperCrew models, and those were among the best-looking of any Harley-themed truck. The 2004 and 2005 models grew to Super Duty size as Ford needed a diversion to introduce the next generation F-150 platform. Ford is selling every SuperCrew it builds, so it stands to reason that the marketing department wants to inject some life in the dwindling SuperCab market by attaching the Harley badge to the fender. Ford, however, didn't take that chance with the King Ranch edition.
The 2006 F-150 Harley-Davidson still commands attention even though the smaller configuration may not appeal to owners with families or lots of drinking buddies. The deep, rich black paint looks as glossy as ever and is accented by orange-trimmed-in-blue scallops. Gone are the lovable flames but the bold die-cast fender emblems continue to announce the package with authority.
The new 22-inch wheels are the highlight of the package. These forged alloy wheels are more contemporary in their styling and retain the 5-spoke tradition of the model. Considerable engineering was needed to adapt the huge wheels to the suspension and chassis.
"Large rims definitely can affect ride characteristics," explains Gary Braddock, chief designer at Ford Product Design. "Jounce-up and down movement-is something you have to be especially aware of when putting larger rims on a truck. That is why the wheels are forged rather than cast. Forging produces a stronger aluminum, allowing us to use less material in the wheel and retain the strength without adding excess weight."
Accenting the wheels and providing a little edge to the stance are chrome-trimmed side tubes and a lower, meaner looking chin spoiler.
The upside to the SuperCab, of course, is the longer bed that can accommodate more cargo. Toting a custom Harley in the bed still requires a lowered tailgate, but there's additional clearance for longer models. Chrome tie-downs and a rubber mat with the Harley logo accent the bed.
The interior is dressed in black aniline leather and trimmed with plenty of chrome. The captains chairs up front sports a die-cast Harley logo embedded in the leather. Piano Black surfaces on the center stack and door panels are flanked by logo-patterned graphic treatments. Chromed-ringed gauges and HVAC vents add to the custom accents throughout the interior. For those keeping score, a serialized nickel plate boasts the truck's production date and number. Power sliding rear window and power adjustable pedals made our truck easier to bond with. Other interior amenities on our test vehicle that were highly appreciated included heated seats, satellite radio, power moonroof and reverse-sensing system.
Our test vehicle had the all-wheel-drive option. In AWD, the system monitors wheel speed and throttle position to determine the amount of power sent to the front wheels. By selecting the locked mode, the truck runs in 4WD full time. The H-D is also available in 2-wheel-drive. Price difference is about $3,500.
In front of the transfer case is a 4-speed automatic and 5.4-liter V8 engine. Rated at 300 horsepower with 365 lb-ft of peak torque, the powertrain is capable of giving the H-D a towing capacity of 8600 pounds. Payload rating is 1460 pounds. With a curb weight just under 5,700 pounds and 3.73:1 rear gears, the F-150 Harley isn't exactly a speed demon. Acceleration is adequate but hardly spirited. One certainly longs for previous H-D models that were supercharged and weighed about 700 or 800 pounds less. Engineers did give the engine a meaner exhaust note.
The sport-tuned suspension is pleasant enough for most driving situations but don't expect to carve any canyons and keep up with an aging Lightning. The new Ford platform is heavy, regardless of the increased frame stiffness that minimizes shake and shudder. Much of the riding-comfort equation can be attributed to the improved seats and excellent feel of the leather. On the positive side, the truck is very quiet, a compliment often given to the new generation F-150 platform.
Last year PUTC interviewed Willie G. Davidson about the challenges of coming up with new ideas for the Harley-Davidson edition. He praised the teams from Harley and Ford that he works with but never said it was easy. This edition doesn't have the surprise element of the first edition. The next three years of the SuperCrew Harley models were highlighted by the 2003 anniversary edition (both Harley and Ford celebrated their 100th birthdays). With a supercharged engine and beautiful black/silver two-tone paint job, it was a stunning tribute for both companies. The Super Duty model has morphed into a cross between the Harley and King Ranch and is more of a cosmetic package. There are no performance upgrades with the Super Duty Harley. Hopefully the 2006 H-D is a stepping stone to a more dramatic edition for the future. With the absence of the SVT Lightning, the Harley team has a greater opportunity to take the F-150 to a much higher level than what is available now.