HELL -- Interstate 94 is Michigan's highway to Hell.
Head west from Detroit and it'll take you through Ann Arbor; hook a right and then cruise north about 20 miles. Off the highway, the smooth meandering roads offer postcard views through rolling hills. Hell, it turns out, is a 166-year-old hamlet, home to a few hundred people, a bar, an ice cream and general stores. It also hosts more cliches than Intercourse, Pa.
It seemed a fitting destination to test Ford's new supercharged Harley-Davidson F-150 SuperCrew. The four-door black pickup became Ford's latest attempt to combine street-riding charms and supercharged power since the automaker discontinued the SVT Lightning in 2004. The 2007 supercharged model is a late addition to Ford's 2007 pickup lineup, and the 2008 models will hit dealerships in August.
Unlike the Lightning, this supercharged truck packs more punch and includes the chopper king's seal of approval, as noted by more Harley logos than on a Friday night Royal Oak "RUB" -- biker speak for the Rich Urban Biker.
The purist in me questions whether the 1999 Harley-Ford partnership stays true to pickups and motorcycles. The enthusiast in me says this is a pretty cool truck.
In the end, the combination works, though the motorcycle maker's logo may have been slightly overused. It's everywhere, both front fenders, the tailgate, the wheel caps, and written across both rear quarter panels. Even the bed liner looks like a welcome mat to a Harley store. All that's missing are a few bumper stickers decrying helmet laws and a T-shirt letting you know, "If you can read this, (someone) fell off."
Unlike most work trucks, this kind of pickup begets bragging rights, and the Harley Davidson F-150's bravado is as subtle as straight pipes. It shouts: I love Harley-Davidson and I can afford it.
Starting at $44,635, the supercharged Harley-Davidson certainly is not cheap.
But if you want to pay for attention, this truck fits the bill.
Devilish good looks
Even in Hell, its monochrome black body and majestic interior says bad boy, without crossing the line and breaking a beer bottle over anyone's head. It smokes its 22-inch tires faster than the cast of Easy Rider can hotbox a Lucky Strike.
Part outlaw and part poser, it will cruise Woodward Avenue on a Saturday night in style as well as get the wife and kids to the cabin up north in a hurry.
The truck's speed starts with the $6,500 optional twin-screw Saleen supercharger Ford bolted to the 5.4-liter V-8.
Ford showcased a supercharger in a concept truck last November at the aftermarket trade show SEMA as the F-150 FX2. Eight months later, the concept became a production-ready, lightning-quick pickup with a 450-horsepower engine and devilish good looks.
Floor this truck at a light and listen to it scream in that high-pitched whistle as the inter-cooled supercharger crams each cylinder with more air.
While I never loaded up the bed with any weight, the truck handled itself well on the road, a good sign for a truck with more intentions of being seen than being seen working. The only real gig against the powertrain is its four-speed automatic transmission that seemed jarring on fast acceleration. Also, the supercharger and performance tuned suspension and larger tires, limits the truck's towing abilities, cutting it to 5,000 pounds. (The base model Harley-Davidson F-150 can haul 9,500 pounds.)
Put this truck on a straight and narrow path and it will blister up the competition.
Of course, that comes with a price. The Harley-Davidson sucks down gas as much as it gulps down air. The EPA averages are 13 mpg city and 16 mpg highway. I averaged 14 mpg.
Inside Ford's ninth Harley model, the love-fest continues. There's even a small metal plate at the base of the center stack near the gear shifter that gives the truck's VIN. It's a personalized plate to let the buyer know he, or the truck, is special. My test vehicle, an engineering prototype lacked an actual serial number, but still looked nice.
The interior is so much like a Harley, you almost wonder whether you should wear a skull cap and chaps. The instrument panel is patterned after the Harley-Davidson Screaming Eagle's gauges, with silver faces and orange numbers. "Harley-Davidson" is proudly written across the bottom of the speedometer.
The leather seats are big and comfortable with enough room for a Fat Boy and the center console between the two passengers is big enough to hold a laptop computer. There are nice nooks and storage crannies that will hold drinks and cell phones.
Piano-black trim tastefully outlines the dashboard's edges and encases the stereo and cabin controls. Every piece fits together well. Aluminum pedals shine, and the chrome accents around the vents felt well placed and tasteful.
The second row of the truck fits two adults comfortably or three kids with ease. Every seat is embossed with Harley stitching and logos.
While in Hell, I stopped for lunch at the Dam Site Inn, a well-known biker bar and eatery. It's one of three stops along the half-mile stretch of damnation. Two dozen Harleys were parked outside the building where hardcore bikers and RUBs mingled and ate.
It's getting hard to tell the real McCoy from the weekend wannabe. But who really cares when I'm cruising around in a beast like this.
The fastest way to Hell may still be a two-wheeled Harley, but in Ford's latest version at least I won't end up there with bugs in my teeth.
I can live with that.
Scott Burgess is the auto critic for The Detroit News. He can be reached at (313) 223-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2007 Ford Harley Davidson F-150 CrewCab
Type: A rear-wheel drive four-door pickup; a four-by-four is available Retail price*: $37,210 (without supercharger) -- $44,715 Engine: 5.4-literV-8 with twin-screw Saleen supercharger. 450-horsepower; 500-lb-ft torque Transmission: Four-speed automatic EPA mileage: 13 mpg city / 16 mpg hwy. Notes: Makes a statement about the owner, who loves his Harley and wants the world to know it. *Includes shipping Report card
Overall: *** Performance: Good: Ride and handling good; powerful engine offers great straight-line performance Exterior: Excellent: Beautiful and stylish. Interior: Excellent: Black leather and piano black trim give this truck a luxurious feel. Safety: Good: Five-star crashing all around. Front air bags and anti-lock brakes. Pros: A sharp-looking vehicle inside and out with a powerful engine and good on-road capabilities. Cons: High price and poor gas mileage. Grading Scale Excellent: **** Good: *** Fair: ** Poor: *