Mazda BT-50 XTR Freestyle Cab 2014 review
Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the Mazda BT-50 XTR Freestyle Cab auto, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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American motoring icons are usually muscle cars, but there’s a bigger and better offering from Uncle Sam that’s just about to re-launch in Australia - the one and only Ford F-Series truck, the world’s largest-selling SUV.
The big Ford F-250 units – they weigh 3.4 tonnes each and are powered by a 6.7-litre turbo diesel – are about to hit the streets thanks to a Queensland firm. Performax International in Gympie is importing the trucks new and converting them to right hand drive and Australian standards.
With 70 staff, Performax has been in the US conversion market for 25 years with Chevrolet Corvette and large US utes or pickups. However the booming ute market market has seen an opportunity via the big Ford – with Ford Australia no longer importing F-Series trucks – to bring in a vehicle that will appeal to a small segment of the market that needs a large towing vehicle for horse floats heavy trailers and fifth wheelers.
The F-250 is rated to 4.5 tonnes but can tow up to 7.5 tonnes with air brakes and appropriate towing equipment. At the heart of the F-250 is the massive V8 common-rail turbo-diesel that produces 328kW of power, 1166 Nm of torque at 1600 rpm and can cover the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in 8.0 seconds. Transmission is six-speed automatic.
The official fuel consumption figure is 13.0L/100km. On our two days in the 2014 F-250 we managed 14.2 litres per 100 km – and that included sand driving and the Freshwater track between Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point beach.
The Ford F-Series F-250 XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models start from $105,000. They will be sold through Performax International as well as around 20 existing multi-franchise dealers around Australia that are primed to link with Performax.
The vehicles come with a four year/120,000km warranty. Parts backup comes via Performax having a parts warehouse with $600,000 of stock on hand. The ability to take on the task of mass conversions came about with Performax International gaining approval as Australia’s latest full volume manufacturer.
Our test drive was in the 2014 F-250 Super Duty dual cab Lariat which is identical to the 2015 model apart from engine grunt which is around 10 per cent less than the 2015 model. Ford upped the ante in the 2015 model with an improved turbo and fuel pump that delivers the extra grunt.
Our first impression on the interior was of a luxury new vehicle. The right hand drive dashboard – developed by Performax – looks like the original in every aspect: quality, fit and finish.
From the exterior the F-250 is an imposing sight, the bonnet is higher than my shoulder, the wheels are 20-inch with massive Michelin rubber – not the low profile tyres you see on some of the small dual-cabs in Australia - and the side step is a necessity, not a piece of bling.
While the exterior is massive, when you get into the F-250 it feels big, but not overly so. For a vehicle that is more than 6.0 metres long it does not feel that on the road. The only place we felt the size was when in car parks or reversing. While on the surface the F-250 appears to be all brawn, but it has brains as well.
Our road test took us on highways, gravel bush tracks, back roads, 4WD tracks and finally on sand. In addition an F-250 fitted with a fifth wheel towed a 7-metre caravan with the driver reporting it was like towing a trailer to the tip. It handled all tasks with ease. Our only issue to start with was the steering which seemed a little vague until we became accustomed to F-250’s slow reaction time compared to trucks with independent front suspension.
The F-250 usually runs with 2WD to the rear wheels and 4WD high range can be switched on while running. Low range requires you to stop the vehicle, which is normal with most 4WDs.
Ford has built a lot of media and modern technology into the F-250. Airbags abound, stability control, traction control, four wheel vented disc brakes and ABS.
Media includes voice-activated Ford SYNC for hands free calling with simple voice commands and the system can be paired with your smart phone. There’s also MP3 player, USB and iPod connectivity.
Dominating the centre of the dash is an LCD touch screen with reversing camera. We like the fact that most of the controls are designed for easy use, even with gloves.
There are steering wheel remote switches, power seats. The 2014 models offered two suspension options, ‘4x4’ and the ‘FX4’ off-road package – essentially a re-calibration of the spring and dampers.
The difference is so marked Performax will not offer the ‘4x4’ on the 2015 model and simply go with the FX4 package on all models, due to the improved ride and handling.