Dear Tom and Ray:
My brother Gary is 54 years old and recently divorced, with a 14-year-old daughter and a significant other with multiple children. They all live in Great Falls, Mont. He works for a newspaper and recently won an award from the Wilderness Society for his environmental writing. His current vehicles are a nearly defunct pickup truck and an old Mercedes, which is costing a lot of money in maintenance these days. He is in the market for a new car and is obsessed with a Ford F-150 Crew Cab pickup. I have told him that if he buys such a macho vehicle, I will write to the Wilderness Society and tell them to revoke his award! He is 6 feet 4 inches tall, about two-thirds of which is legs. He does considerable cross-country driving and wants comfort. He also wants to be able to transport his significant other and two to three full-size children. To further complicate matters, he has a faraway cabin in the woods, and he needs a vehicle to haul building materials, passengers, firewood, etc. Is there any vehicle in existence that will work for all these things without compromising his and my environmental sensibilities? -- Jo
RAY: Yes. A Ford F-150 Crew Cab. Get off his case, Jo!
TOM: We're often critical of people who buy SUVs or other behemoth trucks when they really don't need them. I'm sure you've all seen the guy driving around the city, all alone in his full-size Suburban. Or the woman on the phone, driving an enormous Expedition with no one else in the car. But your brother sounds like he has every conceivable justification for a vehicle like this.
RAY: He's 6 feet 4 inches tall, he's got to carry four other people, he lives up North where it snows, and he needs to haul lumber, firewood and dead grizzly bears. I mean, c'mon, Jo! This is the guy they had in mind when they made the F-150 Crew Cab.
TOM: And while you're absolutely right that the truck drinks gas (it's EPA-rated between 15 and 20 miles per gallon), it's probably a lot better than the old, broken-down pickup truck that he's driving now. And it's probably several orders of magnitude better in terms of emissions. We don't know how old his two older vehicles are, but today's new cars -- even those that drink a lot of gas -- emit a fraction of the carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides and unburned hydrocarbons per mile that cars emitted just 15 or 20 years ago.
RAY: So let him get his F-150 Crew Cab, Jo. It's a very nice truck. And besides, you know he's going to do what he wants anyway, right? All you'll achieve by nagging him is excluding yourself from the delivery route next winter when he comes around with an F-150 full of firewood.