By March 4, 2006

Meet Megatron

Every time I visit California I get a funky rental. Despite asking for a “midsized” car every time, I normally get something different, like a convertible, or an SUV, or even a full-sized Ford F-250 truck. I am pretty sure it’s because all the tree-hugger enviro-friendly tourists want more efficient cars. But since I’m on the company dime, I don’t mind getting various gas-guzzlers. Besides, it gives me something interesting to write to you about.

However, nothing could have prepared me for Megatron.

I’m part of Hertz’s Gold Club plan, which means I can walk straight out to the rental lot and drive away in a car assigned to me. They have your name on a light-up board the parking spot of your rental. As I approached my assigned spot, I looked over the cars in my row. A Volvo station wagon, a Hyundai sedan, a hardtop Ford Mustang, and a Mazda 6 sedan. There was also this huge monstrosity of a vehicle, but I figured, no way is that for me.

Sure enough, my rental for my three-day visit was a Ford Excursion, the biggest SUV made by Ford. It’s a monster, seating eight with the fold-down seats in the rear deployed. The truck is so big it has TWO steps to get into it. I thought I could bypass the steps altogether and just hoist myself in, but it was a no-go. I stumbled and wound up having to make a second attempt, using both the side steps AND the old lady handle mounted to the A-pillar.

The Excursion is so big that I saw inside other cars. That “well-loved” copy of Maxim in the back of the riced-out Honda? Yeah, I saw that. The pile of used tissues next to the oh-so-sad Beth Orton CD? Yeah, I saw that too. I could even see the various rough spots and rusty blotches atop the roofs of smaller cars. The Excursion is a beast.

It handles like a beast, too. The body sits up too high and the steering was loose. This was a double whammy on the first day I had the truck — it was very windy, and I felt like I was drifting in my lane. Given that the Excursion is ALMOST the full width of an average highway lane, I was a little nervous. I thought that other cars would give me room, but if I’ve learned one thing from owning and renting so many different types of cars is that the larger the vehicle, the less tolerant other drivers are of you. It probably goes something like, “why in the fuck does that fuckass have such a large fucking truck? He must have a micro-cawk or an over-inflated ego!” Incidentally, neither of which apply to me. Cough.

Just how big is the Excursion, you ask? It’s so damn big that when I parked it PERFECTLY within a normal spot the truck was almost too big. Here are some snaps of Megatron in a normal sized parking spot. Note that in California, these types of spots are rare — a vast majority of the spots near where I stay and work are smaller and labeled for “economy” cars.

Here’s a full-length shot:

The Excursion is the top of the line SUV from Ford. I also had the distinction of renting the “Limited” edition, so I’d like to think what I drove was the even more pimped-out version. Unfortunately, the inside of the car was very disappointing. The interior was a mish-mash of modern technology and knobs and switches from yesteryear. On one hand, the car had quad-zone climate control (driver, front passenger, left rear, right rear) but all of the climate controls are large, ugly, plastic knobs. Here’s a shot of the center console:

As you might be able to see, the controls are OMG XBOX huge, and look little different from the interior of Fords made in the late 90s. Here’s a shot of a 1996 Taurus dash. I know the buttons are arranged differently, but notice the same rounded edges, the same knob used on the stereo power/volume control, and the same thick-lacquer black plastic:

It just strikes me as just damn ugly, and tacky, especially on a flagship vehicle. There were some chintzy exterior bits as well, most notably the beige plastic grill on the front. At over $46,000 MSRP, I would have expected chrome, or steel, or something similarly rugged.

The Excursion is too big for most people. A co-worker of mine is barely 5 feet tall and could barely get into the truck. Fish Sprout had to make a small bunny-hop in order to get in. Not to let this dissuade your average American soccer mom or NASCAR fanatic, the Excursion features highly adjustable seats in order to get even the smallest of desperate housewives behind the wheel of this 8600 pound killing machine. It even features this little doo-dad:

I had no idea what this was for until Fish Sprout started playing with it while I was driving. If it weren’t enough to be able to scoot the seat all the way forward, this switch moves the gas and brake pedals up and forward for those with short legs. Here’s a hint: if you’re too short to see over the hood of the truck AND reach the pedals, you’re too fucking short to drive the car. Holy jebus, the idea that someone has to crank the pedals all the way up in order to drive this monstrosity makes me want to stay the hell away from anyone driving these things.

There were a few cool things about the Excursion. It generated a lot of good jokes amongst my co-workers, and I like making them laugh. The Excursion also has surprising pick-up and I was able to hurtle down the highway as fast as I wanted to go. It also has a nifty LED turn signal indicator on each heated side mirror in the shape of an arrow. Yes, the side mirrors on an Excursion are so big that they can do double-duty as signaling devices to drivers of lesser vehicles.

HULK SMASH!

  • Big truck pensu++. This thing is so big it dwarfs the similarly ridiculous Hummer II. If you need to exert your automotive will over other drivers, this is the machine to do it in.
  • Can easily wheel over curbs. Not that I had to. Nay, I wanted to.
  • Visibility was better than I expected.

It’s a sad little world for such a big truck

  • Ugly interior made out of leftover widgets from the 90s.
  • Cheap plastic construction of the center console and glove box made me think “Ford Festiva” and not “Ford Excursion.”
  • Leather or pleather? You decide.
  • It’s a monstrosity. Seriously. No one needs a truck this big.

Megatron, I won’t shed any tears for your discontinued ass, but you were a good joke while it lasted:

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