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    Elegance or Sport in Big Trucks

    By Philip Ruth–

    Masculinity comes in many forms, and for many car buyers, only something as physically substantial as a full-sized pickup truck can represent the strength and presence they feel in themselves. Among all choices in today’s showrooms, these trucks will satisfy even the most demanding size queens.

    To these big ones, each manufacturer offers several flavors of trim to more closely match up to buyers’ attitudes. Some are luxurious, some are sporty, and some just reference Texas and the ranches on which their assembly plants are built, because these trucks are big business in the Lone Star state.

    Obviously there’s less of a need for this much vehicular square footage in San Francisco than in Dallas, unless maybe you’re a contractor with loads to haul. It seems that wherever possible, truck owners in San Francisco—dog walkers, landscapers, painters and more—try to stick with compact models like Toyota Tacomas and Chevy Colorados. They’re shorter and narrower and make a lot more sense when you’re double-parked to load up a poodle.

    That’s why the two trimmed-up trucks we’re checking out this week—the Ford F-150 4×4 SuperCrew King Ranch and Nissan Titan Pro-4X 4WD Crew Cab—stuck out like thick macho thumbs in their Castro rounds. They’re impressive to behold, and to buy. The Nissan stickered at just more than $52K, while the Ford went gloves-off to add another $12K to the Nissan’s total. These vehicles demand a considerable financial commitment, even on cut-rate leases.

    The return on that investment appears with every approach to the King Ranch or Pro-4X, because that’s where their identities are the clearest. Walk up to the King Ranch, and you perceive a mix of brawn and elegance. The Blue Jeans paint of my tester gave a sleek metallic complement to the shiny wheels and door handles. It’s a look that balances boldness and refinement.

    The Pro-4X trim of the tested Nissan, on the other hand, looks ready to rumble. The wheels are dark with jagged accents around the edges. The Titan’s Cayenne Red paint covers the fenders’ meaty contours and meets a charcoal-grey accent on the rocker panels. If somehow these are missed, then the big PRO-4X decals near the tail will leave no doubt that you’re the butchest at the 4×4 ball.

    Maybe that’s why a BMW parked behind the Titan left a corrective note on the windshield, admonishing me for parking too closely and calling me an “a–hole.” It’s not an odd occurrence to be cursed at in the city, but the Pro-4X’s Bro-Dozer aspect seemed to invite aggression in kind.

    The Pro-4X kept up that vibe in the driving, with deliberate responses to its steering and brakes, while the F-150 King Ranch felt lighter and smoother, almost luxurious by comparison.

    The difference was considerable enough that each truck’s personality felt well-wrought, with plausible match-ups in both appearances and behaviors. Both the King Ranch and Pro-4X start from the same general concept, but each is its own unique, and expensive, expression of its owner’s ambitious identity.

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant ( Check out his automotive staging service at