Buyers in the lightweight trailer arena can be reassured by seeing the Jayco name attached to the new Jay Feather Select X213 trailer. A well-respected company is what you want when you make an RV investment and Jayco delivers the goods. Likewise, a Ford pickup is almost synonymous with RV towing and the new 2011 F-150 carries on that tradition.
While the new EcoBoost dual-turbocharged V-6 engine is the exciting powerplant news in the Ford truck lineup there are still old-school purists who prefer V-8 muscle and cubic inches. The 5.0-liter engine is the smaller of Ford’s V-8 offerings, and it combines powerful performance with reasonable fuel economy in a conventionally-aspirated package.
Families looking for a lightweight trailer could find the X213 floorplan more than accommodating, towable with many smaller to midsize family vehicles. Although a snug fit in such a small unit, it sleeps as many as eight, making it the basis for many a happy group outing.
In addition, with the lower of the front two bunks folded up, a low-profile access door streetside allows use of the up-front space as a big storage area that would fit bicycles or other bulky recreational or camping items. Our test trailer was prepped by the pros at Guaranty RV (877-463-0067, www.guaranty.com) in Junction City, Oregon.
On the Road
Our towing lashup made quite a sight on the road. The SuperCab F-150 with short bed is a stylish truck resplendent in its Golden Bronze Metallic exterior paint and just enough chrome to add sparkle interest.
The Lariat Plus package ($950) adds a remote starter, universal garage-door opener, rear-view camera and reverse obstruction-sensing system — all of which are practical features — and the pickup-bed extender ($250) can help when that extra bit of bed space is needed. Our test rig didn’t include the optional integrated trailer-brake controller, so our friends at Hitch Pro and Tow in Eugene, Oregon (www.hitchproandtow.net) made fast work of suitably mounting a brake control under the dash.
Our travels found us hitting the road on Interstate 5 through Central and Southern Oregon, then just across the California border we struck out east for a campsite near Iron Gate Reservoir. That route included twisting two-lane state roads and some graded dirt single-tracks, allowing operation over a wide variety of surfaces and grades.
Given that the F-150 is rated to tow a healthy 9,500-pounds, the 4,680-pound X213 is a minimal load for the truck, and that helped make it even more of a joy to tow.
This combination results in what I call “performance towing.” Sometimes a big, heavy trailer drags down even a properly matched tow vehicle and moves it into a “functional performance” arena. The driving works, but it’s not too exciting. The F-150 tow rating is almost twice the trailer’s weight, so the spirited tow vehicle still displays a spunk and vigor that makes towing more fun. You know there’s a trailer aboard but when you hit the road, carve the turns and blast up the hills (heeding the speed limits, mind you) you do so with tow-rig capability to spare.
Our test trailer was very well balanced for stability. Cornering, bad-road handling, braking and simple dead-ahead rolling up the miles are a pleasure from behind the wheel. Ford’s electric-power-assist rack-and-pinion steering keeps the driver in touch with the road and conventional coil-spring and leaf-spring suspension delivers a taut but not harsh ride with solid handling.
Grades are no obstacle for the F-150. We climbed a 6-percent slope at 63 mph in third gear at 3,700 rpm, and compression braking down the same hill netted 60 mph at 3,500 rpm, also in third.
Our fuel economy, with one exception, was about as expected for a tow rig with a traditional V-8 engine. Our best was a solo freeway cruise that netted us a surprising 22.6 mpg. Not bad. General solo driving dropped to about 17.9 mpg. Still pretty good. Towing on the open freeway we recorded 10.9 mpg, evidence that this combo is a good choice for above-average fuel economy considering the beefy V-8 engine.
The Ford’s interior is as quiet as we could want in a touring vehicle. We never missed a beat with the stereo, and quiet conversation was the order of the day.
Leather-trimmed captains’ chairs ($975) included a heated/cooled front-seat feature that bumped the already-considerable comfort factor up a notch. The dash controls seem well done and easy to use and the instruments are readable at a fast glance as needed.
Normally we get by just fine with a two-wheel-drive vehicle, but this time, we fully exercised the truck’s optional 3.55:1 axle ratio with limited-slip differential ($300). Dirt-surface roads that incorporate coarse gritty sand can be slippery in dry weather, and some of our steep backcountry roads took some careful throttle modulation to avoid excess wheelspin while towing the trailer.
Drivers who normally prefer a manual transmission should find the six-speed automatic’s Select Shift feature a fine compromise. With tow/haul mode engaged and the manual shift feature activated, the driver selects the desired gear using a rocker switch on the shift lever. Once selected, that gear also works as a compression holdback gear selection when driving downhill.
Our truck had the optional Sony navigation system/radio ($2,495) and it worked great. The view screen also displays the back-up camera image. This is a terrific safety item that also aids with solo or assisted trailer hitching. Navigation is easy with the GPS feature activated, although there were several times we strayed “off the grid” while the system told us where we were but revealed no roads on the map. Now that’s our kind of proper RV travel!
As per usual for today’s high-tech vehicles the F-150 included a variety of electronic driver-assist features such as Roll Stability Control (RSC), and Trailer Sway Control (TSC), which helps maintain trailer stability by selective use of engine-power reduction and brake applications. We can’t say we ever sensed the system in use; and that’s good, because it either meant we were never in a trailer-sway situation or that it works seamlessly in the background without driver knowledge.
Combined with the standard array of four-wheel ABS, front and side airbags, a safety canopy airbag and Advancetrac with RSC, we were about as safe as we can be in a motor vehicle short of leaving it parked in the driveway.
Life in Camp
Today’s small trailers include some truly clever floorplans that make terrific use of the available space. The X213 family-friendly interior provides two bunk beds up front abutting the mid-body streetside bath adjacent to the refrigerator and pantry cabinet. There’s a streetside sofa/bed out back opposing a fixed dinette/bed and a curbside mid-trailer galley. Adult-size sleeping was not overlooked, either. The trailer features an uncommon but not unheard-of rear-wall slideout space housing a roomy bed measuring 76 x 75-inches that Jayco calls a king bed, though it’s technically a bit smaller than that.
In travel mode, the bed protrudes inside over the laid-flat sofa/bed and dinette. We used its bed space as a stash spot for clothing, duffle bags and the like, which was handy. A touch of a button on the control panel grouping near the entry door moves the bed out about 62 inches into campsite mode, which also opens up the inside space.
As long as we have a comfortable, cramp-free sleeping space, the rest of the vehicle’s features are a bonus. Give us a good night’s sleep and we can put up with almost any other vehicular shortcoming. Almost.
Vinyl flooring throughout, durable fabrics and cabinets in a Concord Cherry finish add up to an interior that’s durable enough for rugged family use.
The trailer’s storage spaces handled our weekends’ hardware with ease. We had no large items to fit the bunkbed-area “garage” so we stashed camera and video gear bags on the bunkbeds which also kept the weight up front and biased towards the hitch.
Leveling blocks and tools were housed in the curbside front corner exterior-access compartment. There’s a surprisingly deep hanging wardrobe, adjacent to the front bunks, to hold bulky coats, assorted storage items and the like.
The bath is functional and effective. We enjoy a tub/shower combination because it’s wide enough to stand in without the wet curtain sticking to our skin. An eye-level mirrored cabinet, sink and storage spaces occupy the balance of the space, and there’s enough empty wall areas to add more clothes hooks or towel rods at the owner’s preference.
The Jayco has a 281⁄2-gallon freshwater tank and that seems OK for a smaller rig, but that figure includes the 6-gallon water heater, so the fresh tank is actually closer to 22.5 gallons. That’s modest at best, especially if you consider the trailer’s eight sleeping positions. In a boondock camp with several kids along who aren’t great with water conservation, that 22 gallons will quickly disappear. Better to plan this as a full-hookup unit, take along extra freshwater and less occupants for boondocking, or train your young’uns in the fine art of water conservation.
Per our usual preference, weather permitting, we cook mainly outdoors over the fire or with Dutch ovens but the galley did the trick for our indoor meal projects. A big sink, full three-burner stove and modest counter space served well, along with the drawers and cabinets close by. We were fully outfitted with the optional gas oven and microwave so we were set for any meal prep requirements.
A 22-inch LCD TV is mounted in the aft end of the upper kitchen cabinet and is most visible to those on the sofa/bed or someone lounging on the streetside of the main bed. Dinette occupants will be watching things at an angle that’s not great for viewing pleasure.
The lounge area is great for socializing and you can pack in a surprising number of comfortably seated adults, with more seated on the main bed if necessary. We appreciated that the dinette was sized well for adults. A cool night meant we pressed the furnace into service, and it was both surprisingly quiet and its ducted-heat delivery was well balanced throughout the trailer.
The rear-wall slideout bed is a clever design that we found to provide a welcome nights’ sleep. Long term, we’d add some kind of additional padding to the somewhat firm and thin mattress and some overhead reading lights would also be a plus in this area. Access is pretty easy by stepping up from the sofa/bed or, for the long of limb, the floor.
A Good Package Deal
We found the F-150 and Jayco X213 combination fun and functional. Although it’s not an economy car, the Ford does deliver occupant comfort, versatile towing and solo family-car usability with reasonable fuel consumption. The Jayco is a terrific smaller family-sized trailer — with the caveats listed in the story — that’s a good match as a lightweight RV towing solution. It’s a pair of names, and vehicles, a buyer can trust.
F-150 SuperCab 4 x 2
MPG: Solo, 17.9; Towing: 8.7
0-60 MPH, TOWING: 12.3 sec
40-60 MPH, TOWING: 6.2 sec
ENGINE: 5.0-liter FFV V-8
HP: 360 @ 5,500 rpm
TORQUE: 380 lb-ft @ 4,250 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
AXLE RATIO: 3.55:1
FUEL CAP: 26 gal
SUSPENSION, F/R: Upper and lower “A” arms and coil springs, stabilizer bar/Leaf spring
BRAKES: Four-wheel disc with ABS
TOW RATING: 9,500 lb
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 7,050 lb
GROSS COMBINATION WEIGHT RATING: 14,900 lb
WEIGHT AS TESTED: 5,520 lb
LENGTH: 19′ 3″
MSRP, AS TESTED: $40,050
BASIC WARRANTY: 3 yr/36,000 mi
Jay Feather Select X213
EXT LENGTH: 24′
EXT WIDTH: 8′ 3″
EXT HEIGHT: 11′ 5″
INT WIDTH: 7′ 10″
INT HEIGHT: 6′ 6″
CONSTRUCTION: Aluminum and wood framing, rubber roof, fiberglass skin, polystyrene insulation
FRESHWATER CAP: 22.5 gal
BLACK/GRAY-WATER CAP: 22.5 gal/30.5 gal
LP-GAS CAP: 14 gal
WATER-HEATER CAP: 6 gal
REFRIGERATOR: 6 cu ft
FURNACE: 30,000 BTU
AIR CONDITIONER: 13,500 BTU
CONVERTER: 35 amp
SUSPENSION: Leaf spring/Mor/ryde CRE3000 equalizer
WEIGHT: (freshwater, water heater, LP-gas full; no cargo): 4,680 lb
HITCH WEIGHT: 560 lb
AXLE WEIGHT: 4,120 lb
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 5,500 lb
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT RATING: 5,800 lb
CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY: 820 lb
MSRP, BASE: $22,071
MSRP, AS TESTED: $25,026
BASIC WARRANTY: 12 mo