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Going Postal!
Help USPS pick its next ride

by Corey Conley

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” or so goes the unofficial credo of the United States Postal Service. But there’s nothing swift about their aging fleet of mail delivery vans, which are nearly old enough to drink. The little boxes also swill gas and are prohibitively expensive to maintain-- and of course there’s the distinct lack of air conditioning, which would really help on that “nor heat” promise.

We know the USPS is busy delivering their bundles of unused coupons and L.L. Bean catalogs to our grandmothers, so we decided to help them out with a list of new rides. Some of the vehicles listed are reasonable, responsible choices with the sex appeal of a manila envelope, but since that’s no fun we also included our favorite out-of-the-box ideas.

Ford Transit Connect

1. Ford Transit Connect, Nissan NV200, Chevy City Express, or Dodge Promaster City
All four of these modest, workaday vans are variations on the same theme: take a non-descript white box, add wheels, an engine, and basic creature comforts, then call it a day. Any of these would be a fine choice for our country’s letter slingers, and meet all or most of the requirements of the USPS. What’s more, some, such as the Ford Transit Connect, are sold in the United Kingdom, so right-hand drive versions are readily available. It’s likely the USPS will agree, and order some variant of one of these eminently practical vans.

2015 Subaru Outback

2. 2015 Subaru Outback
Our first fantasy pick is the Subaru Outback, and it’s really quite a good choice. Its price falls on the low side of the $25,000 to $45,000 USPS has budgeted for each new vehicle. Fold down the rear seats and the station wagon’s cavernous cargo hold will carry enough JCPenney christmas catalogs for an entire retirement center. Inclement weather is no problem for the Outback, with all-wheel drive and ground clearance that splits the difference between car and traditional SUV. Fuel efficiency is squarely in car territory, with the basic four-cylinder engine rated for 25 city/33 highway mileage-- a tidy increase over the 10 real-world miles per gallon offered by the current mail van.  Handling is also car-like, perfect for negotiating twisty residential roads.

2017 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

3. 2017 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Sure, this one’s a bit out there, but the USPS could do a lot worse than Ford’s F-150 Raptor. Every Raptor starts construction on a F-150 platform, but gets a booster shot of truck-tosterone during assembly, gaining a bevy of modifications designed to turn Ford’s bread and butter truck into an off-road all-star. Now, we’re not saying every mail carrier needs a roaring, nearly-500-horsepower dirt slinger, but a Raptor is just the machine for those postal carriers who must brave the wilds of the west and the icy north to deliver those license renewal notices. Snowmaggeddon? Sno’ problem! The Raptor’s extra large tires and hearty suspension clobber clumps of the frozen stuff (and anything else Mother Nature throws at you) with aplomb. Expect the 2017 Raptor to debut early next year at an MSRP around $50,000.

2016 Honda Pilot

4. 2016 Honda Pilot
Honda’s next Pilot SUV might just have it all. Cargo room? Check. Reliability? Check. Five USB charging ports? Check... Okay, USB port access probably isn’t important to mail carriers, but the Pilot’s fuel efficiency and safety technology would be a boon for their daily drive. The Pilot’s new V6 engine has cylinder deactivation technology, allowing it to actually turn off up to half of its engine to save gas when power isn’t needed. Meanwhile a raft of electronic sensors, computers, and cameras help carriers on the road, even as they read off address labels. Although prices aren’t yet finalized for the next Pilot, expect it to weigh in starting in the low $30,000 range.

Kia Sportspace Concept

5. Kia Sportspace Concept
Kia’s slinky Sportspace concept is likely a stylized preview of their next Optima wagon, which probably won’t make it to U.S. buyers. Still, there’s no reason why the USPS couldn’t special order several thousand of this curvaceous wagon for delivery duty. The practical wagon body style-- who are we kidding? This pick is all about sex appeal, and the Sportspace looks like it sauntered out of an Italian design studio, with low, lean looks that suggest menace and power. Details on a production version of this killer Kia are scarce, but one fact is already in: this thing would look good in white with blue and red USPS stripes along the sides. After 20 years  with the boxy mail van, the USPS need a car which can turn heads in rain, snow, or shine. / Issue 168 - September 2018
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