amz thule forceThule Force is one of four new roof box lines brought out by Thule in 2013. The Force is a mid-range series, offering the important key features without unnecessary extras. In the main, it’s had excellent feedback from users.

The Force cargo box replaces the Ascent, which Thule have now discontinued (though at time of writing I see it’s still available at Amazon, and possibly elsewhere, if you’re particularly keen on that box).

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See today’s Amazon prices for Thule Force here

 

Features

  • Made from ABS plastic
  • Diamond-textured AeroSkin surface
  • One color only: matte black
  • Available in four sizes
  • Dual-side opening
  • Aerodynamic shape for reduced wind drag and noise
  • Quick-Grip mounting system – for easy installation and removal
  • No tools or assembly required
  • Fits virtually all types of rack systems
  • Minimum crossbar spread: 23.6in (60cm)
  • Maximum load weight: 110lb (50kg) (NOTE: This includes weight of box)
  • Two One-Key™ System locks (one on each side of box) and two keys
  • Oversized SecureLock™ (ensures key cannot be removed unless box is fully closed and locked)
  • Made in the USA
  • Thule Limited Lifetime Warranty

Dimensions etc

4 sizes
4 models in the series: Alpine, L, XL, XXL
Weight capacity: 110lb (50kg) (that includes the weight of the box) Check load capacities of your rack and vehicle roof to make sure you stay within the lowest limit.
Here are the dimensions for all four sizes of the Thule Force cargo box:

Thule Force Alpine 623

623_alt1_sized_450x300(Replaces the Thule 602 Ascent 1100)
Capacity: 12cu ft
Weight of box: 36lb
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 81.5in x 24.5in x 17in
Internal dimensions: 77.5in L x 22.5in W x 15in H
Max ski length:75.5in (192cm)
Holds: up to 5-6 pairs of skis or 2-3 snowboards
The Alpine size is narrow, so there’s plenty of space to put other carriers alongside. If you’re thinking of doing this, bear in mind that the open lid adds 2in approximately to the external width of the box.

Thule Force L 624

624_alt1_sized_450x300(Replaces the Thule 603 Ascent 1500)
Capacity: 13cu ft
Weight of box: 35lb
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 65in x 34.5in x 16in
Internal dimensions: 61in L x 32.5in W x 14in H
Max ski length: 59in (150cm)
Holds: up to 3-4 snowboards
The Force L is the shortest of the four, so it’s ideal for smaller vehicles and users who don’t need to transport skis (or anything else) longer than 150cm.

Thule Force XL 625

625_alt1_sized_450x300(Replaces the Thule 604 Ascent 1600)
Capacity: 17cu ft
Weight of box: 44lb
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 84in x 34.5in x 17in
Internal dimensions: 80in L x 32.5in W x 15in H
Max ski length: 78in (198cm)
Holds: up to 6-8 pairs of skis or 4-6 snowboards

 

Thule Force XXL 626

626_alt1_sized_450x300(Replaces the Thule 605 Ascent 1700)
Capacity: 21cu ft
Weight of box: 56lb
External dimensions: (LxWxH) 92.5in x 36in x 18in
Internal dimensions: 88.5in L x 34in W x 16in H
Max ski length: 86.5in (220cm)
Holds: up to 10-12 pairs of skis or 6-8 snowboards

 

Construction & Design

Thule Force series is made from tough ABS plastic. This is often used for cargo boxes as it is lightweight but resistant to impact and all kinds of weather.

The Force roof box retains the more conventional rounded nose of its predecessor, Ascent (unlike the premium Sonic and Hyper, which are more pointed and streamlined).

The floor has deep ribs and channels, which help to give support and strength. Skis can fit neatly in the sections of this ribbed base.

The sides and top are quite flexible – the lid doesn’t have the rigidity of some other cargo boxes. This means it’s not so easy to close and open with one hand.

To keep your stuff from shifting around, there are four internal anchor points (on the mounting hardware) for the included straps and other luggage security. That’s okay but more would be better (Yakima SkyBox, for instance, has eight anchor points).

Force XL 625 and XXL 626 updated: The XL and XXL underwent a redesign in early 2013 after it was found that wind pressure at speed was forcing the nose open. Thule strengthened the lids at the front with the same reinforcement bar used in the Sonic series.

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thule force w arrows 242.92NOTE: If you purchase a Force XL or XXL, make sure it’s the updated version, which has an extra rivet on either side at the front (making four in all: two in the middle, one on either side). See pic right. (This does NOT apply to the Force Alpine or L.)

Box Access & Security

LID
This box has dual-side opening for easier access to your load. But open one side at a time!

  • NOTE Never have both sides unlocked at the same time. If the lid dislodges, it’s a business to get it back in place. Just make sure the “hinge” side is locked before you open the box, then no problem.

(This happens with dual-opening boxes from other manufacturers too – some kind of modification or fail-safe must be possible, surely?)

A pull strap attached to the lid on each side facilitates closing.

LOCK & KEY
The central lock operates three locking points on each side of the box (the lock itself and a latch either side of it). And all must be closed securely or the key cannot be turned or removed. This ensures you can’t drive off with the box open. A turn of the key both secures the contents and locks the box to the rack (as the mounting hardware is inside the box).

I’ve seen a couple of users comment that initially they found it tricky to get all three latches aligned at the same time. I think this might be because there’s quite a lot of flexibility in this box – particularly the larger sizes.

Thule do advise pressing down on the front and back of the lid before turning the key, so perhaps that might help.

Thule’s One-Key System gives you the option of matching the cores on all your Thule products so they would all open with the same key. This means you just need the one key instead of a whole bunch.

LOADING
Some users say that stuff can get in the way of the hinges or the lock latches, which means the box won’t lock until the items are repositioned. I would think this applies to any cargo box, it’s just a matter of careful packing – and not over-stuffing.

Installation

Check out how simple it is to attach the Thule Force cargo box to your car roof.

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Like most cargo boxes from the major manufacturers, Thule Force is compatible with virtually all rack systems, including Yakima, Whispbar, Inno, as well as Thule (including AeroBlade and Xsporter Pro load bars)- and most factory racks.

The minimum distance needed between the crossbars is 23.6in (60cm).

Lots of user reviews say the Thule Force cargo box is easy to mount, simple to install. All four sizes get the same glowing comments. Thule make the point that installation (and removal) takes only a few minutes – and most consumers agree. Apart from the initial set-up, which naturally takes a bit longer.

The Quick-Grips slide along tracks for easy repositioning. No tools are needed, it’s just a matter of turning a few knobs, which operate the claw-like clamps under the box.

On the Road (and Off)

Thule Force comes out well with users. Most customer reviews, from various sources, sing its praises as far as wind drag, noise and mileage are concerned.

Some early reviews complained about the largest two boxes, XL and XXL, letting in water when traveling fast. Thule recognized and rectified this defect (see Note in Construction & Design, above).

Consumers with the modified versions of XL or XXL, or Alpine or L, report driving at speed through heavy rain and arriving with all contents nice and dry.

Accessories

What comes with it:
As well as two keys and an instruction leaflet, Thule Force comes with two tie-down straps, which slot through anchor points on the Quick-Grip hardware to hold your gear in place.

Optional accessories:
Thule Boxlift 571 or another overhead storage system

What’s good about Thule Force

  • Opens on either side (One-Key System locks)
  • For safety, key cannot be removed until box is locked
  • Easy and quick to install and remove
  • Gas consumption only marginally affected
  • No vibration, even at speed
  • Very little wind noise
  • Securely clamped on
  • Keeps stuff dry
  • Strap attached to the lid for pulling shut

What’s not so good

  • Box lid very flexible – some people find it a bit more difficult to close
  • Not easy to open and close with one hand

Consumer Ratings

Great reviews for the Thule Force, apart from those relating to the defective batch a year or so ago. On Amazon, it gets an average rating of 4.5 stars – and the vast majority are 5 and 4 stars. Some people say the box is too flexible, which can make closing a bit tricky until you get used to it. For others, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Most users are pleased with their purchase.

Price

The best deals are often to be found at Amazon, along with their excellent customer service. At the time of writing (March 2014) I see there’s a good deal on the Alpine 623, and XXL 626 is comparable with other outlets. But the L 624 and XL 625 look overpriced. UPDATE: This has now changed and Amazon prices are competitive for all sizes. Amazon prices change frequently (as this shows!) so it’s always worth checking for the day’s best deals.

Other online retailers that offer reasonable prices and free shipping include autoanything.com and REI.com.

Summing Up

This is a good mid-bracket cargo box that works really well for most users. It’s very easy to install and has virtually no detrimental effect on the driving experience. Its only downside, as far as I can see, is its flexible lid. Most people aren’t bothered by it – or feel that the good things about the box far outweigh this minor quirk. If you want a box with a more rigid lid, have a look at Yakima SkyBox – or, if you want Thule, the Sonic or Hyper.