Although it wasn't a leader in any of our rating metrics, the Thule Force XT XL is a great cargo box that offers above-average performance. It has a sturdy construction, sleek matte black finish, and simple mounting system, but lost some points for not having a handle and being slightly finicky to lock. If you need a box that is easy to install or can transport multiple pairs of skis, then the Force is a good option that comes at a reasonable price.
Thule Force XT XL Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Simple installation, sleek matte finish, great shape for skis
Cons: Clunky shape, inconvenient handle
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Thule Force XT XL is a solid all-around cargo carrier, offering comparable performance to some much pricier models. It is easy to install, has plenty of space for many pairs of skis, and its components are impressively durable. Some more expensive boxes feature better handles and more aerodynamic designs, but the Force has plenty to offer without any frills.
Ease of Use
To rank and score the convenience and ease of use of this cargo carrier, we loaded and unloaded the Force XT XL dozens of times and drove with it for hundreds of miles in a variety of conditions. Installation was also accounted for in our tests, but not prioritized as highly since most users only install boxes once before leaving them on vehicles for long periods.
Requiring virtually no setup, the Force comes ready to go out of the box. Mounting took less than five minutes and the clamps are convenient to adjust for a range of roof rack dimensions. Unlike other models that have bulky mounting fixtures, the Force's clamps are easily tightened by twisting a knob, which clicks when it is adequately tightened. The Force also has some integrated strap handles to make the box easier to close when mounted on a taller vehicle.
The main flaw that we found in the Force XT was its lack of a handle for opening and closing the box. This was not a huge pain but could be occasionally frustrating when the box was filled to the brim or being closed in bad weather.
The Thule Force XT proved itself to be one of the most durable cargo boxes that we tested, with an impressively weather-resistant design and solid construction. Through torrents of rain, none of our belongings in the box saw a drop of water. Short of being fully inundated or subjected to a hurricane we cannot see how it would be compromised by even driving rains or blizzards.
Even after a few hundred miles and being removed several times, the Force only had a few minor scrapes and seemed ready for many years of continuous use. Like most of its competitors, the Force's hinges, lid, and mounting system are all well-designed, ensuring that you'll be able to keep it on the road for a long time. Thule backs its products with a lifetime warranty, which provides some peace of mind if you're worried about your box wearing out.
Our security testing accounted for lock design and overall construction. Nothing gave us any major cause for concerns and we would feel fairly confident in the security of the Force. However, a dedicated thief would be able to get into any cargo box without too much of an issue. Generally, it is more secure to lock items in your vehicle rather than a cargo box, but as far as boxes go, the Force felt quite secure.
Like practically every model that we have tested to date, the Force must be locked before you can remove its keys, making it impossible to leave it unlocked so long as you remember to take your keys.
To evaluate appearance we accounted for the styling of each box's shape and how well their finishes held up to continuous use in harsh conditions. Our testers loved the Force XT's matte black finish and found its shape to be sleek without sacrificing storage capacity. The matte black did a good job of concealing scratches and dirt, which are inevitable after a few days of driving in varied weather.
The simple matte finish of the Force pairs well with most cars, though it by far isn't the sleekest cargo box we have seen
The cost of the Forceis fair, but there are definitely some more attractive budget options out there that offer comparable performance at a lower price.
Even though the Force XT XL came short of winning an award, it is still a top-notch product that works well for a variety of applications. If you plan to carry multiple pairs of skis and seek a simple mounting system, then it may be an excellent choice. It didn't stand out as a leader in any of our tests, but also didn't disappoint us either.
— Steven Tata