The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Thule Force XT XL Review

This is an above-average product that is very spacious and easy to use.
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Price:  $600 List | $499.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Simple installation, sleek matte finish, great shape for skis
Cons:  Clunky shape, inconvenient handle
Manufacturer:   Thule
By Steven Tata ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 19, 2019
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70
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 7
  • Ease of Use - 40% 7
  • Durability - 25% 7
  • Security - 20% 7
  • Appearance - 15% 7

Our Verdict

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. The Force's closest competitor is the Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite, which is slightly cheaper and won our Best Buy Award. Because both perform similarly and the Force is more expensive, the SkyBox barely edged it out to win this award.


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Thule Force XT XL
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $499.95 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Simple installation, sleek matte finish, great shape for skisEasiest to install, ergonomic handle, sleek designSleek, stylish, easy to useGreat handle, cool appearance, less expensiveSleek look, durable construction
Cons Clunky shape, inconvenient handleExpensivePricey, only available in a single colorFrustrating installationExpensive, frustrating installation, hard to open and close
Bottom Line This is an above-average product that is very spacious and easy to use.The Motion XT is an excellent, high-end cargo box that excels in every category.The best looking box you can buy, if you can afford it.The SkyBox Carbonite is an exceptional value because of its top-notch user friendly design.The ShowCase is an expensive, sleek box with below-average user friendliness and difficult installation.
Rating Categories Thule Force XT XL Thule Motion XT XL Thule Hyper XL Yakima Skybox 16 Carbonite Yakima ShowCase 15
Ease Of Use (40%)
10
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7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
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5
Durability (25%)
10
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7
10
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7
10
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7
10
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7
10
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6
Security (20%)
10
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7
10
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7
10
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6
10
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7
10
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6
Appearance (15%)
10
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7
10
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7
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8
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7
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7
Specs Thule Force XT XL Thule Motion XT XL Thule Hyper XL Yakima Skybox 16... Yakima ShowCase 15
Weight (lbs) 47 lb 42 lb 46 lb 47 lb 56 lb
Volume (Cubic Feet) 18 cu ft 18 cu ft 17 cu ft 16 cu ft 15 cu ft
Size (Inches - L x W x H) 84.5" x 36" x 17" 84.5" x 36" x 17" 90" x 34.5" x 15" 81" x 36" x 15" 80" x 36" x 14.5"
Additional Sizes Sport (11), L (16), and XXL (22) L (16) and XXL (22) n/a Lo, 12, 18, and 21 20
Maximum Ski Length 200 cm 200 cm 199 cm 185cm 180 cm
Box Opening Dual-side Dual-side Dual-side Dual-side Dual-side

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Thule Force XT XL is one of the best cargo boxes that we tested, 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. It was edged out of the Best Buy Award by the Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite, but only because it is slightly more expensive and both models are fairly comparable. Some more expensive boxes feature better handles and more aerodynamic designs, but the Force has plenty to offer without any frills. 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.

Performance Comparison


We spent many hours researching a variety of products for this review. In our testing we tried to capture the key attributes that most consumers care about when they purchase a cargo box. Our ratings are based upon Ease of Use, Durability, Security, and Appearance, each weighted in order of importance. Read on to see how the Thule Force XT XL stacked up against the other models that we tested.

The Force XT is a simple all-around solid performer that is ready for any type of trip.
The Force XT is a simple all-around solid performer that is ready for any type of trip.

Ease of Use


To evaluate ease of use, 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.

The PowerClick mounting system is very easy to use and makes installation a quick and simple process.
The PowerClick mounting system is very easy to use and makes installation a quick and simple process.

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. It is easier to put on than the Yakima Skybox Carbonite but otherwise both boxes are very comparable for day-to-day use. Neither have prominent handles and both have nylon webbing straps to help pull down the lids if they are too high to reach.

The Force XT XL is capable of carrying up to six pairs of skis and is easy to load with tons of gear.
The Force XT XL is capable of carrying up to six pairs of skis and is easy to load with tons of gear.

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 handle of the Motion XT is far superior but that model also comes with a much higher price tag.

Durability


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 intense rain and snow storms.

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.

After many miles  the Force XT hardly showed any signs of use.
After many miles, the Force XT hardly showed any signs of use.

Security


Our security testing accounted for lock design and overall construction. We could not find any flaws in the Force XT's security and did not worry about leaving items in it for extended periods.

Like every model that we tested, 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. 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.

The lock of the Force XT is simple to operate  but not as nice as that of some higher-end models.
The lock of the Force XT is simple to operate, but not as nice as that of some higher-end models.

Appearance


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.

We appreciated the matte black finish of the Thule Force XT  especially after the box had been on our vehicles for a while.
We appreciated the matte black finish of the Thule Force XT, especially after the box had been on our vehicles for a while.

The Yakima SkyBox has a similar matte black finish but is a bit more streamlined than the Force XT. Both are comparable in terms of appearance and neither are an eyesore on top of any vehicle. If you have a large budget and seek the most stylish box out there, the Thule Hyper XL is designed like a bullet train and sports a glossy finish.

Best Applications


Despite not winning an award, the Thule Force is among the best models that we reviewed and did not disappoint our testers. It excels at fitting multiple pairs of skis and its shape is much more conducive to moving large items than that of the Yakima SkyBox. For users seeking a durable, spacious cargo box, the Force is an excellent option.

Taking in the views in Yosemite Valley  the Thule Force XT is ready for another road trip.
Taking in the views in Yosemite Valley, the Thule Force XT is ready for another road trip.

Value


With a list price that is slightly higher than that of the Best Buy Yakima Skybox 16, it is difficult to justify purchasing the Force unless you are looking for very specific features that it offers. The Force is substantially less expensive than the Editors' Choice Motion XT and this price difference is justified by a disparity in ease of use and security. The cost of the Force is fair, but for most consumers there are more affordable options that offer comparable performance.

Conclusion


Even though the Force XT XL came short of winning a Best Buy 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