Tried and Tested: Thule Sonic XL Cargo Box

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By Tristan Olson

Fast, easy and efficient ski and snowboard gear transport and storage is what I’m all about.

When it comes to the ski/snowboard rack vs. cargo box debate, I am heavily entrenched in the cargo box camp. I like my favorite pieces of sporting equipment to be clean, protected from the elements and secure from shady individuals.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a brand spankin’ new 2014 Thule Sonic XL Ski/Snowboard Cargo Box and some Aeroblade roof rack bars last season for my move from Colorado back up to Alaska (my childhood home) and for all of my future snow-chasing adventures and wanted to share what I learned.

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As you probably already know, there are only two key ski/snowboard rack/cargo box companies who should be on your consideration list. Thule is easily one of those brands and has always been my personal favorite because they’ve never let me down when it comes to performance, design and value. I also feel that the Thule products look the best which is somewhat relevant because they’re far from incognito clamped to the top of your automobile roof for at least the entire winter. With Thule, design and performance seem to effortlessly go hand in hand.

When my Thule Sonic XL Cargo Box and Aeroblade roof rack bars arrived, my wife and I were stoked to learn that they were super easy to install on our Audi station wagon. Everything fit like a glove, and with two people, the box isn’t too awkward to take on and off of our car. With one person—like I tried to do the other day—it’s quite a bit more challenging and not recommended, at least with the XL box.

The AcuTight Mounting knobs located within the box easily dial to quickly secure the box to your rack crossbars. All you have to do is turn the four knobs inside the box and you’re locked and ready to go. Overall, it’s a quick install.

With the box nicely secured to our car it was easy to see why Thule is a leader in the ski/snowboard cargo box game. The Aeroblade roof rack bars are sleek and devoid of any frivolous features. Our Sonic XL Box is the Glossy Black version and low-profile. The pointy AeroNose design also gives it an aggressive aerodynamic design aesthetic. I personally think our car looks even better with the Sonic box mounted on it.

ThuleSonic4I absolutely love the Sonic XL box for the convenience and ease of use it affords us. You can open and lock/unlock the box from either side of the car, which makes life so much simpler. I’m pretty lazy when it comes to packing and this feature allows me to open whichever side I’m closest to in order to load or unload my gear.

I also enjoy the fact that the XL box has a massive 16-17 cubic feet of storage for my abundance of ski gear. You can actually load this box with 4-6 snowboards or 6-8 pairs of skis. To give you an idea of how much space that really is, we loaded the box with 3 pairs of skis, 3 pairs of ski boots, 3 ski helmets, a bunch of golf clubs, bags of ski gear (tuning and backcountry equipment) and outerwear and it all fit for our move up to Alaska. You’re not really supposed to overfill these boxes, but if you pack in an intelligent manner, the Sonic will not let you down.

There are a couple of things to note about the interior of this box if you’re planning on taking it to full capacity like we did:

1. The AcuTight Mounting knobs are not small and you will have to work your gear around all four of them. This box does not feature a flat bottom due to these and they are something that you should know about.

2. The rods that help this box open on both sides limit the amount of equipment that you can load in the extreme front and rear of the box.

3. If you load too much gear and too close to the sides of the box, you can interfere with the locking mechanism that allows you to turn the lock key and secure your gear.

All of these items should be considered when shopping for a cargo box, but honestly these features only ever come into play if you’re over packing the box.

Now that we have moved past loading gear and many of the Sonic’s features, let’s get into how it performs.

To put it simply, this box kicks so much ass! I have honestly never used a ski box with so little wind drag and noise, especially one that holds a ton of gear like the Sonic does. When we encountered some very high winds in Alberta, British Columbia, and Alaska during our move, this box just sliced through it like it was nothing. These were not minor winds by any stretch of the imagination and our box was probably overloaded weight-wise, but the Sonic just went all Ginzu on every gust.

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I am a big fan of the fact that it’s not noisy, and according to our MPG readout in our car, it doesn’t really affect our gas mileage much. We still get over 30 mpg like we did before and generally just leave it on the car all year long except for when we’re getting our car washed.

Not only did we use this box for our move to Alaska, we used it quite extensively through April for our many trips to Alyeska Resort and Heli-Skiing at Chugach Powder Guides. It was a pleasure to use every time.

Once we started to transition into summer activities in June (it was a super late summer this year), we just left the box on top of the car for all of our camping gear, firewood, sleeping bags, etc. How rad.

I have never been happier with a ski/snowboard cargo box. I absolutely love the Sonic XL and it puts a smile on my face every time I see our car with it on. It truly allows us to more easily manage our daily lives and that’s not a bad thing at all.

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Winter or summer, we just grab our gear, throw it all in the Sonic, lock it and we’re off. It eliminates any maneuvering in our car to accommodate gear and we never have to work around our dog while she’s in the car with us.

If you’re looking for a new ski or snowboard cargo box this winter, you can’t go wrong with the Sonic and AeroBlade bars. I know it’s not the cheapest cargo box on the market, but the value and quality the Sonic offers is definitely worth the price tag.

Lastly, if you’re like me, you can also throw one of the massive Teton Gravity Research Heli Die-Cut Stickers on it for some extra steeze.

If you're interested in snaggging a Sonic XL for your whip, drop into the TGR store.

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