In-Depth Review: Pace Edwards SWC3250 Switchblade Tonneau Cover (2020)
A look at how this hard tonneau cover compares to softer options.
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When it comes to the truck bed, most pickup truck owners belong in one of two general camps of thinking: leave it open or protect it at all costs. If you're the type of truck owner who doesn’t like to leave the bed exposed to people and the elements, a tonneau cover is absolutely required.
The Pace Edwards Switchblade is one such sturdy, hard tonneau cover that has a great deal of convenience and flexibility in its design, at least on paper. It tries to strike a balance between traditionally convenient, flexible softcovers and more protective hardcover options. It offers the convenience of a tri-fold tonneau cover with the security of a heavy-duty retractable tonneau cover. Does it manage to deliver this balance? Is it one of the best tonneau covers? Yes, with a few important exceptions.
As a retractable hardcover, this one is hard to beat in terms of securty and convenience. Get over the price tag and lengthy installation process, and you’ll have something that balances the two like no other.
- Convenient and effective low-profile design.
- Ease of use that's common with most roll-up tonneau covers.
- Better security than basic soft roll-up and retractable covers with tear-resistant fabrics like marine-grade vinyl.
- Lengthy installation process. Lacks the easy installation and tension control of most hard, folding tonneau covers.
- Basic weatherproofing has issues with water in the corners.
- More complex than a soft, folding bed cover with a basic fold design.
- Issues with some bed liners, tie-down points, and accessories.
- Limited compatibility with specific trucks/model years like Dodge Ram, Chevy Silverado, and the Ford F150.
- No noticeable gains with fuel economy.
It's easy to think that a rolling hardcover like the Switchblade is the best of multiple worlds when it comes to truck covers. Typically, truck owners have to make a choice between several different options. Should you go with the softcover that is easy to store, roll up, or deploy in just a few seconds without taking up too much space? Or should you choose a hard, folding cover that offers a bit more rigidity at the expense of some space? Perhaps a true hard truck cover, with its unyielding rigidity and protection, is the best option?
Pace Edwards, just like many other truck cover manufacturers, believes there is a happy middle ground. You can see this in the design of the Switchblade with its rolling, segmented plates along the main cover area. The aluminum segments are designed to protect the truck bed from weather and debris on the outside. In theory, the segmented construction should make it easy to roll up the cover while still providing the rigid protection of true hardcover models.
The segmented cover runs along two guiding rails, one on each side of the bed. The rails attach to the truck with several metal fasteners you tighten down along the edge of the bed rails. To the back of the truck bed is the housing unit that the segmented cover rolls up in. Although it doesn't take up a significant portion of the truck bed, the profile of the housing is large enough to rule out any tool boxes or other accessories that normally sit under the rear window of the truck.
Pace Edwards touts an easy installation process for the Switchblade. Understanding how "quick" installation is for a truck cover is a bit relative. Softcovers, for example, can go on and off the truck bed within a minute or two. True hardcovers, on the other hand, require a bit longer to get all the hardware installed correctly. Rolling covers, despite the usage advantages they offer, traditionally take the longest to install because of the extra hardware and pieces that must come together before use.
The Switchblade is no exception to this trend. In total, there are three primary pieces to attach to the truck bed: the housing unit and the two aluminum frame bed rails. As mentioned before, the rails attach using metal fasteners you simply have to screw onto and tighten. The fasteners are designed to clamp onto the underside of the bed rail, out of sight and tamper range of would-be thieves.
Getting the guide rails onto the sides of the bed is a straightforward process, as is mounting the cover housing onto the back. Once the guide rails are up, the housing simply sits on and fastens down to them.
The only tricky part of the installation process is getting everything aligned. Because the cover is made of metal, there is less flex and give when it is rolling or unrolling along the guide rails. As a result, the guide rails have to be aligned almost perfectly for everything to move smoothly. This means they have to be straight, even, and parallel to one another, which requires some finessing along with a good tape measure. This part of the process can take several minutes to get right, in addition to some trial and error.
The lengthy set-up is, thankfully, the main challenge of using the Switchblade. Once everything is said and done, the true convenience of the Switchblade’s design reveals itself. Unlike traditional soft and hard truck covers, this one is very easy to use.
The cover quickly retracts into the housing anytime you want to access the truck bed. Very little strength is required to get things moving. In its fully retracted mode, you have almost the entire length of the truck bed, minus the depth of the housing unit itself. To unroll it, the cover has a simple strap to pull until it's in the closed position. Everything locks automatically.
Unfortunately, despite the simplicity of the Switchblade, there are a couple of drawbacks that could make a difference in whether you should buy this or not. First, the cover lacks distinct stopping points along the length of the bed, meaning you can't partially open or close the cover. Instead, it is all or nothing.
The design of the cover also has some limitations when it comes to practical use. Overall, the rails and housing unit are flush with the top edge of the truck bed, making it aesthetically pleasing and good for basic security. If you have a locking tailgate, everything is fairly secured. Unfortunately, this flush design makes it difficult to use other bed rail accessories at the same time. For example, you may find limited success if you try to mount accessory racks since the guide rails can block the holes on the sides.
Finally, much like any other truck cover, weatherproofing has a lot of room for improvement. Pace Edwards advertises a good degree of rain protection, but water has a way of getting into the crevices between the guide rails and segmented cover. Specifically, you should expect some water pooling around the corners of the truck bed after a decent rainstorm.
The Switchblade is about as close as you can get to have almost everything in a high-quality truck bed tonneau cover. The flexibility of a soft tonneau cover mixed with the rigid protection of a hard tonneau truck bed cover, this one has a lot to offer if you need a good upgrade in the truck bed. With that said, it's not without its faults.
Installation is somewhat lengthy and complicated due to the alignment of the guide rails. Weatherproofing could also be improved. Finally, you shouldn't expect much in terms of compatibility with other truck bed accessories.
If you can live with all this, the Switchblade is a great option to consider for a good accessory upgrade, especially if you already have a basic cover protecting the bed already.
Final Verdict: The Switchblade is one truck tonneau cover that has a decent amount of protection, flexibility, and a whole lot of convenience/bed access to offer most truck owners.