PHOENIX, Ariz.-Has the meaning of leadership within the heavy-duty/super-duty truck segment changed since the before Ford, Chevrolet/GMC, and Dodge brought out new truck bruisers? Make no mistake: torque, Horsepower, payload and towing are still the primary fields of battle for winning over ranchers, construction workers and contractors. But we can add another event for the heavy-duty Olympics, according to those customers-fuel economy. That’s right. Even with gas and diesel comfortably below $3.00 a gallon in most elements of the U.S., fuel economy has become the new torque when it comes to impressing customers. Ford, actually, named fuel economy as the leading concern when it set out to build a new diesel engine after severing its relationship with diesel-engine supplier Navistar. The results are surprising, and might well entice Dodge and Chevy owners.
The best bits of the redesigned Ford Super Duty are under the hood, in the bed, and behind the instrument panel. Cosmetically speaking, the front end has been redone to get the SD in line with the new Ford F-Series design introduced for the 2009 model year. That means a front fascia and grille that looks like Ford purchased a few warehouses of chrome cheap this past year when companies were throwing over ballast to raise money. Bigger headlamps are at the corners. The hood comes with a new inverted power dome sculpted to conceal an all-new, Ford-designed Powerstroke diesel engine.
Inside, the flow-through center console (aka contractor’s desk drawer) has 60 % more space for storing, with 70 possible configurations. A handy 12-volt power point is inside the console, as well as a second power point and AC plug in the rear of the console, making laptops easy to connect without an adapter. The rest of the interior layout is sharpened up, with evolutionary changes, which isn’t bad considering the interior of the outgoing Super Duty model was more than respectable, especially in the best-of-the-line King Ranch edition. Also allows drivers to log accumulated mileage on different trailers, though in the center stack, there’s a new 4.2-inch “LCD Productivity” display that not only shows data like fuel economy and exterior temperature. Checklists for various trailer connections pop up too. The input from customers on how to help it become all user-friendly is in abundance.
Under the hood, the powertrains are all new. The 6.2-liter 16-valve V8 replaces the 5.4-liter. It’s rated 385 hp at 5500 rpm and 405 lb-ft at 4500 rpm of torque. It’s mated to Ford’s new Torqshift six-speed automatic transmission. Even with the bigger displacement, Ford said it were able to improve fuel economy by 15 percent. The optional diesel engine may be the big story at Ford. Divorced from Navistar as the diesel supplier, Ford developed its own new Powerstroke engine. The diesel is rated at 390 hp at 2800 rpm and 735 lb-ft. of torque at 1600 rpm. Ford offers no manual transmission from the SD.
Conventional towing to the flex-fuel spark-ignition SD maxes out at 15,000 pounds of trailer weight. The Powerstroke diesel maxes out at 16,000 for the F-450 4×4 Crew Cab. That’s for hitch-mounted trailers. Make use of a fifth-wheel trailer that connects to the bed above the rear axle and the Powerstroke tops out at 24,400 pounds. Maximum payload rating for the flex-fuel SD is 4600 pounds, and the max for the Powerstroke diesel is 6520.
Especially useful, otherwise downright ingenious (for the category) is the first-ever factory-installed and warrantied fifth-wheel and gooseneck substructure directly attached to the frame. Now, rather than pay a dealer or converter over $1000 to literally tear up the bed and under-structure of a whole new truck to set up cross-bracing and the goose neck receiver, Ford has made it a clean $400 factory-installed option that only requires prying up a bed plug gain access to. This really is a pretty big “”gee-whiz”” item for fifth-wheel towers, although we’d still like Dodge’s bed-storage system in every truck. And let’s not forget the availability of Ford’s SYNC Ford and system Work Solutions. Using these systems, the motorist can wirelessly tie in to a work office computer throughout the dashboard display.
Ford carries a dizzying quantity of packages and versions, and way too many combinations to list here. The styling packages, though, carry over in the outgoing SD: Lariat, XLT, King and XL Ranch. Dual rear-wheel versions are, obviously, available. Prices will be very much like today’s trucks. The XL starting price today is $25,875, whilst the King Ranch version will probably be north of $60K.
With all the attention on work-related performance, it’s easy to neglect the ride. But as the ride quality of light-duty pickups has dramatically improved during the last five years, the pressure has been high to bring even big boys in line. The new frame, leaf springs and shocks have been optimized to improve overall suspension compliance, compared with the outgoing model. Indeed, the comfort and steering responsiveness are the things that jump out whether you’re driving on the highway or pulling a 23,000-pound trailer up a 6-degree grade. We noticed it right away. But because we’re not driving these trucks fairly often, we asked some hardcore truck, towing and off-road journalists about the test-drive trip what they noticed first regarding the new SD. They seconded our impressions.
Ford truck vehicle-dynamics supervisor Dan Gompper says the goal of the group was to decrease suspension harshness without sacrificing payload or trailering or getting from “the DNA of Super Duty. Gompper says certainly one of his supervisors asked him how he felt about a car-like ride for a pickup truck as he started focusing on the 2009 F-Series about six in the past. “I told him ‘that sounds like a minivan, not a truck I’d want to drive,’ and thus it’s right that nobody should mistake this ride for a car.
The 4×2 F-250 and F-350 have modified steering system geometry to take better advantage of the twin I-beam suspension unique to Ford. The purpose of the design and style is to combine the performance of an independent suspension with all the durability of a solid-axle suspension. Everything adds up to a lot greater sensation of confidence and control behind the wheel. Whether driving on the streets with 1000 pounds of cement within the bed of the Ford 350 Lariat or behind the wheel of a Ford 550 Powerstroke hooked up to a 26,000-pound load, the steering felt as responsive and smooth as a Taurus.
The feeling of control within the ride and steering bloomed in a 3-mile descent at about 6- and 7- degree grades. The Super Duty also has Hill Descent control. It allows a driver setting a maximum speed and therefore the computer automatically works the throttle and brake to make hauling a load down a steep grade less stressful. Rolling downhill by using a 10,000-pound trailer and letting the system do its work felt much like the automotive same in principle as a trust fall. But the system did lead us through an unwavering downhill plunge.
Heavy-duty trucks like the Super Duty aren’t required to post official EPA fuel-economy numbers, leaving buyers a little clueless about how much fuel these rigs drink. Even though fuel costs have stabilized, Ford says fuel efficiency is an important selling point. Furthermore, the corporation claims that its internal tests achieved between 23.5 and 26 mpg with the diesel. We’ll have to do our own testing to confirm those numbers, but using the onboard computer by using a truck packed with 1000 pounds, we averaged an impressive 24.5 mpg. The diesel Super Duty may well be a class leader if that number holds up.
The Bottom Line
Having kept from Chapter 11, the Ford brand has huge momentum right now, along with the new Super Duty ought to keep it going. Truck buyers are notoriously brand-loyal. They also like winners and affordable of ownership. The Super Duty checks all the boxes, and with features like the optional fifth-wheel Ford and hitch Works, it even has some items that might lure new buyers. Search for an upcoming PM comparison test of all the new diesel pickups.