When Real Work Needs to Be Done
Steve Schaefer, Wed, 16 Feb 2011 04:10:33 PST
Ford's F Series trucks have been the U.S. truck sales leaders since Jimmy Carter was in the White House. The F150 is the bestselling vehicle of any kind in America year after year. But when the job requires more capacity, it's time for Super Duty.
For writers, carrying around a laptop and seeking out an ergonomic chair is the challenge, but what if you have to tow 24,400 pounds? Or carry a payload of 6,520 pounds? The F250 Super Duty can do that!
The Kentucky-built F250 series gets all new engines this year: The mighty 6.7-liter V8 PowerStroke turbocharged Diesel, like my Tuxedo Black Metallic tester had, or the tough 6.2-liter gasoline V8 engine. Both run through the all-new TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission.
These new, high-tech powerplants deliver significantly better performance and fuel economy than their predecessors. Just look at the numbers-all of them head of the truck class: For the Diesel, how about 735 lb.-ft. of torque? You get a generous 390 horsepower too, at only 2,800 rpm. The new 6.2 gas engine offers nearly the same horsepower-385-and 405 lb.-ft. of torque, surely plenty for most big jobs.
And if you think it's like driving a big rig, you will be very much mistaken. You do need to climb up into the tall cabin, it's true, but today's engines, along with ultra-low-sulfur Diesel fuel, make living with an oil burner no big deal.
I could hardly hear the engine at all, even when accelerating on the freeway. When I went to fill the tank, I had only to be sure to grab the green-handled filler. I paid two cents more than mid-grade gasoline for my fuel at my local Chevron.
I got an honest 16.5 miles per gallon in normal day-to-day driving with the Diesel. The EPA's Green Vehicle Guide provides no MPG or Greenhouse Gas score (Diesels are exempt) but the Air Pollution number is just a 2. But, the engine and aftertreatment system for the Diesel powertrain meets the new, more stringent 2010 federal emissions requirements for nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are approximately 80 percent lower.
It's all new under the hood, but the hood itself gets revised this year, with an inverted power dome that's visible from the pilot's chair. Standing in front of the truck is pretty intimidating-it's a sheer vertical wall of chiseled bulk, and with the optional chrome package, the thick grille bars shine brightly.
Inside, the tough, angular design continues. The various dash textures work harmoniously while providing great practical use. The accents, besides the chrome details, look like the plastic on a laptop computer. Fit and finish are excellent. There's a turbo boost gauge; it often stayed put, as I didn't work the truck that hard in my daily driving.
There is plenty of interior storage capacity. The dash top has a deeply indented area for quick stowing of paperwork or laptops. An enormous center bin accommodates a weekend trip's worth of stuff. SUPER DUTY is stamped boldly into the dash faade, and deeply indented repeated bars on dash and wheel suggest toughness. There are numerous cupholders, handy door pockets, a capacious glovebox and ceiling console storage.
The doors wear softer contours than the dash. They probably remain from the earlier F Series design, which, not too long ago, was much more softly rendered.
Like all trucks, Ford offers a variety of configurations from worksite-basic to plush. Models range from the basic XL through the XLT, Lariat and King Ranch. You can have two- or four-wheel drive. Choose a standard cab, Super Cab or Crew Cab. My tester was an XLT-model four-wheel-drive Crew Cab, which provided four full-size doors and spacious rear-seat accommodations.
You can choose between two wheelbase lengths, (long and extra-long!) and two bed lengths (8-foot and 6-3/4-foot). My tester's bed had a rugged spray-in liner ($450), stowable bed extender ($250) and Ford's unique Tailgate Step $375), which provides a fold down step and fold-up handle for an easy climb into the bed.
Prices range from $28,995 for a basic XL with standard cab to $46,690 for the King Ranch, and can go much higher when you add from the lengthy options list. My tester came in at $55,435, including $7,835 for the Diesel engine alone.