SOLVANG, Calif. -- On a cattle ranch perched along the Solvang River, gully-washing rain transforms sandy two-track trails through the cow pins into squishy chutes of tire-sucking mud. Our passage through this gumbo requires a big-rig vehicle not only with a high-hiking chassis and traction applied to all four wheels but husky mega-torque power to plow through all that goo.
Our test truck -- Ford's 2017 F-250 Super Duty pickup for a 4-door Crew Cab in deluxe King Ranch trim -- has a high-strength aluminum-alloy body, sticky 4-wheel-drive traction and a massive Power Stroke turbo-diesel V8 engine knocking out a whopping 925 lb-ft of tire-turning torque.
That's Ford's descriptive for super-size F-Series work trucks with gross vehicle weight exceeding 8500 pounds.
Super Duty trucks for 2017 score the first-ever major redesign which begins with a new high-strength aluminum-alloy body combined with a new fully boxed frame that's 24 times stiffer than the previous frame to support improved towing and hauling performance. Ford offers two powerful engine choices to motivate the Super Duty series with overall boosted capacity and tow ratings climbing to the top of the class -- way up to 32500 pounds.
In size-wise sequence Ford's big trucks begin with the F-250 Super Duty, which differs from Ford's light-duty F-150 because it rides on the stronger and longer Super Duty chassis and pulls from one of the two engines tapped for Super Duty service.
The base F-250 Super Duty has the shortest wheelbase of the series -- 141.6 inches. It installs a regular-size 2-door cab and carries a pickup box that measures 98 inches long. Both rear-powered 2-wheel-drive (2WD) and 4-wheel-drive (4WD) traction modes apply to the F-250 Super Duty.
Cabin stretchers include the SuperCab and Crew Cab, each with four doors and more room for riders or gear.
Rear doors for SuperCab have rear hinges. They close by tucking behind front doors and open in the absence of B pillars to provide a wide unencumbered space for entry. On the Crew Cab variation, conventional front-hinged doors work in an arrangement resembling a 4-door sedan.
With SuperCab and Crew Cab models, choices extend to the size of the back bed -- either a brief 81.9-inch box or the 98.1-inch long box.
Next step up in size sequence leads to the F-350, which serves as the core of Ford's Super Duty series. The F-350 offers single rear wheels (SRW) or dual rear wheels (DRW) and 2WD or 4WD traction.
Then the biggest model -- F-450 -- extends the Super Duty line with DRW and 4WD exclusively to reach that top tow capacity of 32500 pounds.
Super Duty trucks employ a gasoline-power engine in V8 format or Ford's Power Stroke turbo-diesel V8.
The 6.2-liter V8 with single overhead cam and sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection works as the base plant, producing 385 hp at 5750 rpm and a torque rating of 430 lb-ft at 3800 rpm. It burns regular unleaded 87-octane gasoline but also is E85 compatible.
The optional Power Stroke turbo-diesel -- a 6.7-liter V8 with compacted graphite iron engine block and a single turbo-charger functioning like a twin-turbo system, plus high-pressure common rail fuel injection and inboard exhaust architecture -- musters 440 hp at 2800 rpm and up to 925 lb-ft of torque at only 1800 rpm. The plant sips ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel or B20, which contains 20 percent or less biodiesel.
Both Super Duty plants mate with a 6-speed Ford TorqShift electronically controlled automatic transmission with SelectShift manual shift control. The transmission also plants a toggle on the shift lever so a Super Duty driver may limit the number of forward gears available when hauling or towing a hefty load on a steep grade.
Ford offers a factory-installed fifth wheel and gooseneck substructure for Super Duty trucks which attaches directly to the truck frame.
The 2017 Super Duty trucks divide into five trim grades: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum.
Ford marks MSRP figures for 2017 Super Duty trucks in a broad range from $32,535 to $77,325.