GLENDALE, Ariz. -- West of Phoenix on the I-10 striping Arizona's Sonoran Desert, we're rolling at a moderate pace below the speed limit and toting a half-ton payload with huge torque from a massive new turbo-diesel engine directed to all of the wheels on a super-size one-ton work truck from Ford Motor Company.
Our speed on the multi-lane slab is dictated not by the monstrous powerplant on this redesigned truck but by the driver's deliberately light footprint on the go-pedal over a 70-mile route -- coursing first through desert sand, then down bee-line straight gravel roads and ultimately on a 20-mile stretch of freeway slab culminating in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale -- in order to achieve the top score in a fuel-economy contest.
A new LCD productivity screen in the instrument panel shows us the average mile-per-gallon fuel-burn score over the competitive course, and it's impressive: 28.3 mpg.
Our test truck -- Ford's F-350 Super Duty pickup for a four-door Crew Cab in plush King Ranch trim -- has four-wheel-drive (4WD) traction and the power of 390 horses as hitched to the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V8, which employs "clean diesel" technology.
That's Ford's descriptive for super-size F-Series work trucks with gross vehicle weight exceeding 8500 pounds.
A new generation of Super Duty designs for model-year 2011 emerges on refined chassis to enhance the ride and handling with stronger suspensions and beefy brakes, options for two new powerful engines and overall boosted capacity to perform truck-tough chores with best-in-class payload capability of 6520 pounds and tow ratings climbing to the top of the class -- way up to 24400 pounds.
Ford's Super Duty line, with a staggering number of configurations for cabs and beds and chassis and powertrains, tops all competitive sales charts with the annual volume exceeding 350,000 units.
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 new engines tapped for Super Duty service.
The base F-250 Super Duty has the shortest wheelbase of the series -- 137 inches.
It installs a regular-size two-door cab and carries a pickup box that measures 98 inches in length.
Both rear-powered two-wheel-drive (2WD) and 4WD traction modes apply to the new 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 four-door sedan.
With SuperCab and Crew Cab models, choices extend to the size of the back bed -- either a brief 81.8-inch box or the long box with 98-inch length.
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 -- joins the Super Duty line with DRW and 4WD exclusively to reach that top tow capacity in excess of 24000 pounds.
Super Duty trucks employ a gasoline-power engine in V8 format or the Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel plant.
Ford's new 6.2-liter V8 with single overhead cam and sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection works as the base plant, producing 385 hp at 5500 rpm and a torque rating of 405 lb-ft at 4500 rpm. It burns regular unleaded 87-octane gasoline but also is E85 compatible.
And the new Power Stroke turbo diesel -- a 6.7-liter V8 with the single turbo-charger functioning like a twin-turbo system, plus high-pressure common rail fuel injection and inboard exhaust architecture -- musters 390 hp at 2800 rpm and up to 735 lb-ft of torque at only 1600 rpm, while paring NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions and negating the noise of a diesel.
The turbo diesel sips ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel or B20, which contains 20 percent or less biodiesel.
Both Super Duty plants mate with a new six-speed Ford TorqShift 6R150 electronically controlled automatic transmission which adds the SelectShift feature for driver 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.
For the 2011 Super Duty line, Ford offers a dash-mounted trailer brake controller installed at the factory. It helps to stabilize a tow rig when braking and, during a sway event, may even apply brakes to the trailer.
Also available for Super Duty trucks is a factory-installed fifth wheel and gooseneck substructure which attaches directly to the truck frame. The top part of the structure can be removed quickly from the truck bed when the full bed is needed to house a load for hauling chores.
Further, Ford makes the new Tough Bed, a factory-installed spray-in bedliner composed of polyol-based elastomeric film and an isocyanate hardener.
Cabins of Super Duty trucks have been overhauled for 2011 with interiors which seem more like a comfortable car than a working-class truck. Most versions utilize cloth fabric upholstery for seats, but leather comes with the deluxe King Ranch model.
Total trims for 2011 Super Duty trucks include XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch.
Ford Work Solutions, an in-dash computer with high-speed internet access and wireless accessories such as a printer.
Tool Link, a RFID (radio frequency identification) tracking system that keeps up with tools and equipment.
Cable Lock, a device to secure large tools or gear in the truck's cargo bed.
Crew Chief, a telematics and diagnostics system that tracks locations and maintenance needs of fleet trucks.
Ford builds MSRP figures for 2011 Super Duty trucks in a broad range from $28,030 for a base F-250/SRW/2WD/LX to $62,380 for the maxed F-450/DRW/4WD/King Ranch.