Ford loads Super Duty truck with power

December 27, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

From headlights to tailgate, the latest F-Series Super Duty models can really deliver the power, payload capacity and passenger accommodations.

It seems that Ford has poured everything it knows about trucks (and, as the numero uno pickup builder in the world, it knows a lot) into this latest boxy, big-brute bad-boy. Although similar looking to the '04 model, the Super Duty series, comprising of three-quarter-ton F-250 and one-ton F-350 versions (plus commercial-grade chassis from F-350 to F-750 versions not covered here), are now considerably stronger with beefed-up frames, axles and brakes that are able to transport even heavier loads. How much heavier depends on how each Super Duty is ordered, but maximum payload capacity is now rated at 5,800 pounds - a gain of 300 - and towing capacity has increased by 300 pounds to 15,000 pounds (17,000 using a fifth-wheel setup). Since 90 percent of current Super Duty owners tow with their trucks and at least 80 percent tote heavy loads, these numbers are not only impressive, but critical to big-rig-type pickup buyers.


A more modern front suspension on 4x4 models, one that now features coil springs instead of old-style front leaf springs, adds, according to Ford, greater steering precision, improved ride and better overall stability, especially while changing lanes or making any sudden moves. Another benefit of the coil-spring setup is a reduced turning radius.

Along with a humongous carrying/pulling capacity, the Super Duty also looks the tough-hombre part. A bolder front-end treatment inspired by Ford's Tonka concept truck seen at various auto shows throughout the land reinforces the image. It's an image that's backed up by a trio of engines that are more pumped up than ever.

The starting point is a 5.4-liter V-8 that puts down 300 horsepower (a gain of 40 from '04) and 365 lb.-ft. of torque. Optional is a 6.8-liter V-10, rated at 362 horsepower and 457 lb.-ft. of torque, that replaces last year's 310-horsepower 6.8-liter unit. Both of these engines benefit from new three-valve per-cylinder heads (the old ones had just two valves) that add more airflow to make more power. The engine preferred by two-thirds of all Super Duty buyers (around 200,000 North American customers every year) is Ford's 6.0-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel that, for 2005, cranks out 325 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft. of torque. The latter peak figure is close to, but slightly less than the Dodge and Chevrolet diesel competitors.

All engines are connected to six-speed manual transmissions or a choice of two optional five-speed automatics, with one featuring a tow-haul mode, part of a TowCommand system that helps to control the truck and its payload on downhill stretches. It will also stay locked in a particular gear while travelling uphill, which prevents the transmission from hunting from gear to gear as the throttle is applied.

As you would expect, you can "build" your Super Duty from a variety of equipment, body style, box size and trim levels, depending on your particular starting point; XL; XLT; or Lariat. Also returning for another season is the orange-on-black Harley-Davidson package that, for 2005, rides on 20-inch wheels and makes available a special flame paint option.

Once you've picked your color, model, drive system, box size and decided between regular, extended Supercab and four-door CrewCab versions (plus rear-wheel dualie models), you can then select from a number of content packages, including one specially prepped for snow plowing.

At this point the impression is that purchasing a Super Duty requires much contemplation as to its specific task, including what it will haul, where it will haul, how many people it needs to accommodate and so on.

However, once you've done your homework, you'll be rewarded with a thoroughly modern, work-hard-play-hard machine.

Copyright 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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