2008 Ford F-250, F-350, F-450 Pick-up Truck Reviews
SUPER DUTY FORD TRUCKS FOR 2008
Updating the Icons – F-250, F350, F450
By Steve Purdy and Martha Hindes
Texas is for trucks. One in four Texans drives a truck of some kind and one out of every six trucks Ford sells are sold to Texans. Ford, GM and Toyota all make trucks in Texas. The competition is fierce for that Texas truck image and that’s why we’re here this week – to preview the newest Ford F-Series Super Duties.
Ford’s F-Series trucks date back to 1948 with a total production over the years of more than 31 million units. Amazing. Ford has been the leader in light trucks sales for 30 years and they’re not about to let go of that distinction now. These Super Duties, F-250, F-350 and F-450 (everything bigger than the basic F-150) constitute 40% of F-Series truck sales. Redesigned for ’08 they’ll be on sale this spring. In fact, they’re probably being shipped now. We drove a bevy of preproduction versions in Texas during the ice storms this week and I’m impressed.
We didn’t all get to go to “The Ranch” to really have some fun with the new Ford Super Duty trucks. The plans were well thought out by the Ford team but Mother Nature had other ideas. The first wave and the last wave of journalists got to run the trucks through the mud, pull some really heavy loads and put the trucks through their paces. Not only that but they got to sit on a wild bull if they dared. Well, the bulls are gone and the roads are closed by ice, and I couldn’t get there from here – San Antonio, that is. Our colleague Martha Hindes, though, was in the final wave and got to do the more intensive testing at the ranch in spite of the ice. So, she’ll tell you about that later in this story.
We, in the second wave, spent a few hours behind the wheel on easy roads from Corpus Christi to San Antonio. I hopped into a Dark Copper Metallic one with the optional King Ranch trim package. Dark red-brown leather seats - the color of a Hereford bull - with contrasting white stitching and a hint of saddle design. The King Ranch logo is pressed into the seats, console pads and floor mats. JR Ewing would be right at home in this luxurious and masculine interior. Wood and chrome accents along with fairly good plastics give the interior nearly the feel of a luxury car. On each side of the dash vertical panels housing the vents are a different color plastic and constitute one too many textures, in my not-so-humble opinion. Interior design and style are well done, indeed.
On the road from Corpus Cristi we had the opportunity to experience the Super Duties on the road. Granted, these were relatively smooth roads, mostly. The highway approaching San Antonio was a bit choppy but we didn’t get any really rough or ragged roads. The Ford folks have used extra sound insulation, quiet steel and other techniques to give the Super Duties a more sophisticated, civilized and refined feel. They’ve done an excellent job of making it feel less truck-like. Sure, it’s really big but does not feel oppressive or cumbersome at all.
Three engines power these big trucks. The alpha truck, F-450 Super Duty, comes with the 6.4-liter Power Stroke® turbo diesel V8. F-250 and F-350 can be had with the diesel, a 5.4-liter V8 or a 6.8-liter V10. Let’s talk about fuel mileage later.
The diesel makes 350 horsepower at 3000 rpm and an impressive 650 lb.-ft. of torque at 2000 rpm. That iron-block brute is made by International and features high-pressure (28,000-psi), common-rail fuel injection, precision machined, forged crankshaft, powder-forged connecting rods and two turbos - a smaller high-pressure turbo that spins up quickly and a larger low-pressure unit that supplements breathing at higher rpms. Of course, in this intensive application extra engine cooling and oil flow is included. Our three-hour test drive without a load on freeways and two-lanes from Corpus Christi to San Antonio resulted in about 9.5 mpg.
Diesel technology has come a long way in the last few years. This one, made by International, has 2 coolers within the exhaust gas recirculation system that helps lower combustion temperatures along with an intake air intercooler and oil-jet piston cooling. Cooler combustion temperatures mean lower NOx emissions. The other major issue with diesels, of course, is particulate emissions. Within the exhaust system we find both an oxidation catalyst and a particulate filter. The former reduces unburned hydrocarbons and generates heat for the latter. Particulate emissions are reduced by a factor of 10 making it about equal to a gasoline engine of similar size.
Ford and International are having a bit of a spat over costs and warranty responsibility for the diesel engine but that’s not expected to have an effect on availability.
Towing capacity is big news here. The last generation Super Duty led the league with towing capacity of 19,000 and payload of 5,800 pounds. This new Super Duty with the turbo-diesel can pull 24,000 and haul 6,120 pounds. The increases are due to both the more powerful engines and improvements in chassis design. The chassis redesign also makes possible the best turning radius in its class and more sophisticated ride and handling. The longer and larger leaf springs on the F-450 ramp capacity up a notch. Ford’s young steed, president of The Americas Mark Fields, says they’re having a problem finding things big and heavy enough to tow. The functional and cool-looking fender vents add a nice touch of style.
My favorite new feature on these tough trucks is the tailgate step. Drop the tailgate, pull out and drop down the bar that nests inside the tailgate, flip the padded step, disengage and raise the handle bar, then step right up into the bed - slicker ‘n snot on a doorknob, as the Texans say. Why didn’t anyone think of that before.
Another neat feature is the extendo power mirrors. Not only do they power adjust like other mirrors but they go in and out to accommodate a wide trailer. And they fold inward to get through a narrow spot. The integrated smaller distortion mirror takes a little getting used to but is well thought out and functional.
I’ll certainly give the Ford PR staff credit for making the best of a tough situation. While I didn’t get a chance to put the trucks through their paces, I had enough time with the trucks and the engineers to get a sense that the competition just got hotter in this tough truck segment.
As I was boarding the Ford corporate jet for the flight back to Detroit our friend and colleague, Martha, was arriving on the same plane after an inordinate delay in Dallas for deicing.
“The truck’s at home here,” said Harry Rawlins, Super Duty engineering specialist, as the pickup’s churning front tires sent up sheets of brown water as high as the windshield. The large truck lunged forward out of the foot-deep mud pit to clamber up a steep ridge then dig through the deep ruts of a road filled with mud the consistency of think whipped cream.
It was just one of the obstacles deliberately created by Rawlins as a challenge to Ford’s new 2008 Super Duty pickup truck lineup for visiting auto writers. Days of relentless rain followed by uncharacteristic cold had turned what originally was a challenging South Texas off-road course into a seemingly impossible stretch of ice-blanketed ranch land and neighboring construction sites made available for the occasion. And Rawlins, who designed the course, had not spared the difficulty despite the weather.
One after another the sturdy, diesel-powered F-250s slid through the terrain, chewing deep channels into the water-soaked ground, grunting up a high hill with an estimated 45-degree grade before they toggled over the top then drove on through a rocky-bottomed, shallow lake and up a sharp-edged, foot-high escarpment.
Over near a corral, away from which the bulls had recently been hauled, huge trailers and even some 40-foot RV homes waited for test drivers to power them off a mud-slicked holding area and onto the nearby highway hitched to Ford’s muscular, diesel-powered F-250s, F-350s and F-450s. Despite the seeming impossibility of gaining traction on slime, they inched forward then gained momentum with every different driver behind the wheel. With that as an introduction, the term “Super Duty” needed little additional clarification.
Ford had flown a contingent of automotive journalists specializing in new truck reviews to San Antonio, Texas – an area the company staunchly defends as “Ford truck country” for its vast number of Ford pickup owners. The inauguration bears great importance to the American auto and truck manufacturer with ongoing competition from revised American Chevys and GMCs, Dodge Ram and an anticipated fierce challenge from Japanese manufacturer Toyota, which has constructed a new Tundra pickup truck factory in the heart of the area.
In towing exercises it was possible while behind the wheel to forget there was a massive trailer body attached unless the blanked-out rear view mirror gave away its presence. The F-250 and F-350 each hauled trailer boxes loaded with 10,000 to 18,000 pounds of sandbags. The house trailers maxed out at a whopping 24,000 pounds of dead weight towed behind.
In all renditions, hugging road curves and turning corners was smoother than expected. Stops were not jerky and were uniformly under control thanks to the F-Series’ precise, programmable trailer braking with not a hint of need for the emergency stopping function. And roadway speeds were reached, even when not in tow/haul mode, without a sense of extraordinary weight dragging behind.
A handsome “King Ranch” russet-colored leather interior in one F-450 model added to a sense of total ownership of the road.
A heavy-duty F-450 “duelie” carrying 8,500 pounds total including the expected weight of four 200-pound men in the cabin, was surprisingly compliant in handling and performance.
The imposing power of Ford’s Super Duty pickups comes from the powertrains described by Steve above.
Complaints, when rarely heard, dealt more with amenities and with subtle styling differences – more a matter of personal preference than any lack of choices, since Ford states there are “one million” possible variants in the Super Duty family of trucks. The sound system panel, for example, that annoyed one driver for its complexity would likely be just right for another. A simpler setup, without navigation system, might seem too plain for a tech-inspired owner. Not finding the right combination would seem more a lack of effort in making a choice.
THAT’S A WRAP
Super Duty was named Truck of the Year by the Texas Auto Writers Association – an award Ford is particularly proud of. Marketing is tied in with a few select entities like Cabelas, the American Quarter Horse Association, Professional Bull Riders, the Future Farmers of America and Toby Keith. Ford certainly is not in touch with its feminine side with this one - though a few women certainly identify with these connections, particularly Toby Keith. Martha is going to research women and their Super Duties for a future story.
Back to Mark Shields for a moment – “We always try to raise the bar in capability, power, innovation, refinement and style. With the new F-Series Super Duty, we have produced the most bold and capable truck ever.”
Perhaps - but defensible hyperbole for sure.
© Steve Purdy and Martha Hindes, All Rights Reserved