2011 Ford Super Duty Pickups Review
2011 Ford F-450 SD
SEE ALSO: Ford Buyers Guide
By Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
I’ve been in a drag race before, sometimes watching the lights
on a pole between the lanes turn from red to green and other times watching
a similar sequence above an intersection. I’ve towed heavy things
behind my semi’s tractor and in the bed of a pickup truck. However, I
have never been in a race dragging over thirty tons of axle-mounted steel
behind me. Yet there I was, throttle to the floor of a spanking new 2011
Ford F450 as it bucked and shook its way down hard packed mine debris with
a 39-ton, 78,000 pound Caterpillar front end loader hitched to my back end.
Though I detest using the word, it was...AWESOME!.
Super Duty trucks, specifically the F-250 and F-350 versions, are a
staple of America’s work force. Gas engines power the fleets where
low acquisition price and lighter towing needs make the torque and
longevity of a diesel an unnecessary luxury. Others find the opposite, they
need a diesel’s economy, torque, and longer lifetime more than a
lower purchase price. This applies to Ford, GM, and Chrysler alike. Private
owners of Super Duty trucks are a passionate group, and if you are a Ford
Super Duty customer it is likely that you have an ardent interest in these
Ford’s latest Super Duty trucks which are now in showrooms. Ford says
that if you compare the traffic in the ten most popular Mustang user groups
with the top ten Super Duty groups, Super Duty fanboys (and girls) devour
200% more information.
In our Super Duty testing—note that I’m not a regular
big load tow/haul guy though I once drove Class 5s and
semi’s—we pulled 10,000 pounds and hauled a thousand pounds
using both gas and diesel power, rode shotgun for an uphill-downhill maxed
out 24,400 pound F-350 tow, and slid around and over some gnarly rocks in
an F-250. One of the first things learned about the 2010 vehicle is that it
is not an clean sheet of paper design. Rather, it is a major freshening of
the 2008 chassis and cab. In the engine bay that changes. Both engines, gas
and diesel are absolutely new and, Ford says, each is state-of-the-art and
protected for further development. Their prediction proved true as shown in
the recent software based power upgrade for diesel engines which improved
output from 390 horsepower and 735 pound-feet of torque to 400 horsepower
and 800 pound feet of torque, an upgrade also offered to those who have
already purchased a Super Duty truck.
The new Super Duty is built off a chassis which debut in 2008,
though now much more rugged with 6.6 mm C-channel rear rails and a fully
boxed front chassis. Springs are re-calibrated and dampers re-valved.
Exteriors are much bolder, arguably too bold with massive chrome accents in
the fascia and huge Ford name plate. Interiors are also upgraded with
driver oriented positioning and well integrated controls that will remind
you of Lincoln interiors. The most impressive development is a suite of
electronics that would be equally suited to an Audi, BMW, or Lincoln sedan.
It is, however, the two new engines that are the focus of the new truck.
One is an all-new Ford-designed 6.7-liter diesel, the other a 6.2-liter
gasoline engine; both use a new 6-speed automatic transmission with clutch
packs individualized for the engine type.
The 6.7 diesel debut with 390 horsepower and 735 pound feet of
torque got a bump to 400 hp/800 pounds while to deliver 18-20% better fuel
economy than previous Super Duty diesels. Its companion 6.2-liter short
stroke gas engine makes 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque, 85 hp
and 40 lb.-ft. greater than current 5.4-liter engines. It boasts 15%
improved fuel economy. The SOHC aluminum-head gasoline engine features
roller rockers, variable cam timing, 102 mm bore and 95 mm stroke, twin
spark plugs, piston-cooling oil jets, a nock sensor for each cylinder bank,
and a cast iron block.
The diesel, the first Super Duty truck engine built and designed by
Ford, uses a Compacted Graphite Iron block for better strength, 30,000 psi
third-generation Bosch common rail fuel injection (currently using five of
a possible seven injection pulses), and a new Honeywell single shaft
turbocharger. That device offers sequential low-speed and high-speed
compressor sections on a common shaft to deliver the effects of
twin-turbochargers with less cost and complexity.
The engine, like most new high-tech diesels, uses pre-injection fuel
pulses for noise control, a main fuel pulse, and up to two post-ignition
fuel injections for emissions related fuel richening. Keeping the engine
even more quiet are three resonators designed to quell specific intake
noises and a high frequency-absorbing engine cover. The engine uses aqueous
urea to generate ammonia in the selective catalytic reduction catalyst to
reduce nitrous oxides and meet strict US emissions standards.
Out in the wild, we approached the first off road test hillside in a
Vermillion Red F-250 Crew Cab and electronically shifted into 4-wheel low,
then drove slowly up. The chassis made no noise even when embedded boulders
twisted a wheel high off the ground. At the top we stopped, pressed a
button labeled Hill Descent Control—new for 2010—and idled over
the crest. Using the brakes and accelerator we could adjust speed to suit
terrain, but did not. Actually, I hung my elbow out the window and just
eased on down the hill letting the electronics do the work. It was off
roading as uneventful as cruising on a highway! Compared to many other
systems, which sound like a garbage can filled with rocks rolling down
hill, this was amazing. Ford says the sensors needed for ABS, electronic
stability control, electronic roll over mitigation, plus electronic control
of the entire powertrain makes HDC possible. They are very proud to mention
that all the enabling computer code was created in house.
Our travel through mine property, now recycling mine tailings into
gravel and crushed rock for construction, took us through a pit of mud deep
enough to reach the floor pan and viscous like axle grease. With just a bit
of power and momentum we traveled through uneventfully. We wanted to stop
and get the truck stuck up to the doors to see how easily it could be
driven out… they said no almost politely. Then we had a drag race. We
have raced between stop lights and counted down the “christmas
tree” at drag strips. But never a real “drag” race, as in
dragging something heavier than a maxed out trailer, foot-t0-the-floor
throttle and connected something really, really heavy.
After hooking up an identical 78,000 pound Caterpillar loader to
each hitch of two Ford F-450s we floored the throttle and shook and bucked
our way down a compacted dirt drag strip. Each truck performed this abuse
over 70 times, pulling more than 300% of its 24,400 pound maximum with no
Other models have lesser tow capacity. An F-250 single axle can pull
12,500 pounds, an F-350 with single rear wheels pulls 16,000 pounds with a
fifth-wheel setup, and F-450 dual wheel models are capable of pulling a
24,400 fifth-wheel trailer. For the first time, Ford offers a factory
installed and warranted fifth wheel package that includes an engineered
cross member and a pickup bed with installation holes laser cut before
e-coating and painting for $400. It accommodates both gooseneck and fifth
wheel trailers and leaves a flat load floor when not towing.
Since a majority of Super Duty owners and users tow on a regular
basis, it was a design emphasis. Hill Start Assist allows you to drift to a
stop and have plenty of time to move your foot between brake and
accelerator with a backwards roll, even with a trailer. The integrated
trailer brake controller intelligently determines the proper amount of
trailer brake and can be programmed for a variety of trailers. Enhanced
tow/haul mode, activated on the shifter, lets you select a gear set and is
hugely useful when downhilling with a load behind. There’s a
potential downside to all this technology, a failure to understand the load
behind you. The system is so well integrated, so powerful and successful
that it transforms a novice into an expert—at least perceptually.
Theoretically, a novice who only knew the 2010 Ford Super Duty and all its
enhancements could be swiftly overwhelmed if driving an older truck of any
brand, particularly if heavily loaded and downhilling on winding roads.
Keep it in mind, even if you are the most experienced driver on the road.
Exterior styling is a modest evolution from last year’s
models. XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch models feature a new clamshell hood
with inverted power dome and a much bolder Super Duty stamped grille that
boasts a huge Ford oval. For dually buyers, this is Ford’s first new
dual-axle bed design in a decade. In terms of visual distinction and truck
spotting, on road trucks have deeper air dams than Off Road, balancing
aerodynamics and duty requirements. For heavy duty users a sprayed-in bed
liner Ford calls Tough Bed is available. That liner, a polyol-based
elastomer, is hardened with isocyanate (super glue). Two wheel and tire
packages are available, 17” steel wheels and 20” polished
wheels, depending on model.
Inside there is a new flow-through center console that provides rear
passengers with two HVAC outlets and both 12 V and 110VAC power points.
With the forward four cupholders removed a deep storage tub is revealed,
and with the center console inserts removed, business users can accommodate
hanging file folders. All models offer lockable rear underseat storage.
The most expensive King Ranch variations on the Lariat constitute
nearly 50% of Super Duty Sales and provide 10-way heated and cooled leather
seats and unique exterior trim. Regardless the model, all seats are based
on the new F-150 and have more supportive seat foams and frames, plus all
seating fabrics and leather have been upgraded and drivers seats all have
manual lumbar adjustment.
In some ways the enormously enhanced capability and significantly
improved fuel economy are overshadowed by what appears on the dashboard.
The 2011 Super Duty’s in-dash electronics are a subset of the
MyFord electronics just becoming available in Ford passenger cars. A 110 mm
LCD productivity screen centered in the instrument cluster provides
operators with data beyond PRNDL and remaining fuel. It can selectively
display average and instant fuel economy information plus two digital
odometers as well as recounting recent fuel economy history, compass
direction, actual fluid operating temperatures and (diesel) turbocharger
boost, or a set of truck-centric applications. These can make off roading
“Truck Apps” include an off road mode that displays
pitch angle, roll angle, and even what direction your wheels point.
Information is available on features like the electronic locking
differential, hill descent control and traction control, plus the 4x4
system. For anyone who is hauls multiple trailers or a novice trailer user,
a towing screen includes a step-by-step trailer hookup checklist that
supports trailers from those with no brakes at all to elaborate trailers
equipped with electro-hydraulically activated fifth-wheel and gooseneck
options. Th system includes an ability to remember individual settings,
like trailer brake gain settings, for up to seven trailer trailers. These
are selected using a now-standard cellphone five-way controller inset into
the left hand side of the steering wheel.
Chief truck engineer Don Ufford says the new Super Duty offers the
most enhanced chassis electronics in the industry including Stability
Control, Roll Stability Control, Grade Hold, Hill Descent Control, and
Trailer Sway Control. Ufford says their center LCD is the only single
programmable screen, versus competitors multiple data-only screens.
Oh, that’s just the beginning.
Centered in the center stack a 6.5” screen displays controls
for audio, phone (with Ford’s improved Microsoft-based SYNC, now with
traffic, directions, and useful information), backup camera display, and
navigation. Beyond those features are work-oriented functions Ford calls
Work Solutions, a suite of a’ la carte applications that included
Tool Link with an ability to list the tools aboard using RFID tags (lost
any? got the right tools for this kind of job?;) Crew Chief’s
ability to use a built-in computer system with wireless connections to
monitor a small vehicle fleet, or, using the same computer system, remotely
access already-purchased computer applications stored on your main computer
and wirelessly print documents and invoices.
What we found in several days of pounding, fuel economy
competitions, and just driving a couple of tons from one Arizona town to
another (no escaped prisoners or illegal cargo!) was that the trucks
deliver real fuel economy improvements, are architecturally quiet, and easy
on the driver and passengers over long distances. They are, truly, the best
Super Duty trucks Ford has built.