New Car/Review

Ford

The 1999 Ford F-250 Super Duty, 4X2. The family sedan of trucks

by Larry Weitzman

With trucks becoming ever so popular, Ford is leading the charge in new models. This week's test truck is not a big, brawny 4X4, but a nonetheless heavy duty 4X2 Ford F-250 Super Duty, short bed with the Super Cab option. It has been a year and a half since its introduction and there have been some small but important changes that will appear in the 2000 model which will be discussed.

The Super Duty's style is taking on a following of its own. The resemblance to the Dodge Ram with its "conventional big truck" styling is fading as it is becoming more commonplace on the highways and its own design nuances become more apparent.

The most prominent feature is the raised hoodline and the large squared off fenders. A big rectangular grille surrounded in chrome with blacked out interior bars, flanked left and right with what appear to be two scoops with mesh inserts sets off the front of the truck. The more I see it, the more I like it. The front bumper is also very nicely integrated, with a strong smooth appearance.

The sides are smooth with a high ridge line and a lower crease that follows and connects the massively flared wheel wells. It is a very attractive truck. One of the best new design features exclusive to the Ford Super Duty is the extra large side windows with a dip in the forward portion expanding the downward visibility.

What is becoming the most popular of pickups, the super cab, short bed, my test vehicle fit that bill perfectly. It was a 4X2 with limited slip 4.30 axle. It is 227 inches long on a 141.8 inch wheelbase, which shows how overblown the backlash on the size of the new super duty based Ford Excursion is. The new Excursion is actually smaller by about a half an inch and has a 4.8 inch shorter wheelbase. Width is 79.9 inches. With an 8,800 pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and a curb weight of 5205 pounds, leaves a payload approaching two tons of 3,595 pounds.

Powered by what may be the smoothest truck engine on the market, the Ford SOHC 6.8L (412.5 cubic inches) V-10 manufacturers copious amounts of power. That translates to 310 hp at 4,500 rpm and a stump pulling 410 lbs-ft of torque at 2,650 rpm. The V-10 option costs a miniscule $600 and is a bargain over the standard 5.4L V-8 which is rated at 235 hp amd 335 lbs-ft pf torque.

This year the V-10 received a power boost of 35 hp at the same rpm and torque is up 15 as well. It was accomplished through the design changes in breathing, friction reduction and coil on plug ingnition and its done with less emissions.

But the V-10 is the way to go unless you are going to do heavy towing when the added cost ($4,600) of the Power Stroke turbo Diesel becomes worth considering. At 235 hp at only 2,700 rpm and 500 lbs-ft of torque at a just of idle 1,600 rpm, this thing could move a house right off its foundation.

In performance, the Super Duty acquits itself well. Not only is it turbine or electric motor smooth (I'll bet you could stand a dime sideways on this engine block at any engine speed), it emits some great sounds which is unusual for a V-10. In the drag racing department, this 5,200 plus pound truck will run 0-60 in less than nine seconds, with an average of 8.89 seconds (the quickest run was 8.51 seconds).

Passing performance is also strong with 50-70 mph taking only 5.21 seconds and up hill passing requiring a respectable 9.13 seconds. But it's how the Ford performs its tasks that make it so good. It never works hard, it is relaxed and responsive. A good part of that is due the the heavy duty four speed electronically controlled automatic. It shifts slicker than a greased weasel being chased by 40 ten year olds on fourth of July. It allows the truck to remain in the power band at all times (which starts at just above idle) and down shifts precisely when required as signaled by throttle pressures. It's a sweet powertrain.

Fuel economy is not rated by the EPA, but it's not like trucks of 20 years ago where 6-8 mpg was the norm. This unit actually recorded an average of 13.2 mpg in local driving with a run to Lake Tahoe. It included no less than 30 applications of burying the go pedal for short bursts and some heavy weekend traffic at the Lake. I would estimate 14-16 on the highway at legal speeds and 12-14 in local driving. Considering the air this thing pushes around and the weight, that's a pretty remarkable accomplishment, considering its powered by a high performance 6.8L V-10.

Ford's suspension is a revised twin I-Beam front suspension setup. It tracks true and corners better than some sedans. On El Dorado County byways, such as Carson, Greeen Valley or Latrobe, it was fun to attack the corners with some vigor. It is truely amazing how good these things go around corners. Steering was the best Ford has designed, very accurate with good feel and feedback.

On the highway, it was quiet with the engine spinning 2,400 rpm at 70 mph with the trip computer indcating between 14 and 15 mpg. The ride was uninterrupted by ewxpansion joints and tar strips. I could do a five hundred miles in this Super Duty and then play 18 holes. The sound system is concert hall quality the the optional bargain priced $190 premium AM/FM cassette with single play CD.

Ponderosa Road washboard, however, makes you not forget that this is a truck. While it won't shake your fillings out or make you wish for a Town Car, It is a truck with a GVW of 8,800 pounds. But it does do Ponderosa a lot better than many lesser capable pickups. There were no rattles or shakes which adds to the quiet ride and makes the small bumps less tiresome. It will eat big bumps like a shark in a mackerel cage.

Taking the F-250 Super Duty off road poised not problem with the limited slip axle. Limited slip transfers power to the wheel with the most traction, so when pulling a boat up a slippery wet boat ramp will be no problem. I put the rear wheels of this Ford into the water at the Folsom launch ramp and pulled out without the slightest bit of wheel slip. It works.

Stopping 5,200 pounds can also be a problem, but not with the Ford. With standard 4 wheel disc brakes with the antilock option (a worthy and almost mandatory $500 safety option) the big Super Duty stops relatively quick. The brakes are huge with rotors that are over 13 inches in front and nearly 13 inches in rear. Pedal effort and modulation are near perfect.

Inside, the Lariet has a standard leather package with a 40/20/20 high back bucket seat set up. These are the best truck seats in the business. They are cushy and big. With power and recline, Ford could sell this chair for that extra special family room comfort station. It's that good. The seat cushion will reach all the way to the back of your knee and the foam densities couldn't be better.

The rear seat which has been improved for 2000, still has a ways to go. The 1999 rear seat back is too upright, the seat bottom too short and has too much up angle. For 2000, the seat back is now one piece and better designed, and the seat cushion has a better angle, but it is still too short and too low. It's ok in a pinch for maybe up to an hour, and probably would be fine for children, but anymore time in the rear should require double time pay.

If you have been truck shopping lately, you will find the Super Duty reasonably priced. My test vehicle had a base price of $23,305. The Lariat package with leather adds $2,445, the 6.8L V-10, a must, only adds $355 (the biggest bargain in trucks), the four speed electronic automatic lists for $970, 265/75X16 inch OWL tires adds $390, the 4.30 limited slip rear axle is bargain priced at $310, the trailer tow package $190, Calisfornia emissions $170, sliding rear window $125, spare tire and wheel $365, premium am/fm cassette/CD $190, 4 wheel antilock brakes $500, trailer hitch receiver $150, privacy glass $100, two tone paint $190. Destination adds another $440. Ford has a special discount package that reduces the total price by $1,220 for a total list of $29,305.

 

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