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2011 Ford F-250 Lariat Review

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2011 Ford F-250 Lariat Review

Data Source: Ford Buyers Guide

A Road Trip Sans Trailer
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

We expected to be towing a trailer for this 2,500-mile road trip with the luxurious F-250 Super Duty Lariat Diesel. Let me tell you that story. If you’re just interested in the review skip down a half dozen paragraphs.

My friend Don was invited to show his beautiful old Allard K3 roadster at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance near Jacksonville, Florida. Just after the invitation came last fall Don asked if I’d like to go to the show with him. He knew I’d always wanted to attend and cover that invitational classic and collector car show. Amelia’s mid-March date kicks off the show season and has become one of the best in the country.

I hadn’t really given Don’s plan much thought until I noticed on my test car schedule that Ford had offered me this big, tough F-250 diesel that same week. It was an omen, I’m sure, that I had to do the project. I checked with my Ford folks to make sure they were OK with putting so many miles on that truck during this week of testing, and then called Don making the offer to be his tow truck.

Don was thrilled. His usual tow vehicle is an old Suburban with 350,000 miles on its clock. What a treat it would be, he thought, to tow with this new truck. So we began making our plans.

I picked the truck up on Monday and our plan was to load up the Allard and hook up the trailer on Tuesday, then leave at 0-dark-thirty on Wednesday morning. I was half way home with the truck when I got a call from a sad-sounding Don telling me some business problems had arisen and he would not be able to clear them up by Wednesday. Don’s company sells and installs commercial and residential window treatments all over the Midwest and he’s always a busy guy. Though he did his best to clear the time the business gremlins interfered.

I assured him that I didn’t mind towing it down by myself if he could just fly down for the weekend show. After all, there are few things in life that give me more pleasure than a long, solitary drive, and this would make a good one. I call it “road therapy.” So that’s what we decided to do.

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Another glitch threatened our plan, and then doomed it. Don’s trailer tongue was custom designed to connect with his Suburban and is about 8 inches off the ground. This F-250 hitch receptacle is way higher. If we mated the two, the trailer’s tail would be dragging the ground. Bummer! With more time to spare we could have redone the hitch somehow but we just called off the tow job. The poor Allard would have to stay home, but Don would still fly down for the show and I would still drive the truck, sans trailer and Allard, to Amelia, just for fun.

The F-250 is only one size above the F-150 (most popular full-size pickup for the last half century) but it feels like a big, commercial truck. It’s so tall the optional running board is a must, unless you are particularly long-legged and athletic. It’s massive, aggressively styled and mighty torquey with the new 6.7-liter V-8 diesel engine.

Let’s talk about this new engine. As we crank it to life it immediately settles into the classically slow idle of a big diesel. We feel the barely contained power lurking under a hood – a hood so high you will need a step stool to check the oil. With 6.7 liters of displacement this new engine is the first diesel truck engine designed in-house by Ford in modern times and represents the best thinking and technology in turbo-diesel engines. It makes 400 horsepower and an amazing 800 pound-feet of torque. That torque peak comes at just 1,000 rpm, by the way. Exhaust treatment includes a urea-based catalyst system meaning there is an “exhaust fluid” filler neck right next to the fuel filler. Depending on use you would probably only have to add urea during regular servicing. And it is B20 (20% biofuel mix) capable.

We’ll barely tap that power without a trailer, even in the mountains. Of course, I tested the full-throttle response a few times just to feel that thrust.

How does it feel, you ask? Well, let me tell you without equivocation that it feels impressive. Now remember, we aren’t towing a big load this trip but when we put our lead foot into it on the freeway ramp or to get around slower traffic or just for fun, the thrust feels like a sports car. The old Navistar-sourced diesel had a twin turbo system but this new Power Stroke diesel is a single “sequential” turbo. It has just as much boost available throughout the RPM range.

I managed between 16 and 18.4 mpg on this big trip. That’s lots of freeway driving at barely extra-legal speeds.

Towing capacity, of course, is one of the primary reasons to buy this kind of truck. You can tow 16,500 pounds if you opt for the 5th-wheel package, otherwise you can manage 12 to 14,000 pounds, depending on axle ratio. Front suspension continues to be the twin-I-beam design Ford has used for years and rear suspension is solid axle with leaf springs and gas shocks.

Rough roads were scarce on this trip but the few times I ended up traversing potholes at a good speed the rear end stayed in reasonably good control. A little jitter and jog was evident but nothing unusual considering no load in the rear.

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I like just about everything about the cockpit of this truck. The driver’s seat is firm and shaped for comfort with plenty of range – up, down, back and slant – to get the best position. The tilt and telescopic steering wheel could use a bit more range, though. The cavernous center console is big enough to store just about anything you need from computer to maybe a folded-up pup tent. Steering wheel controls help manage the radio, cruise and information systems in a simple manner. It’s also nice to look at with stylish design, excellent quality materials and impressive fit and finish.

One of the simplest, best-designed vehicle information systems I’ve encountered graces this lovely truck. I’ve struggled recently with both Edge and Fiesta to explore and manage their respective systems. This one, however, just sort of managed itself. A steering wheel button acts as a four-position controller, much like the button on my Nikon camera, to scroll through the options – trip odos, mileage, diagnostics, etc. – with a little “OK” button in the center for selecting and zeroing. I’m often critical of the complexity of these systems, but I like this one.

So, doing an 18 1/2 – hour drive each way was a breeze. Between the comfortable cockpit, the Sirius Satellite Radio tuned to NPR and the tight handling, the drive was virtually effortless. One thing I would change is to allow the dash lights to dim more for night driving. The lowest setting is still brighter than it needs to be. Nothing helps prevent eye fatigue like a dark dash.

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Certainly one of the handiest features of this and many of the Ford pickups is the integrated tailgate step. I wonder if they were thinking of us boomers who buy a lot of these trucks and can’t quite scramble into the bed of a pickup anymore. With this feature we just drop the gate, pull the step out of the edge of the gate and let it drop down, then release the vertical handle, lift it up and lock it in place. We can then just step up and in without grunting or pulling muscles.

Another great feature we find on most of the heavy duty trucks now is the telescoping outside mirrors that, with the touch of a button, extend outward a few inches making it easier to see around your trailer.

What’s a big truck without big wheels, we ask rhetorically. This one comes with the 20-inch 275/65 white-letter, all-terrains, a $1,375 option, but you don’t pay extra for the premium cast aluminum wheels.

Base price on this F-250 4X4 Crew Cab Lariat Styleside with 156-inch wheelbase is $44,095. This particular truck stickers out at a tad north of 60 grand with lots of options. The priciest option is the new diesel engine that accounts for $7,835 of the option total, along with the Lariat Package at $3,995.

Warranty covers the truck bumper-to-bumper for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or 60,000 miles.

I’ve always been drawn to big vehicles ever since I drove a city bus for a few years after college. In fact, when I see a front-end loader or an earthmover I just want to climb on and drive them. I’m lusting after a chance to pull a trailer with one of these Ford Super Duty trucks. If I do, I’ll give you a new report.

In the meantime, if this is the kind of vehicle you need (or want) put the Ford F-250 on your shopping list.

Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved