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New Car/Review

1997 Ford F-250 Lariat Extended Cab 4x4

by Nick Hromiak


ENGINE:  5.4-liter V-8
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE:  235hp@ 4250rpm/330 lb-ft @3200 rpm
TRANSMISSION:  Four-speed automatic
FUEL ECONOMY:  13 mpg city,  17 mpg highway,  12.3 mpg test
WHEELBASE:  138.8 in.
OVERALL LENGTH:  202.2 in.
OVERALL WIDTH:  78.4 in. 
FUEL CAPACITY:  34.7 gal.
LUGGAGE CAPACITY:  72.6 cu. ft. (8-foot box)
TIRES:   LT245/75R16
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature,
             oil pressure, battery voltage, digital clock.
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors,
           power driver's seat, cruise control, air conditioner,
           electronic shift 4x4, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette
           and CD changer, anti-lock braking, 
dual air bags.

As Ford's new F150 pickup was the first of three models to undergo a major redesign, the heavier duty F250 and F350 models have now followed for 1997.

Sporting the same common styling as its half-ton brother, the F250 differs primarily from the F150 in GVW, badging and seven-bolt wheels. Offered in Regular Cab 4x2/4x4 and Super Cab 4x2/4x4, the F250 can be furnished in Standard, XL, XLT or Lariat trim levels. I should point out that Ford also sells a heavy duty version of the F250/350 that is designated for over 8,500 pounds GVW.

The test truck was a 4WD Super Cab Lariat with a snazzy two-tone paint job (Pacific metallic green with a tan lower body). This three-quarter ton capacity pickup was almost too pretty to get dirty. Ride quality, too, was impressive. It's likened to a taut European type sports sedan. The view, however, is commanding, and there's a feeling of safety when you're surrounded by all this heavy duty ruggedness.

A high point of the F250, aside from its inherent toughness, is the "third door" option. According to Ford, their door opens wider than Chevy's and can be opened form the inside or door edge (when the front door is open). When flipped forward, the split rear seat bottom is fitted with a steel plate for stowing tools, gear or other items that could damage the deep-pile carpeting.

Ford engineers worked wonders with the cab design. they stretched it 5.1 inches in the short wheelbase model and 7.5 inches in the long wheelbase model. The cab now covers the gap behind the cab and cargo bed. This is a novel design that adds spaciousness and allows the seat to travel farther rearward--a feature that will make long-legged drivers happy.

A lock was also put on the tailgate. This is a great idea for those who cover the bed with a hard cover--or don't want the gate stolen. Ands a bright cargo bed light, mounted on the rear roof, makes it easier to load/unload at night.

Underpinnings have also changed. Gone is the Twin I-Beam front suspension used since 1965. Added are new upper and lower control arms that comprise the front suspension. A new boxed frame holds it all together.

Needless to say, the cockpit, with leather seats, was luxurious and very car-like. Some of the components resemble those from the Taurus sedan. There's even a right-side air bag disable switch for when an infant seat is used. If you opt for the 60/40 bench seat configuration, the middle seat back folds down into a work station/console complete with drink holder. Instrumentation is easily viewed and large rotary dials control the HVAC. Ditto for the 4WD transaxle, which can be operated with gloves on.

The F250 rode on LT245/75R16 tires, but 17-inchers are optionally available. the higher stance with the larger tires provides increased ground clearance when traversing rough terrain or deep snow.

With two engine offerings for the F250, the standard powerplant is the new Triton SOHC 220 horsepower 4.6-liter V-8 that produces 290 lb-ft of torque at 3250 rpm. The tester had the optional 5.4- liter Triton V-8 which put out 235 horsepower and 330 lb-ft torque. Released in late `96 was a 265 hp 6.8-liter Triton V-10. At this time the engine is only being offered in Ford's Econoline and Club Wagon vans. However, it's expected to be available for F-series pickups in the `98 model year.

The 5.2-liter proved more than adequate. This is the engine of choice for any serious trailering. As such, it's mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, the only available transaxle offered in this configuration. Four wheel ABS is also offered, as is a limited slip differential.

I was surprised by the price, high by many standards. But many sport utilities are selling for the same and more. This truck, however, offers more vehicle for the money. Plus, it's a hauler, family transporter (with Super Cab) and a go-anywhere machine. It does have one drawback. Gas mileage is a meager 14/17 mpg. But considering its weight and 4WD capability, economical it's not--workhorse it is.