Ford’s quiet, comfortable Super Duty handles well and is meant for hauling, not your daily commute
The truck wars are heating up again. Whether for hard work or bragging rights, torque and towing are the main messages with heavy-duty trucks.
Ford admits that it ?woke up? and sent its engineers back to the lab when Ram upped its towing figures last year. And so here I am, in a Super Duty that can match half the capacity of a loaded tractor-trailer.
For 2015, the 6.2-L gasoline V8 remains the same, but the available 6.7-L Power Stroke diesel V8 now makes more power. It gets a larger turbocharger, improved injectors for better fuel flow, a new manually operated exhaust brake, and stronger torque converter. Both engines are available in the F-250 and F-350, while the F-450 uses the diesel exclusively.
That diesel?s bottom line is now 440 horsepower and 860 lb.-ft. of torque, a rise from the 400/800 that you got in the 2014 model. That tops the Ram?s inline-six diesel, which gets as high as 850 lb.-ft. depending on the transmission, and eclipses the 765 lb.-ft. produced by GM?s V8 oil burner.
The real heavies of the heavy-duty also get some chassis modifications for their increased capability. The F-350 can now be ordered with a high-capacity towing package, while the F-450 gets beefier steering and suspension components, commercial-grade wheels and tires, and bigger brakes.
Capability depends on the series and model, because factors such as cab configuration, two- or four-wheel drive, rear axle ratio, and wheelbase make a difference ? indeed, only a few trucks in the extensive lineup hit the highest numbers. But high they are: you can now pack in up to 7,260 kg (16,005 lbs.) of payload, hitch up to 8,618 kg (19,000 lbs.) of trailer, or tow a gooseneck that weighs as much as 14,152 kg (31,200 lbs.).
These trucks aren?t for the daily commute, or taking the dirt bikes to the cottage. These are the trucks that haul the horse trailers, the car trailers, and the 5,443-kg RV that I dragged up and down a 7 per cent grade in the mountains.
Ford says it expects some customers to use them for such jobs as moving construction equipment or as car haulers, even if it takes two trips to do the job, because it?s still cheaper than licensing a commercial truck in a higher class rating.
They cost less than those larger trucks, too. The F-250 starts at $36,949 in regular cab 4×2 configuration with a gas engine, while the F-350 begins at $38,849. The diesel is a $9,950 option. At the top end, an F-350 crew cab diesel 4×4 with dual rear wheels and platinum trim will take you to $79,999.
The F-450 comes only as a crew cab 4×4 with diesel and dual wheels, ranging from $61,499 to $82,849.
Hauling is what this truck?s meant to do, and it does it well. Compared to the Chevrolet and Ram heavy duties that Ford brought along for the RV portion of the event, the Super Duty towed the smoothest, while there was some lurching on the other two.
Ford?s trailer plug is still under the bumper, instead of above it, where it would be easier to reach and likely to stay cleaner. But for gooseneck towing, there?s a handy pin connection inside the box, as well as a hitch connection that leaves a flat bed floor once the fifth wheel is removed.
The huge, programmable instrument cluster screen shows what gear you?re in, and you can progressively lock out gears so the six-speed transmission won?t upshift above what you?ve chosen. There?s also a manual shift mode, although buttons on the steering wheel would be handier than the toggle on the column shifter.
You can now turn the exhaust brake on or off via a button, and it?s more effective than before at scrubbing off speed. I love the throatier, big-truck rumble of Ram?s brake, but it?s a personal preference: some like more noise, while others may find it wears thin on a long trip.
Tapping the brake in tow/haul mode induces a downshift, and Ford?s was the quickest to respond. But while its exhaust brake and downshift help save brake pads, the F-350 picked up too much speed downhill with the cruise control on. Chevy?s still the best at integrating its cruise into the engine and transmission to keep as close as possible to the set speed.
The Super Duty?s interior remains unchanged, and while the seats are very comfortable, the cabin is starting to look dated, especially against the competition. That said, there?s now darker brown plastic available in the King Ranch package, which improves it considerably over the garish tan stuff. Ford says the huge stylized ?W? cut into the centre console is now an exact match for the cattle brand used on the actual King Ranch. Ouch.
Ford?s biggest round number is now 40,000 lbs. (18,144 kg), the maximum gross combined weight for the F-450 and its load ? the half-a-tractor-trailer figure. I asked a Ford rep where these escalating capacities will end. He speculated that until federal transportation boards decide there?s a limit, the one-upmanship of more torque and more towing will go on.
I think he?s right. While Ford currently holds the crown, I?m now counting down until the next company tells its engineers to take it away.
Transportation for freelance writer Jil McIntosh was provided by the manufacturer.