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2008 Ford Super Duty F-250, F-350, F-450

Las Vegas—Ford's Super Duty lineup of trucks may be aimed at a specialized market, but it's a fairly large niche made up of more than 300,000 buyers.

Las Vegas—Ford's Super Duty lineup of trucks may be aimed at a specialized market, but it's a fairly large niche made up of more than 300,000 buyers.

 

For those customers, the second-generation debut of the all-new 2008 Super Duties here is a big story.

 

Introduced in 1999, the line consisted of the F-250, F-350 pickups, and the larger chassis-and-cab-only trucks that traditionally appealed to working fleet customers.

 

Since then, recreational haulers have steadily outgrown the one-tonne F-350 — which now accounts for around 30 per cent of total Super Duty sales. It's this group (and the increasing size of their recreational trailers) that Ford says heavily influenced its decision to build a new F-450 pickup that will tow more than 11,000 kg.

 

In fact, the trailer industry is building popular makes of fifth-wheelers to lengths of nearly 13 metres and weights of as much as 8,000-plus kg. With fifth-wheelers now making up more than 50 per cent of sales, the new capacity of the F-450 should be well received.

 

But the larger capacity is still only half the story of the new Super Duty powerplants.

 

In all sizes of the model line, a new Ford Power Stroke diesel engine is now available — a 6.4 litre that replaces the 6.0 litre. The new motor will deliver 350 hp at 3000 r.p.m. and 650 lb.-ft. of torque at 2000 r.p.m.

 

The new diesel also brings with it other upgraded systems that will bear these increased loads:

 


  • The radiator has grown by 33 per cent, and a larger water pump pushes its flow rate for cooling from 283 to 529 litres per minute.

     


  • An integrated trailer brake controller, factory-wired to the standard seven-pin plug.

     


  • Upgraded transmissions, with all-new gear sets and three-plate, two-stage torque converters. The F-450 also gets upgraded synchronizers for easier electronic shift-on-the-fly of its 4WD system.

     

    It should be noted that while Super Duty trucks are available with gas engines, they are ordered with diesels at least 80 per cent of the time, Ford Canada says. The company expects that to rise to 100 per cent for the new F-450.

     

    The new engine, named Ford Clean Diesel Technology, is the auto maker's response to new government regulations. Following Europe's lead, U.S. and Canadian governments have pushed through sweeping changes to the rules governing diesel emissions and the production of diesel fuel.

     

    In Canada, the clean fuel rules came into force last month, and ultra low-sulphur fuel is now available at every diesel-equipped station in the country.

     

     

    This change will work in tandem with new diesel technologies each manufacturer has to introduce, but older diesels will also burn more cleanly and produce fewer harmful emissions.

     

    Today's new generation of diesels will discharge 80 per cent less particulate matter and pump 70 per cent less nitrogen oxide into the air than diesels did 10 years ago. Carbon dioxide emissions are also lower as these engines extract more energy from the fuel. Average fuel economy is also up 15 per cent.

     

    These changes affect all manufacturers, which means that GM, Dodge, VW, Mercedes and others can't afford to be far behind Ford.

     

    After a lengthy ramp-up, the diesel engine builders say they are ready. In the case of Ford, that meant launching its showcase vehicle with the new clean diesel at Vegas.

     

    Out in the desert, the sound of the new 6.4 litre diesel struck me as softer, much less "clangy," and Ford says it is 10 decibels quieter than the old engine, which showed itself when normal cabin conversation wasn't strained when the truck was at speed.

     

    In part, this reduced noise level is a result of clean fuel feeding the high-pressure common rail fuel injection system. Fuel, which is pressurized to 26,000 p.s.i., is fired into the cylinders using new piezoelectric injectors. This system delivers up to five injections per combustion cycle, making for a continuous burn rather than a single injection "bang." The result is better emissions control, instant acceleration response and improved cold starting (down to —20C, says Ford).

     

    The new Super Duty trucks are also equipped with "Rapid Heat," which uses an electrical element to heat the coolant in the heater core immediately at start-up.

     

    Ford says this will bring faster heat to the cab and reduce idle time.

     

    Waste gases in the new Power Stroke 6.4 litre are put to use spinning a pair of sequential turbochargers that improve power response — particularly better low-end performance that adds torque and fuel economy. Tests with the new engine have netted 0-to-100 km/h times of more than a second faster than the old 6.0 litre.

     

    That brings us to the exhaust system. To meet the new emissions standards, a whole new class of diesel particulate filters in the exhaust system has been introduced, designed to catch 97 per cent of the soot particles that pass through them.

     

    Then, at predetermined intervals, a computer will direct heat through the filter to completely burn up the particles.

     

    The end result is an end to soot.

     

    The rest of Ford's design team has also been busy — creating some really trick (but solidly practical) additions to the Super Duty design, such as large, heated, power-adjustable mirrors that can be extended or retracted to accommodate any size of towed trailer (in a pinch they also fold in at the car wash).

     

    In the back is a hidden step. Concealed inside the lip of the gate, it pulls out and drops down to offer a step up into the box.

     

    As a match to the step, a hand-hold bar swings up from where it's embedded into the tailgate.

     

    To anyone who has had to awkwardly climb in and out of a pickup bed, this innovation is going to feel like Christmas in July. The step is currently being offered as an option, but it's so handy I expect to see it move to the standard equipment list.

     

    The new trucks should start arriving in late January. Pricing is not yet available.

     


    wheels@thestar.ca

     

    Howard J. Elmer, a freelance journalist (powersports@sympatico.ca), prepared this report based on travel provided by the automaker.

     


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