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Ford F-250: Gas-guzzler struck a chord with buyers

Looking back at the 1999-2007 Ford F-250 Super Duty.

  • Detail of an automatic gear shifter in a new, modern car. Modern car interior with close-up of automatic transmission and cockpit background

When Ford reshaped its popular F-150 light-duty pickup for 1997 by adopting an aerodynamic look with rounded corners, a small grille and sloping hood, some F-fans were aghast.

“They need a man’s F-150, not a girlie-looking F-150,” protested one owner in a post, echoing a common sentiment.

Ford engineers didn’t waste any time weeping into their pillows at night; instead, they worked to introduce a full line of heavy-duty pickups for 1999: the F-250, F-350 and F-450.

Intended for serious towing and commercial use, the Super Duty pickups were for the first time styled differently to separate them from the daintier F-150 half-ton, with more angular sheetmetal, a raised hood and massive aero-unfriendly grille.

The Super Duty gained a more robust frame and beefier construction — including big, old leaf springs all round.

Engine choices included a base 260-hp Triton 5.4 L V8 and an optional 310-hp 6.8 L V10, as well as a 7.3 L Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 supplied by Navistar International. A five-speed manual transmission was standard, with a four-speed automatic optional.

Buyers could choose from an array of configurations by mixing and matching standard, extended-cab and crew-cab body styles with short and long beds.

The cabs were big and airy, with lots of room up front for big-boned occupants. The rear seats, where supplied, were not especially accommodating. Still, Ford outdid itself with exemplary trim in the base XL, XLT and posh Lariat models.

Updates for 2001 included standard four-wheel ABS brakes, an available reverse parking sensor and more power from the Power Stroke diesel: 250 hp and 500 lb.-ft. of stump-pulling torque. A six-speed manual transmission was introduced the following year.

Significantly, the 7.3 L Power Stroke diesel was replaced by a smaller 6.0 L Power Stroke starting in 2003. The Navistar engine produced 325 hp and 560 lb.-ft. of torque thanks to its 32-valve heads and variable-vane turbo.

The Super Duty struck a chord with consumers; Ford estimated up to 45 per cent of buyers used them as personal vehicles, instead of strictly for farm and commercial use.

It was no surprise, then, that Ford retired the “girlie” F-150 in 2004 and unveiled a light-duty F-150 pickup styled after the successful Super Duty. The F-250/350/450 was likewise fortified for 2005 to provide more muscle and load capacity.

The standard engine remained the 5.4-liter V8 but with three valves per cylinder, gaining 40 hp to 300. The 6.8 L, three-valve gasoline V10 offered 355 hp, while the 6.0 L Power Stroke turbodiesel gained slightly more torque.

The 2005 models also received some styling updates, revised interiors, a new five-speed automatic transmission with a tow mode, larger four-wheel disc brakes and an optional power take-off for motorized accessories.

Approximate payload capacities were 1,400 kg for the F-250, 1,800 kg for the F-350 with single rear wheels, and 2,600 kg for the F-350 with dual rear wheels.

ON THE ROAD

Super Duty trucks can accelerate to highway velocity in an estimated 9 to 11 seconds, depending upon the powertrain. They’re no quicker than your average pizza-delivery Honda, but suffice it to say Ford’s engines can pull when called upon.

The ride quality is almost prehistoric; plenty of owners documented some unsettling ride characteristics when hitting big bumps, with enough lurching to knock some trucks sideways at speed.

“You need a kidney belt just to go over a speed bump,” read one post.

Fuel economy is not a subject to be broached with Super Duty users. Everyone wishes for better mileage — which can range from a reported 11 to 15 mpg (21 litres/100km to 15.6 litres/100 km) — when both towing and unencumbered.

WHAT OWNERS REPORTED

Owners and fleet operators praise their Super Duty trucks for their strong engines, spacious and luxurious interiors, and ability to haul big loads with good control.

But like every big domestic pickup, the F-250 has some reliability issues.

The 6.0 Power Stroke turbodiesel is a troublesome engine, disliked for its failing turbos, EGR coolers, oil pumps and fuel injectors — all of which are pricy to repair.

“Everything is simply double to triple in cost, if not more, because it’s a diesel,” landscaper Rob Arpa writes of his ’06 rig. Later Power Strokes are said to be improved, but assess high-mileage examples carefully.

The base 5.4 L Triton V8 was reputed for shooting its spark plugs into the stratosphere, a problem that was eventually addressed with the three-valve design in 2005. The five-speed automatic transmission can be problematic.

The best engine out of the bunch may well be the massive 6.8 L V10. Reader Fred Kempe ran one for 11 happy years. Fuel consumption? Just take it easy, he says.

Overall, the Ford Super Duty series is up for most any task, but neglect the maintenance regimen at your peril.

We would like to know about your ownership experience with these models: Mercedes-Benz B200, Honda Fit and PT Cruiser.

Email: toljagic@ca.inter.net.

1999-2007 Ford F-250 Super Duty

What’s Best: 10-Gallon-hat interior, muscular engines, great towing control

What’s Worst: Bad fuel economy, suspension missteps, costly repair costs

Typical GTA prices: 2003 – $15,000; 2007 – $27,000

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