Bigger, better, and ready to work.
We just returned from testdriving Ford’s newest incarnation of the Super-Duty pickup, and we have to admit, we’re still trying to make sense of the experience. Not that we sensed anything wrong with the vehicle---far from it: its on-road ride is silkier, smoother and more forgiving than any previous SD truck, and it’s surprisingly wheelable, given its size and girth. There’s simply so much that’s new and utterly mind-boggling about the new truck, we barely know how and where to start describing all of its myriad functional features.
But we’ll start with the engine, the direct-injecton 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8, rated at 390 hp and 735 lb-ft (yeah, that’s no typo) of torque at 1,600 rpm. The new engine uses a composite graphite-iron block, which is stronger (and weighs less) than the cast-iron block it replaces, and for 2011, the turbocharger has been relocated directly atop the block, which along with two-stage injection helps to reduce a great deal of underhood noise and clatter. Backing the engine (a 6.2L gas engine is also available) is the brand-new 6-speed TorqShift automatic transmission. Both components were designed, engineered and built in-house by Ford, and they work near-seamlessly together, providing brisk acceleration (for an HD truck) and exceptional mileage. In our brief testdrive, we logged a combined 22 mpg (highway, street and trail), which would mark a quantum leap over the old 6.4L engine, which was literally choking to death on its own EGR components.
Now, some folks have taken Ford to task for not offering the new SD with an old-school grindbox (with schoolbus-length shift throws, natch), but the way we see it, it would be a superfluous option. See, the new 6-speed has a manual-shift (“M”) detent that allows you to hold any gear as long as you like, and shift up or down at will. In addition, there’s also a “Select Shift” that allows you to essentially “lock out” any combination of gears on demand---say, when towing, when you don’t want Overdrive and would prefer to stay in lower gears.
The new SD is still plenty “old-school” underneath, however, where solid axles front and rear are located by coil springs up front and leaves out back. Standard ring and pinion gearing is 3.31:1, with 3.55:1s an option. (You can get 3.73:1s on a dually version, but nothing numerically higher.) You can also order a rear E-locker from the factory, and for what it’s worth, it really helps the massive SD on loose and slippery surfaces. Other good stuff for 2011? There's Hill Start Assist (i.e., hill hold), which works very well, even with a 20,000-pound trailer behind it, and Hill Descent Control, which is light-years more sophisticated than some similar systems we’ve recently tested in other vehicles. (And if that’s not enough, the SD’s integrated engine exhaust braking adjusts backpressure automatically to provide additional compression on long grades.) Side airbags and air curtains are now available as an option, and Trailer Sway Control is now standard. The onboard integrated trailer bake controller, telescoping side mirrors, and "Tow-Haul” mode are still available, and you can now monitor all manner of vehicle functions with the new 4.2-inch LCD “productivity screen” located directly in front of you, beneath the gauge cluster.
But that’s only the beginning. Ford knows that a big chunk of SD buyers intend to subject their trucks to some serious work, so they’ve rolled out the newest model with plenty of job-related factory options. Want a diamond-plate toolbox or your truck bed? Ford’s got one ready to install at the dealership. Want a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch installed? Ford can prep your truck at the factory with an additional frame-mounted crossmember, seven-pin connector and five laser-cut holes in the bed for attachment points for a fifth-wheel hitch, and a 2 5/16-inch gooseneck ball is available a ready-to-install option; both hitches are rated to pull 25,000 pounds of gross trailer weight. This option will only set you back about $400, and if we were buying one, it would be one of the first things we'd check off at the dealership.
Ford also offers a “Work Solutions” options that can turn your SD’s Nav system into an onboard workstation, with high-speed wireless Internet access and printer compatibility. There’s a programmable “Tool Link” tracking system that uses radio-frequency identification to tell you whether you’ve accidentally left behind any tools at the jobsite. There’s a “Crew Chief” option, which employs telematics to relay information regarding location, mileage, maintenance requirements and other needed data to a fleet manager or other remote location. Back in the bed, you can get a MasterLock cable lock to help you secure valuable gear such as compressors or generators. Oh, and did we mention that you can order the 6-speed with a power take-off (PTO) option too?
But we barely have time to scratch the surface here. Suffice to say that Ford hasn’t rested on its laurels one bit, and only three years after redesigning the Super-Duty for 208, they’ve upped the ante with an all-new version that’s more sophisticated and refined than any other HD pickup truck that’s come before it. The truck goes on sale in April, and you can read our complete driving impressions, with full specs and data, in the July ‘10 issue, on sale the last week iof May.
What’s Hot: Fuel-efficient engine, 735 lb-ft, rear locking diff, can be factory-prepped for a fifth wheel or gooseneck, PTO an available option.
What’s Not: Class-leading electronics could pose step learning curve to new buyers, 3.73:1 gears only available in DRW, all that technological wizardry doesn’t come cheap.
Our Take: Long the HD segment leader, Ford again ups the ante and sets the standard for other HD trucks to emulate.