“Super Duty” sounds heroic, larger-than-life.
And the Ford F250 Super Duty is all those things and more besides.
A six-foot-three man needs a step ladder to get up to the bed (Ford thoughtfully provides one built into the tailgate).
The optional PowerStroke turbodiesel V-8 belts out 800 lbs.-ft. of torque.
It’ll carry more than two tons in the bed – and pull close to 22,000 lbs. down the road.
It’s the king, the big Kahuna. Duke of New York, A Number One.
But Ford calls it Super Duty.
WHAT IT IS
The F250 Super Duty is a beefed-up version of the F-series pick-up, with stronger frame, stronger suspension and bigger, stronger engines. Prices start at $28,335 for the XL regular cab and top out at $46,030 for a King Ranch.
Main competition is Chevy’s Silverado 2500HD (and its GMC equivalent, the Sierra 2500) and the Dodge Ram 2500.
WHAT’S NEW FOR 2011
This year’s F250 is updated with new exterior and interior styling as well as updated powertrains and other features. The optional PowerStroke diesel V-8 is now the strongest diesel engine available in a 2500 series pick-up.
Titanic power from PowerStroke diesel.
Less Titanic price for the PowerStroke diesel engine than optional (and less powerful) diesel engines in competitor pick-ups.
Budweiser Clydesdale hauling/towing power.
Factory electronic trailer brake control, transmission PTO.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD
Titanic size; makes even a big man feel small.
Forget about Drive-thrus – and clearing tight corners.
Skimpy three year/36,000 mile basic warranty coverage.
UNDER THE HOOD
The F250 offers two V-8s, one gas, one diesel. The gas engine – a 6.2 liter V-8 – is the standard engine. It’s rated at 385 hp and 405 lbs.-ft of torque.
The new 6.2 liter gas V-8 is (for the first time in a long time) much stronger than the standard gas V-8 in its Chevy/GMC 2500 rivals. The GM trucks come standard with a 6 liter, 360 hp V-8. The 2011 Dodge Ram 2500 almost matches the horsepower of the Ford with its standard 383 hp 5.7 liter Hemi V-8 but weirdly – its maximum tow rating (even with the optional Cummins diesel) is not even in the same ballpark as the Ford (or the GM 2500 series trucks). Just 12,000 lbs. (17,000 with fifth wheel) vs. 16,000 (21,600 with fifth wheel) for the Ford.
The optional engine in the 2500 Super Duty is Ford’s 6.7 liter PowerStroke diesel, which pours out an almost unreal 800 lbs.-ft. of torque (and 390 hp). As MC Hammer used to say, Can’t Touch This.
GM’s Durmax diesel maxes out at 765 lbs.-ft of torque and the Ram 2500′s Cummins diesel pulls in a very distant third place with just 650 lbs.-ft.
Both the Ford’s engines are teamed up with six-speed automatics, available with a manual shift mode, Tow mode and Trailer Brake controller.
And, here’s an unexpected treat: The F250′s Mr. Universe muscles cost less than the GM (and Dodge) also-rans. Ford wants $7,835 for the Powerstroke – which is packaged with the heavy-duty six-speed automatic as part of the deal at no additional charge. GM asks $7,195 for its Duramax diesel – but you then have to buy, on top of that, the extra-cost Allison automatic for another $1,200 – bringing the total tab for a diesel-equipped GM 2500 to $8,395 (on top of the cost of the truck itself).
To recap: Ford will sell you 800 lbs.-ft. of engine for $560 less than GM wants for its 765 ft.-lbs. diesel.
Fuel economy isn’t published for 2500 series trucks. But my weeklong test drive suggested high teens, average. Not bad, really, for a machine this big – and this capable.
ON THE ROAD
It better be a wide road. This is a huge vehicle. The Super Duty I tested had the optional FX4 off road package, which put the lower door sill/rocker panel (where you step to climb aboard) 27 inches off the ground, almost two and half feet from the pavement. Even a guy as tall as I am (6ft 3) will need to reach high and grab the handle affixed to the windshield A pillar, put one foot on the rocker panel and then heave himself on board. Few women (because not many women are six-footers) will be able to get in without strong arms and lots of flexibility.
Or a step ladder.
The bed is even higher off terra firma. Three feet (for real) from ground to the bed/tailgate floor. It’s so high that Ford includes a ladder built into the tailgate, along with a grab handle that folds up/down. It is literally the only way to access the bed without climbing up/over and in. It is impossible to get at stuff laid on the bed without first ascending into the bed. The sidewalls are just too high. You’d have to be at least seven feet tall to be able do it from outside the truck.
This bigness manifests in other ways, too. I tried to go through my local bank’s drive-thru teller. Forget it. Too narrow for comfort (I don’t want to scuff someone else’s press vehicle) and no clearance to cut the corner. You feel like you need tugs to maneuver this battleship into position.
In the Ford’s defense, the same is just as true of the other over-huge 2500 series trucks. Their scale is almost inhuman. Parking spaces, garages – even the roads themselves – just aren’t built to accommodate vehicles this large. On Interstates and wide roads, it’s ok. But on narrower country two lanes, you will live in constant dread of smacking mirror (even though they can be retracted and folded) with other Titans of the Road.
The ride is stiffer than the standard F-series, and you’ll encounter some bounciness over potholes and dips (more pronounced with off-road equipped FX4 versions) but again, the same is exactly as true of the similarly laid-out and intended HD 2500 series trucks from GM and Dodge. All have massive, girder-like frames and the heaviest-duty suspensions, designed for severe loading and extreme work environments. There’s only so much fine-tuning you can do with that much unsprung mass.
And all that width.
AT THE CURB
I still can’t get over the size of this thing. I am several inches taller than most men and I still felt like a 12-year-old next to the Super Duty. Its presence is overwhelming, intimidating – which of course is a big part of the appeal of a 2500 series truck. It makes everything else (short of a Cat diesel or Kenworth) seem puny. You are Tex - the Big Dude. You look down – and into - other vehicles. Perched in your King Ranch-optioned Chapparal cowhide-patterned leather seat, that 800 lbs.-ft. of power clattering with mechanical menace.
Ain’t nothing to compare, son.
The space inside is just as vast as the sheetmetal outside. The four-door crew cab I tested could easily accommodate five 200 pound men. You can still get an eight-foot bed with the crew cab bodystyle, too. Just bear in mind that the overall length will be pushing 20 feet, stem to stern – probably more than your garage can swallow and definitely more than many drive-throughs can handle.
The manly, oversized vertical door pulls on the outside of the doors makes opening them – even if you’re wearing heavy work gloves – easy. From inside, the doors open via similarly large, horizontal grabs built into the door panel sides. Ford factory fits the SD with pre-wired/toggled and ready to go “aux” switches for whatever accessories you decide to add. Lariat and King Ranch versions get the latest version of Ford’s excellent LCD display GPS/audio system with Sync – Ford’s voice-operated controller.
The King also gets power folding (and retracting) outside rearview mirrors, power-adjustable pedals, heated and cooled seats and fancy two-tone paint. This high-trimmed cowboy Cadillac comes with the Lincoln-esque outside keypad entry system, too. Just punch in your code and it’s open sesame.
A Power Take Off (PTO) can be ordered if you want to hang a snowplow off the nose.
Another neat feature that Ford first offered on the much smaller Transit Connect utility van is the electronic Work Solutions package, which uses bar codes and RFID tags to keep track of things like tools and other inventory. Contractors will dig it.
My test truck also had the FX4 off-road package, which added those long-travel Rancho gas charged shocks, M/S-rated knobby tires, a locking rear differential, Hill Descent Control and underbody skid plates.
It’s a freight train of death that will go through – or over – just about anything.
One thing to be aware of if you buy the PowerStroke diesel is that it’s a “clean” diesel – meaning it has a little tank that has to be periodically topped off with “diesel exhaust fluid” to curb its emissions output. This adds a small but should-be-mentioned hassle/expense to diesel ownership. It’s the same with the GM and Dodge diesels, too. The Man (Uncle Sam) is to blame for this, not Ford (or GM or Dodge).
THE BOTTOM LINE
A truck this big is not for everyone, but if you’re someone who needs the biggest, baddest thing on wheels – well, here it is!