With its slab sides, massive wheel arches and big-rig chrome grille, the Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup is about as subtle as a flying mallet.
It isn’t some family-oriented, multi-function utility vehicle, masquerading as a work truck. It’s the real deal, for those who genuinely need to haul very heavy loads.
And by heavy, I mean up to 24,500 lb in fifth-wheel towing, 17,500 lb conventional towing and 7,710 lb payload, which Ford claims to be best in segment.
Of course, that all depends on how the Super Duty is configured, and listing the nearly endless possibilities is more than I’d be willing to write and you’d care to read. For example, to get the 24,500- or 17,500-pound tow ratings, you’d need an F-450 4×4 crew cab with 6.7-litre diesel, dual rear wheel (DRW) and 4.30 rear axle ratio.
You’d need an entirely different truck for the max payload—a 4×2 F-350 regular cab, DRW.
Suffice to say that many variables come into play, and there’s a GCWR, GVWR, payload and towing capacity for each combination.
My tester for the week was an F-250 4×4 Crew Cab (6.75-foot cargo bed) with the available 6.7-litre Power Stroke turbo diesel.
Even the name of this engine suggests copious amounts of testosterone, backed up by its 400 hp and stump-pulling 800 lb/ft of torque from a very low 1,600 rpm.
Not only is that up hugely from the previous generation 6.4-litre engine (350 hp, 650 lb/ft), but also from last year’s 6.7-litre (390 hp, 735 lb/ft). A free hardware upgrade has been offered to 2011 buyers to match current levels.
This optional diesel and the standard-equipped 6.2-litre V8 gas engine (385 hp, 405 lb/ft), are both mated to an all-new, heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic.
Although my press vehicle was not the alpha truck in Ford’s lineup, it was still capable of 14,000 lbs conventional towing and 3,190 lbs of payload.
My first encounter with the new-generation Super Duty was in spring 2010, when the 2011 models debuted at an event near Phoenix, Az.
At the time, Ford claimed the F-450 could tow a 24,400 lb trailer up a six per cent grade at 47 mph (76 km/h), which is more than 50 per cent faster than the outgoing product. It sounded a bit far-fetched, but I rode shotgun while a Ford representative did just that.
Those of us not licensed to haul such heavy loads were challenged to tow a 10,000-lb trailer up the same mountain—a climb of roughly 2,000 feet. What surprised me at the time was how effortlessly the F-350 launched the trailer from rest. And halfway up the incline, I nearly forgot it was there.
On the way down, I had enabled Tow Haul mode. With a tap of the brakes, it downshifted readily and with the help of integrated engine exhaust braking, held back the trailer with ease.
The highlight of the day was my first tractor pull, during which I raced (and beat) another journalist in an F-450, while tethered to a 75,000-lb front-end loader.
These exercises were useful in demonstrating Super Duty’s capability, but gave me no sense of its merit as a daily driver.
So I booked one for the week—in Lariat Trim—which provided this ‘work truck’ with enough creature comforts to push its MSRP to $56,799.
Adding in the $9,950 diesel engine, $3,020 navigation package, $1,300 moonroof; $740 chrome package, and several more items, the pricetag climbed just north of $76K.
That sounds like a lot of dough—and it is—but keep in mind this doesn’t include retail incentives, which at the time of writing would knock more than $10K off the price.
Nonetheless, this is a lot of truck.
The F-250, as equipped with the 6.75-foot cargo bed, is more than 20 feet long (263 inches with eight-foot bed), and is as wide as it is tall at 80-inches.
Consequently, you’re sitting up high. In the case of my tester, my butt was parked 42 inches above the asphalt, putting eye level at just over six feet. Great for visibility, but with its battleship proportions, a real handful at the mall.
Thankfully, among the many amenities and tech goodies that come with Lariat trim (leather seating—heated and cooled in front, dual-zone climate control, Ford SYNC connectivity system, PowerScope mirrors, etc.), Ford’s PR dept thought wisely to add the $400 rearview camera.
The design of the F-Series, with its big windows, relatively low beltline and cutout adjacent to the massive side mirrors, is conducive to a decent all-around view. The camera, which displays on the nav system’s 6.5-inch touchscreen, provides added assurance that there are no kids behind the big tailgate. Its lens is also well positioned for lining up a trailer hitch.
Incidentally, the power/heated side PowerScope trailer/tow mirrors (with integrated turn signals and adjustable blind-spot mirrors) can telescope outwards to help see past wide loads. Just remember to retract when not needed, as it’s easy to clip them on entering a drive-through, or take out a cyclist.
Aside from viewing what’s around you, the Super Duty makes it easy to monitor what’s going on under the hood.
The instrument panel includes four small analog gauges along the top (turbo boost, fuel level and two temperature gauges), and 4.2-inch LCD ‘Productivity’ screen, flanked by a large tach and speedo.
This display features a menu system that allows you to monitor fuel economy, towing performance, limit the truck’s top speed and more.
Interior storage includes a massive cargo bin between the front seats, with a removable organizer. Within, you can stow a laptop, hang files, or charge your gadgets from the 12-volt powerpoint.
In the crew cab, its 60/40 rear bench flips up for more storage under the seats. It is also wide enough for three adults, and offers loads of head and knee room.
I expected a truck this big to be hard on gas, but Ford’s turbo diesel is surprisingly thrifty. These professional-grade pickups are unrated, but my average fuel economy for the week (in 4×2 mode) was only 13.9 litres/100 km in mostly city driving.
Indeed, the F-250 is no pig on gas, and although it’s no fun in heavy downtown traffic, it is just fine on the highway.
With all that capability, a spacious and comfortable passenger cabin, not to mention loads of available tech, I can see why Ford has captured nearly 40 percent of heavy-duty truck sales.
And why it was hard giving back the keys at the end of the week.
2012 Ford F-250 4×4 Lariat Crew Cab
Body Style: full-size, heavy-duty pickup truck
Drive Method: front-engine, rear-drive and four-wheel-drive
Engines: 6.7-litre turbocharged diesel V8 (400 hp and 800 lb/ft of torque); also available with 6.2-litre gas V8 (385 hp and 405 lb/ft of torque)
Towing Capacity (as equipped): 14,000 lbs conventional towing
Payload: 3,190 lbs, 6.75-foot cargo bed
Fuel Economy: n/a
Price: Lariat 4×4 Crew Cab $56,799, 6.7-litre diesel $9,950, navigation package $3,020, moonroof $1,300, chrome package $740, rearview camera $400, plus other options—not including retail incentives.