Long before the automobile crisis began, several manufacturers had already made cuts in new vehicle development. Chrysler haven’t been launching many new vehicles. Ford, on the other hand, has taken the opportunity to introduce several new models. The new Taurus immediately comes to mind, as do the Flex EcoBoost, Transit Connect, Fiesta and the highly anticipated Focus. Recently, however, the team’s enforcer has been freshened up and given an engine transplant.
Of course, we’re talking about the Ford F-Series Super Duty. Not the F150, but the F250, F350 and F450. Widely used in the commercial sector and best-seller in its category for more than 43 years, the Super Duty is actually a muscular version of the little F150. This is the vehicle you use when you need to tow and load heavy cargo.
Design and charm
You can tell that it’s the toughest of the bunch by the words “Super Duty” engraved on its front grille. Moreover, to demonstrate the pick-up’s robust character, Ford gave the Super Duty an enormous chrome grille in the middle of which there’s the manufacturer’s emblematic oval – the only larger one is on Ford’s head office in Dearborn. The headlights have been redone along with the hood, which now hangs down on each side above the fenders. Above all, this configuration allows for easier access to the engine bay.
The interior has also been improved. The dash has a more ergonomical look as well as a large touch screen that helps you access several features, such as the new Ford Work system. Mainly targeting entrepreneurs, this system allows you to work from the Super Duty’s cab. Order entry, billing, toolbox inventory, Internet access and printing quotes are but a few examples of this system’s possibilities. Ford also provides a cordless keyboard for easier use. Partnered with Microsoft, Ford delivers a purposeful and practical product.
The 2011 Super Duty offers a choice of two new engines. Besides the 6.2-litre gasoline engine, a brand new Power Stroke V8 diesel engine is now available. It features a 6.7-litre engine capacity and was designed, tested and built by Ford. This diesel engine also inherits Ford’s post-treatment system, which helps reduce nitrogen oxide in the emissions using a diesel exhaust fluid.
This engine’s astronomical torque helps pull loads of close to 10,800 kg without breaking a sweat. To prove its brute force, two F350s were put in a very revealing tractor towing competition. Aside from its power, this diesel engine is surprisingly quiet and smooth. Fuel consumption is also clearly improved compared to the previous model. A few journalists were able to record an impressive 7.5 litres/100 km on the highway.
To go along with its engines, Ford is offering the brand new TorqShift 6R140 transmission that was specially designed to manage the higher torque produced by the new Power Stroke diesel engine. Shifting is fast and precise. This transmission helps you switch to manual mode more easily and helps progressive gear selection, limiting the use of higher gears when the vehicle is hauling a heavy load. After a drive in the steep, winding mountains near Yarnell, Arizona, I can assure you that this mode is impressive, very efficient and reassuring for the driver.
The folks at Ford have also given us a new hitch, integrated into the Super Duty’s chassis. In the cargo box, there are five openings that allow you to attach a fifth wheel or a traditional towing ball that doesn’t force you to get under the cargo box to install it. To add to the fun of towing cargo, the vehicle features some very extendable and folding mirrors. They seemed very practical, in contrast to the frustratingly small mirrors on a Silverado that we recently took for a test drive.
Fun to drive
The Super Duty also comes equipped with some other features that help it get a leg up on the competition. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control are two very big advantages in extreme situations. Hitched to a load of close to 10,400 kg and parked on a 15% incline (it’s written on the dashboard), the vehicle starts without the slightest rollback. Same goes for the Descent Control on a 19% slope, the F250 went down on its own without having to apply the brakes.
And what about the ride? It’s actually very quiet. Very much in demand, the engines sound great, and are a reminder that we’re driving a powerful vehicle. The steering is very well assisted and pleasant. The suspensions do a good job of tempering the road’s imperfections and the oh-so comfortable seats of the King Ranch version make you feel like you’re in your living room. Ford has really outdone itself with its newest baby!
Test vehicle: Ford F-Series Super Duty
Test version: F350 V8 6.7-litre diesel
Price range: $35,500 to $60,000
Price of the test model: $54,500
Freight costs: $1,400
Fuel consumption observed: 9.8L/100km
Basic warranty: 3 years/60,000 km
Powertrain warranty: 5 years/100,000 km
Main competitor: Dodge Ram Heavy Duty, Chevrolet Silverado
Main features: • Solid chassis
• State-of-the-art engine
• Reduced fuel consumption
• Impressive torque
• Fun to drive
• Excellent soundproofing