Ford F-Series Super Duty proves its worth in tough Texas weather

By Jim Meachen

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — An old ranch hand confided that competitive roping was in his blood as he gracefully threw his lasso over a set of bull horns.

He was showing off his cowboy skills to a couple of automotive writers who were among dozens assembled to drive the 2008 Ford Super Duty pickups in what turned out to be the muddy, wet and icy hill country of west Texas. Mother Nature in mid-January gave us one of the worst Texas winters in years. Burrrr!

“It’s my hobby,” he said. “Some people play golf, I rope.”

In fact he’s been so successful with his hobby that some years ago he won a Dodge pickup truck in competition. He said he loves his truck and has Texas scenes painted on the sides, but was forbidden to have it seen during the Super Duty mud fest at Oak Tree Ranch.

The obvious problem — it’s not a Ford. You can’t park a Dodge Ram up here on the ranch? No, siree. Hey pardner, this is Ford country, and thirty-year sales figures back up that statement.

Texas is the largest truck market in the U.S. and the Ford F-Series owns nearly a 40 percent share of the state’s full-size pickup business. It outsells all General Motors full-sized pickups and sells more trucks in Texas than Dodge, Toyota and Nissan combined.
More than 15 percent of the nearly 900,000 annual F-Series sales are made in the Lone Star state, and the Super Duty, the workhorse of the fleet, is a key component to Ford’s domination of the market.

The F-250, F-350 and F-450 are all new this winter with a 2008 designation. They started reaching Super Duty dealers in February.

From a styling standpoint, both inside and out, they probably portend some of the changes in store for the standard half-ton F-150 on the next go-around which is a good thing building on what is already a darn good looking truck.

Equipment packages and engine choices abound across the wide landscape of the lineup from the base F-250 to the most monstrous F-450.

People purchase these big pickups to tow big things, carry big payloads and wade through god-awful muck to get to construction sites, the far corners of ranches the size of Rhode Island, and otherwise inaccessible outdoor playgrounds.

An F-250 regular cab long bed with a 5.4-liter 300-horsepower V-8 and manual transmission starts at $22,380, and as you progress through the myriad of extended cab and crew cab models, prices can rise into 50-to-60 grand territory for an F-450 crew cab.

For ranchers and construction companies that need work trucks with serious payload and towing capacity the base rear-wheel drive F-250 with the standard V-8 can tow 12,500 pounds with a huge 3,150-pound payload capability.

Cowhands and builders assigned to work out of these trucks won’t ride in the stereotypical bare-bones work truck cab, but in a well-thought-out attractive interior with a dashboard befitting an up-level mid-sized family sedan.

A stylish interior is especially important for people engaged in big-time recreation — people who pull mammoth horse trailers, fifth-wheel recreation vehicles and boats just one size short of a yacht.

They don’t have to step down from the luxury interior of their Lexus or Mercedes or Lincoln when they enter their F-series Super Duty. Luxury touches abound in the Ford.

Pat Schiavone, chief designer of the 2008 Super Duty, calls the interior of the truck “tough luxury.” “Think of it (as) a modern kitchen, in a way,” Schiavone said. “A kitchen can be very stylish and look very expensive, but it also must be very functional. It was that kind of thinking that drove tough luxury.”

The new interior builds on the successful tough luxury design established by the Ford F-150, which Schiavone also had a hand in developing.

“We know people are spending more time in their trucks, and this is especially true for the Super Duty customer,” said Ben Poore, Ford truck marketing manager. “The truck is their office. It’s where they do their business. It’s important to not only meet their capability needs but also the comfort and styling needs as well.”

The prominent center stack houses most of the vehicle’s switches, integrating all functions into one easy-to-reach central area. The auxiliary switches and Trailer Brake Control system are now fully integrated into the center stack for a cleaner, user-friendly appearance.

The rings surrounding the gauges and air vents are notched, more angular and defined. The gauges are also better organized and easier to read. All-new door trim features dual map pockets that are better integrated with the interior. A large center console is designed to hold file folders and keep laptop computers safely stored away.

These lavish interior quarters are a pleasing bonus for a truck designed for any task — just pick your equipment needs and balance it against the strength of your pocketbook.

The lineup includes three cab styles — Regular Cab, SuperCab and Crew Cab — and two bed lengths.

Engine choices include the 5.4-liter V-8, a 6.8-liter V-10 dispensing 362 horsepower and an all-new 6.4-liter clean-burning diesel with a dual sequential turbocharging system — which improves off-the-line performance — developing 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of stump-pulling torque at just 2,000 rpm. All engines can be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a five-speed automatic.

Ford officials say 90 percent of Super Duty owners tow things. And they’ve got towing covered with conventional ratings ranging from 12,500 to 16,000 pounds and fifth-wheel towing capacities ranging up to a whopping 24,500 pounds in the F-450.

We drove two of these new trucks, the F-350 Crew Cab outfitted with the new diesel on Interstate 37 between Corpus Christi and San Antonio and a F-250 SuperCab with a 4X4 off-road package in the muck of an off-road course on Oak Tree Ranch made nearly impassable by the wintery weather.

The diesel was surprisingly responsive in the fast lane, quiet and confident. The 4X4 was up to the task of negotiating the mud and water that left us trembling as we hit some of the soupy stuff. We were also impressed with the truck once safely back on drier and firmer land. It was comforting to know that the Super Duty was so very capable.

So how much damage will a new Super Duty do to a budget? As a popular example, we’ll select the F-250 in Crew Cab short bed XLT configuration with the standard V-8 and optional automatic transmission with a few of the more-sought-after options including tow package, sunroof, upgraded audio system, leather seating, and chrome wheels. 2008 option prices had not been set at this writing, but based on 2007 prices, figure a bottom line of about $34,900.

When you consider that a lot of half-ton crew cab pickups are reaching 35 grand with considerably less towing and payload capability, the 2008 Ford Super Duty looks like another winner for Ford in Texas and the other 49 states as well.


Base price: $31,115; as driven: $34,900
Engine: 5.4-liter V-8
Horsepower: 300 @ 5,000 rpm
Torque: 365 pound-feet @ 3,750 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Drive: rear wheel
Seating: 3/3
Turning circle: 53.5 feet
Towing capacity: 12,500 pounds
Maximum payload: 3,160 pounds
Length: 246.2 inches
Width: 79.9 inches
Curb weight: 6,051 pounds
Fuel capacity: 30 gallons (regular)
EPA mileage: NA
0-60: 8 seconds (estimated)
Also consider: Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD, Dodge Ram 2500

The Good:
• Most refined interior in the heavy duty ranks
• Super Duty sets new standard in payload and towing capacity

The Bad:
• If you want industry-leading towing capacity you will become very familiar with your neighborhood gas station

The Ugly:
• Mall parking lots and Super Duty trucks don't mix well