Ford Super Duty — Hardest working truck in show business

By Al Vinikour 

I remember seeing a sign that said, “America’s Needs Move by Truck.” I’m sure the nation’s railroads would debate that but as near as I can tell trains don’t give curb service, goods are brought to the trains. In many locales trucks have the same status as a family member. Yes, a truck might be your cousin…but it can also be the family business.

There are tiers in truckland. A basic half-ton pickup is often a family’s only vehicle – especially in places like Texas. (Come to think of it, my cousin David lives in Texas and he does look like a crew cab.) However, go one level up and you’re entering a whole other world of trucks. For instance, Ford Motor Company calls their line-up the F-Series Super Duty…and with very good reason. For 2011, Ford has pulled out all the stops to completely redo their Super Duty line and it can best be described as the “Ultimate Tough Truck.”

Ford previewed the Super Duty line to auto journalists in Arizona. Normally we drive performance vehicles on twisty mountain roads to see how well they handle; we drive luxury sedans in upscale urban settings where these vehicles will spend most of their days; and we’ll drive off-road vehicles in places like Moab, Utah. Thus, Ford had to figure out something that would highlight the power of their new truck and impress a bunch of literary burn-outs as well. It didn’t long.

We drove to a working rock quarry and were subjected to a drag race of sorts. Anybody can put on a truck pull…but we each towed an 85,000-pound front-end loader attached to the rear of our 2011 Super Duty diesels. The object was to tow the front-end-loader from a dead stop while doing it faster and smoother than your competitor in the next lane. (Did I mention we did this on soft dirt?) It was humbling to experience a 9,000-pound pickup truck towing an 85,000 pound vehicle – smoothly and safely. (Don’t try this at home.) Some may call the Super Duty powerful…I just called it “Sir.”

The 2011 Super Duty has an all-new 6.2L V-8 gasoline engine that delivers 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque on regular gasoline. The new V-8 is also E85 compatible. The big boss of Super Du

ty powertrains is the new 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel that delivers 390 horsepower and a whopping 735 pound-feet of torque (at 1,600 rpm). It’s mated to an all-new heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission that has been optimized for the increased torque of the new diesel engine and the higher speeds of the new gas engine. Ford claims the diesel engine/transmission combination will achieve top fuel efficiency of over 24 mpg. However, in a real-world test with four people inside the crew cab…and 1,000 pounds of cement bags in the pickup bed…we achieved numbers in excess of 26 mpg. One of our colleagues actually hit a figure over 30 mpg. Keep in mind this is an 8,000-9,000-pound vehicle before any passengers or cargo are included!

It’s not often that many Super Duty owners will be spending the day pulling 85,000-pound construction equipment. However, another demonstration we were given was in an F-350 4x4 Diesel with four “outsized” passengers that was pulling a 24,400-pound trailer up a twisty mountain road…and we were accelerating at will!!! A factory-installed fifth-wheel hitch in the middle of the pickup bed is available rather than strictly depending on the aftermarket.

Super Duty is available as an F-250, F-350 or F-450. There are enough configurations and trim levels available to customize it to meet anyone’s needs. There’s a choice of Regular, Super or Crew Cabs; short or long wheelbases; and long or short beds.

The ride of the 2011 Ford Super Duty is everything you wouldn’t expect in this type of vehicle. It’s extremely quiet on the inside with very little wind or road noise. All conversations can be conducted in a normal voice. That’s not to say Super Duty won’t ride like a truck when you want it to. Drive some roads that make off-road trails seem like a freeway and you’ll see what a truck ride is. But over washboard roads the Super Duty literally says, “Is that the best you can do? (At least that’s what it asked me.)

As for roominess…get used to it. There’s more rear-seat leg room in the back of a Super Duty Crew Cab than you’ll find in most luxury sedans. Try crossing your legs in the back seat of a traditional sedan. If you’re somehow able to do this then try uncrossing them. By the time you accomplish this you’ll resemble a food court pretzel.

Mentioned before, the Super Duty can be a business. In many cases it can be outfitted like one, with various technologies that can be adapted to a company’s needs – even printing out bids, invoicing, etc. In other cases it serves not only as transportation but as overnight accommodations. Ford brought in several representatives of a power company and a logging company whose workers sometimes spend weeks in -50◦ weather with the truck running 24/7 to keep it and its occupants from freezing. If that isn’t betting your life on a vehicle’s dependability then what is?

It would take me about the 48-hours I spent with the vehicle to go through all it is comprised of and all its abilities. A visit to a Ford dealer to pick up a full brochure could do a much better job than I could (actually, maybe not, but it has more space to makes its case). Better yet, if you’re in the market for a vehicle like the 2011 Ford Super Duty you would owe it to yourself to give it a test drive and put it through its paces. The dealer isn’t going to let you pull an 85,000-pound piece of mining gear but at least you’ll see how truthful the name Super Duty is.

Base price: $28,020 

Engine:  6.2L 2V V8 SOHC Gas (Flex Fuel)/ 6.7L 4V V-8 OHV Power Stroke® Turbo-Diesel

Horsepower: 385 @ 5,500 rpm/390 @ 2,800 rpm 

Torque: 405 pound-feet @ 4,500 rpm/735 pound-feet @ 1,600 rpm
Drive: 4x2/4x4

Transmission:  Heavy-duty TorqShift Six-Speed Automatic

Seating: 3 to 6
Wheelbase:  137.0”/172.4”

Length: 227.6”/263.0”

Curb weight: 8,000-9,000 pounds est.

Ground Clearance: 8-1/8’/ 8-5/16’

Cargo Box Volume: 64.1 cubic feet/77.3 cubic feet

Fuel capacity: 35 gallons (Gas)/37.5 gallons (Diesel)

EPA rating: Not available
0-60: About 9 seconds (Diesel) 

Also consider: GM Silverado HD, Dodge Ram 2500/3500

The Good:

• Awesome power and technology
• Comfort and standard accessories unparalleled 

• Extremely quiet on the highway
• Luxury availability to rival an import sedan

The Bad

• If you don’t pop for a running board you better have been a Navy SEAL
• Parking places become scarcer 

The Ugly

• My ex-wife driving one in a market parking lot