Driven: 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty

By John Beltz Snyder

March 23, 2010

—Prescott, Arizona

When we were invited to drive the 2011 Ford Super Duty pickup, we suspected it would be somewhat impressive. Its little brother, the F-150 has never let us down, and after our recent week with the SVT Raptor, we knew that Ford had some good things on its horizon. What we found with the updated work truck, besides a nice evolution of past Fords, was a notable level of refinement in a vehicle that feels like it can do it all.

The 2011 Super Duty is full of new things for a Ford in this class. Updated styling, two new engines, a great new 6-speed automatic transmission, updated suspension, and Ford Work Solutions technology, all made their way into the new, tough-as-nails, smooth-as-silk truck. It’s clear that Ford is proud of the work it has put into the 2011 model (and the work the truck itself is capable of), and was eager to let us put it to the test.

The cabin of the Super Duty is not a bad place to spend time. It’s roomy and comfortable, with seats borrowed from the F-150. Storage abounds, whether it’s in the center console, in the doors, or underneath the seats in the available locking storage bins. The interior design is fresh and entertaining—something that has become a bit of a Ford signature of late, and which raises the bar for the competition. If you’ve got the extra dough, the Lariat and King Ranch models offer a truly impressive, almost luxury environment for all occupants.

The Ford Super Duty boasts best-in-class fuel economy. The turbo diesel truck we drove (the new 6.2-liter gas engine was also on hand, though in smaller numbers, and with less fanfare) is not subject to EPA fuel-economy ratings, but we managed about 24 miles per gallon on a combination of gravel roads and highway in our dualie. And that was with 1000 pounds of payload in the bed, and three people riding comfortably in the cab. Others in our group eked out 34 miles per gallon on the same roads. With a 37.5-gallon fuel tank that comes standard in the longer-wheelbase versions, stretches of 1000-plus miles without stopping are a possibility. Even with the 26-gallon tank, stops for gas will be few and far between. It’s a good thing we like the interior.

Towing a 9000-pound trailer up and down twisty mountain roads proved to be a feat of very little difficulty for the well-prepared Super Duty. With a towing capacity upwards of 12,00 pounds in this (or almost any) configuration, the 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel chugged along quietly, as the Trailer Sway Control technology did its job to keep all that tonnage in check, and we felt little difference in the feel of the truck as we climbed up the steep hills. The track down was also a breeze¬, thanks in part to the Hill Descent Control button. Also, the range limiter function of the automatic gearbox, in which certain gears can be locked out, keeps the truck from upshifting too readily. Though we didn’t really ever notice the truck shifting into too high of a gear for the load when left to its own devices.

Put simply, were it not for the huge mirrors to give its position away, we could have simply forgotten that any sort of trailer was attached at all. No sway, no porpoising, no noise, no noticeable load on the rear suspension, and no significant drag.

On the same route, with the same load, only this time towed by a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado 3500, the experience was much different. First of all, the steering felt a lot more direct and communicative. At the same time, however, we found it needed a lot more driver input just to stay pointed in the right direction, as the trailer felt more alive attached to the rear of this truck. Same thing with the accelerator. We found our leg getting fatigued after the hill climb, as we were constantly making adjustment to maintain a steady speed uphill. Here, Ford’s gear range limiter would have been helpful. The trek down the mountain proved easier, the engine no longer groaning with the strain, but the brake feel was much less confident under the added weight. As we reached more level ground, and straight road, we noticed the finswimming action that the Ford had managed to avoid, as the rear suspension loaded and unloaded under the weight of the trailer.

Where we had the most fun in the Ford Super Duty was far from any conventional roads. Crawling over three-foot rocks, up and down steep, bumpy hills of dirt and broken rock, through deep puddles of mud, the Super Duty shined. Here, we locked out the higher gears, kept our hands on the wheel, and trusted that the truck would be able to manage the sort of terrain usually reserved for trail-rated Jeeps. We were impressed with the level of articulation in the suspension. We also enjoyed the display on the instrument panel that showed pitch and yaw angles. The only hindrance we found was in the long wheelbase of the truck, ruling out some of the hairy turns the aforementioned jeeps would have been able to dispatch. Nevertheless, for a work truck, the Super Duty sure knew how to play.

During our many miles with the Ford Super Duty, one word crossed our mind over and over, whether we were plowing through mud puddles at 45 miles per hour, creeping over boulders, towing several tons up and down mountain passes, or just looking at it in the parking lot: heroic. Built as a hardcore sort of mobile workstation, the Super Duty also has the potential for a lot of fun. Whether it’s shuttling tools or toys, over short jaunts or long miles, on the road or off, this truck does it with ease. And, if you happen do be one of the many Americans with use for a truck of this class, the Ford promises to make your life easier.

2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty Power Stroke Diesel
Engine: Turbocharged V-8, 6.7 Liters, 32v
Output: 390 hp/735 lb-ft
Conventional Towing Capacity: 12,500 lb
Fifth-Wheel Towing Capacity: 16,100 lb

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