Double Duty: Ford's Super Duty Squares Off Against Chevy's Heavy Duty
Remember the story about the Hatfields and the McCoys - two feuding families that could never seem to see anything good about each other? Long before the phrase, "Can't we all just get along?" entered our national vocabulary, the truck world's version of the Hatfields and McCoys - Chevy and Ford - were building a rivalry that exists to this day. Can't we all just get along? Hell no! Intense competition between the world's No. 1 and No. 2 automakers has ensured the continued development of competitive performing trucks, all to the benefit of off-road enthusiasts.
And lest you think that the General and the Blue Oval have settled their differences, witness the latest bout in a historical slugfest: Ford's Super Duty versus Chevrolet's Heavy Duty. Both trucks were recent clean-sheet designs; that is, the Super Duty and the Heavy Duty use a chassis design and drivetrain unique to their heavy-duty roots.True, both trucks share select components with their lighter-duty brother - Ford's F-150 and Chevy's Silverado - but the Silverado Heavy Duty and the F-250/F-350 Super Duty were intended from the get-go to be muscular trucks, able to tow, haul, and perform all kinds of truck tasks that would cripple a lesser 1/2- or 3/4-ton truck.
And what about 'wheeling? Both of these heavyweight contenders are well-suited to the rigors of off-road use; their strong frames, tough-guy suspension systems, and torquey powerplants are precisely what is required for dirt duty, and aftermarket manufacturers, recognizing the potential of these macho 4x4s, have really stepped up, developing suspension and engine performance accessories that can put a fine edge on either truck's off-road abilities.
Clearly, Ford Motor Company and General Motors expect big things from their bruisers, and each company is clearly intent on building a better, bigger 4x4. For those off-road enthusiasts who intend to 'wheel, tow, and work with their trucks, the Heavy Duty-Super Duty rivalry can only be a good thing, since competition always ensures that the strong survive and the weak are relegated to life on the street. Here's what makes Chevrolet's Silverado Heavy Duty and Ford's F-250 Super Duty such tough competitors.
Suspension:Old School Vs. New SchoolClearly, the major difference between the Super Duty and the Heavy Duty is each truck's front suspension design. Ford has gone the traditional route, equipping the Super Duty with a solid axle located by leaf springs. On the other hand, the General went to a modern upper-and-lower A-arm front suspension (IFS) for the Heavy Duty. Both suspension systems have their merits. IFS is capable of a smooth ride, while a straight axle with leaf springs is known for overall durability. As to rear suspension, both trucks use a solid axle located by a pair of leaf spring packs, so the differences are minor compared to the IFS-versus-straight-axle shootout.
Advantage:Cover your eyes, Chevy/GMC truck enthusiasts; there's little doubt as to the overall superiority of Ford's leaf-sprung solid front axle, especially if the judging includes durability, aftermarket support, and overall off-road worthiness. There's nothing wrong with GM's IFS front suspension, it's just that the Super's front suspension system delivers good wheel travel, is smooth on the street, shows acceptable articulation off-road, and is extremely adaptable to suspension lifts and upgraded steering systems. While the HD's front suspension is catching on with aftermarket manufacturers, the SD is light years ahead with builders of aftermarket suspension systems. If you seek a moderate lift, there are many aftermarket kits to choose from for the Super Duty, and many are reasonably priced. If you want a nosebleed lift to go with tall tires, the Ford's straight axle and leaf spring setup is ideally suited to a tall ride height. Heck, the Super Duty's front suspension is even capable of being set up as a true long-travel suspension. The Chevy's front suspension is limited in several aspects. A true long-travel suspension is a tough build, given the limitations of the HD's front axles and CV joints. A tall lift is possible with the Chevy's IFS system, but it's an expensive and complicated route, requiring that the entire front suspension and differential be spaced down with a large subframe and the upper control arms' pivots be attached with bolt-on drop brackets. While we've seen tall, well-engineered aftermarket lifts for the Heavy Duty, the Ford's solid-axle frontend beats the IFS in every possible way, at least for off-road use and lifted applications.