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2011 Big Three Diesel Truck Shootout: Ford F-250

Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2011 Comment (0)
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Photographers: David KennedyKevin McNulty

Our feelings about the new Super Duty tended to fall into the love it or hate it camps, with little area in between. None of us were fans of the truck’s new grille, but we did all like what Ford calls the inverted power dome hood, as it provided excellent forward visibility on the trail.

We also appreciated what was under that hood. Ford calls its new diesel the Ford-designed, Ford-engineered, and Ford-built 6.7-liter Power Stroke (see ya, Navistar). The engineers have done an excellent job of building a powerful and quiet diesel V-8. Based on a compacted graphite iron block, the engine features a unique inboard exhaust/outboard intake design that improves throttle response and reduces heat transfer to the engine bay. The Power Stroke has a single turbocharger, but its dual-sided compressor wheel gives it twin-turbo characteristics: quick spool-up at low engine speeds and the ability to stuff a lot of air into the engine when called on.

As they were developing their new diesels, Ford and GM engaged in a horsepower war to see who could put up the highest numbers. The Power Stroke finally edged out the Duramax on paper, but from behind the wheel the difference is a wash. Both engines delivered plenty of grunt when needed, and their acceleration data and fuel economy numbers were within tenths of each other.

What really sets the two powertrains apart is their transmissions. Both are six-speeds, with two overdrive ratios for optimal fuel economy. While in Drive, Ford’s new 6R140 TorqShift six-speed automatic tended to hunt around for the appropriate gear, though you can solve that by selecting the gears manually via a rocker switch on the gear lever. We had a bigger problem with the transmission’s integrated exhaust brake. Unlike the other two trucks, there is no switch to activate the brake; you engage it by stabbing the brake pedal. Sometimes we needed to hit the brakes more than once to get the backpressure working for us, not exactly confidence-inspiring when you’re headed down a steep, twisty hill.

One other key powertrain difference set the Ford apart when we hit the trail. The optional ($390) electronic rear axle locker gave the Super Duty rock- and hill-climbing capability the other two trucks didn’t share.

We all felt the Super Duty’s suspension was the softest of the three trucks, a trait we either loved or hated depending on the conditions. In sand and rutted washes it was too soft and jouncy. In the rocks, though, it worked to keep the tires in contact with the trail. When towing, the soft springs let the rear sag far lower than the other two. Without the trailer, the suspension gave a smooth road ride, almost like a half-ton.

When towing, we loved the Ford’s giant outside mirrors, which power out and in as needed and have a built-in convex mirror for wide-angle viewing. We also appreciated the backup camera display, which is conveniently located in the instrument panel’s center stack and includes a dotted line aligned with the hitch to help when you’re hooking up a trailer.

Ford has invested tremendously in its in-car electronics, and the Super Duty had its share, including the Microsoft Sync voice-activated information and entertainment system, a productivity screen in the instrument panel in front of the driver, and the screen in the center stack that showed navigation and audio system displays as well as the backup camera view. All good stuff, but it gave the Ford’s instrument panel a cluttered look.

Some of those options are why the Super Duty was the most expensive truck in the group. If you deleted the Lariat Ultimate Package from this vehicle, you’d save $3,995. However, you’d also lose the backup camera, navigation system, and one of our favorite Ford options, the tailgate step. (OK, we’re old.) If you’re ordering your own Super Duty, try to get those options without paying for others you may not need.

Likes

  • Electronic locker
  • Towing mirrors
  • In-cab & bed amenities
Dislikes
  • Exhaust brake effectiveness
  • Cluttered instrument panel
  • Frontend styling

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Specifications
General
Manufacturer Ford
Model F-250 Super Duty Lariat Crew Cab 4x4
Base Price $44,095
Price as Tested $59,760
Engine
Type V-8
Displacement (L/ci) 6.7/406
Bore & Stroke (in) 3.90x4.25
Compression Ratio 16.2:1
Fuel Req./Capacity (gal) Ultralow-sulfur diesel/26
SAE Peak Horsepower 400 @ 2,800 rpm
SAE Peak Torque (lb-ft) 800 @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission
Type 6-spd auto
Ratios. First: 3.97:1; Second: 2.32:1; Third: 1.52:1; Fourth: 1.15:1; Fifth: 0.86:1; Sixth: 0.67:1; Reverse: 3.13:1
Transfer Case
Type 2-spd, part-time
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1
Axles
Front Type Dana 60 10-in
Front Diff Open
Rear Type Ford Stearling 1012-in
Rear Diff Electronic locking
Hubs Selectable (auto/lock)
Ratio 3.55:1
Traction Aid Electronic locking
Suspension
Front Live axle, radius arms, coil springs, stabilizer bar, shock absorbers
Rear Live axle, longitudinal leaf springs, staggered shock absorbers, stabilizer bar
Steering
Type Power-assisted recirc. ball
Ratio 20.4:1
Wheels
Size (in) 18x8
Material Aluminum
Tires
Size LT275/70R18
Brand Michelin LTX A/T2
Brakes
Front (in) 13.66 ventilated disc
Rear (in) 13.39 ventilated disc
60-0 Unladen (ft) 148.6
60-0 Towing (ft) 201.1
Acceleration
Standing 14-mile Unladen (sec @ mph) 15.99 @ 85.16 Standing 14-mile Towing
(sec @ mph) 19.64 @ 69.94
Weight (lb)
Curb Weight 8,000
Curb Weight w/Trailer 13,120
Advertised GVWR 10,000
Tow Capacity 14,000
Payload Capacity 2,430
Mileage (mpg)
EPA Estimate N/A
As Tested Unladen 17.0
As Tested Towing 10.52
Dimensions (in)
Wheelbase 156.2
Overall Length 246.8
Overall Width 104.9
Overall Height 79.7
Min. Front Ground Clearance 9.0 (at front differential)

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