Big Three Diesel Truck Shootout Winner: 2011 Ford F-250Posted in Project Vehicles on June 1, 2011
Ford F-250 Super Duty: Edging Out the Others by a Nose
When the Super Duty arrived at our offices it raised eyebrows for several reasons, and not in a good way. While most of the truck is conservatively styled, its over-the-top grille looks like something out of a Transformers movie. The window sticker was a shocker: almost $60,000 for what was supposed to be a midlevel-trimmed truck, nearly $4,000 more than the GMC and $8,000 more than the Ram. And when we first hooked up the Fun Runner trailers at Carson Trailer, the toy hauler’s modest tongue weight caused the Ford’s rear end to sag, giving it a nose-high rake when going down the road.
More concerns cropped up during our repeated descents down the steep, winding Montezuma Grade. While all three trucks are equipped with exhaust brakes, the GMC and Ram have buttons to engage them. There’s no such button in the Ford. Instead, you poke the brake pedal and wait for the distinctive brrraaahhhh sound you’ve heard from 18-wheelers on the interstate. Unfortunately, it would sometimes take two or three stabs on the pedal to bring the exhaust brake into play, making us all wish for more certain engagement.
So if the Super Duty has all these issues, how did it win our test? By winning outright just about every judging category we had in the books. It fell on its, um, nose in the styling category and was penalized for its high price. Yet that same soft suspension that caused the rear-end to sag under trailer weight also delivered a smooth, compliant ride on the highwaytowing or notand helped the truck maintain traction off-road.
Speaking of traction, the Ford’s electronic rear-axle locker gave it hillclimbing and rockcrawling capabilities far beyond the other two trucks. (Hey, Ford, another one up front would have been even better.)
Chassis tuning also contributed to a truck that handled well with or without a trailer. Steering was well balanced (if a little overboosted), body roll was minimal, and the truck tracked securely around corners.
While we complained about the exhaust brake when going downhill, we agreed that the Power Stroke engine/TorqShift transmission combo worked just fine while climbing grades, delivering smooth and continual power without annoying gear hunt. On flat ground, especially when unladen, the TorqShift delivered seamless gear changes well matched to the Power Stroke’s torque band.
Most of the judges found the Ford’s instrument panel too loaded with gauges and displays to read at a glance. And none of us liked the new turn-signal lever that never seemed to shut off. But otherwise the cab is a comfortable, roomy place to spend timeand we logged the 10-hour driving stints to prove it. The seats are firm but supportive, cup holders abound, backseat passengers have more legroom than they’ll know what to do with, and cargo storage cubbies are everywhere.
Our subjective voting wasn’t the only place where the Ford shined. Objectively it earned the best fuel economy when towing, the second best unladen, the quickest quarter-mile towing, the second-quickest unladen, and the second-shortest braking distances towing and not.
Now, careful readers of our spec charts will note that those victories came with close margins: two-tenths of a second in the quarter-mile, a fraction of a mile per gallon on the road. That takes nothing away from Ford’s victory, but it does tell you how evenly matched the Power Stroke and Duramax are during instrumented testing.
Instrumented testing, though, is just a part of this evaluation. And first impressions aren’t always accurate. Despite some initial reservations, by the end of the test we found Ford’s F-250 Super Duty to be the best 34-ton 4WD diesel pickup on the market. Congratulations, Ford!