SIXTH PLACE: Ford F-250 Super Duty V-10
There are a number of changes to the F-250 for '05, but the big news is that a coil-spring, multilink front suspension is now standard on the F-250 4x4. Gone is the leaf-spring suspension that has been standard on the Super Duty since '99. Ford says that the new suspension improves lateral stability and reduces steering efforts. It also notes that the new suspension allows F-250 owners to turn the front wheels 18 percent farther in either direction, which improves maneuverability and reduces the average turning circle by more than 5 1/2 feet. The new suspension boasts revised spring rates and staggered rear-shock geometry to improve ride quality. A relocated steering pivot point reduces scrub radius by 51 percent to offer better steering feel and more resistance to pull and to bumpsteer, the front and rear brakes are 5 percent larger and standard wheels are 17-inchers.
Under the hood, Ford's aluminum three-valve cylinder head, introduced on the '04 F-150, is mated to the V-10 engine. This addition results in a boost of 45 hp and an torque increase of 30 lb-ft.
The interior of the Super Duty features a more refined and modern instrument panel, while the exterior sports a new, larger dominant grille that mimics the F-350 Tonka concept vehicle introduced two years ago.
Almost all testers agreed that the V-10 engine did a great job pulling the heavy truck, whether on the paved road or the trail. The V-10 definitely has punch that's felt in the seat of the pants, and should be the mandatory choice for those of you who want gobs of power but don't want to pony up the cash for a diesel engine.
The brakes on the Super Duty are outstanding. The newly increased rotor diameter combines with improved pedal feel to create a set of binders that set a standard for other manufacturers to follow. In fact, they're so effective they helped the mammoth Ford post the best half-payload braking distance of the group.
Finally, the steering is vastly improved over that of the previous vehicle. There's less play and a more solid, confidence-inspiring feel. Even when driving at speed up the rocky Coyote Ridge trail near Bishop, California, the steering offered good feedback while insulating the driver from the brutal terrain.
There's no debating this: The SD's off-highway ride is awful. Testers used words like "bone-jarring" and "punishing" to describe the experience. The Super Duty lost many points in this category.
The lack of underbody protection also cost the Super Duty points. While we're discussing the underbody, it's important to note that the front lower control arms protrude from the bottom of the axletubes, creating the equivalent of an anchor on some obstacles. By the end of the test, ours showed signs of significant contact with obstacles.
Other Gripes: When in drive, the column-shift lever makes reaching the four-wheel-drive knob difficult. Some testers found the air conditioning to be merely adequate; the engine responded lackadaisically to throttle inputs; First and Second gear are spaced too wide, making travel in sand either an engine-screaming or -bogging experience; and our tester's fuel gauge was accuracy-challenged, reading more than a quarter-tank off.
The Super Duty is a proven performer when it comes to towing and hauling, and the improvements made for '05 increase its effectiveness in those areas. If those are your needs, then this is your truck. The horsepower, steering and braking upgrades all combine to impress. If you're headed out to the trail, however, bring Dramamine.
"Built for a purpose, and that's towing and hauling."
"The V-10 gets right with the program."