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2008 Ford F450 Super Duty Tow Test - Trailers & Towing

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on July 1, 2008
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Unladen, the F-450 has plenty of mass (and you feel like you got your $62,273.50 worth), but it really doesn't drive like a 21.9-foot-long, 8-footwide, 8,687-pound truck. Part of this is due to its luxurious, vault-like interior and excellent turning radius. We would like to see variable-rate steering, though, as it takes a fair amount of effort to turn the steering wheel in certain situations.

The Ford F-450 Super Duty 4x4 may look like an F-350 dualie pickup, but underneath it's a whole different animal. The F-450 is a Class 4 truck without all of the bulky bodywork common to most trucks of that capacity. The F-450 comes standard with the 6.4L Power Stroke diesel engine mated to the TorqShift transmission. The truck is only sold as a Crew Cab dualie with an 8-foot bed. When compared to the F-350, the F-450 has a beefier chassis; a stronger Dana Super 60 front axle; the rugged radius-arm front suspension from the F-450 chassis-cab; a much larger Dana 110 rear axle on a new leaf-spring suspension; and bigger disc brakes front and rear. All of this beef translates to a truck that is heavier than its lighter-duty dual rear-wheel sibling, the F-350. The F-450 tips the scales at 8,687 pounds. Comparatively,the F-350 weighs 1,417 pounds less at7,270 pounds.

OK, so we've established that the F-450 is built with bigger underbody components and is heavier than its counterpart. So what? Well, what this beef gets you is an impressive fifth-wheel/ gooseneck maximum towing capacity of 24,500 pounds and a maximum bumper tow weight of 16,000 pounds. When compared to the F-350, the F-450's maximum bumper tow weight is only 1,000 pounds more, but the maximum fifth-wheel/gooseneck weight rating is 5,800 pounds more. That's a big jump.

On paper, the F-450 looks pretty formidable for those who tow heavy loads, but we were wondering how it all would shake out in the real world so we borrowed an F-450 from Ford and put it to work around our Four Wheeler Midwest Bureau. What we found is that the F-450 is like a psycho pack mule on steroids. The F-450's engineered beef mixes nicely with its impressive list of standard and optional equipment to create an eager towhungry truck.

For this test, we bumper-towed an 11,700-pound load consisting of a 2,100-pound dual-axle trailer and a 9,600-pound Bobcat T300. The F-450 comes standard with a Ford Tough 16,000-pound trailer hitch receiver that accepts a 2- or 2 1/2-inch hitch. Both a five- and eight-pin electrical connector is standard. Paved roads are pretty rare in a workin' man's world, so we spent a considerable amount of time testing and towing with the F-450 off-highway. A grade in an old quarry is typical of the terrain a construction worker or rancher might encounter, so we made several ascents and descents and we also made numerous hill starts. One of the things we found is that the optional traction control system (TCS), at only $130, is money well spent. It eliminated wheelspin, which made for smoother starts, thus less load jostling. Best part is, when TCS isn't wanted, it's easily cancelable via a large round button located next to the four-wheeldrive selector switch. Coming down the grade is when we really appreciated the TorqShift transmission's ability to figure out what we were doing and hold a gear to keep our speed down. We didn't even have to touch the brake.

The new 350hp, 650-lb-ft 6.4L Power Stroke V-8 is an incredible engine when it comes to power and manners. Some of the things we like include its ultra-smooth power delivery (due in part to the dual sequential turbos) and its incredibly quiet operating volume. Unfortunately, its low fuel mileage was disappointing. According to the on-board computer, our tester returned 7.3 mpg while towing our 11,700-pound trailer at 60 mph with the air conditioning on and the transmission in the tow/haul mode. Empty, our tester posted 10.6 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The latter number is no surprise considering that our Power Stroke-powered F-250 SuperCab tester at Pickup Truck of the Year '08 generated an average of 12.5 mpg in combined driving, and it weighed approximately 2,302 pounds less than the F-450. Apparently, these low mpg numbers are the price we have to pay for clean emissions. On the upside, the F-450 can be outfitted with an optional 19-gallon auxiliary fuel tank. When added to the capacity of the standard 40-gallon tank, this gives the truck a 59-gallon capacity. Even at 10.6 mpg, this gives an impressive range of 625 miles.

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One of the many useful standard features on the F-450 is the TowCommand integrated brake controller. We dig the fact that our knees weren't bumping into an underdash aftermarket controller. We also like that the TowCommand's mounting position makes it easy to adjust and monitor. Also cool: the optional upfitter switches. At only $85, this option is worth its weight in gold for those planning to add electric accessories.

Quick Spec

Vehicle/model: 2008 Ford F-450 Super Duty King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4 DRW
Base price: $50,355
Price as tested: $62,273.50
Engine: 6.4L Power Stroke V-8
Aspiration: High-pressure common-rail, series sequential turbochargers, intercooler
Compression: 17.2:1
Max hp/torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 350 @ 3,000/650 @ 2,000
Transmission: TorqShift five-speed automatic
Transfer case: Two-speed
Low-range ratio: 2.72:1
Frame type: Steel ladder
Axles/suspension (f/r): Twin-coil Monobeam, gas shocks,stabilizer bar/Live axle, leaf springs, gas shocks stabilizer bar
Axle ratio: 4.30:1
Max crawl ratio: 36.4:1
Steering: Power recirculating ball
Brakes (f/r): 14.53-inch disc/15.35-inch disc
Wheels (diameter, in): 19.5
Tires: LT225/70R19.5 all-season

What's Hot:
Ample power, intuitive TorqShift trans, outstanding brakes, well-designed interior, overall visibility

What's Not:
Fuel mileage

Our Take:
The tow rig for those who tow a lot

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