The Blue Oval's Latest HD Workhorse Is Chock-Full Of Better Ideas
We just returned from testdriving Ford's newest incarnation of the Super Duty pickup, and we have to admit, we're still trying to make sense of it. Not that we sensed anything wrong with the vehicle-far from it: Its on-road ride is far more compliant and forgiving than any previous version of this truck, and it's surprisingly wheelable in the dirt, given its size and girth. There's simply so much that's new and utterly mind-boggling about the new Super Duty from a technology standpoint, we barely know where to start to describe all of its many useful and functional features.
But we'll start with the engine, the direct-injection 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8, rated at 390 hp and 735 lb-ft (yeah, that's no typo) of torque at 1,600 rpm. The new engine uses a composite graphite-iron block, which is stronger (and weighs less) than the cast-iron block it replaces. For 2011, the turbocharger has been relocated directly atop the block, which along with two-stage injection helps to reduce a great deal of underhood noise and clatter. Backing the B20-compatible diesel (a 395hp 6.2L gas engine is also available) is the brand-new six-speed "TorqShift" automatic transmission. Both components were designed, engineered, and built in-house by Ford and work almost seamlessly together to provide brisk acceleration (for an HD truck) and exceptional mileage. In our brief testdrive, we logged a combined 22 mpg (highway, street, towing, and trail), which marks a quantum leap over the old 6.4L engine, which was literally choking to death on its own EGR componentry.
Now, some folks have taken Ford to task for not offering the new SD with an old-school grindbox (with the kind of schoolbus-length shift throws that manly men prefer), but the way we see it, it would be a largely superfluous option. See, the new six-speed has a manual-shift ("M") detent that allows you to hold any gear as long as you like, and shift up or down at will via a toggle on the stalk. In addition, there's also a "Select Shift" function that allows you to essentially "lock out" any combination of gears on demand-say, when towing, when you don't want to engage Overdrive and would prefer to stay in lower gears.
The new SD is still plenty "old-school" underneath, however, where solid axles-a Dana 60 front and a Sterling 101/2-inch rear-are located by coil springs up front and leaves out back. The NVG 271 transfer case is back as well, though the case housing was narrowed to accommodate the extra length of the new transmission. Standard ring and pinion gearing is 3.31:1, with 3.55:1s an option. (You can get 3.73:1s on a dually version, but nothing numerically higher unless you buy an F-450/550.) You can also order a rear E-locker from the factory, and for what it's worth, it really helps the massive SD on loose and slippery surfaces without being overly intrusive.
Other good stuff for 2011? There's Hill Start Assist (i.e., hill hold), which works very well, even with a 20,000-pound trailer behind it, and Hill Descent Control, which is a great deal more sophisticated and unobtrusive than some similar systems we've tested recently in other vehicles. (And if that's not enough, the SD's integrated engine exhaust braking adjusts backpressure automatically to provide additional compression on long grades.) Side airbags and air curtains are now available as an option, Trailer Sway Control is now standard, and a tailgate-mounted backup camera displays on the Nav screen automatically in Reverse, with "track lighting" to assist with trailer hitch-ups. The onboard integrated trailer brake controller, telescoping side mirrors, and tranny-actuated "Tow-Haul" mode are still available, and you can now monitor all manner of vehicle functions with the new 4.2-inch LCD "productivity screen" located directly in front of you beneath the gauge cluster.
Built in-house by Ford engineers, the new 6.7L graphite-iron turbodiesel V-8 utilizes eight-hole piezo injectors to spray fuel directly into the piston bowls at a rate of five events per cylinder per cycle, at line pressures exceeding 29,000 psi. The turbocharger is a single-sequential design using a double-sided compressor mounted on a single shaft, which aids in NVH reduction and allows the benefits of a twin-turbo design in more compact package. Also check out the "flipped" exhaust manifold layout, which relocates the pipes inside the valley of the V-8 while the intake resides outboard. Why? Better underhood heat management, for one, and quicker delivery of exhaust gases to the turbo, resulting in quicker spool-up and reduced lag times. Peak torque is a mind-boggling 735 lb-ft at a tow-friendly 1,600 rpm, and while EPA mileage figures weren't available at press time, our combined test mileage for a day spent blazing on interstates, towing on backcountry roads, and whompin' in the dirt was a hair over 22 mpg. Impressive.