First, we'll tell you we couldn't find anything that Ford did to screw up the Super Duty. From the new three-valve heads on the V-10 engine and the larger brakes to the heavier-gauge steel frame (now 6.7 mm compared to 5.7 mm on the old truck) and the class-leading towing and payload ratings, the Super Duty has stood out. While the other magazines on the newsstands are going to slobber over the redesigned grille and headlight treatment, we dug deeper to find what really makes this King of the Dutys so much tougher. Before any of you with older Super Dutys get too jealous, we think many of the components shown here could be retrofitted to your trucks. But that's a story for another time.
Updated InteriorThose of you hoping for an all-new Super Duty interior will be disappointed. The instrument cluster and trim panels got updated for a new look, but even on the top-of-the-line King Ranch model the layout is still traditional Super Duty, which is fine for a truck like this.
Two new features that caught our eye are the four dash-mounted auxiliary switches and the Ford-engineered electric trailer-brake controller. The switches are perfect for running add-on equipment like lockers, off-road lights, or even a winch. The trailer-brake controller (part of Ford's new Tow Command package) is the smoothest and most predictable unit we've ever used. It's the only controller on the market that knows how fast you're moving and adjusts braking accordingly. It's also the only system that can adapt its operation if the truck's antilock brakes activate. If you tow, you owe it to your trailer to check this system out.
Retro Radius-Arm SuspensionThe biggest news for 2005 is the return to a coil-spring and radius-arm solid-axle front suspension. By ditching the front leaf springs of the previous Super Duty, Ford was able to increase the steering angle the tires turn through, which was limited on the older trucks to prevent tire-to-leaf-spring contact. The results are a 5 1/2-foot-tighter turning radius for F-250/350s and a 12-foot improvement on F-450/550s. You can expect a little better ride quality and the elimination of any front axlewrap too.
It's been 26 years since Ford offered this type of suspension on any of its trucks, and we're happy to have it back. The architecture is similar to the '79 F-150, but it has been updated with longer arms and a better bushing design, according to Ford. We'll bet that you could bolt this front axle and suspension on your older Super Duty if you could get all the parts.
Strong Steering, Bigger AxlesThe steering needed to be revised to work with the radius-arm suspension geometry. A beefier tie rod and drag link now connect directly to the passenger-side knuckle instead of the Ford Y-link system of years past. This factory crossover steering means less bumpsteer on- and off-road--even on lifted trucks.
Then Ford increased the front axle weight rating of the F-250/350's Dana 60 to 6,000 pounds by adding thicker-wall axletubes, 1 1/2-inch 35-spline outer axleshafts, and larger unit-bearing hubs. If you opt for 4.30 axle gears you'll get a Dana 60 with a 10-inch ring gear (a traditional one is 9 3/4). To help control that extra mass, the brakes have been upsized to 13.66 inches with larger calipers that make 17-inch wheels required.
If that's not enough might for you, there's the 7,000-pound capacity of the F-450/550 Super 60 front axle. Ford engineers call it the Fat Boy because it's approximately 3 inches wider than the F-250/350 version. The Fat Boy uses 1 1/2-inch 35-spline shafts too, the 10-inch Dana 60 gearset (4.88 or 5.38 ratios), larger SPL70 (1550) series steering joints, larger end forgings and knuckles, 14.53-inch rotors, and 10-lug hubs. Fat Boy permits nearly 45 degrees of turning at the knuckle! You might be able to mix and match parts to put the eight-lug unit-bearing hubs from the F-250/350 on the Fat Boy axle to get the big steering joints on a the F-250/350, but the Ford guys weren't at liberty to discuss parts swapping.
Stouter Steering BoxA larger ZF-built box will be used on the '05 F-450/550 trucks to cope with the extra strain of the wider track. Too bad the F-250/350s still get the old Visteon box the Super Duty has always used. The good news is that the ZF box should be a bolt-in upgrade for Visteon-equipped trucks, maybe even suitable for retrofitting to older Super Dutys. We'll let you know when we get a part number and a price.
Other Cool New Ford News
Unique F-450/550 look
To cover the tires mounted on the wider Fat Boy axle under the front of the F-450/550, Ford had to devise a unique fender flare. It could be a good upgrade for any Super Duty running wider tires.
Extreme Off-Road Prototype To gauge interest in a Super Duty extreme off-road package (a Dodge Power Wagon-fighter?), Ford engineers showed us this "Hoss Edition" FX4 truck. The Trail Ready bumper was reworked to fit the new '05 grille and still provide a mount for the Warn winch and auxiliary lights. A wraparound rear bumper was made in-house to protect the back of the truck and allow for Hi-Lift jacking points. There was even a set of 35-inch tires on stock 17-inch wheels that are reported to fit without a lift kit. Upon closer inspection we found front and rear Electrac selectable lockers (4.30 axle gears) and some hidden rocker-panel reinforcements.
How serious is Ford about this package? We'd say very, after hearing stories that Ford sent the previous version of this truck to Tellico for testing (the fourth version is seen here). We've got to believe this truck will see production in some form by 2006--maybe even under the Bigfoot name.