First Drive: 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Mark Williams
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2011 Ford Super Duty

2011 Ford Super Duty

The engineers at Ford know there’s a lot at stake with the unveiling of their new 2011 Ford Super Duty. Last year Dodge came to market with a hugely revised Ram HD pickup with great success. Later this year, General Motors brings a new Chevy Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD to the party. And in just a few months, buyers will have three new trucks to choose from, each in a violent battle for market share in one of the most highly profitable segments in the automotive universe. To call this launch critical is a huge understatement.

The Look Outside and In

At first glance, most will notice only a subtle, evolved look to the new truck. To be specific, Ford has given the 2011 Super Duty a slightly stronger, bulging front hood, almost like an inverted power dome, with a larger, billet-vice-looking front grille, and the largest Ford logo you’ll ever see (13 inches across). Additionally, the Super Duty frontend has a taller front bumper and headlight stack to create the illusion of extra mass and height, when in reality everything about the frontend is designed to deflect and direct airflow around the truck. Further, deeper design cutlines in the fenderwells and from the hood to the tailgate are to act as airstream guides as well.

Inside, the interior can also be described as an evolution of the previous model, with a few accent changes. Still, numerous refinements in material choices and gauge/information layout give the appearance of a newly remodeled piece of furniture or entertainment center. The new gauge cluster and productivity screen are probably the highlight, offering more data and information (radio, powertrain, fuel economy, temperatures, etc.) than ever before. Add to that the newly shaped and designed seats and a very clever reconfigurable and lockable center console (we’re told in can change into 60 different arrangements) and the small changes begin to add up. More lockable storage is available in Crew Cab models, underneath both flip-up rear seats.

New Boss Engine

All 2011 Super Dutys get an all-new base gasoline engine that should prove popular with the fleet sale crowd. Long-time Ford lovers will notice that some of the construction details of the new 6.2-liter V-8 mirror that of the renowned Boss 302 and 351 V-8 engines of the past. This particular large-bore, short-stroke V-8 (which will also appear in the F-150 Raptor) uses a single overhead cam, with dual variable valve timing (on both the intake and exhaust sides) with roller-rockers on the cam. This new setup allows the Super Duty's engine computer to more carefully and accurately control efficiency for high-mpg running, while allowing for maximum torque output when heavy loads require it.

Other highlights include dual spark plugs, dual knock sensors, and under-piston oil squirters to keep things running cool. As to power output, the new 6.2-liter will get 80 more horsepower and 40 lb-ft more torque than the previous 5.4-liter V-8, giving it an SAE rating of 385 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. Although the EPA doesn’t require vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 8500 pounds to include fuel economy numbers (yet), Ford is saying the new gas engine will give Super Duty owners at least 15-percent better fuel economy than the 5.4L Triton. Chassis cab models will still be offered the 6.8L Triton V-10 option.

New Power Stroke Diesel

Ford knows better than anyone else in this segment that their all-new Power Stroke diesel offering needs to be a home run, especially with the previous engine’s dubious turbocharger issues. This Ford-built, Ford-designed engine has to be special, and that means gobs of power, technology, and durability. Ford’s all-new Power Stroke is now a 6.7-liter turbo-diesel V-8, using a single sequential turbocharger with a double-sided compressor wheel which sits in the valley of the V-8 (a segment first).

The turbo, normally located behind the engine, can do this because the new aluminum heads have an inverted intake/exhaust setup (also a first for a modern diesel), meaning the exhaust ports dump into the center of the V-8. As a result, the turbo ramps up quicker, the noise is minimized, serviceability is upped, and the hottest parts of the engine are in the main flow of the wind stream. Other highlights to the engine include a high-tech cooled EGR system, a block made from compact graphite iron, and a water-cooled air intake.

Ford says the new Power Stroke cranks out 390 horsepower at 2800 rpm, and a whopping 735 lb-ft of torque at 1600 rpm. It’s worth noting that 2010 emissions regulations require an extra diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) combined with a rather complicated three-stage selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system to practically eliminate tailpipe emissions. The injected fluids and various filters, catalysts, and sensors make sure particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx) don’t make it into the air we breathe. Much of this is done with a spray of urea into the exhaust stream, which is stored in another externally-mounted tank near the fuel tank. The tank will add weight and cost of operation, but filling up the urea tank should be as easy as filling up the fuel tank at a diesel fuel station or Ford dealership, and will likely have to be done as often.

Any Transmission You Like, So Long as it's a 6-Speed Automatic

Backing up both the new diesel and gas engines is an all-new (Ford-built) six-speed automatic transmission. Called the TorqShift 6R140, it has both automatic and manual transmission attributes, and extra cooling capabilities. In “D”, a driver can toggle into a selective mode via a dash screen interface that automatically limits or selects the best available gears when empty or under heavy loads. Likewise, in “M”, the torque converter mechanically locks up and gear selection will only change when the thumb-selector is tapped up or down by the driver. All transmission information can be visually identified on the center information screen between the speedometer and tachometer.

Additionally, this new 6-speed has a LiveDrive PTO option, allowing the transmission to power auxiliary equipment, such as snowplows, cement mixers, or dump trucks, when parked or in motion (also a segment first). The 6R140 will be the only transmission available for Super Dutys, as the 6-speed manual transmission option is now gone.

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