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.
Most of the drive routes Ford selected for our press preview to highlight the 2011 Super Duty were on the same roads where many of their early engineering tests took place, in the backcountry of the Arizona desert. From behind the wheel of our test unit (an F-350 SRW King Ranch 4x4), the most obvious difference is inside the gauge cluster, where a four-inch information center delivers instant and long-term fuel economy data, engine temperatures, sensor readouts, four-wheel drive activity, and much more. We also had baseball-glove leather seats that held us tight, plenty of King Ranch logos, and a new center console that stored our entire travel daypack and the laptop computer that was in it, which also included an inverter plug for us to charge our dying cell phone.
The truck itself feels quite stable on the road, especially when you consider how tall the 4x4s stands and how much it weighs (ours tipped the scales at almost 3.5 tons). Much of the truck’s new-found responsiveness has to do with a new, heavier duty steering box, weighing and sizing about double the one it replaced. Although the suspension and frame are slightly modified, the fine-tuning has made a noticeable improvement in ride quality, especially when driving empty. In the old days, and empty heavy duty pickup truck would punish all passengers, but our 2011 Super Duty was not only quiet enough for all four of its occupants to comfortably talk to one another at highway speeds, but when we arrived at our tow-test destination, our backs (and backsides) were quite relaxed.
Making repeated runs up and down the slopes below Yarnell, Arizona, gave us a great chance to test out the Super Duty’s new gas and Power Stroke turbo-diesel engines, as well as a few of their trailer-pulling competitors. The Super Duty F-450 has a segment-leading capability to haul a 24,400-pound trailer, but because the GCWR (trailer plus vehicle weight) is above 26,000 pounds, the government requires a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). We don’t have one of those, so we didn’t get to pull the Big Dog, but we did get enough time up and down the 2000-foot (elevation) hillclimb to know the gas engine was plenty powerful enough to pull a 9500-pound trailer with comfort and authority, and the exhaust makes a wonderfully throaty note when you have to put the hammer down. Still, we have to say the King of Hill was the Super Duty Power Stroke, pulling a 10,000-pound trailer up the 6-percent grade easily to 50 mph with plenty of power left for passing.
Of note, we found out all Super Dutys have an electronically controlled Hill Hold feature that will lock the brakes of the truck on an incline for two full seconds when it detects you might roll backwards. That feature is especially nice for towing enthusiasts that find themselves at a stop sign at the top of a hill. The extra time the brake is electronically held gives the driver time to get his foot onto the throttle without any back-roll.
Our favorite feature on the Super Duty – especially when towing – is the cluster-mounted “productivity screen,” where drivers can look up towing advice according to the type of trailer, get instantaneous fuel economy, program settings for various trailers, retrieve historical fuel usage, calculate trip info, and keep tabs well as maintenance records. The amount of information at your fingertips is likely to make any driver -- whether using a Super Duty for work or play -- smarter, more fuel efficient, and ultimately safer
We also had ourselves an off-roading adventure when we took our Super Duty into a local rock quarry and found a nasty off road trail that Ford had specifically setup for us. The 4x4 screen setting showed us when one wheel was spinning and off the ground, what angles and slopes we were at, as well as offering advice about whether or not to engage the rear electronic-locking differential. Whether the Super Duty FX4 off road package is better than the Dodge Power Wagon remains to be seen; all we know, is that we made it over boulders, through mud ruts, and up rocky goat trails without a scratch to the paint (the skidplates were another matter).
Our test drive ended with an 80-mile competitive fuel economy run back to our hotel, where we drove with several passengers and 1000 pounds of payload in the bed (actually a pallet of sand bags). Although the best hyper-miler was able to squeeze an astounding 34 mpg (of course, he drove considerably slower than most of us), we drove the route normally and averaged a respectable 22 mpg when we pulled in, hearing about others that achieved 24, 25, and even 26 mpg. Much of our route was on lonely highways, but a good stretch was also on the freeway, with a small amount of stop and go rush-hour congestion.
When and How Much 2011 Super Duty trucks are currently being assembled in Louisville, Kentucky, and should be in dealer showrooms by April 1. Additionally, expect configurations to match last year’s model lineup with regular cab, SuperCab, and Crew Cab models (except for F-450 which will be offered in Crew Cab dress only), in XL, XLT, Lariat, and King Ranch packages. Likewise, F-350, F-450, and F-550 Chassis Cabs will be offered across the board as well.
Complete model by model pricing has not been released yet, but we can say there will be no pricing change to the diesel option, Ford’s popular F-250 XLT, while the hardcore F-550 chassis cab will actually go down in price. As a result of having so many different ways to order a Super Duty truck, the range is (again, like the previous model) will range from $25,000 (an F-250 regular cab 4x2 stripper) all the way up to $60,000 (F-450 dually King Ranch 4x4).
|Base Price (F-250 reg Cab 4x4):||$27,283|
|As Tested (F-250 King Ranch Crew Cab 4x4):||$59,170 (est)|
|Body Style:||4-door pickup truck|
|Construction:||Steel, body on frame|
|Base Engine:||Naturally aspirated 16-valve V-8|
|Power:||385 @ 5500 rpm|
|Torque:||405 lb-ft 3500 rpm|
|Transmission:||6R140 6-speed automatic|
|Optional Engine:||Turbocharged 32 -valve diesel V-8|
|Power:||390 @ 2800 rpm|
|Torque:||735 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm|
|Transmission:||6R140 6-speed auto|
|Drive:||Four wheel, vacuum-actuated hubs|
|Steering:||Worm and roller, power|
|Turning Circle:||51.8 ft|
|Suspension, Front:||Live axle, coil springs|
|Suspension, Rear:||Live axle, leaf springs|
|Brakes F/R:||Power assisted vented discs, 13.66/13.39|
|Headroom F/R:||40.7/40.8 in|
|Legroom F/R:||41.1/42.1 in|
|Shoulder F/R:||68.0/68.0 in|
|L x W x H:||246.6 x 79.9 x 79.7 in|
|Payload Capacity:||2690 lb|
|Weight:||6900 lb (est)|
|Fuel Capacity:||40 gal|
|Towing Capacity:||14,000 lbs|