People who buy 2500-series trucks want capability; it's the reason they're not looking at 1500-series trucks. But it's also why they've been willing, historically, to suffer some compromises when it comes to civility.
Ford's '08 F250 Super Duty bridges the gap between those worlds - offering even more in the way of capability than the previous F250, including a new twin-turbo 6.4-liter Power Stroke diesel belting out 650 pound-feet of torque, along with a level of refinement and comfort that makes it perfectly suitable for more than just work. Imagine a truck with supplemental heating for fast interior warm-ups on cold days, heated seats, DVD navigation, power sliding rear window, and folding tailgate step.
In XLT or King Ranch form, an F-250 may be the ultimate "Cowboy Cadillac" - from its Chaparral leather cross-stitch accents and rear-seat DVD entertainment system to its near 12,000-lb towing capacity (and 6000-lb payload rating).
Not entirely clean
The '08 F-250 is not "clean sheet," but it is significantly new. Major functional and engineering changes include a new 6.4-liter Power Stroke diesel that features twin sequential turbos for linear boost through the operating range and a particulate filter that brings emissions down to a level comparable to that of an equivalent gasoline engine, according to Ford. Power output has been increased to 350 horsepower, with 650 lb-ft of torque available at 2000 rpm. This brings it on par with the 6.7-liter Cummins engine used in the current Dodge Ram 2500, which produces the same 350 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque, and within a tick of GM's 6.6-liter Duramax diesel, currently rated at 365 horses and 660 lb-ft of torque.
Ford claims zero-to-60 times for the diesel F-250 have dropped by one full second relative to the '06 model. A day of driving wide-open,Texas highways confirmed the spec sheet. Despite its almost 7000-lb curb weight (that's empty, too) the F-250 accelerates strongly and easily cruises at 80 mph with impressive civility. The diesel engine comes only with a heavy-duty TorqShift five-speed automatic (with Tow/Haul mode) working through a 4.30 geared axle (a 4.88 ratio may be ordered). The steep rear gears aid pulling power and off-the-line starts, while the overdrive ratio of the new five-speed automatic provides a reasonably economical 2200 rpm or so at cruise speeds of 75-80 mph.
The still-available 6.8-liter Triton gas V-10 (mostly unchanged and still rated at 362 horsepower) also uses the new-design five-speed Torqshift transmission, but can be ordered with less aggressive 3.73 rear gears. A six-speed manual remains available on base model work trucks powered by the 5.4-liter Triton gas V-8 (300 hp). Fuel tank capacity ranges from 30 gallons to 38 gallons, depending on model. Ford says fuel efficiency should be in line with the previous F250 - and perhaps slightly better on the highway. Which is to say, somewhat less than a Prius.
An integrated, factory-installed TowCommand trailer brake controller, power telescoping trailer-tow side mirrors with memory, adjustable pedals, foldable/stowable bed extender, and that very handy tailgate step (with a telescoping pole/grab handle, too) add significant functionality as well as convenience to the Big F. It's amazing that no truck manufacturer ever thought to add a step to the tailgate before, or a factory installed trailer brake controller, for that matter. But Ford got to it first. No other heavy-duty 2500-series truck on the market currently offers either feature. The tailgate's surface is lined with a non-slip material, another unique feature.
Stouter where it counts
Chassis-wise, the '07 F250's front subframe "bumper impact area" area has been lowered nearly seven inches, so that if the big monster runs into a puny passenger car, the results should be less ugly (for the car).
The suspension has also been updated in several key respects. Rear leafs have been extended longitudinally (by about eight inches) so they could be mounted farther forward to give better handling and control. The mounting points of the rear shocks have likewise been altered. The resulting ride is comparable to a standard F-150, which is remarkable given the massiveness of the truck.
It's quiet, too. Laminated glass and the use of "quiet steel" are credited by Ford engineers for this improvement. Even the throbbing pulses of the PowerStroke engine are muted to the extent that it's possible to run the truck through a drive-through without having to kill the engine - or yell your order to be heard over the din.
Another big change for '07 is the redone interior, which now rivals anything you'd find in an XLT or Limited Expedition (even a loaded-up Lincoln Navigator, if you go for the King Ranch package). A handsome main cluster is anchored by a tach to the left and a speedo to the right, with four smaller secondary gauges in between (including a transmission temperature and boost gauge with the beefy diesel engine). Rugged-looking chrome trim rings surround the vent outlets, even on the base XL, while the swanky King Ranch gets baseball-style leather, wood grain appliques and contrast colors for the main dash pad, glove box and door panels.
The integrated trailer brake controls are off to the right, easy to see and easy to use. Four large cup holders, including two adjustable "pop out" ones built into the lower dash, assure plenty of room for the biggest drinks. The deep center console storage area and glovebox likewise have ample space for meat snacks, paperwork, gloves, whatever you need to make it work.
All amped up
On the outside, designers really amped up the F-250's stance with stacked headlights and a huge grille flanked by massive vertical vents, all of it capped off by "Super Duty" stamped on top. On the side of each front fender are prominent (and functional) engine compartment vents - red inserts for models with the diesel engine, black for the gas models.
There's no mistaking this thing in your rearview mirror; in fact, it makes a Chevy Suburban seem small as you follow close behind one. But it's graceful malevolence (if you can say that about a really big pickup), especially the King Ranch and Harley versions. Ford calls the effect they were working to achieve, "tough luxury," and it's fair to say they pulled it off. Compared with either the current Ram 2500 or GM 2500 series trucks, the new F250 comes off as the more polished, more upscale vehicle without losing its manly bona fides. The new twin-turbo diesel and up-rated capacities have made it the equal, or near equal, of either of its main competitors in most respects while besting them when it comes to interior design, overall ergonomics and everyday usability.
In addition to standard work truck XL, XLT, King Ranch and Harley Davidson trim packages, the '08 F-250 will be available later in the model run with an FX4 heavy-duty off-road package that includes underbody skids plates, Rancho HD shocks, and an even tougher-looking body-colored billet-style grille. This is the first time an FX4 off-road package has been offered with the F-250. As before, buyers can select regular cab, Super Cab, and Crew Cab body styles, with either 6.75-foot or 8.0-foot bed lengths and either 2WD or 4WD.
If you need the ultimate in capability, there's a new F450, which offers more than 24,000 lb of towing capacity, in addition to a 6000-lb payload rating. To get anything more capable, you'll need a commercial driver's license.
2008 Ford F250 Super Duty Lariat Crew Cab LB 4WD
Base price: $37,500; price as tested: $53,800
Engine: Twin-turbocharged 6.4-liter diesel V-8, 350 hp/650 lb-ft
Transmission: Five-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 262.4 x 79.9 x 79.9 in
Wheelbase: 172.4 in
Curb weight: 6685 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): Single digits (est.)
Safety equipment: Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes
Major standard features: Dual-zone climate control; 18-inch wheels; skid plates; chrome grille; AM/FM/CD-MP3 audio
Warranty: Five years/100,000 miles
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