Pros: Great power for towing and hauling; numerous configurations and interior options; if you like chrome, the Super Duty deals it up in spades
Cons: Poor fuel economy; not easy to maneuver in small spaces; high-end models cost as much as some luxury sedans
Those in need of light-duty hauling and towing should be fine with any number of half-ton pickups. But when the work at hand requires towing numbers in the 10,000-pound range, a three-quarter-ton or one-ton pickup is the only option. To this end, you have a choice of Ford, Ram, GMC and Chevrolet. Toyota and Nissan don't play in this field, and it's probably good that they don't. Why? Because the people who buy these big trucks are a loyal bunch, and none more loyal than the owners of Ford's Super Duty trucks. The F-250, the F-350 and the F-450 dually comprise the Super Duty lineup, which is almost as extensive as the F-150.
Super Duty trucks can be had in a variety of configurations, including Regular Cab, Crew Cab and Supercab. Bed lengths also vary between 6 ¾ and 8 feet, and Ford offers the choice of a power gasoline V8 or a more powerful Power Stroke V8 turbo-diesel. The maximum tow rating for the Super Duty is 17,500 pounds at the hitch and 24,500 pounds with a fifth wheel. We understand that Ram and Ford are in a bit of a spitting war over which truck has the most power and best tow ratings, but really, both trucks can pull the same payloads. For the record, the Super Duty's Power Stroke diesel matches the Ram's high-output Cummins diesel's torque output of 800 lb-ft but bests it in horsepower and fuel economy.
Comfort & Utility
It might be hard to believe there's much leeway for comfort in a full-size heavy-duty pickup, but Ford has turned this conventional wisdom on its head. In the base XL truck, the interior is pretty basic, composed mainly of vinyl and hard plastics designed to take a beating. The XLT softens the interior somewhat, bringing softer seats, carpeting, power windows and locks and cruise control. The Lariat and King Ranch push the pickup-truck paradigm to new heights, offering lush leather seating, advanced audio and navigation, power adjustable pedals, power extendable side trailering mirrors, a rear-view camera, 10-way power driver's and passenger's seats, a power moonroof, heated and cooled front seats and Ford's SYNC communication, information and entertainment system.
The Regular Cab trucks feature a 40/20/40 front split bench seat, with the option of a 40/console/40 setup that features a fold-down console/armrest between the driver's and passenger's seats. Super Crew cabs feature a small rear seat that can be flipped up or folded down to increase cargo space. The SuperCab has under-seat lockable storage with a 110-volt inverter power point, a folding center armrest and dual integrated cupholders.
To make hard chores a bit easier, the Super Duty can be equipped with a stowable bed extender, a built-in tailgate stepladder and a spray-in bedliner. Also available are rear sonar parking sensors, auxiliary uplifter switches for adding aftermarket accessories to the existing electric system and Ford's Crew Chief telematics, which allow a dispatcher to know the vehicle's location, operating condition and performance.
The high-end King Ranch and Lariat versions of the Super Duty can be equipped with Ford's voice-activated navigation. The system is compatible with Sirius Travel Link and provides a 10-GB digital jukebox for storing music. The SYNC AppLink system is available on all trims and includes hands-free Bluetooth phone calling, voice-activated music searches and the ability to stream audio from your cell phone via Bluetooth music streaming.
Another interesting option is the LCD Productivity Screen, which shows various data such as fuel economy, towing information, angle of ascent and descent and four-wheel-drive data.
Performance & Fuel Economy
The standard engine on the Super Duty F-250 and F-350 is a 6.2-liter flex fuel V8 good for 385 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. Optional on the F-250/350 and standard on the F-450 is the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel that generates 400 hp and an astounding 800 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are connected to a heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission that offers manual shift ability.
There are no EPA ratings for the Super Duty, but mileage is expected to be in the low to middle teens. On diesel models, Ford offers two interesting options. First is the Live Drive Power Takeoff (PTO) that allows the transmission to power external accessories such as a snowplow or a truck lift, provided the diesel engine is running. The other is the exhaust brake function, which limits combustion by restricting exhaust, which helps maintain desired speed when towing.
Interior safety features include front, front seat side impact and front and rear side curtain airbags.
To help maintain control in all driving situations, the Super Duty includes four-wheel ABS, electronic traction and stability control with roll stability control and trailer sway control. Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control use the brakes to control the vehicle, keeping it from rolling backward on takeoff or descending steep hills too quickly. A factory-installed Trailer Brake Assist option eliminates the hassle of getting aftermarket systems installed.
For such a massive truck, the Super Duty is surprisingly manageable. If you feel comfortable behind the wheel of a Ford F-150, the Super Duty adds a bit more bulk up front but basically feels about the same. The fully boxed frame is impressively stiff, an important attribute for towing and hauling heavy loads. On the road, the ride is not luxury-car smooth, but it isn't harsh, either. The steering is tight and direct, and the cabin is fairly quiet, especially on the King Ranch trim.
Acceleration is good with the gasoline engine, but it's the Power Stroke Turbo Diesel that gives the Super Duty the power it needs to pull, haul and climb.
Other Cars to Consider
Ram 2500/3500 - The Ram 2500/3500 can match the Super Duty's torque but not its horsepower or trailer tow ratings with a fifth wheel attached. Although we like the looks of the Super Duty, we find the Ram's design a bit more refined.
Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra - GM's twins offer the same configurations and engine options as the Super Duty, but neither of its gasoline or diesel engine choices are as powerful as the Super Duty's offerings. The Silverado/Sierra HD can tow 500 more pounds at the conventional bumper hitch but not as much when using a fifth wheel. The Super Duty also offers more technology and more upscale features than the GM duo.
Choose simple (XL) or super luxurious (King Ranch) according to your taste, but no matter which version of the Super Duty you choose, be sure it's equipped with the Power Stroke diesel engine.