Ford F-250 Super Duty – 2008 Review:
You know how it goes: You get better at your job and the reward is more work. That’s OK, you pride yourself on being tough. So it is with Ford’s F-250 Super Duty pickup. It’s in that class of pickups that gets run through the wringer and dumped on – literally – every day. When a truck already boasts big numbers for payload and towing, it can be challenging to make it work harder. But more power under the hood can help, and the F-250’s new diesel pumps out more torque but less pollution. Sounds like this bruiser’s ready for overtime.
By Bob Beamesderfer
Photo Credit: Oliver Bentley
What We Drove
Our test vehicle, a Crew Cab FX-4, came equipped with every truck goodie you could want: a 6.4 liter diesel engine, five-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive and a limited-slip rear axle. A 200-amp alternator, towing and trailer brake systems, upfitter switches, traction control and electronic shift-on-the-fly, and a block heater round out the heavy duty features. Adjustable brake and gas pedals, power telescoping mirrors, rapid supplemental cab heater, heated front seats, tailgate step, bed extender and side steps make for a more convenient workhorse. Creature comforts included navigation and upgraded audio system with satellite radio, rear-seat entertainment, back-up sensors, and front captain’s chairs.
With 650 lb.-ft. of torque, the F-250’s twin-turbo diesel has ample towing capacity and didn’t break a sweat at the off-road park. Pulling a rented car trailer with a small pickup on it didn’t cause a hint of strain; of course we were pulling less than half the 12,500-pound capacity. It would have been even less noticeable if the trailer had electric brakes instead of surge brakes. While there’s a little hesitation off idle, the power builds quickly and smoothly. The five-speed automatic transmission didn’t falter while towing up the steep grades of the Grapevine north of Los Angeles.
Despite its size and purpose, the F-250 handles well, but steering response is slow and numb. Tight 90-degree corners require a few cranks of the wheel, as does parking at most lots or parallel on the street. The brakes work well and stop quickly when the truck is unladen. They’re also are easy to modulate whether towing or not. The all-terrain 20-inch Goodyear tires didn’t have any issues at the off-road park and they weren’t noisy going down the road. Ride quality is on the harsh side, but that’s expected in a heavy-duty pickup.
The toughest issue when it comes to visibility in the Ford F-250 is knowing how close the front bumper is to other vehicles. A sonar system helps when backing up, although a camera would be better, especially for aligning the hitch and trailer. The view out the sides and back is clear and unobstructed. The outside mirrors are large, power extension towing units, with two mirrors in each housing. The main mirrors are power adjustable, while the wide-angle mirrors adjust by hand. This setup makes seeing to the sides while towing much easier and made for confident lane changes.
Fun to Drive
Gobs of torque, the ability to tow more than six tons and serious off-road setup, the F-250 is capable of getting you and your stuff out there. Way out there. It’s also pretty comfortable for a truck of this kind and comes with creature comforts to make a long haul less tedious. It’s not as easy to live with day-in, day-out because the sheer size makes parking it a chore. Plus it sticks out of most spaces by about three feet. Fuel economy averaged 11.5 mpg in city, freeway, towing and off-road driving.
Front seats are large and comfortable, with power and manual adjustments. Head and leg room is ample and there’s a large, padded leather center armrest. Armrests on doors are covered with rubbery plastic and have enough give to be comfortable. A leather tilt steering wheel coupled with adjustable pedals makes it easy to get comfortable. The steering wheel has cruise and audio controls, which are well marked, but buttons are a little too small to use with gloves on. Assist handles and running boards make getting in and out of the tall vehicle easier.
The rear 60/40 bench is OK on comfort, but more thigh support would help. There is lumbar support in the outboard positions, but the center position lacks even a head restraint. A fold-down armrest is padded along the sides, but has two cupholders and a tray. The door armrests are identical to those up front, not plush, but with enough give to be comfortable. Head room is as spacious as up front; there’s less leg room, but more than enough for adults. A little more foot room would be nice. Running boards and assist handles make getting in an out easy.
While accelerating, there’s the familiar diesel clatter, but when cruising at freeway speeds the engine quiets down. There’s wind noise off the big towing mirrors. With a very stiff suspension designed for towing and hauling, more road noise and bumps are heard and felt. While we wouldn’t call it a quiet ride, it’s pretty good for a big truck, and certainly quieter than smaller gasoline trucks from a decade ago.
With the height of the tailgate, loading heavy objects is going to be harder. There is nice handle and step combination that stows in the tailgate which makes getting in and out of the bed easier. A bed extender flips over to keep small loads in place, and there are four tie-down hooks. For heavy items you don’t want to put in the bed, there’s a steel cargo floor that folds out from under the rear seats. It’s a nice feature that would be better if it had a non-slip surface on it. However, it’s set up so that items can be tied down.
Our Ford F-250 Super Duty test vehicle was a pre-production unit. We did not assess build quality, as it is our rule to praise or critique this aspect of a vehicle only when it is reflective of what consumers will find at the local dealership.
Ford makes careful use of materials, given that the F-250 is a work truck for most owners. The plastics are good quality for the most part, with some pieces that seemed a little low-grade for the vehicle’s price. The leather used on the seats isn’t going to be mistaken for what’s found in a luxury car, but most people aren’t hopping into those pricey sedans with a claw hammer in the loop of their carpenter’s pants.
While there is no doubt that you are looking at an F-Series truck, the styling is more aggressive than previous generation Super Duty models. The hood and front fenders are tall and boxy, and along with a large front grill, the whole thing looks like it means business. Super Duty is stamped into the hood, tailgate and dashboard in two-inch high letters. Interior styling is modern and industrial.
Up front, there are four cupholders, two of which will hold a 1-liter bottle. Front doors have large divided bins at two levels, the lowers are shallower. For a big truck, the glove box is pretty skimpy, but it will hold the owner’s manual and a few other items. That’s made up for with cavernous center bin under the armrest, which includes a drop-in tray with coin holder for organizing smaller items, and a 12-volt outlet. The overhead console includes a sunglasses holder and is open on the back for storing small items. Back seat storage includes four cupholders and a divided bin in each door.
Front controls are the same as those found on other 2008 Fords with navigation systems: A rotary volume knob, preset buttons and disc changer load-eject button sit above an LCD touch screen. Six buttons on either side call up different functions for audio or navigation. There are also seek and tune buttons along with mute. The organization is little odd, but overall the system is easy to use. Many functions are controlled off the touch screen, which we’ve found easy to use on all the vehicles equipped with the system.
Rear Infotainment Controls
The rear system is a two-channel setup and has a screen that drops down from an overhead console. There are controls on the console for the DVD/MP3 player, volume control, jacks for two pairs of wired headphones, and there are side mounted RCA jacks for plugging in a game system or video camera. The system comes with two wireless headphones and a remote control. Rear-seat passengers can watch a DVD, play a game or listen to programming from the front audio system.
Single zone climate control switches included rotary switches for fan speed, temperature and air flow, and on-off. There are push buttons below the rotary switches for air-conditioning, heated seats, heated mirrors and fresh-recirculate. The setting for fresh-recirculate resets to fresh whenever the system is turned off, which is a bit annoying. The controls are just big enough for use with gloves on; good thing because this is the kind of truck whose drivers often wear gloves regardless of weather.
Our test vehicle came equipped with four large auxiliary switches mounted under the climate controls for powering accessories, such as fog or driving lights or a winch. Next to those was the control for electric trailer brakes. Within easy reach of the driver’s right hand are dash-mounted switches for two- and four-wheel drive modes, traction control on-off and rear sonar on-off. Window and door lock buttons on the driver’s and front passenger armrests are standard issue and work as expected. On the top of the driver’s door are controls for the power extending towing mirrors.
Ford’s F-250 faces competition only from its Detroit rivals: Chevrolet, Dodge and GMC. Chevrolet and GMC bring nearly identical 2500HD models, which come in at $53,495 and $53,850, respectively when comparably equipped to the F-250. The Dodge 2500 Heavy Duty works out to $54,935 equipped in similar fashion, but it doesn’t come with a trailer-brake controller like the Ford or Chevy/GMC trucks. The Ford comes in with gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds, beating the GMs by 800 pounds and the Dodge by 1,200. The Chevy/GMC has a six-speed tranny to Ford’s five.
2nd Opinion – BLACKETT
With the debut of the redesigned Ford F-150, the Dodge Ram, and more recently, the all-new Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra and Toyota Tundra, it may appear to some to be Christmas every day for truck buyers. These newest iterations provide power, comfort, style, and poise not previously available from the once solely utilitarian automotive segment. But who’s thinking about the true truck folks, those who push the limits of towing and payload capacities? The ones who scratch the inside of the bed, put a dent or two on the tailgate, and actually use those optional upfitter switches?
MyRide.com Senior Road Test Editor
2ND Opinion – BUGLEWICZ
Anything this big and this red should have a ladder attached to the side and hoses bundled up in the bed. The F-250 is that big, a monster of a truck designed for people who still actually need trucks, rather than simply wanting one to impress their friends. On that front it does well. The engine generates enough torque and power to pull a house off its foundation. The bed is not just huge, but actually has a ladder built into the tailgate to make getting in easier.
MyRide Road Test Editor