A colleague of ours recently filled us in on the details of a new bulldozer he’d tested (we hang with a diverse crowd), a $600,000 machine that weighs in at about 30 tons and can literally move mountains. Sure, they need to be blasted into smaller, moveable chunks of earth first, but you get the idea. What makes this interesting is that the 2011 Ford Super Duty, the truck you’ll be able to buy right off your dealer’s lot later this spring, has more available power than that overgrown Tonka. An extra 16 lb.-ft. of twist and 155 horses, to be exact.
Delivering up to 735 lb.-ft. of torque, Ford’s redesigned rig uses impressive engine specs and class-leading capability in an attempt to maintain its grip on the heavy-duty truck crown. Rounding out this effort is a slew of new technologies that, from our perspective, creates a 2011 Super Duty sporting equal parts comfort, functionality, and efficiency.
Photos courtesy of Ford.
#10. From the crewman to the foreman, there’s a 2011 Ford Super Duty for everyone.
Official pricing has yet to be released, but reports indicate that the 2011 Ford Super Duty will start at $28,995. Trims will continue to include the utilitarian XL; the better-equipped and hot-selling XLT that adds bits like cruise control and chrome trim; the Lariat that delivers luxury with leather upholstery, Ford’s SYNC hands-free communications system and power trailer mirrors; and the top-of-the-line Super Duty King Ranch which boasts features such as heated and cooled front seats, upgraded leather, and a rearview camera. We drove a number of versions while testing the 2011 Super Duty with Ford in Prescott, Arizona. Examples included a four-wheel-drive F-250 Lariat Crew Cab decked out with options like an FX4 off-road package and a spray-in bed liner for $51,820, and a four-wheeling F-250 XLT Crew Cab fitted with a Power Stroke diesel engine and more that came to $56,465.
#9. 2011 delivers big changes under the Super Duty’s new clamshell hood.
Though not always used as intended, heavy-duty trucks are designed and built to work hard. With that in mind, Ford has treated the 2011 Super Duty to some serious engine upgrades, the most notable of which is a new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 diesel that’s priced equal to its predecessor but boasts 390 turbocharged horses and 735 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford suggests an 18-percent gain in fuel economy compared to the outgoing 6.4-liter Power Stroke. Clean-emissions standards are met using Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) that requires refills approximately every 7,500 miles.
Other options include a new gasoline-powered 6.2-liter V8 that replaces last year’s 5.4-liter powerplant and offers 385 ponies backed by 405 lb.-ft. of torque. Expect a fuel economy improvement of 15 percent. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode, a manual setting, and a lockout for higher gears.
Ford’s 6.8-liter V10 will be offered only on commercial-grade Super Duty models.
#8. Big trucks aren’t supposed to be this quiet or efficient.
If you’ve driven a diesel-powered full-size pickup, you know that quiet operation hasn’t been at the top of anyone’s priority list. For 2011 the Super Duty serves as a hard-working steed first and foremost, but the “nay” from its collective diesel-sipping horses has been nicely muted, especially in comparison to 2010 versions of the Ram Heavy Duty and GM duo of big trucks (GM’s 2011 models are not yet available for driving comparison). The new V8 gasser is equally refined, but with less available power, it’s a bit louder simply because it needs to work harder to accomplish the same tasks as the diesel. Our very unofficial fuel economy results show a four-wheel-drive Super Duty Crew Cab with the 6.2-liter V8 will average 15 mpg, while the diesel bumps that up to 22 mpg.
#7. Ford offers best-in-class capability.
With so much available power, you might guess that the 2011 Ford Super Duty would be packing some serious capability. You’d be right. Using a new factory-installed brace attached to the frame and the new Power Stroke engine, drivers can hook up their fifth wheels quickly and easily (including an in-bed wiring connector) and tow more than 21,000 pounds with an F-350, or 24,400 pounds with an F-450. Payload ratings peak at 6,520 pounds with a rear-drive F-350 dually. If you’re driving a Dodge or GM competitor, plan on leaving some of that cargo behind.
#6. Towing is easier and safer than with the previous Super Duty.
Out on the road with about 10,000 pounds of trailered weight, the Super Duty’s new engines didn’t break a sweat and propelled us to highway speeds with relative ease. Uphill climbs were helped by a new upper-gear lockout feature that prevented the tranny from upshifting prematurely, something that was equally handy when working to maintain slow speeds on the returning descent. A separate manual mode, which like the lockout feature requires a tap of a +/- button on the column shifter, provides yet another way to override the automatic’s gear selection. Downhill runs also showcase exhaust-braking technology that, unlike the Ram, is seamlessly operated behind the scenes. With all of these features put to work, we were able to go easy on the brakes by letting the powertrain keep the reigns tight. Standard trailer sway control has been added to help bring things back in line if the ride gets a bit fish-taily; a previous demo of this safety feature in an F-150 proved to us that it does indeed work.
#5. Ford’s steering feel trails the competition.
Given the Super Duty’s role in this world, we can’t complain about how big it feels on the road, but we do take issue with its steering. Compared to the 2010 Ram Heavy Duty and GMC Sierra Heavy Duty, made available by Ford during our test drive, the 2011 Super Duty’s steering feels a bit overboosted and not as well connected to the road. Engineers have tweaked the system with the 2011 update, and there’s little doubt that current Super Duty drivers will notice at least a slight improvement. But, with the possibility of hauling extraordinary loads up and down twisty mountain roads, we’d welcome another hack off the vague steering feel coupled with an extra dose of feedback from the road.
#4. Seats borrowed from the F-150 make the Super Duty more comfortable.
The layman may consider comfort to be of little concern to the heavy-duty truck buyer, but those who spend hours in these mobile offices and, in come cases, use them for overnight shelter when working in the field will tell you otherwise. That’s why Ford has fitted the 2011 Super Duty with comfy and supportive front seats derived from the recently redesigned F-150. Designers have also added a manual driver’s side lumbar adjustment even to trucks with entry-level vinyl upholstery in an effort to make the cabin more hospitable. For over-the-road truckers, other little points have been addressed, including reconfigurable cupholders that can accommodate everything from a bottle of water to a bladder-busting Big Gulp. Unlike Dodge, Ford has not employed the use of fluid-filled body mounts to improve the ride, but after a couple hundred miles of comfortable cruising we didn’t find any fault with that decision.
#3. A new locking rear differential bolsters the Super Duty’s off-road capabilities.
We know there’s plenty of grunt under the hood, and generous amounts of ground clearance are obvious. But it wasn’t until we tackled boulders and rough trails that the 2011 Ford Super Duty unveiled its affinity for areas off the beaten path. Driving models equipped with an FX4 Off-Road package, an electronic locking rear differential and a hill descent system, we took on a short but varied track that had the suspension articulating and random wheels free-hanging. Though it was a cakewalk compared to the Rubicon Trail, we were able to appreciate the hill descent technology that held us to a snail’s pace on steep downgrades, and how the rear locker prevented us from spinning even one wheel throughout the course. For hardcore off-roaders, Ford can outfit your new Super Duty with a digital display that shows steering and pitch angle.
#2. Super Duty buyers will benefit from lots of handy features.
More than just stump-pulling engines and a stout frame, the 2011 Ford Super Duty is home to a variety of technology and convenience features designed to benefit owners. Inside you’ll find newly-available front-side and side-curtain airbags, air vents added for rear-passenger comfort, a 110-volt inverter that works even when the engine’s off, and Ford’s Work Solutions computer system. Especially beneficial for contractors and those who treat their Super Duty as an office, Work Solutions allows drivers to monitor vehicle use, locate tools, search the Internet, print invoices, and more. There’s also an available 4.2-inch display screen mounted in the gauge cluster with which drivers can enter and track the use of trailers that are routinely towed. In addition, the system offers a checklist that ensures you’ve performed tasks like connecting electrical plugs and removing wheel chocks before setting out. Also new for 2011 are locking storage bins located under the rear seats.
The updated interior comes together nicely as a whole, but we think buyers who use the Super Duty in adverse conditions will long for larger dials and buttons on the dash. They look stylish as-is, but may require more finesse than numb or hard-worked fingers can muster.
#1. Now less powerful than the competition, the Ford Super Duty is still more capable.
Within days of our Ford-sponsored drive of the 2011 Super Duty in Arizona, GM raised eyebrows by announcing that its 2011 lineup of heavy-duty trucks would include a revised 6.6-liter Duramax diesel engine cranking out 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s a seven-horse and 30-lb.-ft. advantage over the 2011 Super Duty. We’ll have to wait for a drive in the new Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra Heavy Duty before casting judgment, but we do know that Ford still holds the lead over GM in terms of towing capability and payload capacity (rated at 20,000 lbs. and 6,335 lbs., respectively). Dodge trails the field in this regard.