Hardcore work rigs like the 2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty have graduated from jobsite necessities to big-ticket investments over the past couple of decades, due in large part to the enormous growth in not just their respective capabilities, but also the considerable luxury that these trucks now have to offer. Sure, you can still get a barebones model for shuttling drywall and gravel from point A to point B - and fleet shoppers will eat them up like candy - but foremen, contractors, and anyone facing the kind of towing needs that a regular half-ton pickup just can't handle have inexorably gravitated towards the finer things in life, at least when it comes to outfitting their diesel-powered full-tons.
The 2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty isn't an all-new design, but it's made important advances in two key areas. Under the hood you'll find the second-generation version of Ford's Power Stroke turbodiesel motor, and inside the truck's cabin there's a fresh take on style, comfort, and functionality that catches up to what recent heavy-duty pickups from GM and Ram have to offer. I headed down to Daniels, West Virginia to sample the luxurious confines of the top-spec Super Duty trucks, as well as punish the latest Power Stroke design up and down the region's coal-rich mountain-side, and discovered that Ford is back in the commercial-spec game with a vengeance.
Power Stroke For Success
Although the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 offered with the 2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty might feature the same displacement as it did the year before, a number of important changes have been made to finesse more power and greater reliability from the turbodiesel unit. Specifically, the Power Stroke motor gains a larger turbocharger that has been relocated to reduce lag and enhancing cooling, benefits from higher flow fuel injector tips, and has been given to a compacted graphite iron block to reduce weight while improving overall strength. There's also a new engine exhaust brake available to provide additional control when descending a steep grade with a full load. With these upgrades in place, the Ford F-Series Super Duty Power Stroke engine now offers 440 horsepower and 860 lb-ft of torque, figures that are 40 ponies and 60 lb-ft better than the year before.
Working Harder And Longer
That extra power combines with a 'high capacity' towing package that can be installed on the 2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty to raises the gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of dual rear-wheel editions of the truck to a hefty 35,000 lbs. Not enough? Step up to the F-450, a model which neither of GM's HD pickup twins nor Ram can match head-to-head and which boasts a GCWR of 40,000 lbs. The Ford F-450 Super Duty features heftier suspension components (shocks and springs, stabilizer bars), beefier steering, and stronger rear U-joints on top of the F-350 Super Duty's tow package-installed wide track axle. It also offers larger brakes that would typically only be found on chassis cab trucks.
Don't need these insane specs to tackle your towing needs? Opting for the standard Power Stroke-equipped dual rear wheel F-350 provides you with 26,700 lbs of fifth-wheel towing capacity, which is 3,500 lbs better than last year, and the single rear wheel edition of the F-250 can pull a respectable 12,500 lbs. The latter figure applies even with the vehicle's standard 6.2-liter gasoline V-8 engine installed, a motor which offers up 385 horsepower and 397 lb-ft of torque. All Super Duty trucks are shifted via a six-speed automatic, and four-wheel drive can be ordered across the board.
Earning Its Keep
I had the opportunity to pit the 2015 Ford F-350 Super Duty against the RAM 3500 and Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD in a series of towing exercises that had me pulling a fifth-wheel camping trailer up and down the same steep highway pass, one right after the other. It was an enlightening experience, with the Ford and RAM trucks emerging as nearly neck-and-neck when maintaining speed up the seven percent grade. Ford's engine brake also emerged as a clear winner over the similar unit designed into the turbodiesel Chevrolet, as it meant I never had to touch the brakes when descending the same hill - a task so demanding that I passed several 18-wheelers sitting on the shoulder, pads smoking with the effort of slowing things down.
Although I wasn't able to hitch up an F-250 and gauge its towing prowess, I did have the opportunity to drive the truck with a 1,000 pound load sitting in the bed along narrow, twisting roads that had me wishing I was behind the wheel of a sports car instead of a task-focused work machine like the Super Duty. Still, aside from loose steering feel - a problem that also plagued the F-350 - the F-250 acquitted itself well on the demanding two-lane route, with the weight in the bed helping to smooth out any bouncing or roughness that might have been transmitted through its ultra-stiff suspension.
Working From Home
It wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that setting up shop in the cab of a fully decked-out 2015 Ford F-350 Platinum is the equivalent of working from your home office. Even the one-step-below King Ranch model I drove was elegantly decked out with leather trim and a long list of comfort features. 2015 has seen a major improvement in appearance and equipment availability for the Super Duty line-up, including the latest version of the MyFord Touch system.
I have to say, however, that when it comes to passenger room (for four-door models), the Ram 3500 still has the Ford beat, and the larger Uconnect screen in Ford's horn-bearing rival is easier to use and feels closer to the driver. There's also the fact that Ford has yet to transition to rear-hinged doors for its mid-range extended cab models - a design that Chevrolet, GMC, and Ram all adopted for their latest generation work trucks - which makes it less convenient to access that body style's rear quarters.
Outdoing Yourself Over And Over
The 2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty line-up offers enough of an improvement over its predecessors that it seems likely that the Blue Oval will be able to continue its dominance of vast swathes of the commercial market. That being said, the competency of the RAM 2500 and 3500 heavy duty trucks - as well as their exceptional luxury at higher trim levels - indicates just how much more attention Ford will have to pay attention to the commercial segment in the years to come. The concept of 'set it and forget it' truck development has been obliterated by rising customer expectations and an ever-higher bar of quality and capability that show no signs of abating any time soon.
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