The biggest on the block just got bigger, and better
Ford Super Duty: IntroductionFord Super Duty – First Drive: Remember when gas prices were at $3 per gallon? Contractors and others who need big trucks to earn a living sure haven’t forgotten the pain at the pump. And while many buyers can choose to drive smaller vehicles, up to 40 percent of the full-size truck market has to go big – proving that big trucks sure aren’t going away. In fact, they’re getting bigger, if Ford’s new lineup of Super Dutys is any indication. With an all-new F-450, a new 6.4-liter diesel engine, more towing power (24,000 lbs.), greater payload (6,000 lbs.), and more configurations, Ford is hoping their big trucks do what working men and women need, and do so conveniently, with an integrated tailgate step and stowable bed extender.
Introduced in 1998 as a ’99 model, the Ford Super Duty pickup series has led the heavy-duty segment, utilizing a dedicated HD platform that has achieved best-in-class trailer tow ratings and payload. Whereas competitors to date have modified existing light-duty platforms, Ford has gone the dual architecture route, dominating this division in sales and contributing to the F-Series’ status as the best-selling pickup in America for 30 years straight. For the 2008 model year, Ford has added the F-450 Super Duty to the lineup.
The Basics: Model Mix – Configurations
Four trim levels, three cabs, four weight divisions and two bed lengths are available on the 2008 Ford Super Dutys. Regular Cabs have an 8-foot long bed; SuperCab models add a rear seat, seating up to five or six, and are available with a choice of a 6.75- or 8-foot beds. The full-size five- to six-passenger Crew Cabs also employ both bed lengths and offer single or dual-rear wheel (DRW) 2008 Ford Super Dutys. Virtually all available combinations are offered, except for these: the FX4 trim only comes as 4WD and is not offered in the F-450 line, and King Ranch comes only as a Crew Cab. Engine choices run from a 5.4-liter V8 gasoline engine to a 6.8-liter V10 and the new 6.4-liter diesel.
The Basics: Model Mix – XL Standard Features
The base 2008 Ford F-450 in the XL model is your standard issue work truck. It includes Tow Command with integrated trailer towing, and exterior features such as sealed-beam halogen headlights, front tow hooks, black painted bumpers and grille, manually telescoping exterior mirrors, 19.5-inch wheels wrapped in 225/70-series all-season tires and roof clearance lights. The interior is basic work truck, with an AM/FM/digital clock stereo with two speakers, heavy-duty vinyl upholstery, black vinyl floor coverings, a front bench seat and a folding rear bench seat. Luxury touches are limited to an auxiliary power point and passenger sun visor mirror. Four dash-mounted switches are fitted allowing the addition of accessories, and an air filter sensor and reminder is standard on diesel models.
The Basics: Model Mix – XLT Standard Features
The XLT is the mid-level model of the 2008 Ford F-450 XLT, and it’s trimmed nicely enough to not be a penalty box. In addition to the XL (or in some cases, instead of), the truck gets dual beam headlights, an engine compartment lamp, chrome bumpers and a chrome grille with Medium Platinum insert, and heated power and telescoping exterior mirrors with integrated turn signal indicators, and clearance lights. Inside is air conditioning, tilt steering, an upgraded CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers and auxiliary input, cruise control, power windows and door locks, cloth 40/20/40-split front bench seat with cupholders and storage, rear 60/40-split rear seat, and color-coordinated floor carpeting and floor mats.
The Basics: Model Mix – FX4 Standard Features
As the Super Duty off road trim, the FX4 brings with it 18-inch wheels shod with LT275/70R18 all-terrain tires, limited slip, skid plates, fog lamps, an overhead console and a security system.
The Basics: Model Mix – Lariat Standard Features
Now we’re talking luxury. Lariat Super Duty trucks get front fog lights, cab steps, and heated/foldable tow mirrors that offer a dual element view of the outside. Inside, there’s dual-zone climate control, a trip computer, six-way power driver and front passenger seats wrapped in leather, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with integrated audio and climate controls, a metallic instrument cluster with cream-colored gauges, and an overhead console. There also are faux wood grain instrument panel accents, tinted privacy glass, anti-theft ignition system, illuminated entry, a rear sliding window, remote keyless entry and a keypad for easy entry.
The Basics: Model Mix – King Ranch Standard Features
The uplevel Super Duty King Ranch package includes two-tone exterior paint with gold accents on the bumpers, wheel moldings and grille insert, body-color exterior mirror caps and 19.5-inch forged aluminum wheels. Inside are quad King Ranch-stamped leather captains chairs with front seat heaters, a navigation system and DVD entertainment system with MP3-audio capability, universal garage door opener, driver’s adjustment memory that includes pedals and exterior mirror settings, and a power-sliding moonroof. There are also supple leather seating surfaces, front and rear center console lids, and unique trim with King Ranch badges on the wheel center caps, fenders and floor mats.
The Basics: Model Mix – Options
With a million trim combinations (or so Ford claims), you can imagine a long options list. Many are oriented to the Super Duty’s working lifestyle, such as the Snow Plow Prep Package, TowBoss Package, Camper Package and 4x4 Off-Road Package. Others, like the XL Décor Package, are there to dress up the lower-level models. The PowerScope Trailer TowMirrors are available as a stand alone option, as are the navigation system, rear-seat DVD system, adjustable pedals and a host of other comfort and convenience items. Pretty much anything that is available in a trim level is available as a separate option; for a full list, we recommend reading the brochure. The FX4 can be updgraded with 20-inch wheels, navigation/Audio system, satellite radio and power telescoping, folding and heated dual towing mirrors.
What’s New: Outside
All 2008 Ford Super Duty trucks are recognizable by their massive high-mounted grilles, with a snout that has grown even larger on the newest edition and sits four inches higher. Signature “nostrils” define the grille’s outboard edges, giving a visual element of muscularity, but also engineered to improve airflow. Stacked headlights sit four inches lower, keeping the lower main beam light and glare out of other drivers’ eyes. Large front fender flares appear as solidly attached components, while side air vents – red for diesel, black for gasoline – emphasize the engines’ performance potentials. Of note are the industry-first, power telescoping/power fold side mirrors. Wheel sizes range from 17 to 20 inches; the 2008 Ford F-450 gets exclusive 19.5-inch rims and tires.
What’s New: Inside
The interior of the 2008 Ford Super Duty, themed “tough luxury,” combines utility, comfort, quietness and refinement. Designers focused on creating an “extension of the customer’s toolbox.” The center stack embodies the “powerdome” styling from the hood. Trailer Brake Controller (TBC) and other auxiliary switches are integrated into the center stack, improving ergonomics and appearance. Round air vents feature chrome ring accents on higher trim models, with shiny treatment that extends to cup holders, gauges, door bezels and console.
What’s New: Under the Hood
Competent engines power the 2008 Ford Super Duty line up of trucks. A 5.4-liter V8 gasoline engine delivers 300 horsepower and 365 lb.-ft. of torque. More displacement arrives via the 6.8-liter V10, with 362 horsepower and 457 lb.-ft. of torque. The newly-developed 6.4-liter diesel V8 employs sequential turbochargers for 350 horsepower and a staggering 650 lb.-ft. of twist. All 2008 Ford F-450 models are fitted with the diesel as standard. A six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmission are available; the F-450 gets upgraded gearbox synchronizers. When properly equipped (with a fifth wheel), towing capacity rates over 24,000 pounds, while payload is greater than 6,000 lbs. In addition to the engine configurations, the Super Duty suspension has been thoroughly revised, the result of which is a much smoother ride.
What’s New: Tailgate Step, Bed Extender
The 2008 Ford Super Duty has optional power telescoping/power-fold trailer tow mirrors that are integrated into the seat/steering wheel memory system with heated glass, integrated turn signals and a manually-adjustable spotter mirror, twice the size of the previous version. A high-strength steel Tailgate Step, tested up to 1,000 lbs., is integrated into the bed and pulls out and down to give easy access to the rear, while a grab handle extends from its fold-flush position in the tailgate to steady climbing. A creative stowable bed extender separates and folds flat out of the way, when not in use. Also new is a supplemental heating system, Rapid Heat, bringing additional heating to diesel customers for a quicker warm-up in the cold.
Driving: Test Day
We drove all versions of the all-new 2008 Ford Super Duty, including 2WD and 4WD models and 2008 Ford F-250, 2008 Ford F-350, and 2008 Ford F-450 models both with unladen and fully-loaded beds. Our one-day test drive began in the congested environs of Las Vegas, Nevada, motoring along busy city streets, to the ring freeways that lead to the more isolated highways near the high-desert location of Laughlin, Nevada. Here, Ford and other truck manufacturers conduct their extreme hot weather, trailering and towing tests. During the test, we were able to tow up to 18,000 lbs. on steep grades of five, six and seven percent. We also tested this vehicle in the hill country of Texas, under icy conditions.
Motoring with truck beds and pulling up to 18,000 lbs., we were most pleased with the way the trucks held gear when pulling heavy loads and descending steep hills, requiring little to no braking. Also impressive is the cleaner, quieter common rail diesel engine with dual stage turbos for a relatively seamless feed of power and improved low end performance. Ford say that this new powertrain is more than one second faster in zero to sixty times than the previous generation, and while we were unable to test that claim, we found it to be quite responsive to throttle command for a large vehicle. Braking, on he other hand, felt like a weak point during our limited drive, the pedal lacking enough feel and the truck seeming to take its time. Road conditions at the time were wet and icy, however, which played into the experience.
Driving: Ride and Handling
Having missed a turn, we were forced to do what all people hate doing most in a truck this size: the three-point turn. To our surprise, however, the 2008 Ford F-450 executed the maneuver nicely with a tight turning radius and plenty of visibility. That was the first of a number of impressive experiences. From the responsive steering – which exhibits a nice, on-center feel – to the composed nature of the truck with or without load, and excellent visibility, this is one tough truck that’s quite civilized. Even with the 6.4-liter diesel engine, the cabin is pretty quiet when you consider the size of the rearview mirrors, the weight and size of the vehicle and the power of the engine. Road manners are improved, with a smoother ride with or without load, thanks to suspension mods.
All new materials bring comfort and refinement to these work trucks, including the adjustable seating and soft touch/quality surfaces such as armrests, and contrast stitching on up-level models. The redesigned climate control system is easier to use and provides a more balanced airflow. There’s even dual-zone temperature control standard on Lariat and King Ranch, and all-new door trim provides an attractive door opener and grab handle, and makes room for dual map pockets. Of note is the rich-looking and easy-on-the-backside Chaparral leather used with the King Ranch package.
The interior of the 2008 Ford Super Duty has been redesigned with a new center stack that brings all the trucks’ switches within easy reach, and now integrates the auxiliary switches and Trailer Brake Control system into a more user-friendly placement. Instrument cluster gauges are easy to read with large black type against a white background tucked behind the steering wheel. Adjustable pedals accommodate different sizes of driver, with good visibility to all sides of the trucks, particularly when equipped with the large outside mirrors, with power adjustment and fold features, and turn signals that reflect in the mirrors for safety. Of note is the choice of a floor-mounted manual or dash-mounted electric transfer case.
Advice: Selling Points
It’s tough to beat Ford when it comes to Heavy Duty. It’s their board, pretty much, and with the 2008 model they continue to lead. Indeed, there are many features that make the all-new 2008 Super Duty series capable, practical, and convenient. It has been completely redesigned and overhauled with a maximum tow rating of 24,000 lbs., a payload capacity of up to 6,120 lbs., and a new and capable diesel engine. Add to that is a manual transmission (GM has no manual option) along with a pleasant, modern interior, and you’ve got a work truck winner.
Advice: Deal Breakers
Clearly, this is a big truck not designed for Home Depot duty. But if you’re a contractor or find yourself needing to haul or tow a big load take a look at the Super Duties. Just know that while these trucks are redesigned, they still do not lead the segment in horsepower and torque, and while the interior is largely well-appointed, there are some cheap bits of plastic around areas like the cupholders.
The General Motors heavy duty Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra 2500 and 3500 are powered by a 6.0-liter gasoline engine that tows 16,700 pounds (with a fifth wheel hitch). Dodge’s heavy-duty Rams 2500/3500 have a 5.7-liter Hemi gasoline V8, 5.9-liter turbo-diesel 6-cylinder or 6.7-liter diesel six. Towing capacity maxes out at 16,600 pounds.
Specifications: Powertrains, MPG
Test vehicles: 2008 Ford F-Series Super Duty
Base Price: Not Available
Engine Size and Type: 5.4-liter V8; 6.8-liter V10; 6.4-liter turbo-diesel V8
Engine Horsepower: 300 at 5,000 rpm (5.4); 362 at 4,750 rpm (6.8); 350 at 3,000 (6.4 diesel)
Engine Torque (ft-lbs): 365 at 3,750 rpm (5.4); 457 at 3,250 rpm (6.8); 650 at 2,000 rpm (6.4 diesel)
Transmission: six-speed manual; five-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 5,633 (F250, Regular Cab, 8-ft box, 2WD) – 8,687 (F450, Crew Cab, dual rear wheels, 8-ft box, 4WD)
Wheelbase (inches): 137 (Regular Cab, 8-ft box); 141.8 (SuperCab, 6.75-ft box); 158 (SuperCab, 8-ft box); 156.2 (Crew Cab, 6.75-ft box); 172.4 (Crew Cab, 8-ft box)
Length (inches): 227 (Regular Cab, 8-ft box); 231.8 (SuperCab, 6.75-ft box); 248 (SuperCab, 8-ft box); 246.2 (Crew Cab, 6.75-ft box); 262.4 (Crew Cab, 8-ft box)
Width (inches): 79.9 (single rear wheels); 95.5 (dual rear wheels)
Height (inches): NA
Inside Box Height (inches): 20.1
Seating capacity: 2-3 (Regular Cab); 5-6 (SuperCab, Crew Cab)
Head room (in., front/rear): 41.4/NA (Regular Cab); 41.4/38.4 (SuperCab); 41.4/41.4 (Crew Cab)
Leg room (in., front/rear): 41/NA (Regular Cab); 41/31.8 (SuperCab); 41/41.8 (Crew Cab)
Maximum towing capacity: 24,500 lbs. (F450, dual rear wheels, 5th wheel gooseneck trailer); 16,000 lbs. with conventional hitch
Maximum payload capacity: 6,000 lbs. (F450 dual rear wheels)
Photos courtesy of Ford Motor Company