2011 Ford Super Duty Road Test Review

David Schmidt - CAP staff
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The Ford Super Duty is a line of commercial pickup trucks introduced in 1998 for the 1999 model year. The Super Duty trucks are larger, heavier, commercial and industrial series pickup trucks with heavier-duty body-on-frame steel ladder frames, axles, springs, brakes, transmissions, more powerful engines, with much higher payload and towing capacities than the older traditional equivalent F-250, F-250HD (Heavy Duty), and F-350 Ford truck lines.

The Super Duty is available in 12 hard-working consumer models, too. While you can't haul what a semi does, when you're driving one of these, you'll feel like you can. New engines bring the trucks up to date for 2011.

Ford is most proud of their new Ford-designed, engineered and built 6.7-litre V8 turbocharged diesel engine, which generates 800 lb-ft of torque. This is the most important number in a work truck, especially a diesel. It also creates 400 hp, up 40 hp from last year's engine with an increase of 85 lb-ft of torque.

There's also a 6.2-litre V8 gasoline engine producing 385 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque – 85 more horsepower and 40 lb-ft more torque than the outgoing 5.4-litre V8 gas engine. Both engines are attached to a heavy-duty 6-speed automatic transmission. This gearbox is set to produce high torque output on the diesel and direct the higher speeds of the gasoline engine.

You can shift for yourself in either setup and you can even select a power diverter in the diesel. This allows the transmission to power auxiliary equipment such as snowplows, aerial lifts, tow truck lifts, cement mixers or dump trucks. The power is available any time the engine is running.

With what seems like as much power as a small ocean liner, the diesel-powered F-Series Super Duty can tow 11,068 kg or carry a maximum payload of 2,957 kg, depending on model and equipment.

In spite of the truck's size and power, it's remarkably easy to drive in city traffic or on the highway. After you adjust to the driving position, which puts you way up in the air, you just drive it. Only parking spaces become an issue, requiring a great deal of confidence that you're quite sure where the four corners of this truck really are.

For many buyers, the primary purchase decision is about towing. For people who do this all the time, they have a true appreciation of the safety issues that arise when pulling some big unpowered thing behind you.

If you get a single rear axle instead of the available dually, stability control comes standard. Included as a part of that package is Ford's Trailer Sway Control, which keeps track of the motion of what's connected to the vehicle and uses the stability system to bring the trailer back in line with the truck.

If you want to go one step further, there's an optional integrated trailer brake controller, factory-installed and covered by a Ford limited warranty. Under normal circumstances, it ensures that braking of the truck and the towed vehicle are integrated, and if you engage the anti-lock brakes while towing a system with electric brakes, the system works to keep the trailer's brakes from locking. A worthy goal, as nothing can make things more interesting than a trailer with a mind of its own, especially when panic braking.

While nobody would ever want a heavy-duty pickup that didn't have the leaf springs in back that are necessary for hauling lots of weight safely, everybody that drives them would be happy for the ride you get with coil springs.  Most of all, the truck has to be capable of safely accomplishing its towing and hauling mission. But if the ride can be improved after that, then all's the better. Ford's answer to that is to tune the spring rates and the setup and valving of the shock absorbers in the rear.

Naturally, the Super Duty rests on a fully boxed frame, which gives the truck the most capability, especially for big jobs. While there's a marketing advantage to saying you've got a fully boxed frame in a light pickup, few of these trucks need the extra capability, which of course comes with a hefty weight penalty. But in the heavy-duty world, you wouldn't be buying one unless you needed that capability.

This generation also gets a new steering gear and geometry, which is set to work effectively with the truck's suspension. The idea is to give the system improved response, more precision and on-center steering. In the week I drove the truck, both in and out of 4-wheel drive, the system made the truck more drivable. No, you'll never forget you're driving a very large truck, but that doesn't mean it has to be constant hard work with the steering wheel.

While the important stuff in a truck is what's underneath and what capability that gives the owner, it doesn't mean it has to be ugly. A work truck sends a message about the company whose name is painted on the side. So the reputation and appearance of the vehicle has impact, even in a fleet of 500 white, standard cab heavy-duty pickups.

Plus, there are plenty of customers for whom it is important. Lots of these trucks are purchased by an individual for dual use, and so they need to clean up at least as well as their owners for certain occasions. With the F-Series, one suspects the truck often does a better job of this, as it's never seen in public in a ripped tee shirt and dirty baseball cap, thinking three days growth of facial hair is sexy.

But these Super Duty trucks have serious presence, and when you look at it, you know it's a Ford. The hood has a dome in the centre so there's plenty of room in the engine bay. The front grille features the blue Ford oval. This massive face makes the mission of this vehicle clear. If it's at soccer practice, it may be there to tow the field somewhere else.

Inside, you find yourself in a pleasant environment that proves hard work and comfort aren't mutually exclusive. There are plenty of features to make you comfortable. The heating and cooling is quick and effective. There's a good stereo and even with a full load of workers, the ride is comfortable from every position.

You also get plenty of storage – in fact, Ford says there's a 60 percent increase in storage space. There's a 12-volt power point inside the huge center bin, which is lockable. You also get a household outlet capable of powering computers and other electronics.

So there are plenty of pleasant features about this work truck. Gone are the days when functionality was the only thing in a work vehicle. This Super Duty may be all about getting the job done, but there's plenty of comfort, looks and style to make the Super Duty at home in a driveway as well as at a work site.

©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Pickup, Ford, 2011, Super Duty, $30,000 - $39,999, $40,000 - $49,999,

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