By Bruce W. Smith - Special To GCN
When it comes to the world of heavy-duty pickups, the gloves are definitely off. Like NASCAR, the competition is stiff and one doesn’t know from one year to the next who’ll be the reigning champion or which manufacturer will be the dominating force.
But the odds-on favorite in the truck world is still Ford.
Although significant technological advancements have helped both GM and Dodge lay momentary claim to recent power and fuel economy battles on the towing and heavy-duty work fronts in the last couple years, Ford has this seemingly remarkable ability to effortlessly step right back to the lead.
“There’s a reason people look up to Super Duty as the benchmark in this class,” said Susan Dehne, F-Series Super Duty chief engineer. “It was a great truck to begin with – and we’ve improved more than 100 individual areas to make [the 2005 model] even better.”
Let’s get to the heart of what makes the new F-Series Super Duty pickups special: pulling power. The ’05 F-350 can tow up to 17,000 pounds with a fifth-wheel hitch—and a new 2 1/2-inch receiver hitch allows 15,000 pounds on the ball. Both ratings are best in class.
Ford says that with the 5.4-liter, 3-valve Triton V-8 engine, the Super Duty now can tow up to 12,300 pounds—an increase of 3,000 pounds, making this economical powertrain very attractive for fleet and commercial users as well as consumers who only tow once in a while.
Another area of improvement for the Super Duty pickups is carrying capacity; on average, payload improves 500 to 1,000 pounds for F-250 and F-350 pickups. Those interested in hauling a big slide-in camper or doing mule duty at the farm or construction site, the F-350 dually can haul 5,800 pounds of cargo in the bed.
Then there’s the muscle under the hood. The base engine is the 5.4L Triton V-8—new to the Super Duty. Significant changes to the 5.4L’s sophisticated 3-valve technology, including variable valve timing, brings the new ratings to 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. That’s an improvement of 40 horsepower and 10 pound-feet of torque over the 2004 Super Duty. Ford numbers show more than 80 percent of peak torque – nearly 300 pound-feet – is available starting as low as 1,000 rpm.
But the real workhorses are the 6.8L, three-valve, 355hp Triton V-10 with a brutish 455 lb/ft of torque—and the 325hp 6.0L Power Stroke turbodiesel sporting a monster 570 lb/ft of torque. Again, class leading.
Power boosts come from improved computer mapping in the fuel systems in the diesel, and better air flow and fuel burn from the 3-valve cylinder heads in the gas engines.
The 5-speed TorqShift automatic that was only available last year with the Power Stroke diesesl now backs all three engines. We found the shifts crisp, smooth, and superbly spaced.
In fact, at Ford Arizona Proving Grounds’ dragstrip, we got a chance to run the Super Duty F-250 and F-350 against the competition—trailers in tow and similarly equipped—that showed how well the Ford engines and transmissions are mated.
The F-250, with the gas V-10 and towing a 10,800-pound trailer, was more than two truck lengths ahead of the Chevy Silverado 2500 at the end of the quarter-mile. The Dodge Ram 2500 Hem was more than five back.
Similar results came when we ran the F-350 dually, powered by the upgraded Power Stroke, against the Ram with the high-output Cummins and the Duramax-powered GMC. The trucks were towing identical 13,400-pound trailers.
The Ford, although slow out of the gate, reigned in the Dodge and Chevy within a few hundred yards. It continued to pull away through the end of the ¼-mile, besting the Dodge Cummins by two truck lengths and the Chevy by a good eight. The Ford Power Stroke and five-speed automatic really shine once the load gets rolling.
“The original Super Duty proved that
pickup trucks with the right stuff could handle jobs
BIG SUSPENSION CHANGE
One of the first things we noticed during our review of the new F-Series Super Duty pickups were the improved ride quality and tighter turning ability. That’s especially true of the 4x4 models.
Ford has done away with the front leaf-spring suspension, replacing it with with a new monobeam coil spring front suspension. Such efficient packaging of the new front suspension allows the front wheels to turn 18-percent further. (The front suspension on two-wheel-drive pickups remains unchanged.)
Ford engineers say this design change dramatically improves maneuverability and reduces the average turning circle by more than 5.5 feet—a point proved when we made a couple runs through the desert off-road portion of the 3,800-acre proving grounds.
“Going from a leaf spring to a link-coil front suspension gives us several advantages, including increased roll stiffness and the ability to fine-tune the ride,” said Pete Reyes, F-Series Super Duty vehicle engineering manager. “We can handle a load better, and that’s very important for our customers.”
Reyes says the front radius arms on the 4x4s also act as “anti-windup” bars, improving traction and reducing the chance of wheel-hop under hard acceleration. We saw the effects of this while driving through sand washes; even under hard acceleration and a lot of wheel-spin, there was little wheel-hop.
We also noted the steering is much more precise on-road as well as off. The steering pivot points are now farther outboard, which made a 51-percent improvement in steering feel and reduction in “bump steer.”
Braking power is also much better. Thanks to 17-, 18- and even 20-inch wheels (Ford Harley-Davidson™ F-Series Super Duty) Ford engineers have been able to upsize brake rotors by 5 percent, to 347 mm in front and 340 mm in rear.
“This provides greater braking surface and helps to dissipate heat, especially on long downhill roads,” says Reyes.
Other braking improvements include 11-percent larger calipers for both the F-250 and F-350, while new brake pad material provides quieter stops while more than doubling the lining life.
But none of those improvements, although significant, will make as big a difference in towing as the integrated trailer brake controller Ford will be offering as an option in the new trucks. It’s called the TowCommand System.
Since a trailer behind a Super Duty tends toward the bigger, heavier and bulkier end of the scale, towing brings more demands, especially when it comes to stopping.
“This truck is all about capability and control,” said Dehne. “Knowing 90 percent of our customers tow trailers, towing had to be a priority in our improvements.”
The TowCommand System, which includes the industry’s first factory-installed and warranted electronic trailer brake controller, bases braking effort based on signals that come from the brake booster—not just an “on/off” switch as others brake controllers operate. The result is velvet-smooth braking; no herks or jerks.
Because the integrated brake controller operates by monitoring what the pickup’s brake system is doing, it is also programmed to incorporate ABS safety features.
In a panic stop where the anti-lock braking system is activated the system has a special braking curve to that backs off the trailer’s braking force, reducing the potential of jackknifing. No aftermarket trailer brake controller can do this.
The electronic trailer brake controller is built right into the instrument panel. It’s also integrated into the dash electronics so that it provides both audible and visual warnings if trailer wiring becomes disconnected. Dodge and GM will sure to follow this idea closely.
NEW VISUAL APPEAL
In-your-face boldness. That’s what the 2005 Super Duty exudes on the outside. Refined sophistication is what’s on the inside.
There’s no mistaking the 2005 Super Duty for anything else. The massive, flat-bar front grille draws heavy styling cues from the popular Mighty F-350 TONKA concept truck that was shown at the auto shows. Plus, wheel openings are larger, making room for those who want to run 33-inch tire/wheel packages.
Want to have that custom look right off the showroom floor? The 2005 Ford Harley-Davidson™ Super Duty now offers an industry-first “flame” paint option, with choice of black-and-red or blue-on-blue. The flames, designed by a Harley-Davidson factory customizer, are painted using Ford’s patented wet-on-wet process, which produces a durable, seamless finish in the factory.
Inside, a new gauge cluster and instrument panel treatment set the styling bar just a notch higher than the year prior. The climate control vents are now barrel-shaped and integrated into the surrounding surfaces no matter where they are pointed.
That follows the pattern set by the optional new integrated electronic trailer brake controller and upfitter switches. The result is a clean, uncluttered interior.
The new models also have new trim panels that surround the central and driver’s side portions of the instrument panel, and match the inserts on the doors.
Ford still offers a big differentiation among the different trim levels and series. In addition to the Harley-Davidson model, you can get the King Ranch, which sports a new straight-grained Dark Mandarin Teak wood-appearance appliqué, and distinctive Castaño leather seats.
“We’ve introduced more refinement, luxury and creature comforts over the years, and Super Duty owners appreciate that, but the bottom line is that they buy these trucks for their wide range of capability,” said Doug Scott, Ford Truck Group marketing manager. “And that’s the area where we’ve made the greatest improvement for 2005. It’s the most capable full-size pickup.”
One of the items stressed at the preview was Ford’s connection to the owners—and how owner’s suggestion and comments are taken seriously in the Super Duty evolutionary process.
Phil O’Connor, F-Series Super Duty marketing manager, spends a lot of time in the field, at events ranging from owner rallies where the Super Duty is the star to American Quarter Horse Association shows, Professional Bull Riding competitions, NASCAR races and other events where the Super Duty hauls the stars.
“Whether it’s showing off or showing its best-in-class capabilities, the Super Duty has a strong bond with its customers,” O’Connor said during a recent interview. “They couldn’t do the things they like to do without this truck. It enables them to live the lifestyle they want.”
“We’ve been building F-Series trucks for 56 years and have accumulated a tremendous amount of customer knowledge,” O’Connor said. “They know exactly what they want the truck to do, and can explain it to us in great detail.
“That’s keen insight, and we evaluate every suggestion very seriously,” he said.
From our initial look at the new F-Series Super Duty—and a few hours behind the wheel with and without trailers in tow—it looks as if this year’s work truck race will see the Blue Oval leading the field.
But we’ll have to wait until the rest of the 2005 entries are lined up for the final lap to pick a clear winner.
As for pricing, Ford says expect a base price of $22,390, with the loaded, special-edition, 4x4 diesel-powered models selling north of $52,000. Somewhere in between is bound to be a package that suits most heavy duty pickup owners needs here on the Gulf Coast.
2005 Ford F-Series Super Duty Pickup
Models: F-250 / F-350
manual; 5-speed automatic (opt.)
Standard Tow Rating:
Conventional Weight- Distribution 5th Wheel
F-250/F-350 SRW: 5,000 lbs 12,500 lbs 17,000 lbs
F-350 DRW: 6,000 lbs 15,000 lbs 16,700 lbs