Different Strokes for Different Folks
If you have ever been in Texas, you understand why the automotive industry refers to the Lone Star State as “Truck Country”. Everyone and their mama drives a truck and many households have two or even more pickups in their driveway. The majority are so-called midsize trucks, like the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, but a not insignificant number fall in the higher, professional-grade heavy duty category.
These are the vehicles of choice for ranchers, construction workers and other folk who need to haul and tow literally tons of stuff. Surprisingly though, these work horses are quietly creeping up market, slowly but steadily conquering a position for themselves as practical luxury vehicles.
When the drivers from Ford dropped off the test vehicle I couldn’t help but giggle. Parked next to the resident Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon in the driveway it looks massive, but also imposing with its oversize two-bar grille, blocky quad-beam headlights and undoubtedly cool looking day-time LEDs. Parking it inside for the night was clearly not an option, as average sized garage doors are not high enough and average sized garages are not deep enough. Standing next to the Super Duty, you might wonder how to get inside, but when opening one of the barn-sized doors the side step whirs down automatically and retracts again a few seconds after pulling the door shut.
Once inside you instantly feel mighty and authoritative and the level of comfort is striking. Apart from details like the clunky door handles and large gear lever, there is not much else that gives you the impression that this truck is made for hard labor. Overhead is an enormous panoramic glass roof, two-tone leather covers the seats and even the doors and dashboard are upholstered with leather. Swiping around in the infotainment system you easily forget you are sitting in what is essentially a tool. With seat massaging and ventilation engaged, music streaming from my iPhone and a commanding view over the Texas-sized hood, I merge into traffic.
The gargantuan 6.7L V8 turbo diesel offers 450 horsepower at only 2,800 rpm, but that doesn’t make the Super Duty quick in any way. Sure, it is easy to keep up with traffic or even stay ahead of it when you really step on it, but with a weight of over 7,000 pounds there is no way of getting anywhere quickly. And that is with the aluminium body that was launched for 2017, making it a claimed 350 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The Torqshift 6-speed automatic has to cope with 935 pound-feet of torque which is available from 1,800 rpm and does so smoothly and unnoticed. The noise level coming from the engine bay is surprisingly low and only when pushing it you hear a distinct diesel rattle. Otherwise it is actually hard to tell what kind of engine is under the hood, even when driving 80 mph at barely 2,000 rpm. At that speed the only noise coming into the interior is from the wind buffeting around the large mirrors and the square cab.
Curious how a Super Duty would be as a daily driver, running errands or visiting friends and family for instance, I decided to ignore the numbers battle that Ford, Ram and GM fight through their advertising departments, nitpicking and bragging about a few pounds of maximum trailer weight or a smidge more torque. What I was actually most curious about was the fuel consumption, as manufacturers are not required to publish these numbers for this vehicle class.
According to the onboard computer I averaged 18.5 mpg (7.9 km/l), but doing the calculation myself based, on what I actually put in at the pump, I got to a still respectable but slightly lower 17.8 mpg (7.6 km/l). This was the result after covering more than 800 miles with a fair mix of city driving, country roads and interstates at 70 mph on average. Knowing what the Super Duty is capable of and taking both size and weight into consideration, this average consumption is a pleasant surprise, making it easier to understand why people would buy one of these and use it as an air hauler for most of the time.
Living with a Super Duty as a daily driver is easy, as long as you live in Texas and don’t spend most of your times in city centres. On shattered pavement or dirt roads the ride can be pretty rough but still acceptable. It is simply the result of the stiff rear suspension which is a required part of the Super Duty’s impressive hauling and towing repertoire. There is one thing though that is less likeable about these trucks and that is the price. The Super Duty starts at $33,150, but that is for a 6.2L gas powered Regular Cab F-250 XL with black plastic all around the exterior, steel wheels, and a gutted cloth interior.
If you want to move up from a fleet truck to the King Ranch you need to bring almost $57,000 and the top-of-the-line Limited comes to a whoppin’ $80,240. Add the FX4 off-road package and a few other options, as was the case with my test vehicle, and you come to a grand total of almost $85,000. Sure, you get a lot of truck for your money, but that is nearly Mercedes-Benz S-Class territory! Finding a more affordable alternative can cause quite a challenge though, because the number of possible variations is downright intimidating. There are three styles, two bed sizes, three cabin sizes, five wheelbases, two drive systems, two engines, seven rear axle ratios, two rear wheel options, six trim levels and loads of other options and features to choose from…
King of the hill
Marketing people from manufacturers offering these heavy duty trucks will talk until your ears bleed to try to convince you about the superiority of their products, but let’s face it, the details they use to make their point are negligible and in most cases you’d need electronic measuring equipment to show the differences. In the end it all comes down to taste, preference and brand loyalty and that is exactly why Ford’s F-series has been king of the hill for 42 years and counting.
That is also the reason why I completely understand people who don’t need a heavy duty truck, but still buy one for the luxury, the looks, the versatility or even just the bragging rights that come by the bed-load with the biggest and best truck on the market.
- Great engine
- Loads of space
- Comfortable interior
- Harsh ride on rough surfaces
- Finding suitable parking (even in Texas)