2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Chris Chase

Photo Gallery:
2011 Ford Super Duty

The more extreme a vehicle is, the more likely there is to be a Battle of the Specs, in which each manufacturer does its best to outdo the others with vehicles that are larger, faster, and more loaded with options.

This applies to pickups too, especially in the heavy duty market, where buyers typically ask a truck to do more than carry loads of wood or power tools in the bed. Instead, they’re towing fifth-wheel trailers and loading the bed with a couple tons of gravel – things that many regular grade trucks aren’t cut out for.

Ford’s entry in this group of über-pickups is the Super Duty. The truck has been completely revamped for 2011, but the highlight of the redesign is a brand-new 6.7-litre Power Stroke V8 diesel engine, conceived and designed in-house to replace the old diesel, which was built by Navistar (International Harvester) for Ford.

2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty. Click image to enlarge

Diesels are popular among heavy duty truck users because of the amount of torque they can be tuned to produce, and this one produces a lot of torque. Initially, this engine’s torque rating was 735 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm, but that was bumped up in a game of “mine’s bigger than yours!” to 800 lb-ft after GM’s 2011 Heavy Duty pickups came out with its new diesel engine, with 765 lb-ft. Ford began a “customer loyalty” program this month to upgrade early trucks with new engine control software that would unleash the extra power.

The engine is quiet for a diesel, producing about half the noise at idle as the motor in my neighbour’s 1992 Ford E-350 cargo van. It starts to sound more like a typical diesel when the truck gets moving, but in the cabin, the noise is never intrusive.

The transmission, built to handle the task of towing up to 11,068 kilograms (24,400 pounds), isn’t good at subtlety. Where many car automatics shift nearly imperceptibly, the Super Duty’s six-speed is often less than smooth in normal driving, especially at low speeds.

Natural Resources Canada doesn’t conduct fuel consumption tests on trucks this large, but Ford claims the new diesel is 18 per cent more efficient than last year’s motor in pickup models, and 25 per cent better in chassis-cab trucks. My tester averaged 16.2 L/100 km in mostly city driving.

2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty. Click image to enlarge

Single-rear wheel models (as opposed to dual rear wheel trucks, or “duallies”) can be optioned for a maximum payload of 2,957 kg (6,520 lb) and towing capacity of up to 7,257 kg (16,000 lb); the base model’s figures are 1,660 kg (3,652 lb) payload and 5,625 kg (12,375 lb) towing capacity. In the interest of research, I loaded 390 kg (858 lb) worth of what used to be my cousin’s backyard deck for a trip to the landfill; such are this truck’s capabilities that the extra weight was hardly noticeable in how the truck rode. My tester had the shorter of two box lengths – six feet, eight inches; the longer option is eight feet, two inches – and this proved to be the truck’s only limitation for my purpose: we had to cut most of the old deck boards to fit in the bed with the tailgate closed (to be fair, though, many of the boards were in their original 12-foot-long form).

The four-wheel drive system is fully automatic and electronically controlled via a knob on the dash. The choices are the usual: two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive high, and four-wheel drive low. That trip to the dump gave me a chance to try the truck out in the four-wheeler mode; not surprisingly, the truck didn’t flinch when asked to plough through a rutted, garbage-strewn surface to get to where I’d been instructed to ditch the load of rotted two-by-fours.

2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty. Click image to enlarge

The things that make the Super Duty so good at being a truck also make it a handful in daily driving. The ride is very harsh, as the solid front and rear axles crash and bang over large bumps and send shivers through the structure as they do so. This is business-as-usual for a heavy duty truck, whose suspension is designed for heavy loads, not a comfortable ride when the truck is empty. Then there’s the disconcertingly hard brake pedal; the Super Duty will stop quickly when asked to, but the amount of pedal effort required just for normal stopping is well above just about anything else you can drive with a standard license. The light steering is about the only thing that doesn’t feel foreign compared to that in cars and crossovers.

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