So, you need something with more guts than a light-duty pickup but not quite as much as a Kenworth or Peterbilt? Ford has what you're looking for. It's called the Super Duty, and it can be found at a Ford dealer near you. These are the trucks you go to when you max out what a light-duty can deliver. Have a trailer that weighs more than 10,000 pounds? Need to haul more than 3,000 pounds in the box? Start thinking Super Duty. Compared to its little brother, the F-150 (or any other light-duty truck), the new Super Duty F-Series delivers around 2-1/2 times the maximum trailering power and twice the maximum payload. That means you can carry 3 tons in the bed or tow 12-1/4 tons behind you. That's 24,500 pounds! Do you have anything that weighs that much? If you do, it's probably a damn-big travel trailer, horse hauler, or boat.

Super-Size Me
Ratcheting up the max meter, Ford offers three levels of Super Duty: 250, 350, and the all-new 450. Each one is available with a wide selection of cabs, beds, axles, engines, and drive systems. To pick which one is right for you, it's easiest to figure out what you need to haul and then work backward from there. But, regardless of what you need, Ford's offering it.

The number of possible build combinations totals something north of a million. Frankly, it's a modern miracle that the guys building these trucks in Louisville don't go postal. Contrary to what you might think, given the line's build complexity, every one of the trucks we sampled was screwed together tightly, ran perfectly, and never missed a chance to demonstrate its capabilities.

Compared to the competition, the capabilities of the Maximum F are almost embarrassing in the "mine's bigger than yours" kind of way. The heavy-duty F-450 4x4 can tow as much as 7,000 pounds more than its closest rival. Dual rear wheels, a short 4.88:1 rear axle ratio, and the new 6.4L Power Stroke diesel V-8 fortify the F-450's capabilities.

The BIG News
Super Duty trucks are nothing new to the F-Series. Ford has offered a variety of models since 1999, but its consumer models stopped at the F-350. As different types of recreational trailers continued to bulk up, Ford's customers asked for greater capabilities from the factory, so the truck engineers from Dearborn, Michigan, redesigned the entire line and added the F-450 to the mix.

Everything under the F-450 is commercial grade, from its solid front axle and dual rear wheels to hydro-boosted brakes and 19.5-inch wheels with commercial-grade 225/70R19.5F Continental tires. Like a big rig, these tires have a normal inflation pressure of around 80 psi. The truck's C-channel framerails are massive, the disc brakes at all four corners measure much more than 13 inches, and the steering is controlled by a heavy-duty recirculating ball gear. The F-450's chassis isn't just a beefed-up F-350. The F-450 uses the front clip and radius arm suspension from the commercial F-450 chassis cab that has a front track 6-1/2 inches wider than the F-350. Behind the cab, there's an all-new setup featuring a unique leaf spring suspension that incorporates staggered shock placement. The rear track is also increased from the F-350, with the F-450 measuring 7.6 inches wider, further enhancing stability while towing.

Details for the Working Man
Ford knows that most of its Super Duty customers work with their trucks. These are not commuter specials but beasts of burden. Ford also knows that many of its trucks will do double-duty as personal vehicles, so style, comfort, and outright luxury are sometimes demanded.

The Super Duty line offers a range of trim levels to suit these different needs, from the base XL to the over-the-top King Ranch. The XL looks like you could wash it out with a hose, while the King Ranch is so luxurious that you'd want to take off your work boots before climbing in. In between are the nicer XLT, the sporty FX4, and the high-line Lariat trim packages.

The redesign of the Super Duty included all facets of the interior, and details now include a choice of audio systems that can hook to iPods and other MP3 players. There is plenty of storage and cupholders, and when equipped with a center console, the storage is designed to hold a laptop and hanging file folders, a feature designed just for contractors. On some models, you can even order a factory-installed DVD player with a flip-down screen for the enjoyment of those in the back seats.

Recognizing that hitting the major points is just part of the job when designing an all-new truck, Ford is using the Super Duty to introduce several practical features into the world of trucks. Have you ever had a hard time climbing up into the bed of your truck? The Super Duty solves this with an integrated stepladder that is hidden within the walls of the tailgate. A pop-up rod provides a secure hand hold for when you climb up and down. The ladder is rated at half a ton and felt plenty sturdy when we tested it out.

For securing cargo in the bed, Ford developed its own version of the common bed divider. It's a lightweight but strong polymer fence that divides the box in two zones or flips out to extend the bed out over the open tailgate. Measuring 21 inches tall, when not in use, it splits down the middle and folds up for storage against the box walls. While it seemed tough enough for most loads, I wouldn't want to test it hauling a load of boulders.