Maximum Styling
If you have a good memory, you may recognize the design of Ford's new Super Duty trucks. Maybe you've seen Toby Keith driving a custom screaming-yellow F-350 in a music video? Or maybe you saw Super Chief, the hit of the 2005 auto show circuit? Both trucks offered clues to the styling of the new F-250, F-350, and F-450.

Toby's truck was revealed in 2002 at the Detroit Auto Show. It was a concept truck called the Mighty F-350 Tonka, and it foreshadowed several key styling elements for the '08 Super Duty trucks. The most obvious is the massive grille. It's a dead ringer for the production truck. And then there's the shape of the hood-it's exaggerated on the Tonka, but the center section on the Super Duty features a raised power dome. A careful eye will also see that the twin-post mirrors are similar, including the turn signals. Even the shape of the functional fender vents is identical.

Shown more recently, the Super Chief concept showed other elements found on the '08 Super Duty. The hood design is much closer to the production version than the Tonka truck. The stacked headlights are also close to what was approved for production. This brief history lesson proves that concept vehicles can have a purpose beyond showing what could be. They often point to what will be.

Driving the Twin-Turbo Giant
Our quality time behind the wheel of the Super Duty came in the F-450 King Ranch Crew Cab. This truck is the top of the line in payload, towing capacity, and pure luxury. It just so happened that our drive was in Texas during a severe storm that coated most of the state in a thick sheet of ice. The Super Duty couldn't have cared less.

Like most Super Duty trucks on the road, ours was equipped with the diesel. The new 6.4L Power Stoke fired quickly and easily in the freezing temperatures. This oil-burner features more displacement than the 6.0L it replaces. Its high-pressure (26,000-psi) common-rail fuel-injection system uses Piezo electric fuel injectors. These fire fuel in four to five small bursts, compared to the single bursts of the previous engine, resulting in much smoother, quieter, and efficient running. The engine also features two turbochargers.

Unlike what you might expect, these turbos are sequential-in line with each other. The first turbo is small and builds boost quickly to provide more power just off idle. The second blower is bigger and takes over responsibility for cylinder pressurization as the revs build. They work seamlessly together to provide an endless supply of torque. Maximum boost levels peak at 42 psi. In case there are any questions as to this motor's manliness, it twists the dyno up to 650 lb-ft torque.

To help manage the torque, especially on slick surfaces, such as what Texas served up, the diesel uses its powertrain control module to regulate torque. When the wheels spin, the engine automatically throttles back to help you regain traction. Of course, this can be disabled when you're off-road.

As if to help demonstrate another new feature, with temperatures below 30 degrees F, the F-450 warmed up its cockpit before the engine's temperature gauge budged off "C". Ford's new Rapid Heat system generates cabin heat almost immediately.

Before getting underway, we found the mirrors were easy to adjust and also feature a telescopic feature that's ready-made for those who tow. With the press of a button, the side mirrors extend out almost 3 inches, greatly expanding your view of what's going on back there. To get through tight spots, another button folds the mirrors tight to the doors.

On the road, the big diesel is quiet. At 80 mph, it's actually easy to have a conversation with your passengers, even with those in the back. The refinement is surprising. No doubt, the high-end appointments of the King Ranch package helped with the aura of quality. The soft leather feels even nicer than what you'd find in a BMW or Mercedes. Being able to plug in our iPod for the day's drive was also a welcome touch.

If you've never driven a truck this big, it doesn't take much getting use to, but some things are different. Acceleration is a bit like a locomotive gathering speed. This is no SVT Lightning or Roush Stage 3 F-150. According to Ford, however, the '08 diesel F-450 will hit 60 mph about a second faster than the previous generation-around 9 seconds or so.