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.

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.

Super Duty Power
Ford sells more fullsize pickups than anybody. The Blue Oval also sells more diesel-powered trucks than Chevrolet, GMC, and Dodge combined. These guys know a thing or two about maximizing power for towing and hauling. The F-250, F-350, and F-450 are available with the following powertrains:

ENGINE 5.4L V-8 6.8L V-10 6.4L V-8
VALVETRAIN Single overhead cam,
three valves per cylinder
Single overhead cam,
three valves per cylinder
Cam in block,
four valves per cylinder
HORSEPOWER 300 @ 5,000 rpm 362 @ 4,750 rpm 350 @ 3,000 rpm
TORQUE 365 lb-ft @ 3,750 rpm 457 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm 650 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION Six-speed manual Five-speed automatic Five-speed automatic

Model Options:

MODEL 250 350 450
MAX PAYLOAD 2,830-3,170 lb 4,040-5,690 lb 5,720-6,120 lb
MAX TOWING
BALL/HITCH 5,000 lb 6,000 lb 6,000 lb
FIFTH WHEEL 16,800 lb 18,700 lb 24,500 lb
CAB OPTIONS Regular / Super / Crew Regular / Super / Crew Regular / Super / Crew
6.75 BED — • • — • • — • •
8 BED • • •
• • •
• • •
WHEELBASE Regular / Super / Crew Regular / Super / Crew Regular / Super / Crew
137.0 • — —
• — —
• — —
141.8 — • —
— • —
— • —
158.0 — • —
— • —
— • —
156.2 — — •
— — •
— — •
172.4 — — •
— — •
— — •

Unlike the responsive rack-and-pinion steering found in most light-duty trucks these days, the Super Duty's heavy-duty recirculating ball gear is rather dead feeling on center. Feedback builds once you dial in some steering. The trade-off is strength versus feel, and in a work truck like this, strength wins.

Even with an empty bed and nothing hitched to the standard receiver, the F-450 rode reasonably well. As expected, there was some harshness, but it was nothing like what we've come to expect. Once we put a few thousand pounds in the bed or hooked up a 17,000-pound trailer, the ride smoothed out.

With a huge fifth-wheel travel trailer in tow, we had a chance to test Ford's factory-installed TowCommand brake controller. Just like the best of the aftermarket units, this one helps balance trailer brake bias, but it's cleanly installed and factory tested.

Another important feature for those who tow is the five-speed automatic transmission with the TorqShift feature. When you engage the towing mode on the tranny, the powertrain senses when you're driving down a grade and will downshift to a lower gear to provide compression braking. While the huge disc brakes are designed to manage the weight of a loaded truck, plus a maxed-out trailer, this feature makes managing all the weight much easier.

With ambient temperatures so low during our test, engine cooling wasn't a factor. Ford, however, did engineer significant cooling into the Super Duty line. Behind the big grille are banks of radiators and coolers designed to keep all of the major mechanicals happy when the mercury rises.

Stopped along a Texas interstate with some other journalists, two more characteristics of the diesel-powered Super Duty made themselves obvious: First, the new Power Stroke is gasoline-engine quiet when you're standing beside it. Second, the big diesel doesn't smell like a diesel. The new engine runs on ultra-low sulfur diesel and uses sophisticated emissions controls to scrub out soot and other nasties. The result is that the F-450 won't coat your clothing with that Eau de Bulldozer fragrance if you happen to stand by your truck while it's idling.

If your daily duties or recreational needs are big enough to need something more than a light-duty truck, the '08 Super Duty is certainly worth a long look. Prices for gas-powered F-250s begin in the low-$20,000 range with a maxed-out King Ranch F-450 spanking your bank account for more than $50K.

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