Ten-percent more power and a solid whump of additional torque from the Power Stroke diesel mean it’s Ford’s turn to leapfrog its truckmaking competitors to claim best-in-class honors for 2015. Although the blue-oval team is making more significant pickup-truck news with its aluminum-intensive F-150, in this case we’re talking heavy-duty or, in Ford parlance, Super Duty light trucks, the F-250, F-350, and F-450.
We climbed into a pair of the revised 2015 F-350 models for brief drives. Both were four-by-fours wearing the King Ranch badges that denote luxurious trimmings, and both were in crew-cab, short-bed spec. One was a dual-rear-wheel version wearing that edition’s standard 17-inch wheels shod with Bridgestone tires; the other truck had a single wheel on either end of the rear axle and the optional 20-inch chrome wheels and Michelin light-truck tires. Both were equipped with the Power Stroke diesel V-8 and TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission. Prominent badges reminded us that the rigs would happily burn B20 biodiesel if given the chance.
With only brief exposure, our impressions were that this year’s more-powerful engine seems remarkably quiet—not as clattery or ever present as the Cummins diesel-powered HD Ram we drove earlier this year—and that the dualie was, surprisingly, easier to maneuver and rode better than the single-wheel version. A Ford engineer who was riding shotgun told us the single-wheel model was equipped with an uprated towing package and that its big wheels and different rear-axle-and-spring setup affected the ride and steering feel.
On the Heavier Side of Light Duty
Each truck’s bed was burdened with more than 1000 pounds of weights, so it wasn’t really possible to do a seat-of-the-pants estimation of acceleration, but given the curb weights, power ratings, and previous experience, we expect these rigs to get to merging velocity with plenty of room to spare on a highway ramp. Unladen, 0-to-60-mph times should be about eight seconds. Although they’re called one-ton trucks, that’s not much of a load by modern standards. Ford says these Power Stroke F-350s, depending on equipment and trim, can be rated to tow up to 26,700 pounds (or as little as 12,500). The gross combined weight rating can range up to 35,000 pounds. Mind you, these are meant for farm and work-site use, although the distinctions between personal-use and commercial vehicles are blurring. Marketing nomenclature notwithstanding, these pickups are really classed with their half-ton stablemates as light-duty trucks rather than with true medium- or heavy-truck segments where commercial-grade haulers fit.
Ford isn’t helping to maintain this distinction, however, boasting that this second-generation Power Stroke diesel is essentially an engine so strong that it’s all but identical to the one used in the medium-duty F-450. (Ram made similar claims on behalf of its Cummins-built six last year.)
More Squeeze Makes More Juice
The Power Stroke now uses a larger turbocharger and redesigned fuel-injector nozzles to make bigger bangs in each of the 6.7-liter engine’s eight cylinders, adding up to a rating of 440 horsepower (up from 400) and 860 lb-ft of torque (versus 800 last year). That neatly tops the figures Ram used to claim the title as the hardest puncher with its Cummins diesels last year (385 and 850)—and by an even wider margin over the torque rating GM claims for the Duramax diesels in the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra HD models.
With a firm eye on its cross-town rivals, Ford placed a pushbutton on the dash to actuate the exhaust brake. Like those at Ram and GM, the exhaust brake generates back pressure through the turbo to create drag. Ford claims that besides the easy one-touch actuation, this year’s version works more effectively.
Dearborn boasts that it upgraded the interior trim on the King Ranch models for 2015. It looks a bit better but to our eye didn’t match the quality of materials in the Ram and Chevy trucks we’ve sampled recently. The leather, now wearing the King Ranch’s “snake” brand more prominently, looked good, but there was less of it, and sometimes it was used in odd places. Cheap-looking plastic bits (notably pockets on the console and inner door panel) felt flimsy. On the one hand, F-350s in King Ranch trim can run $55,000 to $70,000 or so, and chintzy trim might be off-putting. Still, customers in this segment are always asking for more capability, Ford claims, so perhaps they’ll be willing to overlook such factors in favor of boasting the biggest power numbers.
front-engine, rear- or rear-/4-wheel-drive, 2-6-passenger, 4-door pickup
turbocharged and intercooled pushrod 32-valve diesel V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, direct fuel injection
406 cu in, 6651 cc
Power: 440 hp @ 2800 rpm
Torque: 860 lb-ft @ 1600 rpm
6-speed automatic with manual shifting mode
Wheelbase: 137.0-172.4 in
Length: 227.6-263.0 in
Width: 79.9-96.0 in Height: 76.5-80.8 in
Curb weight (C/D est): 6100-8150 lb
PERFORMANCE (C/D EST):
Zero to 60 mph: 7.6-8.0 sec
Zero to 90 mph: 17.4-18.5 sec
Standing ¼-mile: 17.5-19.0 sec
Top speed: 95 mph