With the economy starting to show signs of life, there’s an interesting battle heating up for the hearts, minds and business-expense accounts of all manner of commercial operations, fleets and small businesses that during the recession delayed investing in new pickup trucks.
The Detroit automakers are expending a tremendous amount of effort to offer the most-capable and, if necessary, the most-luxurious medium-duty pickups to compete for business buyers ready to once again invest in the pickups they need.
A centerpiece feature for this class of pickups is the diesel engine, as the majority of customers choose diesels because of their longevity, better fuel economy and increasingly astounding towing and hauling abilities. The diesel engine is an investment in their operations and they’re dead serious about stuff like that.
After experiencing expensive and image-wounding problems with its diesel made by a longstanding partner, Ford decided it couldn’t afford to compete with such an albatross and developed its own all-new diesel for its confidently named Power Stroke 2011 Super Duty pickup lineup.
The Power Stroke is a real piece of industrial design, but the numbers are what matter. The thing pumps out 400 horsepower, however the decisive measure in this class is torque and Ford’s new diesel deals out a class-leading 800 lb.-ft. That doesn’t mean much to most of us, but all that torque means the 2011 F-250 Super Duty can tow as much as 16,000 pounds.
You used to be able to count on diesels, in the trucks of the local contractor and such, waking up the neighborhood in the morning. The technology of new-age diesels makes them much less clattery and obnoxious, and Ford’s new Power Stroke gets extra points for a high-tech new formulation for the iron engine block that cuts weight yet doesn’t impair iron’s vital sound-deadening qualities.
A mighty powerplant the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 is. Consider the power necessary just to move the F-250 Super Duty’s prodigious weight (edging towards 4 tons, though Ford doesn’t tell) and accelerating as briskly as a family sedan is a real feat, much less adding in all that towing and hauling potential.
We’d like to report we were as enthused by the F-250’s handling, but the steering wheel felt connected to nothing but air and although medium-duty pickups certainly aren’t supposed to thrill with their responses, Ford’s competitors also ride and handle noticeably better. We acknowledge, however, that handling dynamics can change drastically when driving these pickups with heavy loads or when towing.
As is the case in this segment, the diesel engine is an extravagantly priced option. Ford gets a $7,835 upcharge for the Power Stroke, the primary factor when you point to our test truck’s heady — though hardly out-of-bounds for this market — sticker of more than $60,000.
For that price there’s much more than a diesel and a Herculean tow rating. The Lariat version we tested was trimmed in almost decadent-feeling leather, the four-door crew cab body offers enough room in the rear seats for a game of bowling and there’s all the navigation system, thumper stereo and electronic features you’d find in any luxury car.
Nor is this all just slapped into a box in front of a cargo bed. The 2011 F-250’s interior demonstrates tight fits and high-level finishes. This might be a truck built for commercial purposes, but you could hop out at a fine restaurant and be completely unashamed. And many small-business owners do just that, using the F-250 Super Duty to work during the day and serve regular family-vehicle purposes the rest of the time.
Sure, folks usually chuckle when you tell them a pickup truck is sixty thousand dollars, but the F-250 Super Duty is appropriately named, because it represents the basic idea of pickup taken to the superlative level. Particularly with the impressive new Power Stroke engine. — Bill Visnic, Motor Matters
Copyright, AutoWriters Associates Inc., 2011