2011 Ford E-350 Super Duty
2011 Ford E-350 Super Duty Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New looks, new engines.
The 2011 Ford Super Duty line has all-new engines, a new transmission, new front styling and a slew of less-noticeable updates. The pickup version of the F-450 has been scaled closer to F-350 but maintains towing superiority, while the cab-and-chassis F-450 and F-550 serve the commercial market.
A new 385-hp 6.2-liter gasoline V8 is standard and similar to Ram's 5.7 Hemi and GM's 6-liter in output. The new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 (390 horsepower and 735 lb-ft of torque) made Super Duty the first production pickup to surpass that 700 marker. Both engines come with a new six-speed automatic transmission.
While the snout is mildly curved and aerodynamics have improved, the Super Duty still mirrors a concrete block with in-your-face attitude and enough chrome to shave in front of it. There is nothing small about a Super Duty and even the shortest, plainest version represents three tons of mass.
For fleet and owner-operator buyers, Ford's Work Solutions system provides facilities for GPS linking, computer access to your office (with cell signal), 110-volt power in-cab, and RFID tags for your tools so you never leave any on the job site. Crew Chief allows a dispatcher real-time truck location, speed, and fuel economy, potentially useful for the Friday-night parent as well.
Towing owners will appreciate the optional under-box fifth-wheel hitch platform and updated integrated trailer brake controller. Side and curtain airbags are now offered.
Luxury-oriented buyers can revel in heated-and-cooled Chaparral leather seats with driver memory, moonroof, one of two types of rear camera, SYNC voice-activated communications and entertainment, navigation, and, since mileage isn't a Super Duty strong suit, remote start. The new diesel is quiet but don't expect luxury levels of noise control and refinement in a truck.
More best defines the 2011 Super Duty relative to its predecessors: more payload, more towing, more weight, more efficient, more choices, but not necessarily more money. With realistic expectations, drawbacks seem small when compared to the ability to plow a big parking lot, carry a car or tow a small home.
If you don't plan on working your truck a Super Duty is not for you, and we don't define working as pulling a 7000-pound boat or RV a few times a year. A Super Duty can haul a ton of camping gear and dirt bike fuel, tow an eight-ton toybox and carry six real-world people, simultaneously, without breaking a sweat.
The 2011 Ford Super Duty comes in four trim levels, three cab sizes and two box sizes (6.75 feet, 8 feet), virtually all in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The XL, XLT and Lariat trims extend to most models. Only on Crew Cabs can you get the top-line King Ranch interior, however. Also, there is no short-box dual-rear wheel model, and the FX4 package is offered only on SuperCab and Crew Cab 4WD F250 and F350.
A 6.2-liter V8 with 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque is standard on all F-250 and F-350 models. The F-450 pickup comes standard with the 6.7-liter turbodiesel rated at 390 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic is the only transmission offered, and four-wheel drive can be lever or switch operated.
Pricing for heavy-duty pickups take megabytes given all the possible permutations. The least expensive Super Duty, a regular cab, long box two-wheel drive XL is $28,020 and the most expensive is the F-450 King Ranch Crew Cab long box diesel, about twice that.
In general terms, four-wheel drive adds $2,500-$3,200, a long box adds $200-$300, and dual rear wheels $1000-$1200. A step up in trim level may add a different cab, box length, or engine, which is why a SuperCab is $3500-$4700 more than a regular cab, and a Crew Cab is $5000-$6750 beyond a regular cab. Buying up from XL to XLT trim typically adds $2500-$3500, from XLT to Lariat $4000-$7500, and Lariat to King Ranch $3000-$6500.
The Super Duty XL ($28,020 for F-250 Regular Cab 2WD) is work-truck, low-budget in nature, with vinyl seats and flooring, black painted grille and bumpers, plain trim, and AM/FM stereo, but it does include air conditioning, towing mirrors, trip computer, tilt/telescoping steering wheel and a weight-appropriate receiver hitch. Options are primarily mechanical in nature: diesel ($7,835), locking differential, larger tires and wheels ($300-$1,985), integrated fifth-wheel/gooseneck hitch prep package ($380), camper package, off-road package for 4WD, Tow Command ($230), auxiliary switches, reverse sensors, tailgate step, Work Solutions in-dash computer ($1395) and Tool Link ($1120). SuperCabs also include flip-out rear side windows, Super and Crew get an overhead console, and the F-450 has forged aluminum wheels.
XLT trim ($31,300 for F-250 Regular Cab 2WD) adds chrome trim, aluminum wheels, 40/20/40 cloth front seat with under-seat lockable compartment, carpet, CD player, power windows/locks/mirrors, power-adjusted and heated towing mirrors, privacy glass, the integrated brake controller for single-rear wheel trucks, remote keyless entry, MyKey, and cruise control. Options include captain's chairs w/power and heat, Audiophile sound system, adjustable pedals, moonroof, and rear-seat DVD entertainment.
Lariat trim ($38,405 for F-250 SuperCab 2WD) adds polished aluminum 17-inch wheels for F-350 dually and bright 18-inch aluminum wheels for single-rear-wheel trucks, heated leather power front seats, dual-zone climate control, power-adjust pedals, backup camera, SYNC, redundant sound/climate controls on wheel, woodgrain trim, power fold-and-telescoping tow mirrors, illuminated visor mirrors, privacy glass, keypad door entry, 110-volt outlet and a powered sliding rear window. Options include those offered on most Super Duty models plus captain's chairs and universal door opener.
The King Ranch ($45,715) for F-250 Crew Cab 2WD) adds two-tone paint including most trim pieces, driver memory package, heated/cooled power front seats, unique forged alloy wheels, rearview camera, and Chaparral-leather for the steering wheel, four captain's chairs and both center consoles.
Safety equipment includes electronic stability control, trailer sway control, and hill-descent control, antilock brakes, SOS post-crash alert, dual front airbags, front side airbags, side curtain airbags, adjustable height outboard belt anchors, child-seat LATCH anchors, three rear seat headrests on Crew Cab and a passenger airbag deactivation switch on regular and SuperCabs.
Already the biggest pickup in town, the Ford Super Duty appears imposing because of bigger horizontal bars in the grille, deeper airdam and bumper with bigger cooling air openings, and stacked lamps with the headlights on the bottom. Dimensions are easily given in yards rather than inches. The sheer vastness of the sheetmetal may overwhelm your car wash guy. The Power Stroke badges have been given a hybrid-like green leaf with B20 in reference to the ability to burn biodiesel fuel, but only compared to other huge trucks might a Super Duty be considered green.
Regardless of bulging flares or flared nostrils no Super Duty would be mistaken for anything less than a full-size pickup even with nothing scalable within sight. The clamshell hood essentially wraps around the diesel engine underneath, and the rounded edges and deeper airdam have improved the coefficient of aero drag from about 0.45 to 0.425, still a block compared to a good car at 0.25-0.27.
The doors remain unchanged, the box sides are mildly modified and have a larger fuel door for the diesel models' additional diesel exhaust fluid fill. Back-up lights are at the top of the tail-lamp assembly, so far off the ground they are really nothing more than signaling devices that the truck is in reverse. Wheels range from 17 to 20 inches in diameter, all of aluminum except the base 17-inch steel wheels.
Towing mirrors include signal repeaters that won't distract the driver; they telescope and fold (manual or powered), and include two large reflector elements for safe rear vision with the widest street-legal trailers. Rear cameras are mounted in the tailgate center latch housing, and display on the navigation screen or inside the rearview mirror.
An optional tailgate step pops a 16.7 x 4.5-inch step with a half-ton load rating out of the tailgate and raises a grab handle rated at 300 pounds to make the climb safer; the step's handle makes box access easier but may need to be lowered again to slide a load in. The tailgate includes an assist so the very heavy tailgate feels less heavy; but the assist is irrelevant if you remove the tailgate so have an assistant handy.
Short boxes have four tie-down cleats a few inches off the floor, long boxes get six. Cargo can be secured with a hefty cable lock, and the box can be protected with a sprayed-in liner.
New for 2011 is an integrated fifth-wheel/gooseneck hitch prep package. This assembly is securely mounted to the frame at the factory (and warranted by Ford) and leaves a flat floor with guidelines marked to cut out four fifth-wheel mounting holes or the center gooseneck; major hitch suppliers were consulted for compatibility and the final hitch hardware choice is left to the consumer. The Super Duty also has an inside box-wall mounted 7-pin trailer plug.
With almost six feet of space from door to door the Ford Super Duty cab is massive. Materials appear well assembled and are mission-appropriate. The King Ranch version makes a better Lincoln pickup than Lincoln's own, while the base model could be cleaned out with a bucket of warm water. On upper-end models, the gear-cog-like chrome surrounds for vents and gauges can create some unwelcome reflections, and the number of textures and colors (we counted up to eight) may be too much for design minimalists.
The dash is segmented in three smaller parts for a more manageable look. The instrument pod provides engine and road speed through larger dials with four smaller gauges lined up between; diesel models include a boost gauge and gas engines substitute oil pressure. Instrument needles are now blue on many models but illuminate as white at night.
The center stack houses a pair of large vents, radio and navigation located top center where easily viewed, climate control, and most switchgear, including optional auxiliary equipment switches, Tow Command, SYNC inputs and one of up to five 12-volt power points. The far side houses the passenger airbag and a sizable glovebox; where so equipped, the reconfigurable center console is similarly large and the huge door pockets (two on each front door) could hold the contents of a small tool chest and will soon require their own payload rating.
The climb in is mitigated by a deep door opening cut and well-placed assist handles; multiple choices in side steps are available. We noted a marked reduction in wind/cab noise around the center pillar in the SuperCab, and the better sealing means that big front door requires a solid yank to close with all windows up. The new diesel is so quiet you won't hear any of it at cruising speeds (the gas engine generates a more authoritative hum) and road noise is reasonably controlled since the nearest wheel is not right under your feet. Unless the road surface is bad conversation volume will be determined by how noisy your hitch setup or drunk your buddy.
Seats have been updated using F-150 parts to provide more comfort, support and adjustability for the diesel's 600-plus-mile range (unloaded). The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, memory system and adjustable pedals allow great flexibility for his-and-hers operations. Front bench seat center riders may find the deep dash compromises their knee and foot room, especially if the driver needs the seat forward.
Adults can fit in the rear of the SuperCab but if you intend to make a habit of carrying anyone average-or-larger for any significant length or time, go for the Crew Cab. This, finally, has a center headrest to keep the passenger's head separated from the back window. It also offers lockable storage under the seat with a power point, and grocery bag hooks under the short cushion passenger side.
An electronic switch handles turn signals and high beams now; with a momentary lift the signal blinks three times automatically; unlike some competition it does not add blinks with tow/haul mode engaged. The signal lever may feel some distance away from the wheel but high-beams are switched both on and off by pulling toward you. Primary controls are all easy to find and use, with few tiny buttons to complicate driving with gloves. The reverse parking sensor can be defeated for hooking up a trailer. The daytime running lights can be turned off for good neighborly night-time entries to campgrounds or drive-ins.
The ventilation system is capable of cooling or heating the cavernous volume and keeping forward windows and mirrors clear, and seat heaters are very effective; a supplemental cab heater is available for diesel models. On many models, all outside mirror elements are heatable as well.
Some models include a productivity screen in the center of the instrument panel. In addition to odometer, outside temperature, compass and gear indications this offers six other menus. The gauge mode gives more detailed readings for oil and transmission fluid temperatures, and diesel boost pressure. A/B trip computers offer time/miles/gallons used/relative instant fuel economy (a bar graph); curiously the fuel economy history, range remaining and instant fuel economy in mpg is under another menu titled Fuel Economy.
The Truck Apps display includes an off-road screen with lateral and vertical angle indicators (no redline marked where the truck might/will fall over) and turning radius; it also provides information about the locking differential, plus 4WD, hill descent and traction control systems. The trailer submenu can store brake settings and name for two trailers and show checklists where you have to, for example, push OK when it asks if the tongue jack is raised, lights functioning, etc., for different types of trailers.
The screen also does customer Settings such as setting maintenance intervals, the compass zone, or how long the lights stay on at key-off. The Information section includes MyKey preferences, log data (engine hours, idle hours, open doors, etc.), and messages like door ajar and tire pressure warnings.
The navigation system is fairly intuitive and will be familiar to Ford family drivers, as will the SYNC system. The Tool Link aspect of the Work Solutions equipment will tell you, on the center screen, which (if any) tool or anything else you've tagged is not in the truck when you are ready to leave.
Ford's Tow Command integrated trailer brake system is easy to set up and provides better, smoother trailer braking control than any aftermarket controller. For 2011 it is compatible with both conventional and electric-over-hydraulic braking systems and the display for gain adjustment has been incorporated in the instrument pod.
Ford will tell gearheads about new stability control, trailer sway control, revised steering gear here and differential changes there but nothing, absolutely nothing, compares to 735 lb-ft of torque. Torque is the twist that gets loads moving and is the primary propellant of any motor vehicle up to the 40-45 mph range. In trucks, especially those pulling weight and climbing hills, it is even more important.
The 6.7-liter Power Stroke's 735 lb-ft of torque is more than two Toyota 4.6 or GM 5.3-liter truck engines put together and not far off the combined output of two Ram Hemis or Ford's standard Super Duty 6.2-liter gas engines. Nearly double the torque and 50- to 100-percent better mileage make the cost of most diesel engine options, including this one, easy to justify, assuming you are going to work the truck.
Any negative you stubbornly continue to associate with diesel has been banished, the 6.7-liter Power Stroke making no smoke, no nasty smell and less noise in the cab than the gasoline engine. Yes, it does have its own diesel aural characteristics just as the gas engine does but no one will complain about it. Smoggy city dwellers could be reminded the air coming out the exhaust is frequently cleaner than the air going in.
Power levels such as these scoot a four-ton pickup along the road quite well, and it will still be pulling hard when you run into a tire (and common sense) imposed speed limiter. Five-ton trailers are child's play, as many container and trailer-switching trucks use smaller, lower-output engines.
Of course if you haven't more than a ton or two of building materials and tools to move around locally the 6.2-liter gas engine is down on torque but has the same horsepower and will get the job done. It won't get the fuel mileage but will be cheaper to service (it takes about half the oil of the diesel) so the payoff point will be out past 100,000 miles, and the lighter weight means more payload.
The new six-speed automatic, the only transmission offered, is an ideal mate to either engine and offers the best control of any pickup automatic. It can be shifted manually by pulling the lever to M and pushing an up/down rocker switch with your right thumb, just as GM's automatic. Like GM, Ford offers a dedicated 1 shift position, although Ford offers a dedicated 2 as well. We can understand multiple shifting options at different locations (such as steering wheel paddles and a console lever) but prefer the simplicity of the Dodge shifter which doesn't require moving the lever to M.
An exhaust brake function has been built into the diesel/automatic combination and it is fully automatic. It also comes on gently and silently, though to maintain descent speed on a grade when not towing you will still have to downshift manually; in cruise control the truck does all it can to maintain speed up hill or down automatically. Although the diesel makes peak power at 2800 rpm and has redline marked at 4000 rpm, anything beyond 3800 rpm is overspeed and brakes should be used.
For buyers who operate snow plows, towing services or anything else with powered equipment on the truck, Ford offers a PTO option, and unlike most of them this PTO works with the transmission in any gear.
The steering system has been revised this year for lighter effort we noticed and more directness that isn't so apparent unless you just got out of an old one. The steering does feel more consistent and it takes more maneuvering to beat the pump and momentarily run short of steering assist.
While 20-inch wheels may look better, they tend to degrade ride comfort so if your driving involves marginal roads, or no roads at all, better to stick with the standard size wheels; they're usually lighter and easier on fuel too. Regardless of hype, no heavy-duty pickup rides like a car, and the Super Duty is no different.
There are a few instances in which a competitor might hold an advantage. GM full-size 4WD steering precision is better, a tradeoff many happily accept to get the Ford's solid front axle design often considered superior in durability and articulation. The GM's independent front suspension has a slightly softer ride, but that makes the back (especially empty) kick more for no real net gain. The Ram HD uses sophisticated body mounts on all but regular cab models and clearly has less noise and vibration than the Super Duty.
A Super Duty has no obvious drawbacks in maneuverability for such a behemoth, and the cut-down front windows and large mirrors give a good view. The new hood's smoother edges and corners make it more difficult to judge close-in distances but with a hood that big you'll be out looking to see what the trail has in store frequently anyway.
The word handling isn't ascribed to HD pickups as much as control is, and the Super Duty feels comfortable even with heavy loads. Brakes don't stand out as good or bad, and four-ton trucks never stop like cars, but the Tow Command system and cruise-integrated exhaust brake keep things in check.
Changes between the F-250 and F-350 SRW are essentially limited to the 350 capable of carrying or towing more weight. The F-350 DRW goes a much larger step further in payload and frequently more important, trailer towing (or camper carrying) stability. The max tow rating on some F-350 DRW is more than 21,000 pounds, but remember those ratings are given with a nearly empty, low-optioned truck.
The F-450 model is a crew-cab, long-box-only truck that has bucked trends and downsized slightly. The 10-bolt, 19.5-inch tires of the old model required a speed-limiter of just more than Texas' posted limits and a lot of customers complained. So the F-450 is now closer in concept to an F-350 DRW with roughly the same load capacity (4920 pounds) but a tow rating of 24,400 pounds. Just make sure your driver's license can handle that load, too.
Whatever you are towing, the revised mirrors are better and in some cases the wide-angle element is heated and the housing extends and/or folds electrically.
Also new for 2011 is the integrated towing hardware. The brake controller is now compatible with electric-over-hydraulic trailer brakes. You can order a fifth-wheel/gooseneck hitch platform which rides directly under the box and includes a box-mounted 7-pin plug; Ford worked with suppliers such as Reese, Draw-Tite and B&W to ensure the platform is compatible with a wide range of hitches.
The Ford Super Duty is the largest mass-market pickup truck you can get, offered in the widest array of configurations and most of the highest ratings that pickup truck bragging wars often revert to. It is more than capable of handling all reasonable recreational or commercial needs, and an honest, thoughtful appraisal of your needs will give you the best value.
G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after driving several Ford Super Duty in conditions from snow to sand.
Ford F-250 Regular Cab long box ($28,020 2WD XL); SuperCab short box and long box; Crew Cab s/b ($39,420 4WD XLT; $44,095 4WD Lariat), l/b; F-350 SRW Regular Cab l/b; SuperCab s/b ($34,170 4WD XL), l/b; Crew Cab s/b, l/b; F-350 DRW Regular Cab l/b; SuperCab l/b; Crew Cab s/b, l/b ($33,955 2WD XL); F-450 Crew Cab l/b ($48,350 XL); all 2WD or 4WD.
Options As Tested
diesel engine; 3.55:1 axle ratio; locking rear differential; power telescoping mirrors; electronic shift 4WD; XLT interior package; block heater; power sliding rear window; rear parking sensors; rear camera; upfitter switches; extra heavy-duty alternator; tailgate step; sprayed bedliner; cable lock; Work Solutions computer and Tool Link.
Ford F-250 XLT 4x4 Crew Cab Short Bed ($39,420).
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