2008 Ford F-250 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
New, more refined and more capable.
The 2008 Ford Super Duty pickups feature new styling inside and out along with a re-engineered suspension that delivers a smoother ride. A new diesel engine and a new F-450 pickup are designed to handle the needs of ever-increasing agricultural, boat, and RV trailer weights. Other revisions and refinements are designed to address customer comment and stricter emissions standards.
Two words can define the 2008 Super Duty relative to the previous iteration: refined and more. It has more of the work ability you expect from a heavy-duty pickup, yet it is more comfortable, rides better, delivers more in the cost-benefit analysis, and is more environmentally friendly, a lexicon not normally applied to big trucks. With realistic expectations, any faults will seem minute when compared to the ability to plow a big parking lot, carry a small car or tow a small house.
The 2008 Super Duty is not an all-new truck. Some body panels, engines and transmissions continue. But many aspects more substantial than the front-end styling have changed. It has a new interior in five different flavors from hose-out to leather lux, a new diesel engine, more added features, and should cost less based on equipment than the outgoing model.
And in a first for any major pickup manufacturer Ford has added a medium-duty pickup, the F-450, to the line. This model will be pricey by pickup standards, probably over $60,000 loaded, but it offers load capacity and towing ability never before found in a pickup, and is capable of carrying 5,000 pounds of hay and towing an 18,500-pound horse trailer simultaneously.
Need a truck to work? The Super Duty line can haul from one ton to three. It can tow from three tons to more than twelve. It can carry three to six real-world people with room to spare. And the door pockets, glovebox, and console will hold more stuff than some sports cars' trunks. If you don't need a truck to perform heavy duty work, stop reading here.
The 2008 Ford Super Duty comes in myriad configurations, with four trim levels, four weight divisions, and two box sizes (6.75 feet, 8 feet), the majority available in two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Almost every permutation is built. Exceptions: The King Ranch version is offered only on Crew Cabs, the F-450 is long-bed Crew Cab only, and the FX4 trim is not offered on 2WD, any F-450, or with a regular cab.
A 5.4-liter V8 with 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque is standard on all models up to the F-350 Crew Cab DRW, which has the 362-hp, 457 lb-ft 6.8-liter V10 standard. Both the V10 and 6.4-liter diesel (350 hp, 650 lb-ft) are optional across the F-250/F-350 spectrum, but the diesel is the only engine offered on F-450. A six-speed manual is standard, a five-speed automatic available.
The base XL is commercial in nature, with vinyl seats and flooring, black painted grille and bumpers, plain trim, AM/FM stereo, and a weight-appropriate receiver hitch. Options include mechanical upgrades (engine, limited-slip differential, larger tires, traction control, camper package, off-road package for 4WD, Tow Command, etc.), air conditioning, auxiliary switches, reverse sensors, and a tailgate step.
XLT trim adds chrome trim and wheels, 40/20/40 cloth front seat, carpet, AC, CD player, power windows/locks/mirrors, tilt wheel and cruise control. Options include aluminum wheels, captain's chairs w/power and heat, Audiophile sound system, adjustable pedals, Sport trim package, moonroof, and rear-seat DVD entertainment.
The FX4 off-road model adds 18-inch wheels and LT275/70R18 all-terrain tires, standard limited-slip, skid plates, fog lamps, security system, overhead console, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Options include 20-inch wheels, navigation/Audiophile system, Sirius radio, and power telescope/fold heated dual-element towing mirrors.
Lariat trim (n/a on regular cabs) adds polished wheels, leather power seats, dual-zone climate control, trip computer, redundant sound/climate controls on wheel, woodgrain trim, illuminated visor mirrors, privacy glass and a sliding rear window. Options include those offered on most Super Duty models plus captain's chairs, universal door opener, and a power sliding rear window.
The King Ranch package, offered only on Lariat Crew Cabs, adds two-tone paint, driver memory package, tow mirrors, unique forged alloy wheels, powered trailer mirrors, badging, and Chaparral-leather for the steering wheel and four captain's chairs and both center consoles.
Safety equipment includes antilock brakes, dual front airbags, adjustable height outboard belt anchors, child-seat LATCH anchors, and a passenger airbag deactivation switch on regular and SuperCabs, all standard.
Already the biggest pickup in town, the 2008 Ford Super Duty appears even more imposing because of a larger grille, deeper bumper, 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 color of the side vent gives away if it is gasoline or diesel-powered.
Given its fender flares and dark snout, the FX4 is the most aggressive trim style, though no Super Duty would be mistaken for anything less than a full-size pickup even with nothing scalable within sight. New towing mirrors include signal repeaters that won't distract the driver; they telescope and fold (manual or powered), and include two large reflective elements for safe rear vision with the widest street-legal trailers.
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. It also includes an assist so the very heavy tailgate feels less heavy. The handle makes bed access easier but may need to be lowered again to slide a load in, and removing the gate, as is often the case with some trailers, may become a two-person chore.
With three-and-a-half feet of headroom and just shy of six feet of shoulder room, the Ford Super Duty cab is massive. Materials are job appropriate: no carpet mats for commercial or trail duty, and appear well assembled. The King Ranch version brings a little Lincoln to a pickup 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 interior has been restyled for 2008. The dash is now segmented in three smaller parts for a more manageable look. A new instrument pod provides engine and road speed through larger dials with four smaller gauges lined up between; diesel models include a boost gauge and automatics get fluid temperature. The center stack houses a pair of large vents, radio and navigation top center where easily viewed, climate control, and most switchgear. The far side houses the passenger airbag and a sizable glovebox; where so equipped, the center console is similarly large and the huge door pockets could hold the contents of a small tool chest and will soon require their own payload rating.
The climb in is less than you think because the door opening curls under to the floor and assist handles are well-placed. 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 and road noise is reasonably controlled since the nearest wheel is not right under your feet.
Seats are well-placed and offer a superb view out, and in captain's chair versions offer plenty of support and adjustability for the diesel's 600-plus-mile range (unloaded), and the higher-line tilt wheel, memory system and adjustable pedals allow great flexibility for his-and-hers operations. Front bench seat 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 those larger-than-average people for any significant length or time, go for the Crew Cab.
Primary controls are all easy to find and use, with few tiny buttons to complicate driving with gloves. The reverse parking sensor, of course, can be defeated for hooking up a trailer. The short shifter for the automatic is less effort but more precise than before. The headlights 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.
The navigation system is fairly intuitive and will be familiar to Ford family drivers.
Ford's Tow Command integrated trailer brake system is easy to set up and provides better, smoother trailer braking control than any aftermarket controller. However, it may not be compatible with all trailer disc-brake systems, and you can not modify the wiring harness so your fifth-wheel pigtail (or extension) must reach to the rear bumper.
There are two primary improvements to the Super Duty's driving characteristics, in what has always been a competitive vehicle: the diesel engine is all-new and the rear springs' forward perch has been moved forward eight inches. You may not care about spring location, but that eight inches gives a much better ride for the same load, so you can drive an empty dually without looking like a bobblehead doll.
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. Regardless of hype, no heavy-duty pickup rides like a car, and the Super Duty is no different. The only instance in which a competitor might hold an advantage is with GM full-size 4WD steering precision or ride comfort, a tradeoff many happily accept to get the Ford's solid front axle design often considered superior in durability.
If you're not accustomed to driving full-size pickups you may find yourself trapped in a strip mall feeling unable to escape. Otherwise you'll find the Super Duty has no obvious drawbacks in maneuverability for such a behemoth, and the cut-down front windows, mirrors, and clear bodywork edges give good indication of presence relative to surroundings. If you haven't anything heavy to carry or tow, a Super Duty's capabilities will far exceed your requirements.
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 can't be beaten; the Super Duty does not offer a factory exhaust brake option like the Dodge Cummins, a feature equally useful on long hauls.
The 6.4-liter diesel engine is all-new for 2008, with just two parts shared with the previous 6-liter diesel. It is much quieter, cleaner (the exhaust may be cleaner than the air going in, in some cities) and has likely given up a few percentage points in fuel economy because of the added output and heavier trucks. Apart from the speed with which it barrels up hills and the probable 10 percent to 40 percent better fuel mileage, it's not noticeably different than the gas engines. Note that on F-450, unless you get an automatic and 4.30:1 axle ratio, the diesel is de-rated to 325 hp and 600 lb-ft of torque. Also note that the five-speed automatic transmission falls one gear short of GM and Dodge's six-speed automatics.
The standard 5.4-liter V8 is the cost leader, and it's a good choice if you don't plan on towing anything more than 5,000 pounds over relatively rolling countryside. Those who might carry a full load of tools or cement and tow a trailer but not drive a lot of miles should consider the stronger V10. For maximum towing or high-mileage service, the diesel can't be beat, and neither can its price tag, around $6,900.
Changes between the F-250 and F-350 SRW are essentially limited to the 350 capable of carrying another 1,000 pounds. The F-350 DRW goes another step further in payload and frequently more important, much better trailer towing (or camper carrying) stability. The max tow rating on some F-350 DRW is more than 18,000 pounds, but remember those ratings are given with a nearly empty, low-optioned truck.
For 2008, the Super Duty adds an F-450 model, a truck that takes a medium-duty chassis cab and adds a pickup box much like aftermarket firms have been doing for years for affluent trailer pullers. An F-450 can carry as much as 6,120 pounds (the weight of an F-250 regular cab) and tow as much as 24,500 pounds, but still enjoy pickup perks like a usable bed, no stops at roadside scales, and a factory warranty. Just make sure your driver's license can handle that load, too.
You can spot an F-450 by the 10-lug, 19.5-inch wheels and huge rear differential. The tires alone contribute to a firmer ride, and.
The Ford Super Duty is the largest mass-market pickup truck you can get, offered in the widest array of configurations and powertrains, and equally able to meet recreational or commercial needs. Ordered with an honest, thoughtful appraisal of your needs and expectations in mind, it would be difficult to do better.
G.R. Whale filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after driving several Ford Super Duty models in icy conditions in the Texas Hill Country outside San Antonio.
Ford F-250 Regular Cab long box; SuperCab short box and long box; Crew Cab s/b, l/b; F-350 SRW Regular Cab l/b; SuperCab s/b, l/b; Crew Cab s/b, l/b; F-350 DRW Regular Cab l/b; SuperCab l/b; Crew Cab s/b, l/b; F-450 Crew Cab l/b; all 2WD or 4WD.
Options As Tested
power captain's chairs w/heat, Tow Command, LT275/70R18 all-terrain tires, navigation, Audiophile sound w/Sirius radio, adjustable pedals, moonroof, park sensors, power sliding rear window, 4x4 Off Road-Road package, driver memory package.
Ford F-350 SRW Lariat Crew Cab Short Bed 4x4 diesel.
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