2006 Ford F-350 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Redesigned chassis improves ride, capability.
The Ford Super Duty pickups benefit from a major chassis design for 2005 that improves ride quality, handling and maneuverability. Payload capacities and towing capability have been improved. Towing is greatly enhanced by a new integrated electric brake control. Not only is it elegantly designed right into the instrument panel, but it operates much better than aftermarket controllers, making it easier to modulate the brakes for smooth, accurate stops.
Fresh styling gives the 2005 Ford Super Duty pickups a more masculine, big-rig appearance. Inspired by Ford's Tonka truck concept, the new Super Duty trucks look like they're ready to get some serious work done. And they are.
When you need to haul more than 3,000 pounds, or to tow more than 9,900 pounds, then even the best-equipped F-150 isn't up to the job. That's where the Super Duty trucks come in. Payload capacities of up to 5800 pounds are available in the 2005 Super Duty trucks, with tow ratings of up to 17,000 pounds. The Ford F-250 Super Duty competes with the Dodge Ram 2500, Chevrolet Silverado 2500, and GMC Sierra 2500. The F-350, with its available dual rear wheels, competes against the 3500-series models from GM and Dodge. None of these, however, match the Super Duty's top payload and towing capacities.
The 2005 Super Duty pickups continue to feature first-class powertrains. Both of the V8 gas engines are upgraded for 2005. The standard 5.4-liter V8 is now based on Ford's modular V8 architecture and incorporates three valves per cylinder for better breathing, improved power delivery and cleaner exhaust. The 6.8-liter V10 also gets the modular-based, three-valve cylinder heads, giving it class-leading horsepower and torque. The V10 and 6.0-liter turbo-diesel now have electronic throttle control, expanding their utility in accessory applications.
Styling revisions for 2005 include a bolder, almost brutish front end and broader flanks. The frame is stronger, now boasting a fully boxed front section and thicker walls in high-stress areas. A reconfigured rear suspension improves the ride and load balance, and a new front suspension sharpens steering response and significantly tightens the turning circle.
The new Super Duty interiors feature increased use of higher grade materials, better assembly quality and more people-oriented amenities make for surprisingly comfortable accommodations, especially in the up-level trims. We love the King Ranch edition, swathed in rich cow hides that looks like they came right out of the tack room.
Ford Super Duty is offered in more configurations than we can count. Ford offers some 30 variations on the F-250 (the so-called 3/4-ton pickups) and nearly 60 iterations of the F-350 (or 1-ton size). All can pull heavy loads and are more truck than most consumers will ever need. Base prices range from $22,390 for a plain XL regular cab up to $41,830 for a long-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive King Ranch Crew Cab with dual rear wheels.
The F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models are available in regular-cab, extended-cab (SuperCab), and Crew Cab configurations. Crew Cab versions come with four full-sized doors, and are the most passenger-friendly models. Both two- and four-wheel drive are available. Four-wheel-drive models offer either manual-locking or optional electronic, shift-on-the-fly auto-locking hubs ($185).
Short-bed (6-3/4 foot) and long-bed (8-foot) versions are available. Wheelbase lengths vary by body style: 137 inches for a regular cab, 142 inches for a SuperCab short-bed, 158 inches for a SuperCab long-bed, 156 inches for a Crew Cab short-bed, and 172 inches for Crew Cab long-bed.
All F-250 models come with single rear wheels. F-350 models are available with single rear wheels (SRW) or dual rear wheels (DRW). The latter, often called 'dualies,' are great for towing as they offer higher tongue-weight ratings, although they do give up an almost meaningless 300 pounds to the SRW models in fifth wheel/goose neck maximum towing capacity.
The base engine across the line is the new, 24-valve, 5.4-liter V8. The 6.8-liter V10 is optional on all models ($600), as is the 6.0-liter diesel V8 ($5,100). The standard transmission is a 6-speed manual, with a 5-speed automatic optional ($1490).
Four trim levels are offered: standard XL, mid-level XLT, luxurious Lariat, and ultimate King Ranch. XL models are pretty basic, with only a two-speaker, AM/FM stereo and fixed-interval wipers. Air conditioning ($850) is optional, as are a CD stereo ($275) and seat upgrades, including a vinyl split bench ($400) and cloth buckets ($390). XLT models are equipped more like the average passenger car, with air conditioning and more stereo choices. Lariats come with automatic air conditioning, an overhead console, leather seats with six-way power, and aluminum wheels. King Ranch models, available only with the Crew Cab, come with four leather captain's chairs, extensive leather appointments, and unique paint and trim.
Four-wheel disc brakes with ABS are standard on all Super Duty models, a nice upgrade over older heavy-duty pickups with rear drum brakes.
Stand-alone options include a reverse proximity sensor ($245) for XL, XLT, Lariat, and King Ranch (a great feature on these big trucks); and a power driver's seat for XLT ($290). Power telescoping trailer mirrors are available on XLT ($220) and standard on Lariat and King Ranch; they feature heated glass and integral turn signal repeaters. Manually telescoping mirrors are available ($125) on XL. A power sliding rear cab window is available on the Lariat ($185). A Sport Package ($1,085) for XLT SuperCabs and Crew Cabs adds chromed tubular step bars; body-color grille, bumpers, and door handles; sliding rear cab window; fog lamps; privacy glass; an exclusive two-tone cloth 40/20/40 split-bench front seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Other options include a moonroof ($995), adjustable pedals ($120), cruise control/tilt steering column ($385), roof marker lights ($55), and running boards.
The TowCommand package on the XL ($330) includes the manually telescoping mirrors. On the XLT and Lariat, TowCommand adds the integrated trailer brake controller and heat to the telescoping mirrors ($425). The integrated trailer brake controller is also available as a stand-alone across the line ($205), as are upfitter switches ($60). Also, TowCommand requires the automatic transmission.
The FX4 Off-Road Package ($225) adds skid plates and Rancho shock absorbers; the steering damper.
Ford bestowed on the 2004 F-150 much of the brawny, no-nonsense look we liked about the previous generation of the company's F-250 and F-350 pickups. This meant the 2005 Super Duty line had to have its own spruced up, new look. It also had to have strong, in-your-face styling cues that make clear it's no lightweight, but a true do-anything, go-anywhere workhorse, all while keeping faith with the Ford truck family look.
Ford accomplished this by adding heft and boldness to the grille; the company's stylists describe it as a billet-look, as if the grille were lasered from a block of metal and then bolted to the front clip. The lower front fascia is beefier, too, adding to the impression of mass in motion.
Otherwise, the styling of the 2005 models doesn't differ much from the 2004s. The cab's dropped sill line gives it a sense of openness and accessibility. It also makes climbing in easier, a welcome feature when juggling tools, briefcases, or even toddlers. A distinctive dip along the front door side glass improves the driver's view of the exterior mirrors, a big help when towing a trailer or for seeing around cargo boxes or dump-truck bodies. A locking tailgate is standard.
King Ranch Crew Cabs are dressed up with body-color mirror housings and door handles and distinctive two-tone paint selections, lighted running boards and special King Ranch aluminum wheels. The Harley-Davidson specials sport a unique, tautly meshed grille; color choices consist of black, black and orange, and black and gray; factory-applied flame graphics are a new option ($675).
The tow hitch receiver has been increased from 2 inches to 2 1/2 inches for increased towing capacity.
Ford Super Duty trucks are very roomy, with comfortable, spacious seats and plenty of hip and shoulder room.
Truck owners spend a lot of time in their vehicles, so Ford's interior designers paid a lot of attention to comfort and convenience. The standard interior features a fold-down armrest, a floor console that can accommodate a laptop, and a removable hanging storage bin that can attach to the dash. Even the standard bench seats recline. Two large cupholders are provided. The standard cigar lighter is augmented with a second auxiliary power outlet conveniently mounted up in the dash to the right of the climate control switches.
Controls are big and easy to reach and manipulate. The instrument array is new, with large, round speedometer and tachometer, bracketed by oil pressure and fuel level gauges to the left and transmission temperature (on trucks with automatics) and coolant temperature gauges to the right. The message display located in center of the instrument panel on both gasoline and diesel engines incorporates an hours-in-operation monitor. Optional power-adjustable pedals ($120) are helpful for short-stature drivers (many women, for example), allowing them to sit a safer distance from the airbag in the steering wheel.
Switches for the optional trailer brake controller and TowCommand are integrated into the lower dash beneath the drive-selector knob and stereo control panel, much nicer than attaching a controller with Velcro or duct tape. It's packaged with four factory-installed upfitter switches for aftermarket accessories such as light bars and snow plow blades. Very nice.
Passenger-side airbags offer a deactivation switch on regular cab and SuperCab models. Adjustable seatbelt anchors increase safety and comfort.
Gaining access to the rear seats of the SuperCab is easy. The rear doors are 25 inches wide and swing out a full 90 degrees from the doorsill, a design that eases the loading of gear and passengers. Hidden vertical beams and a cross brace where the front and rear doors meet contribute to occupant safety. The rear seat cushion folds up and forward, and the seatback folds down to create a flat, steel loading surface, a perfect place to put tools and other heavy items that need to stay secure and out of the elements. SuperCab XL buyers who need interior cargo room more than back seats can delete the rear seats entirely for a $415 credit.
On Crew Cabs, the rear seat splits and folds 60/40 to form a flat loading floor. All Crew Cabs except XL come with grocery hooks, integrated cup holders and rear-seat head restraints.
The Super Duty trucks are not exactly luxurious, but Lariat and King Ranch models get wood-grain interior accents. King Ranch gets rich-looking leather and a fixed center console topped in leather matching the steering wheel, seats and A-pillar assist handles and light-colored gauge faces in the speedometer and tachometer.
The new 5.4-liter V8 that comes standard is rated at 300 horsepower (a 40-horsepower increase over 2004) and 365 pound-feet of torque. The 6.8-liter V10 is rated at 355 horsepower (a 45-horsepower increase over 2004) and 455 pound-feet of torque (compared with 2004's 425). Both gas engines are part of Ford's Triton series, and employ overhead cams for valve control and three-valve heads for improved breathing and power delivery. The 6.0-liter Powerstroke turbocharged diesel V8 is an expensive option, but it's rated at 570 pound-feet of torque at 2000 rpm (a slight increase over 2004) and 325 horsepower at 3300 rpm.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all Ford Super Duty models, but we prefer the new five-speed automatic available with all three engines. It's especially sweet with the 6.0-liter turbo diesel.
With its new, more refined frame and re-engineered suspension, the 2005 Super Duty has achieved parity with, if not edged slightly ahead of its GM and Dodge competition in ride and handling. Yes, it's a heavy-duty pickup, and long wheelbases can't give it the ride quality of its lower-rated sibling. But pavement bumps and irregularities are suppressed to a refreshing degree, even when the truck is empty. Head toss on rough pavement is minimal and there's little body lean in turns. Trucks of this weight rating aren't usually candidates for serious off-roading, but we found the Super Duty handled very well on a washboard dirt track and through sandy washes.
Upstaging all these routine measures is the new TowCommand system, a feature we feel is a must-have for drivers who tow. Gone is the light switch-like, on/off, all-or-nothing braking prevalent in aftermarket trailer brake fitments, that makes stopping on a dime difficult. With TowCommand, touch the brake pedal, whether on the flat or on a grade, and the trailer begins slowing, exerting a mild drag on the Super Duty's forward progress. Press harder on the brakes, and the trailer's drag increases. Release the brakes, and the drag fades. As the Super Duty comes to a stop, the trailer brakes gradually back off, virtually in sync with the towing truck. No jerking. No yanking. Its operation is truly proportional to the amount of brake pressure. In back-to-back testing with an 11,000-pound trailer, we were able to stop precisely where we wanted from 25 mph and 45 mph with the new system. Conversely, when using an aftermarket system, we were not able to accurately stop; we usually stopped short of the mark and had to release the brake and creep up to position. This makes the system more comfortable and less annoying for driver and passengers, and less annoying to the motorists behind you. The system enhances safety as well; it gives audible and visual warnings if the trailer wiring becomes disconnected. It's also tied into the truck's anti-lock brake system and uses a special trailer brake strategy when the ABS detects poor traction (wet pavement, for example). No aftermarket trailer brake controller can do this.
The 2005 Ford Super Duty trucks feature increased capability and fresh styling. Power is up across the range, even in the 6.0-liter turbo-diesel, which accounts for 70 percent of the Super Duty's sales. The new, optional five-speed automatic transmission complements all three powerplants.
The Ford Super Duty trucks offer roomy, comfortable cabins with up-to-date creature comforts and features. Re-designed suspensions and re-engineered suspensions improve handling and ride. The new TowCommand system with integrated trailer brake controller is a must-have option for owners who tow.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report after driving Super Duty models around Kingman, Lake Havasu, and Yucca, Arizona. NCTD editor Mitch McCullough tested the integrated brake controller at Ford's proving grounds in Michigan.
Ford Super Duty F-250 4x2 Regular Cab 137-in wheelbase XL ($22,570); F-250 4x4 SuperCab 158-in XL ($28,040); F-250 4x4 Regular Cab 137-in XLT ($28,915); F-250 4x2 SuperCab 158-in Lariat ($31,065); F-250 4x2 Crew Cab 172-in XLT ($31,225); F-250 4x4 Crew Cab 172-in Lariat ($36,780); F-250 4x4 Crew Cab 156-in King Ranch ($39,765); F-350 4x2 Regular Cab 137-in XLT ($26,870); F-350 4x4 SuperCab 142-in XL ($28,915); F-350 4x4 Crew Cab 156-in Lariat ($37,485).
Options As Tested
turbo-diesel V8 ($5,100); 5-speed automatic transmission ($1,490); chrome tubular running boards ($445); camper package ($160); FX4 off-road package ($225); adjustable pedals ($120); cruise control/tilt steering wheel ($385); Class III trailer hitch receiver ($175); TowCommand package ($425) includes integrated trailer brake controller and manual-telescoping trailer mirrors with heated, power-adjustable glass and integrated turn signals ($425).
Ford Super Duty F-350 4X4 Crew Cab short bed XLT ($35,235).
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