You don't understand the meaning of "Ford tough" until you've spent a week climbing in and out of a Ford F-350 Super Duty XLT pickup truck.
That's climbing as in "climbing."
My height is 5 feet 6 inches. My wife, Mary Anne, barely rises 5 feet. The 2011 model of the F-350 crew-cab pickup stands nearly 7 feet from ground to rooftop. The truck's ground clearance, the distance between the road and its chassis, is 8.2 inches. It's a tall, big truck. We're short, little people.
There was a construction crew working on a house across the street from our home in Northern Virginia. We provided comic relief for them during our time in the F-350 Super Duty XLT.
The workers would snicker and finger-point in a manner stereotypical of alpha males watching something that, in their estimation, is less than manly.
Mary Anne would try to lift herself into the front passenger seat using a ceiling-mounted interior handle. I'd try to give her a gentlemanly boost. That would yield laughter and head-shaking among the construction workers.
They would laugh when I tried to haul myself into the driver's seat, desperately grabbing the ceiling-mounted assist handle on that side. The only thing that made them laugh harder was Mary Anne struggling to lift herself into the driver's chair.
"You're going to drive that thing?"
They'd put that question to both of us, depending on who was taking a turn behind the wheel.
"Yes," we were going to drive that thing. We may be little people - nerdy, urban types - but we love trucks. Mary Anne grew up with them in Texas. I was reared with them in Louisiana. In both states, if you wanted to get something done - haul, pull, or push something - you did it with a truck.
Trucks are respected in those places, as they are everywhere in the country where there is physical labor to be done, and where that work often involves pulling and hauling off-road.
Mary Anne and I weren't going to do anything that difficult. Our plan was to make a few dump runs, to continue divesting ourselves of the detritus of 25 years of living in the same house, which had transitioned from family shelter to semi-storage unit for children who had moved out to adulthood.
We also planned to buy more shelves to properly house those hard-to-dump things - books.
We accomplished both tasks, made easier by three recommended options - two of which are substantially less expensive than the first, the 6.7-liter turbo-diesel Power Stroke engine (400 horsepower, 800 foot-pounds of torque).
That monster diesel is more fuel-efficient than the standard 6.2-liter gasoline-fueled V-8 (385 horsepower, 405 foot-pounds of torque). Its better fuel efficiency - an estimated 30 percent more efficient in terms of the amount of work done per unit of fuel used - and considerably higher torque means the big diesel makes more sense as an engine in a tough work truck.
But the turbo-diesel V-8 is a pricey option, adding $7,835 to the cost of the F-350. And the price of diesel fuel - nationally $3.07 a gallon, compared with $2.83 a gallon for regular gasoline - doesn't help.
But the other two recommended options, the Tough Bed spray-in bed liner and the tailgate step, are more reasonable.
The liner costs $450. But it will save hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars more in terms of scratches, dents and other damage to the cargo bed. Short people will smile every time they use the optional tailgate handle and step to climb into the cargo area. That step saves backs and face, reducing the amount of strain and embarrassment for short folks in loading and unloading the cargo bed.
Ford's F-Series trucks have been the best-selling vehicles in the United States for a generation. After a week in the F-350 Super Duty, it's easy to see why.
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