First Drive Review 2011 Ford F-250 Diesel V-8 Off-Road and Hauling, Summary, Part 5


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Diesel 2011 F-250 XLT 4×4 SuperCab Short Wheelbase Single Rear Wheel — Off-Road

Ford set up an off-road course at a rock quarry for us to try out an FX4-trimmed Super Cab pickup with the 6.7-liter diesel. It offered a groomed mix of rock crawling, steep grades, asymmetrically spaced moguls and mud pits to traverse.

Photo by: Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.

The Super Duty adds a new electronic locking rear differential for 2011 that can be activated with the pull of the transfer case knob that's also used to shift the truck from two-wheel drive to 4HI and 4LO. It's only available for the single-rear-wheel trucks. The off-road course had a few technically challenging portions but none were so slippery that we required the use of the locker.

Hill descent control is another awesome new feature. HDC uses the truck’s antilock braking system to automatically modulate the brakes to slow travel down steep slopes so the driver can focus on steering. Having driven trucks that were equipped with similar systems, from the expensive Lexus LX 570 to the reasonably priced Nissan Frontier, Ford’s HDC is the best we’ve driven to date. The ABS modulations were smooth and unobtrusive, leaving our attention to focus on staying on the best line down the grade. It was easy to scrub speed or add velocity in one-mph increments with a touch of the brakes or accelerator.

As we crawled up, down and around steep grades, we also appreciated the new 4-inch productivity screen (again) that displayed the truck's pitch and yaw angle in degrees. It's a system that Ford borrowed from Land Rover.

The Super Duty's open C-channel frame excels in two areas: ride comfort while towing heavy loads and accessibility for upfitters to run wires and cables along the sides of the frame rails without having to punch holes in boxed sections. However, it's a bit challenged off-road because of the design's inherent flexibility — even with hefty 6.7mm-thick steel rails. In certain portions of the off-road course, like rock crawling and rolling over the moguls, the truck clicked and popped as it twisted over the uneven surfaces.

Both Ford and Ram fit solid front axles on their four-wheel-drive HD pickups, but the Ram is much quieter off-road thanks to its fully boxed frame. The Ram also offers an optional front locker in the Power Wagon model, though that model is only available with a gas V-8.

Diesel 2011 F-250 King Ranch 4×4 Crew Cab Long Wheelbase Single Rear Wheel — Hauling 1,000 pounds

Our last driving exercise was a fuel-efficiency challenge. While some on the trip hypermiled their diesels over 28 mpg, we drove 70 miles back to Phoenix on rural roads and the Interstate 10 freeway near the speed limit or keeping up with traffic. The diesel didn't shrug a bit with 1,000 pounds of concrete in its bed while returning an excellent 22 mpg.

The new 6.7-liter V-8 uses urea selective catalytic reduction to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. While this requires periodic refills at around $2.69 a gallon (pump price at Pilot truck stops), it also offers a big benefit to fuel economy because the truck can run a leaner fuel/air mixture than other NOx reduction solutions — like Chrysler's and Cummins' urea-free NOx trap — because diesel fuel isn't required to regenerate the catalyst.

The Super Duty's fuel economy is a big win for Ford. It's gratifying and confidence building, especially when the truck is being worked hard. It also will be helpful on cross-country trips, reducing the amount of time refueling and traveling to your destination.

Other Notable Items

Ford also set up several challenges near the off-road course to test its 2011 F-450 and F-550 trucks upfitted with dump bodies and water spreaders. Normally, dumping dirt or squirting water wouldn't be more than cool activities to try out, but what made these tasks interesting was playing with Ford's new Live Drive Power Takeoff feature on the Super Duty.

PTO enables running auxiliary equipment directly off the truck’s engine via either a splined driveshaft or the transmission. In Ford's case, it's off the gearbox in a way that powers the extra hardware while the truck is stopped and moving.

Parasitic power is limited while the truck is on the go. The Live Drive PTO offers up to 150 pounds-feet of torque at 750 rpm while the truck is moving and up to 250 pounds-feet of torque in the range of 900 to 1,200 rpm when it’s parked.


It's been only three years since Ford last updated the Super Duty lineup, and this time around it has fixed almost every weakness that the 2008-10 rigs had, starting with the all-new 6.7-liter V-8 Power Stroke diesel that replaces the 6.4-liter V-8 PSD. Adding to the good news, Ford is holding pricing steady for the diesel option and its popular F-250 XLT Crew Cab model.

Many potential buyers will be interested to see how durable and reliable the new diesel engine is, but based on initial reports from 2011 Super Dutys already out in the field with fleet customers, it appears that Ford has done its homework.

We'll also be keen to see how the new 6.2-liter V-8 gas engine performs, and we're looking forward to putting it through a rigorous set of tests soon. Stay tuned for more news about this engine.

Overall, as we stated at the start of this review, we're impressed with the new Super Dutys. At a time when spending money on a new truck requires more thought than ever before, Ford is making the right moves to hold and grow its majority share of the market against rivals Chrysler and GM.

Photo by: Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.

We still have one more new truck introduction to go. GM is expected to start sales of its new 2011 HD pickups this summer and they look to be the most potent challengers to Ford since the Duramax diesel debuted in 2001. Before then, you'll be able to buy a new Super Duty starting next month.

What We Like

  • Trailer sway control that works with electric and hydraulic trailer brakes
  • Standard seat-mounted and side curtain airbags on all models
  • No change in price for the new 6.7-liter diesel engine option
  • Jaw-dropping levels of diesel torque available at highway speed and at low RPMs
  • Six-speed automatic transmission is available for both gas and diesel engines
  • Best driver information system among all full-size trucks
  • Excellent fuel economy from the diesel
  • Hill descent control and electronic locking rear differential in FX4 off-road model
  • Fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailer prep package is only $400 from the factory with a warranty
  • Much improved steering reduces driving effort
  • Telescoping steering wheel

What We Don't

  • The only way you can tell it's the new Super Duty is to see it head on. The rest of the truck looks old
  • Turning stalk doesn't latch in place when you want to signal a lane change beyond three clicks
  • 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine doesn't feel as powerful as the old 6.8-liter V-10
  • Needs better brake feel and power to handle big increases in towing and hauling
  • F-450 pickup has been downgraded in payload capacity and shares most frame hardware with F-350
  • Ride quality in crew-cab and extended-cab models could be improved with hydraulic body mounts

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