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We fired up the new diesel to start the drive.
The 6.7-liter V-8 is the quietest diesel engine we've driven in a pickup, thanks to the engine's new piston design, fuel-injection strategy and special acoustic covers that sit over the injectors on each cylinder bank to quiet noises from the fuel system as well as to lower overall NVH from the engine. We've heard some say that you can stand next to the truck and not be able to tell it's idling, but we were still clearly able to hear its subdued clatter, which we consider to be a positive characteristic. However, if you're into getting the attention of other oil-burning HD truck owners in the Home Depot parking lot as you roll in, you're going to be disappointed. You've got to be within about 10 feet of an idling truck to know a diesel is in your proximity.
It's also noticeably quieter inside compared with the 2010 model, thanks to added sound insulation. There's extra baffling to reduce road and powertrain noise and the continued use of what Ford calls "quiet steel" in the dash panel, which uses a multilayer laminate to help reduce vehicle noise and vibration levels. The ceiling is covered with a new headliner material that feels a bit more solid to the touch than before and helps absorb noise in the cab. It was easy to have conversations between the front and backseat passengers without raising our voices until wind noise became intrusive around 70 mph.
Steering feel has improved, too, making the big truck much easier to manage. In our , we commented how we liked the Dodge Ram's steering the most of all the HD pickups in the segment. Perhaps Ford was listening because it's much easier to point Super Duty pickups where you want it to go, especially at lower speeds, thanks to several key changes.
There are all-new steering gears across the entire lineup of single- and dual-rear-wheel trucks to handle the heavier towing and hauling capabilities. More important, two-wheel drive trucks with Ford's ancient twin I-beam front suspension have new parallel steering-rod linkages and steering geometry. The hydraulic steering pump keeps boost consistently high at low and high speeds, though its tuned to whether the truck has a gas or diesel engine.
Peter Frantzeskakis, Ford Super Duty vehicle engineering manager, said the improved steering response should benefit drivers using snow plows so they don't get tired battling heavy steering slowed further by the extra weight of a big blade up front.
We're not enamored with the Super Duty's new turn-signal stalk. Although it offers helpful three-blink signaling, when you need it to stay on longer it doesn't latch in place. Instead, it springs back to its home position, and you have to tap it up or down to turn it off. We can't think of any other trucks that do this. Ford execs said drivers would get used to the new stalk over time.
Older drivers may remember when Ford trucks had their horn switch mounted on the end of the turn-signal stalk instead of in the middle of the steering wheel. The turn signal isn't that bad, but it's annoying for something that the driver will be touching frequently. Other 2011 models will be receiving the change, so don't be surprised if the F-150 gets the same type of turn signal.
There is some good news about the signal stalk, though. Now, you pull it back to activate the truck's high beams instead of pushing it forward like on the previous truck.
Building the 6.7-liter diesel and six-speed transmission in-house has helped Ford do more than maintain a tighter grasp on powertrain power, quality, reliability and durability. It's also helped Ford improve ride quality by re-engineering the truck's suspension system to match the engine's power output from the earliest stages of development to final validation. On the road, this translated into improved ride quality that we noticed in the first five minutes of driving. The standard Tenneco shocks have been retuned with all-new valving, and on the single-rear-wheel KR we drove there were new rear leaf springs with revised spring rates. The result was virtually none of the front-to-back off-balance tipping we felt in the previous truck when it was unloaded from underutilized engine torque.
Dual-rear-wheel trucks carry over their old springs but receive the new shocks. Chassis cab trucks carry over the previous shocks and springs, for now.
Ford also has given the SRW Super Duty trucks all-new ring-and-pinion gears in the rear axle to handle the high amount of twist from the 6.7-liter PSD V-8. The F-450 also has a new rear diff and Dana M80 rear axle.
Final-drive ratios remain the same as before, though they vary in availability by model. They run from a fuel-efficient 3.31:1 in a SRW F-250 or F-350 to a trailer-towing-optimized 4:30:1 in the DRW F-450. Aluminum diff covers now are used across the lineup with prominent cooling fins to control temperatures. They look cool, too.
Another improvement that we think Ford could make to the truck to refine the Super Duty's unloaded ride further would be the use of hydraulic body mounts instead of rubber isolators under the rear of the crew cab to help take the edge off choppy road surfaces.
Cruising around 55 mph, the engine turned near its 1,600-rpm torque peak. When we needed extra power, it was there in heaps for the taking. Clatter levels remained low at speed. Turbo whine and the sound of it spooling up was completely absent or our ears weren't sharp enough to pick up on any. Turbo lag was imperceptible. Ford's diesel engine team deserves major kudos for NVH tuning.