Seated behind the wheel of Ford's newly redesigned Super Duty F-350 pickup, I felt like I was driving Bigfoot. This baby is big. It makes full-size trucks look little, which was most obvious when I parked alongside an F-150 in the parking lot at work. The Super Duty was at least a foot taller, not to mention longer and wider.

When the F-150 was redesigned two years ago, planners recognized the differences between personal and commercial use. They adopted a two-truck strategy so that they could have a separate truck for the over-8,500-pound commercial segment. Called the Super Duty, this workhorse would be bigger all around and designed for small business owners, farmers, builders and anyone who needed a big two vehicle.

Buyers like these make demands on a truck like no one else. Size and function take precedence over everything. They need lots of space. Befitting the Super Duty's role, it looks rugged. Whereas the F-150 is rounded and carlike, the big truck is square-nosed and beefy, as intimidating as a Kenworth. Side windows are cut low for better visibility, the cabin is gigantic and the dash more Spartan. Outside mirrors are big.

This truck comes in F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 sizes with 44 different

configurations, including Chassis Cab (no bed), Regular Cab, SuperCab and Crew

Cab. There are three engines: the 5.4-liter, overhead-cam V8; 6.8-liter,

overhead-cam V10; and the 7.3-liter PowerStroke diesel V8.

Ford says the F-350 can tow up to 14,534 pounds, while the F-550 can tow as much as 19,535 pounds.

I drove two SuperCab 4X4s, an F-250 with the PowerStroke diesel and an F-350 with the V10. The F-350 had a short box and the upscale Lariat trim package,

which included leather captain's chairs; power windows, mirrors and locks; AM/FM stereo cassette; four-wheel, anti-lock brakes; and electronic shift-on-the-fly for the four-wheel drive. It's hardly a stripped-down work truck but fairly typical of how it would be equipped for someone towing a travel trailer, horse trailer or big boat.

The F-250 was less fancy and more functional, with the PowerStroke turbo diesel and an 8-foot box.

Just getting in was a challenge, especially without a grab handle on the

driver's windshield post. The running board on the F-350 was a lifesaver;

without it, the F-250 was really a stretch. Once inside, however, I found plenty of room. Shoulder room has been increased by three inches and hip room by five inches. The trucks I drove both had captain's chairs in front and a bench seat in back that folds down to make a flat load floor. Storage was abundant. A large console separated the front seats, and under its lid was a lift-out tray for smaller items and coins. A clip was integrated into its front handle so the top could be used like a clipboard. Various cubbyholes lurk throughout the interior.

Knobs are large and simple. The instrument panel is pre-wired to facilitate

hooking up accessories. A cigarette lighter and a separate power outlet are standard.

The instrument panel's shape and texture are not as curvaceous and soft as the F-150, but that's because this is intended to be a serious work truck.

Powering our F-350 was the all-new Triton V10. This engine is a derivative of the 5.4-liter Triton V8, and it was a jewel. With 275 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, it was very strong and responded to the throttle like a sports car.

The PowerStroke turbo diesel, on the other hand, was loud and noisy, as diesels are. Once underway, the noise level subsides to a pleasant rumble. This 235-horse, turbocharged, intercooled V8 is a torque monster. Its 500 pound-feet of torque exceeds that of the V10, which means it is capable of pulling more weight. It comes with a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Folks who do lots of towing will likely prefer the diesel because of its superior torque output, although I wouldn't sel the V10 short.

No Super Duty is going to be easy to park in most city environments, and these were no exception. Other than that, however, both of the trucks I tried were pleasant to drive. The ride is firm, of course, but not as choppy as one would expect of a heavy duty truck. Out on the highway wind and road noise seemed to be below average, with the V10 cruising quieter than the diesel.

Trucks in this category are serious work vehicles. Ford has civilized its newest offering without sacrificing strength. Look for a big sport-utility vehicle to come from this same chassis in the future.


The base price for our F-350 was $27,475. Options included the Lariat package, V10 engine, automatic transmission, sliding rear window, anti-lock brakes, chrome rear step bumper and all-terrain tires.

The sticker price was $32,020.


The basic warranty is for three years or 36,000 miles.

Vehicles for The Star's week-long test drives are supplied by the auto manufacturers.

Point: The Super Duty is a commercial truck that is comfortable enough for personal use as well. The V10 engine is smooth and powerful, while the PowerStroke diesel is ideal for heavy towing.

Counterpoint: The Super Duty is so big it is hard to get into, even with a running board. The diesel is especially noisy during acceleration.


ENGINE: 6.8-liter, V10


WHEELBASE: 142 inches

GCWR: 13,500-20,000 lbs.

BASE PRICE: $27,475


MPG estimate: 11 mpg