Three-quarter-ton pickups such as Ford's Super Duties are the Clydesdales of the automotive business.

With uncommon strength and pulling power, these brutes earn their keep by working like a draft horse. They pull big trailers and tote heavy loads without complaint. On top of that, the Crew Cab model can carry four or five people at the same time. Unlike a draft horse, you don't have to clean up after the truck, but you do have to feed it a goodly amount of fuel (less so for the diesel). Casual driving is not what these trucks were meant to do, and most folks who buy them will put them to work on farms, ranches and construction sites.

All Super Duty trucks come standard with a trailer towing package and four-wheel anti-lock brakes. When properly equipped, the maximum Class IV trailer weight is 10,000 pounds. The maximum increases to 14,500 pounds for a fifth-wheel trailer. Dual rear wheels, which enhance stability and towing capacity, are optional.

Driving one of these big trucks, however, isn't the punishment it once was. In spite of its substantial bulk, it can be equipped to be as comfortable and plush as a family car. Power seats, electric windows, six-disc CD player, chrome wheels and a top-notch stereo are not uncommon. The top-line Lariat package has leather seats that look great and feel soft. Reverse parking sensors, mounted in the back bumper, are an option that make parallel parking reasonable.

In recent weeks I drove two Super Duty Fords: a four-wheel-drive F-250 SuperCab powered by the awesome 7.3-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel and a two-wheel-drive F-350 Crew Cab powered by a 6.8-liter Triton V-10. The 156-inch wheelbase F-350 was somewhat longer than the 142-inch wheelbase of the SuperCab, which lacks the full-size back seat of the Crew Cab. With vehicles of this size, however, the difference in size was fairly negligible. Both demand your full attention to negotiate the bank teller window or fast-food drive-through, and pulling into a parking space at the grocery store can cause gray hair.

On the road, both trucks feel remarkably agile considering their bulk. The two-wheel-drive F-350 was fairly cushy, despite the lack of a payload to soak up some of the bumps. Four-wheel-drive rides a tad harsher.

The engine is the heart and soul of a heavy-duty pickup truck. The 7.3-liter Power Stroke diesel cranks out an incredible 505 foot-pounds of torque. A version with 275 horsepower and 520 foot-pounds of torque will be available later in the year. If towing or hard work is your gig, the diesel is the answer. Not only is the torque output substantial, it cranks it right off idle. Believe me, this thing can pull down your house. Unfortunately, it makes such a racket at low speed that only diehard truckers are willing to tolerate it, but the pounding of the diesel is music to their ears. Get it on the highway, though, and it accelerates as smoothly and quickly as a gasoline-engined truck and gets better mileage. Once up to cruising speed, the dieselÕs rattle disappears and it is barely louder than a gasoline engine.

In contrast to the noisy diesel, the 6.8-liter Triton V-10 is a model of civility, and when it comes to power and torque, it blasts 310 horsepower and 425 foot-pounds of torque. The SOHC V-10 is like a 10-cylinder version of Ford's 5.4-liter V-8. This powerplant is incredibly smooth and free of vibration, which is not something one expects to find in a heavy-duty truck.

The automatic transmission has an automatic tow-haul feature that adjusts the shift points depending on load and altitude. An overdrive lockout switch is located on the end of the shift lever.

As is pretty standard truck practice, the pickup box can be divided into upper and lower sections with boards to create two-tier loading. Tie-down hooks are located in each corner of the bed, and the tailgate on the XLT and Lariat can be locked.

Price The base price of the F-350 was $ ,940. It sticker price was $33,340.

The F-250's base price was $30,414, and its sticker price was $38,374.

Warranty Three years or 36,000 miles.

To get in touch with Tom Strongman, send e-mail to {Point:} Super Duty pickups have evolved from simple work trucks to vehicles that can do serious work without sacrificing the daily comfort and convenience truck buyers have come to expect. The diesel can tow more and gets better fuel mileage than the gas engines. Most of these trucks will spend their time pulling trailers, hauling construction supplies or delivering hay bales. {Counterpoint:} Life in the city is compromised by long wheelbases and substantial vehicle width, which makes tight turns challenging. SPECIFICATIONS:
Engine: 6.8-liter, 310-hp V-10 7.3-liter, 250-hp turbo diesel V-8
Transmission: automatic Two-wheel or four-wheel drive
Wheelbase: 142 inches or 156 inches
Curb weight: n/a
Base price: F-350 - $29,940
F-250 - $30,414
As driven: F-350 - $33,340
F-250 - $38,374
Mpg rating: not required for over 8,500-pound trucks