Ford's new F-250 Super Duty has the face of a bulldog, but you don't have to worry about its bite. As tough as this new truck is, it is more civilized than ever.

That's especially true of the four-wheel-drive King Ranch Crew Cab that I drove. The King Ranch edition is equipped with beautiful saddle leather, and the test truck was loaded with nearly every convenience option Ford offers. It was as nice as any SUV, yet it didn't sacrifice function.

The Super Duty is available in regular cab, super cab and crew cab models, with a 5.4-liter V-8, a 6.8-liter V-10 or a 6.4-liter V-8 diesel. Two-wheel or four-wheel drive is offered, as are two bed lengths, 6.75 feet and 8 feet.

A key to the new Super Duty's ability to do heavy work is the revised 6.4-liter, 350-horsepower Power Stroke diesel V-8. This engine produces a whopping 650 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm, and that enables the F-250 to tow up to 6 tons. The F-450 can tow up to 24,000 pounds.

The four-wheel-drive F-250 Crew Cab is big, and the huge chrome grille, stamped with Super Duty, is intimidating. The headlights are stacked alongside the grille. The test truck was equipped with the optional 20-inch aluminum wheels.

Ford has tweaked the Power Stroke diesel, not only making it larger, but also making it quieter. Piezo fuel injectors help cut down on the noise. The new diesel easily passes the fast-food drive-through test. The previous diesel was so loud that it had to be shut off to place an order over a drive-through speaker, but the new one is quieter so shutting it off is no longer necessary.

The new Power Stroke uses sequential turbochargers to get maximum high- and low-speed boost. Fuel economy ratings aren't required for heavy-duty trucks, but the diesel is 25 percent to 30 percent more efficient than a comparable gasoline engine.

Inside, the King Ranch model is as plush as a luxury SUV. The four bucket seats, steering wheel and both consoles are covered in yards of tan saddle leather. The seats are deep and inviting. The large center consoles swallow all manner of large items. The test truck was equipped with power telescoping outside mirrors, a power sliding rear window, heated front seats, Sirius satellite radio and a navigation system.

The test truck was also equipped with a factory-installed, electronic trailer brake controller that works in conjunction with the truck's standard anti-lock braking system.

The instrument panel is considerably nicer than the one in last year's model. The chrome-rimmed gauges are big and bright. Woodgrain trim is sprinkled liberally across the dash and door panels.

Ford has developed a couple of clever innovations to help folks who use the F-250 as a work truck. A step and handhold fold out of the tailgate to ease climbing up into the bed, and the fold-out bed extender can be collapsed and stored against the sides of the bed. Both of these features will prove their merit time and time again over the life of the truck.

The F-250 is a big truck, and it drives like one. Owners who will use it for its towing and hauling will love it, but owners who simply cruise the suburbs will find its length and width unhandy in parking lots and tight quarters.

Price

The test truck was a preproduction unit from Ford's press fleet. Its base price was $37,305. Options included the diesel engine and automatic transmission, 3.73 rear axle ratio, King Ranch trim package, 20-inch aluminum wheels, tow package, power rear window, adjustable pedals, heated seats, rear parking sensor and a trailer brake controller. The sticker price was $57,225.

Warranty

Three years or 36,000 miles with a five-year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.