I'm sorry: Did I just run over your car?
That can happen when you drive the 2011 Ford F-350, which makes every other vehicle on the road look like a tin can ready for crushing.
It is the most refined beast on the road today. Capable of arriving in a variety of configurations, the Ford Super Duty remains one of the best big rig trucks.
The Lariat edition I recently tested for a week grew on me the more I drove it -- enjoying it without actually putting this truck to work. The interior was beautiful, the ride surprisingly smooth, and it offered a bird's eye view of the road. In fact, it requires a parachute just to get out of it.
It may not fit in a lot of garages; my test vehicle measured 246 inches long (and it had the "short" 6-by-8-foot bed on it), but when you're behind the wheel, you don't really care. You just drive.
Now really, this truck is more than any journalist -- and most people -- may want to own, unless, of course, you need to haul 15,000 pounds on a regular basis and you simply enjoy intimidating other cars off the road. Then, this is the perfect vehicle.
Of course, I could have tested the even-more-powerful diesel version of the F-350, which cranks out incredible amounts of torque (735 pound-feet) that will pull most houses.
But the gas version is nearly as nice. The 6.2-liter V-8 will create 405 pound-feet of torque and 385 horsepower, more than enough to carry a winter's supply of firewood. Plus, it runs on gas.
But it's not simply a big gas engine, it's a high-tech wonder. It uses two spark plugs per cylinder to ensure cleaner and more efficient combustion. There are also dual knock sensors, dual equal variable cam timing, better engine breathing and a heavy duty six-speed automatic transmission that can handle just about everything.
Now, within the truck world, there are always a few diesel deniers -- those who weigh the diesel premium (nearly $9,000 more) against the more efficient diesel engine. (I am not one of them; instead, I believe there should be a diesel version of every vehicle on the road today.)
But for the sake of sounding fair, the argument goes that a person buying diesel will never save enough money using a diesel to pay for the premium. This is why every heavy-duty truck maker offers a big V-8 gas engine. Strictly speaking, this argument is true. Diesels are not the economical engine -- especially now that diesel fuel costs more than gas at filling stations.
However, and this is a big one, the diesel engine is nearly twice as powerful as the gas engine. And diesels are famous for incredible durability, which is something every pickup owner demands.
In the end, the engine choice is up to the driver. For someone who uses their big rig for toy hauling, boat pulling or the occasional firewood run, a gas engine might be the best choice. For others, the diesel -- for me, the gas engine was just fine.
In order to really see this vehicle's capabilities, I took it to Ann Arbor for a little city driving.
I thought the 156-inch wheel base might make driving in traffic difficult. It was far from that. Cars tended to move right out of my way as I came up behind them. Parking was a bit of a bear just finding a space big enough -- none of the city-owned parking spaces seemed big enough. I could squeeze into the space, but the back end would stick out a few feet and I wouldn't be able to open the doors.
So I had to park in those side streets that allegedly required a permit of some sort. From the driver's seat of the F-350, permits seem silly.
The interior will make anyone feel as if they're exempt from permits. The cabin is simply spectacular. The giant seats and the crew cab, which actually has more space back there than up front, are comfortable and well made. There is nearly everything a person needs during a long drive.
Then there are all of the features inside. From the voice-operated infotainment system Sync to the massive amounts of storage and the small crisp display screen between the tachometer and speedometer, Ford creates a polished interior that will impress luxury car buyers. It's complete, well built and reflects the toughness of the exterior.
A pleasure to drive
During a late night drive coming back from Ann Arbor, the truck glided down the road. Its big wheels churned along and cars moved out the way quickly as I approached them. (When the new Super Duty was created, the head lights were lowered slightly so they wouldn't glare in the eyes of car drivers.)
It's big and brawny and classy and fun. The Super Duty, in any size or configuration, may be a work truck but it's also a pleasure to drive.
While it's not something I really need, it's certainly something I like. And those people who need a big truck, the F-350 is a great place to start.
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