When a massive 2003 Ford F-350 pickup was delivered for a week of testing, I was, well, intimidated. Everything about the F-350 is super-sized ... even its name. From the first second I stepped up into the truck's cockpit, I was in trouble.
I could not remember the full and proper name of the vehicle I was driving. For the record, here's what was on the sticker: 2003 Ford Super Duty F-350 4X2 Crew Cab Lariat 156-inch wheelbase Styleside. Think that's confusing? Try making sense of the
specifications for the various F-350s made by Ford. Calling them up from the Ford Web site produced a computer screen so packed with numbers that it reminded me of the mass of logarithms printed on my desktop in high school algebra class -- another
environment where I was intimidated. The F-350's dimensions are staggering. The tested model was nearly 7 feet wide and more than 20 feet long, tipping the scales at almost 6,000 pounds. That made fitting it in the standard-size Sacramento-area
parking space an exercise in utter futility. While maneuvering in downtown Sacramento traffic, I'm certain the look on my face all but screamed my thoughts: "Am I still between the lines of my lane!" Power is likewise gargantuan. Ford dropped a
6-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbodiesel engine into my F-350. The power plant was rated at 325 horsepower and an absolutely monstrous 560 foot-pounds of torque, which kicked in as low as 2,000 revolutions per minute. Today, it's easy to get jaded with high
horsepower and torque, but being pinned to the seat on acceleration in a nearly 3-ton pickup got my attention. The engine and a five-speed automatic transmission accounted for most of the optional-equipment charges that sent the tested F-350's price
of $32,825 soaring to $41,380 on the bottom line. Still, having experienced the pop of the 6-liter turbodiesel, it's hard to imagine settling for anything less spirited in this particular pickup. I felt like the diesel was waking up neighbors for
miles around when I backed the F-350 out of my driveway, but truck-driving friends informed me that the Power Stroke engine was comparatively quiet as diesels go. Pickup pros also liked the trailer hitch receiver that was already equipped to tow seemingly
anything up to the size of a five-story office building (actual capacity 13,100 pounds). Being a relative novice in the world of gigantic pickups, I was impressed with the leather-covered captain's chairs front and back. Steering the big brute was
incredibly easy; power recirculating-ball steering paired with a sweetly tuned suspension made it possible to put the pickup through its paces with one hand on the steering wheel. But do not try one-handing an F-350 around Sacramento! Most of the
time, I clutched the steering wheel in a two-handed death grip, fearful that I might stray onto the sidewalk and snap off a fire hydrant. Right about the time I was g
etting used to maneuvering the F-350's wide track and long length, it was time to turn it back over to its handlers. In truth, I was relieved to let it go. For my lifestyle, it was too much truck. However, it was easy to imagine wheeling the big
F-350 down Interstate 80 to a work site in the Bay Area. The big pickup easily maintained freeway speed, and there was enough room in the cargo bed to carry a storeful of tools. I could even envision cruising through the fields of the ranch of my dreams,
benevolently dropping off bales of hay for my eternally grateful livestock. In that world, the F-350 would be perfect -- with the bonus of exceptional luxury inside the passenger cabin. Even a city boy could love that. Ford F-350 at a glance
Make/model: 2003 Ford F-350 Super Duty 4X2 Crew Cab Lariat Styleside.Vehicle type: Four-seat, four-door, rear-drive, full-size pickup.Base price: $32,825 (as tested, $41,380).
Engine: 6-liter V-8 turbodiesel with 325 horsepower at 3,300 revolutions per minute and 560 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm.Transmission: Five-speed automatic with overdrive.Steering: Recirculating ball with power.Brakes: Four-wheel
discs with power and anti-lock.Suspension type: Twin I-beam independent with stabilizer bar on front, live axle with leaf springs and shock absorbers on rear.Cargo capacity: 64.7 cubic feet.Towing capacity: 13,100 pounds..Fuel tank: 29
gallons (diesel)..Curb weight: 5,836 pounds..Height: 77 inches.Length: 245.8 inches.Wheelbase: 156.2 inches.Width: 79.9 inches.Tire track: 68.7 inches on front, 68.1 inches on rear.Ground clearance: 7 inches.Tires:
LT265/75RX16E all-season radials.