Playing is getting more and more expensive. Of course, I mean the price of fuel — an integral part of all powersports. And while that may deter a few, the majority won’t abandon their passion for riding. But, on the other hand, when it comes to buying the right truck to serve needs, it’s only smart to look at every aspect of that purchase. Trucks can (and should) serve multiple purposes — work, play and transport should all be part of the purchase equation.
Combination Of Skills
This balancing act happened in March when we hauled an enclosed four-place snowmobile trailer about 800 miles from Toronto, Ontario, to Sault St. Marie, Ontario, and back with the new 2008 Ford F250 4WD Crew Cab ($400 bucks in diesel later … ouch!). But then that’s the cost of transporting a whole lot more than just a driver.
The truck was multitasking — four snowmobiles, four adults, a twin-axle, 25-foot enclosed trailer and all the assorted gear that goes with a week-long ride. Work demands are often even more extreme. For many, weekday chores or weekend playtime demands a truck that can haul comfortably, competently and safely.
This is a trait Ford has built into its trucks, saying that more than 90 percent of Super Duty owners tow regularly. This new F250 works well, towing up to 12,500 pounds conventionally or up to 16,500 pounds if equipped with a fifth-wheel hitch.
During our trip to the Sault, the truck also cruised confidently and towed the 9,000-pound trailer with minimal effort, even through a wet, driving snow. Meanwhile over the 10-hour trip, inside, we found the quietest Super Duty yet, a result of better sound deadening material and a new quieter 6.4L diesel which is also more powerful with 350 hp and 650 pound-feet of torque. The transmission also gets a new fifth gear that barely taxes the engine at 60 mph, creating some fuel savings.
Because it handles towing so well, more than 80 percent of Super Duty buyers order the turbo diesel option. This combination is a complete generational leap from the old 6.0-liter Power Stroke; particularly in its performance and its new emission reduction systems.
Those new emission systems are all part of Ford Clean Diesel Technology, which eliminates up to 97 percent of the particulate output — a figure on par with gasoline engines —unfortunately these changes have driven the price of the diesel option up by about $1,500 over the previous 6L Power Stroke.
The gasoline alternative to the diesel engine is the base 5.4L V8 or the optional 6.8L V10, both of which are proven reliable engines. Unless you are packing on mega-miles in a year, you should consider the lower entry price of the gas alternatives even though the consumption will be higher. On the other hand, the diesel truck will fetch more at trade-in time. The price premium isn’t unique to Ford. Clean diesel technology was government mandated in 2007 so all manufacturers have had to comply and the resulting rise in the price of diesel engines has affected them all.
One benefit that stood out on the trip was the reworked high-pressure, common-rail fuel injection on the 6.4L which has improved cold weather starting. No warm-up time was needed and there was no smoke.
The TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission also has Tow/Haul mode for heavy loads, but the low-end torque on this engine pulls even the largest trailer smartly off the line without using it.
Ford’s TowCommand System returns as an option that is well worth the money. It includes a factory-installed electronic brake controller that works with the anti-lock braking system and helps to slow the trailer and truck in those conditions. This integrated controller works better and quicker than any aftermarket unit. Ford was the first to install its own unit in its trucks but GM and Dodge have followed suit on its HD trucks. Next year buyers will be able to order these factory-installed controllers on half-ton trucks as well.
Another wonderful feature is the PowerScope trailer tow mirrors. These large, heated mirrors slide out at the push of a button affording a clear view down the sides of a towed trailer. Drop the trailer, push the button and the mirrors slide back in. They also “break-away” in both directions and have large adjustable convex spot-mirrors.
Interior comfort was improved too. Front driver and passenger seats were plush leather, power adjustable and heated while the rear 60/40 leather bench seat folded up or down and had a recessed armrest. An adjustable gas/brake pedal and tilt wheel accommodated drivers and a new center console offered extra cupholders and an armrest with a cavernous storage space underneath. The rear passengers were surrounded by privacy glass and could relax with the optional DVD entertainment system. Also new this year is a six-CD, AM/FM/SAT Audiophile sound system that has an MP3 input jack.
The FX4 designation is available on 4WD SuperCab or Crew Cab models. This package adds items like a limited-slip rear axle, skid plates, Rancho shocks, a billet-style grille and 18-inch premium chrome wheels.
Out back, Ford’s hide-away tailgate step is a good example of a company doing its homework and giving truck people what they need. It makes getting up and down from the bed easy.
Extreme Winter Weather
Sometimes unexpected problems surface. During the last snow storm of the season, a warning light came on to check the engine’s air filter. It was packed with snow. It was scooped out only to have to do it again later. The owner’s manual mentioned that driving snow or rain might clog the intake to the filter. It’s suggested remedy was to dry it out. Say what?
Ford is aware of the flaw and offering a winter front cover as a remedy to any customer who experienced this problem.
The new Ford SuperDuty is a handsome truck, even when it’s all muddy. Our test vehicle was dressed in red with a blackout grille, chrome step rail and eight-spoke 20-inch rims (upgraded from 18-inch) — it looked tough, capable and ready to haul. Equipped with 4WD it will move itself and about any towable trailer out of a winter respite.
Specifications 2008 Ford F250 4×4 Crew Cab Super Duty
Base Price: $36,395
Price as tested: $53,450
Displacement/Type: 6.4L V8 Turbo Diesel
Net Torque: 650 lb-ft @2000 rpm
Net Power: 350 hp @ 3000 rpm
Fuel Delivery System: High-pressure common rail
Fuel Capacity: 30.5 gallons
Fuel Requirement: Diesel
Transmission: TorqShift 5-speed OD automatic
Rear Axle Gears: 3.73:1
Body/Frame: Body on frame
GVWR: 10,000 pounds
Front: Coil monobeam, shock absorber w/stabilizer bar
Rear: Live axle w/leaf springs
Front: 13.66-inch disc
Rear: 13.39-inch disc
Assist: Vacuum, with ABS
Turning Circle: 51.8 feet
Tires: LT275/70R18 all-terrain
Wheelbase: 156.2 inches
Track (front/rear): 50.9/50.9 inches
Overall Length: 246.2 inches
Overall Width: 79.9 inches
Curb Weight: 6,560 lbs.
Max. Tow Rating: 12,500 lbs. (with proper equipment)
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY
EPA Mileage (city/highway): Not required