The Super Duty trucks, introduced in 1999, are built on a separate platform from the smaller F-150. Bigger, stronger and more robust, they are meant to perform feats of which the F-150 isn't capable. In an effort to stay competitive in a "more is better" marketplace, Ford increased payload and towing capacities for 2005. Thanks to a fully boxed front frame clip and revised engine choices, the F-350 can haul an extra 1,000 pounds. Tow ratings also jumped, with the F-350 diesel model now capable of dragging an incredible 19,200 pounds.
Under the hood, the base-level 5.4-liter Triton V8 received a slew of technology lifted from the F-150 line, including three-valve cylinder heads and variable valve timing responsible for a bump in output to an impressive 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. Also available is the venerable Power Stroke diesel, which happens to be the most popular engine choice in the Super Duty lineup with a stump-pulling 570 lb-ft of torque on tap. All trucks equipped with an automatic transmission come with a tow-haul mode. The front suspension on four-wheel-drive models uses coil springs, and the result is a significantly reduced turning radius (versus previous leaf-spring setups), which should come in handy when trying to navigate into tight parking spots. Externally, the F-350 retains much of its original broad and brawny look.
Moving inside, the base-level XL and midlevel XLT feature a dual-pod instrument cluster that locates the message center between the round tachometer and speedometer. The high-end Lariat model gets Cherry Zebrano wood grain appliques, as well as leather seating surfaces and steering wheel controls for the stereo and air conditioning. Among the available options are a six-disc CD changer and an in-dash trailer brake control system. However, the Super Duty isn't for everyone, as the price of a diesel-equipped Crew Cab can go well past $40,000. Smart shoppers will want to check out the F-350's formidable competition, which includes the Chevrolet Silverado 3500HD and the Dodge Ram 3500, and keep in mind that a fully redesigned F-350 is expected to debut for 2007.
The Super Duty comes in Regular Cab, SuperCab and Crew Cab body styles. SuperCab models have small rear-opening doors, while the Crew Cab has four full-size swing-out doors. A plethora of optional equipment is available, including electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive, a heavy-duty suspension package and telescoping trailer-towing mirrors. To match your desired level of opulence, there are three trim levels available: XL, XLT and Lariat. XL models are work trucks, and as such come with a vinyl bench seat in front; manual windows, mirrors and locks; a basic AM/FM radio; and no air conditioner. The XLT adds cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40 front bench, air conditioning, a CD player and a full set of power controls. High-line Lariats come with features like leather upholstery, a power driver seat and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Inside, the roomy cabs have large, comfortable seats and generous seat-track travel. Five or six adults can ride inside with little problem as long as you choose the SuperCab or Crew Cab body. In addition, there are many interior convenience features designed for today's business owners. For example, the center console bin is big enough to house a laptop computer. Materials quality is nothing special, as the base grade upholstery feels a little downmarket while the dash and door panels are covered in hard gray plastic.
The F-350 can be equipped from a choice of three different engines. The base engine is a 5.4-liter V8 that generates 300 horsepower and 365 pound-feet of torque. An optional 6.8-liter V10 generates 362 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque. The best choice for those who do serious towing and hauling, though, is the 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel rated at 325 hp and 570 lb-ft. A six-speed manual is standard with these engines, but a five-speed automatic with a tow-haul mode is also available. Properly equipped, an F-350 can tow up to 19,200 pounds.
The F-350 is actually quite civil on the highway, as it soaks up heavy ruts and bumps with ease. The coil spring front suspension and large-diameter wheels have reinvigorated the platform, as handling is crisp and precise on the open road or on tighter city streets. The steering can still feel a little vague, however, so extra attention is required to keep the truck centered at highway speeds. The PowerStroke provides incredible power, and even with a trailer hitched to the back, acceleration is smooth and linear thanks to the diesel's broad power curve.
Antilock four-wheel disc brakes are standard. The Super Duty also offers power-adjustable pedals. There is no NHTSA or IIHS crash test data on the Super Duties.
There are only minor changes in store for the 2006 Ford F-350. The Lariat trim, for instance, is a bit more luxurious this year, as it features the formerly optional dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming mirror and trip computer as standard equipment. There's also a new Amarillo package, which includes Blazing Yellow paint, special wheels, black interior accents and unique black leather seating. One can also get new 20-inch aluminum wheels on selected models and trim levels. Finally, Ford has cleaned up the V8 diesel's emissions this year so that the engine's now legal in all 50 states.