There are trucks and then there are trucks, pronounced in a deep Sam Elliott twang. The 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty would be the latter, a heavy-duty pickup available with a dual rear axle that can tow upwards of 21,600 pounds. To put that into perspective, things that weigh that much include five hippos, two killer whales and a 38-foot fishing trawler. Or just a really huge camper. But no matter what you plan on pulling or hauling, the F-350 is a serious machine for serious jobs. And with two new engines for 2011, it just got even more serious.
Following up the changes made to the comparatively pedestrian Ford F-150, the F-350 gets a whole host of updates and upgrades. Minor tweaks were made to the exterior and there are welcome revisions to the climate controls, bringing them in line with the rest of Ford's new lineup (the double-DIN stereo faceplate remains). More importantly, though, Ford's twin I-beam suspension was enhanced to enable greater towing and payload capability, while also improving the ride (which nevertheless continues to be inherently stiff and bouncy when unladen). The steering gear is all-new, with Ford claiming improved response and on-center feel.
The biggest changes, however, are under the hood. Standard is a 6.2-liter V8 good for 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque, which represents a major improvement over the old truck's 5.4-liter V8 with 300 hp and 365 lb-ft. To get that 21,600-pound max tow rating, though, you'll need to opt for the new 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 that pumps out 400 hp and a colossal 800 lb-ft of torque (versus the previous 350 hp and 650 lb-ft). Both engines get a new six-speed automatic transmission and Ford says fuel economy has improved as well.
Should the F-350's massive capabilities not be enough (say, you need to tow three killer whales), Ford is the only truck maker that sells something greater than a 350-series pickup: the F-450. For most consumers in need of a serious truck, though, the 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty is a fine choice, though the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 3500 HD and 2011 Ram 3500 are definitely worth a look as well.
The 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty is available in three cab designs (regular, extended SuperCab and Crew Cab), two rear axle designs (single wheel and dual) and two bed lengths (8 feet and 6 feet, 9 inches, which is unavailable with the regular cab or dual rear wheel). There are four trim levels -- XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch -- but not all are available with every cab, bed and axle configuration.
The base XL available in all configurations comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, a tow package, telescoping trailer mirrors, air-conditioning, 40/20/40 front bench seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seat (SuperCab and Crew Cab), vinyl upholstery, vinyl flooring, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a two-speaker radio. The XL dually adds running boards and a hydraulic jack. The Value package adds cruise control, chrome bumpers and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player. The Power Equipment Group adds keyless entry, full power accessories and heated power mirrors with integrated blind-spot mirrors.
The XLT includes the Value package and Power Equipment Group, but adds alloy wheels (single rear wheel) cloth upholstery, rear privacy glass, cupholders, carpet flooring, additional interior power points and an auxiliary audio jack. The XLT Interior package adds automatic headlights, a keyless entry code pad, a six-way power driver seat and power-adjustable pedals. The XLT Premium package available on the SuperCab and Crew Cab adds the Interior package, plus power telescoping mirrors, foglamps, auto-dimming rearview mirror, steering-wheel controls and the Sync electronics system, which includes Bluetooth and an iPod interface.
The Lariat is SuperCab and Crew Cab only. It includes the XLT's above optional items and adds rear parking sensors, a power-sliding rear window, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front bucket seats with power lumbar adjustment and a full center console, leather upholstery (SuperCab backseat is premium vinyl), rear seat air vents, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an enhanced trip computer and an eight-speaker sound system with satellite radio. It also adds 18-inch alloy wheels (single rear wheel) or 17-inch alloy wheels (dual rear wheel). Many of these additions are optional on the XLT.
The King Ranch adds to the Lariat special exterior and interior trim, remote ignition, a rearview camera, unique King Ranch rust-red leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats and driver memory functions. Other than the King Ranch-specific trim, all these items are options on the Lariat.
Options on all F-350s include a fifth-wheel hitch kit, roof clearance lights, a tailgate step, a rear window defroster, a sunroof and a navigation system with integrated HD radio. The FX4 Off-Road package available on 4x4 models includes all-terrain tires, skid plates and upgraded Rancho-brand shocks. Single-rear-wheel models get an electronic locking differential and hill descent control with this package, while the dually gets a limited-slip rear axle.
Most of the 2011 Ford F-350 Super Duty's interior carries over from the previous model, featuring a blocky, industrial theme. Compared to the Ram 3500, the Ford's cabin is beginning to look a little long in the tooth (though the updated climate controls are welcome). Hard plastics abound throughout the interior on lower trim levels, but are on par or better than other trucks in this segment. Opting for the Lariat or King Ranch models will add a decidedly upscale experience, with rich leather and added amenities.
New for 2011, the F-350 adds a lockable bin under an available front center bench seat, which also folds to serve as an armrest. Another lockable bin is located under the rear seats and can easily accommodate longer items (like a hunting rifle) and also features a 12-volt power point. Another nifty addition is the available 4.2-inch LCD multifunction display placed in the instrument panel. This display allows the driver to customize settings and relays trip computer, fuel economy, towing and off-road information.
The 2011 Ford F-350 comes standard with a 6.2-liter gasoline-powered V8 that produces 385 hp and 405 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with either rear- or all-wheel drive. The F-350 is not subject to EPA fuel economy tests, but Ford says this new engine is more fuel-efficient than the one it replaces. Maximum towing capacity with this engine is between 11,800 and 15,000 pounds depending on axle ratio, wheels driven, cab design and single or dual rear axle. Adding a fifth-wheel hookup boosts the max up to 15,700.
Optional is a 6.7-liter diesel V8 that produces 400 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. (Early-build F-350s with this engine made 390 hp and 735 lb-ft. Ford later upgraded it to the current 400 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque and says the upgrade can be applied to the earlier engines for free at any Ford dealership.) Maximum towing capacity is between 12,500 and 16,000 pounds depending on axle ratio, wheels driven, cab design and single or dual rear axle. Adding a fifth-wheel hookup boosts the max up to 21,600.
We were already impressed with the Super Duty's ride and comfort, and the 2011 Ford F-350 has managed to impress us even further. Compared to the competition, the Ford Super Duty line is noticeably quieter, with wind and road noise pleasantly silenced. Even the trademark diesel clatter has been reduced to barely detectable levels. As with any heavy-duty pickup, the ride can be a bit jittery when unloaded, but the F-350 remains reasonably well-mannered over the rough stuff. The chief downside to the Ford's dynamics is steering, which feels numb and is slow compared to its more agile rivals. Both Dodge and GM's setups provide a more connected feel and require less steering wheel movement while negotiating a tight road or parking.
Towing is a big part of the Super Duty's capabilities, and the new 6.7-liter diesel will likely be the engine of choice. Even when lugging a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep grade, the diesel climbs with ease -- never laboring or hunting among gears. Drivers may also selectively lock out higher gears to ensure optimal towing prowess. Descending is also made simple thanks to a well-managed automatic transmission that seems to select just the right gear at the right time.
The 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, stability control, trailer sway control, hill start assist, front side airbags, front side curtain airbags and the SOS post-crash alert system. The Regular and SuperCabs get a passenger airbag deactivation switch. An integrated trailer brake controller is standard on XLT and higher models, while the Lariat trim level adds rear parking sensors and power-adjustable pedals. A rearview camera is optional on the XLT and Lariat and standard on the King Ranch model.
The Ford F-350 has been given significant updates for 2011, with new gas and diesel engines, a six-speed automatic transmission, steering and suspension revisions, tweaked exterior styling, some new interior switchgear and a few additional features.