As the saying goes, you don't need a sledgehammer to pound in a thumbtack. But what if something bigger than a thumbtack is involved and you do need something more along the lines of a sledgehammer? In that case, the 2012 Ford F-350 Super Duty will be at the ready. This year the big Ford incorporates a beefed-up frame and trailer hitch, increasing the F-350's already impressive capacity for hauling and towing. With up to 22,700 pounds of towing capacity, it is stout enough to handle just about any job you throw at it.
Last year's Super Duty redesign brought a number of improvements, including more powerful engines, exterior styling tweaks and revised climate controls. It also brought an enhanced front suspension that increased towing/payload capacities. The suspension also was meant to deliver a more comfortable ride, but this is still a heavy-duty truck, so things are smooth when the F-350 is carrying or towing a load, but not so smooth when the truck is unladen.
Should the F-350's massive capabilities still not be enough, Ford is the only truckmaker that sells something even tougher than a 350-series pickup for consumer use: the F-450. For most consumers in need of a serious work truck, though, the 2012 Ford F-350 Super Duty will be the right tool for the job. That said, the Chevy Silverado 3500HD and Ram 3500 are definitely worth a look as well.
The 2012 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, the latter of 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, carpeted floors, 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. The latter includes Bluetooth and an iPod interface and also offers "AppLink" smartphone integration.
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 gooseneck/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 available Ford Work Solutions package is offered on XL and XLT models and adds an in-dash computer that is customizable to suit commercial users and fleets. The FX4 Off-Road package available on 4WD 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.
The cabin styling features a rectangular, industrial look, and the cabin is beginning to look dated compared to the Ram 3500. 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 trims adds a decidedly upscale experience, with rich leather and added amenities.
If you choose the front bench seat, it features a lockable bin that also folds to serve as an armrest. Another lockable compartment is located under the rear seats that can easily accommodate longer items (like a hunting rifle) and also features a 12-volt power point. Another nifty perk 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 2012 Ford F-350 comes standard with a 6.2-liter V8 that produces 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with either rear- or all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity with this engine is between 11,900 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 15,800.
Optional is a turbocharged 6.7-liter diesel V8 that produces 400 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, an F-350 with the standard rear axle went from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, about a second slower than GM's diesel-powered 3500 pickups. Maximum towing capacity is between 12,500 and 17,500 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 22,700.
The well-rounded Super Duty impresses with its strong performance, mostly supple ride and comfortable, feature-laden cabin. At freeway speeds the interior is notably quiet, with wind and road noise pleasantly silenced. Even the trademark diesel clatter is muted to barely detectable levels. As with any heavy-duty pickup, however, the ride can be a bit jittery when the truck is unloaded, but the 2012 Ford F-350 remains reasonably well-mannered over the rough stuff. The chief downside to the big rig is its slow steering, which feels numb and isolated. In comparison, both the Chevy and Ram deliver a more connected feel through the wheel, which instills more confidence when towing.
Towing is a big part of the Super Duty's capabilities, and the 6.7-liter diesel will likely be the engine of choice if you have this in mind. Even when lugging a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep grade, the diesel makes the climb with ease, never laboring or forcing the transmission to hunt through the gears. The driver can also selectively lock out higher gears to ensure optimal towing progress, while descents are also well managed by the automatic transmission, which finds the right gear at the right time. We've found the throttle a little reluctant to respond to small inputs while towing, though.
All 2012 Ford F-350 Super Duty trucks come 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. In Edmunds brake testing, a diesel-powered F-350 with the single rear axle came to a stop from 60 mph in 159 feet. The GM 3500 trucks stopped about 10 feet shorter.
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.
As the entire Ford Super Duty line was redesigned last year, changes for the 2012 F-350 are relatively minor. Tow ratings have increased, and Ford's Sync system now offers "AppLink" smartphone integration.