If you still think full-size pickup trucks are crude compared to their passenger car counterparts, it means that (a) you haven't been paying attention the last 10 years and (b) you haven't seen the new generation of Ford F-Series trucks.
Sophisticated tough on the outside, thoughtfully comfortable within, with an overhead cam V8 under the hood and an imposing range of safety and convenience features, these pickups are the industry pacesetters, and for good reason.
Last year Ford gave the lighter end of its F-Series pickup truck line a major, major going over. Most obvious is the rounded snout, raked windshield and overall smooth look. But the big changes were underneath, with a completely new front suspension, new frame and new family of engines.
Ford's F-Series line includes the lighter-duty F-150, medium-duty F-250 and heavy-duty F-350. initially, the new look and accompanying improvements applied only to the F-150, but for 1997 they're extended to and F-250 models rated under 8500 GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). The heavy-duty F-350 versions remain with the previous styling and mechanicals; if you want a crewcab, dual rear wheels, or the 7.3-liter diesel, you have to go with the "old-look" F-350. It's due for its own major redesign within a year or so.
Within the F-150/250 Series there is the regular cab and the extended SuperCab; wheelbase lengths of 119.9 in., 138.5 in. and 157.1 in.; smooth Styleside or nostalgia-look Flareside; two-wheel or four-wheel drive; and three engines: a 4.2-liter V6 of 210 hp and 255 pound-feet of torque, or a pair of overhead cam Triton V8s, a 4.6-liter of 220 hp and 290 lb.-ft., and a 5.4-liter of 235 hp and 330 lb.-ft. These are the world's first and so-far only overhead-cam V8 truck engines.
Then there are four trim levels: Standard, XL, XLT and Lariat, in ascending order. Not all possible combinations are available. But, by and large, there ought to be something here for just about anybody. Just counting Styleside or Flareside, 2WD or 4WD, regular cab or SuperCab, wheelbase choices and trim levels, we arrived at 60 choices and that was before we got into the multitude of available options.
Our subject vehicle was an F-250 SuperCab in Lariat trim, powered by the 5.4-liter V8.
We don't have room to go into all the prices, but the lowest-priced F-150, with rear-drive, a regular cab, Stylside standard trim, and a V6 engine has a base price of $14,430, plus $615 destination, for a total of $15,045. The "base" on our highly-loaded F-250 was $24,625, including destination.
The Lariat trim includes several items that would otherwise be options. Ours had a package that included leather seats, power mirrors, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and a chrome rear bumper; the 5.4-liter engine; automatic transmission; sliding rear window; trailer towing; keyless entry; and a six-disc CD changer. The total, including a "Special Added Discount" that took off $1850, came to $27,495.
The new Triton engine family is terrific, especially the 5.4-liter version. In smoothness, it embarrasses practically every other truck engine on the market. The power delivery is crisp and responsive, and to good low-end power it adds excellent mid-range and higher-speed power to make short work of real-world demands such as quick acceleration to freeway speeds.
Another very welcome change is a completely new front suspension with upper and lower control arms. It replaces the ancient Twin I-Beam, and we're thankful. With the new layout, ride is far better, handling is superior, steering feel is drastically improved and directional stability, such as when traveling at highway speeds in a severe crosswind (which we had an opportunity to experience), is immensely enhanced. We would expect that even tire wear, a Twin I-Beam weak point, would also be better.
Towing capacity for the base F-150 is 2300 pounds, but the F-250 with 2WD and 5.4-liter V8 is rated at 8700 lbs., which should take care of most of us.
To fully comprehend all the interior features of the F-Series SuperCab you'll have to make a trip to your Ford dealer and check one over. But we'll give you some of the high points.
With the 40/60 split-bench front seat, driver and passenger have individually reclining backrests. What can serve as the center backrest is also a folding armrest; when folded forward, it provides a large cupholder and spacious bin. Inside this storage bin are places for coins, tapes and so forth, and a divider for organizing odds and ends.
The driver is faced with comprehensive, clearly-legible instrumentation, and everything that needs to be is close and easy to operate. There are two cupholders in the instrument panel, and a goodly number of the storage compartments and map pockets here and there. Appreciated by one woman passenger were two grab handles which aided climbing in and, once in, pulling the door shut.
The view outward is superb, as the new styling job has included a low beltline and big windows all around. The only gripe we had was a vertically-narrow inside rear-view mirror.
All SuperCabs include a third door as standard equipment, on the passenger's side, for access to the back seat. It's operable once the main passenger's door is open, and it can be opened from inside or out. Once in, back-seat passengers will find things tolerably comfortable for three adults, and probably not too bad for trips of some distance with only two adults in back. As another very handy feature, ours had a 40/60 split seat in back, whose cushions could be folded forward to provide a flat, sturdy steel surface, great for carrying toolboxes or large amounts of luggage.
People familiar with trucks, and most particularly those familiar with previous Ford trucks, will find a surprisingly enhanced driving experience in the new F-Series. For some time, partly due to the Twin I-Beam, partly due to over-assisted power steering, Ford trucks had a numb feel through the steering and would wander when encountering large dips or road irregularities, and were very susceptible to being blown around by crosswinds. That's all pretty much a thing of the past.
Our F-250 had genuine steering feel, either when traveling straight ahead or negotiating twists and turns. And it had a high degree of directional stability, which helps to keep the vehicle headed down its intended path. Ride, too, was remarkably good. One big problem with pickup trucks has always been how poorly they tend to ride when empty; this can become really annoying on fairly long trips on concrete interstate highways, where the truck will bounce ceaselessly. We ran our F-250 through exactly such a situation for several hours, and the ride was relatively car-like and comfortable, mile after mile.
Another part of the driving pleasure quotient is due to the smooth, quiet overhead cam engine. There's no truck-like roar or rumble, no feeling that it's overworked at higher speeds. Again, driving around the city, or taking an extended highway cruise, the 5.4-liter Triton engine was probably the most velvety full-size pickup truck engine we've encountered. The 4.6-liter version is equally smooth, but less powerful, and we highly recommend the stronger 5.4-liter V8. It's $555 more, but you'll probably get most, if not all, of it back at trade-in time.
It's a little bit of a contradiction in terms to think of "truck" in the same sentence with "cutting edge, aerodynamic styling," but with the new Ford F-Series, we think it works.
There's a lot to like about it in addition to the look. The interior is extraordinary, the new V8s are silky and strong, the ride and drive is exceptional and it's full to the brim with worthwhile features. We don't see how you could go wrong.
Build and price your dream Ford F-250 in just a few easy steps.
|Build & Price|
2014 Ford Super Duty F-250 SRW$36,922 | 14,865 mi
2014 FORD F-250$42,995 | 12,142 mi
2013 FORD F-250$39,325 | 12,423 mi
2012 FORD F-250$34,990 | 33,255 mi
2012 Ford F-250$36,995 | 20,301 mi
2011 Ford F-250SD$20,700 | 130,848 mi
2008 Ford F250$7,999 | 162,867 mi
2008 Ford F250$15,811 | 134,916 mi
2008 Ford F-250SD$17,999 | 105,038 mi
2008 FORD F-250$23,990 | 120,157 mi
2008 Ford F250$27,988 | 49,855 mi
2007 Ford F250$18,395 | no mileage
2006 Ford Super Duty F-250$14,802 | 86,483 mi
2006 Ford F250$22,988 | 46,431 mi
2005 Ford Super Duty F-250$13,888 | 134,986 mi
2004 Ford F250$10,861 | 223,475 mi
2004 Ford Super Duty F-250$11,880 | 164,359 mi
2004 FORD F-250$18,990 | 64,471 mi
2004 Ford F250$19,988 | 116,382 mi
2003 FORD F-250$9,999 | 209,806 mi
1999 Ford F250$19,985 | 114,668 mi
1997 Ford F-250 HD$4,999 | 183,260 mi
1997 Ford F250$10,999 | 221,000 mi
1997 Ford F250$11,985 | 116,557 mi
1997 Ford F-250 HD$11,995 | 191,996 mi
1995 Ford F250$8,696 | 239,208 mi
1990 Ford F250$4,960 | 117,313 mi
1967 Ford F250$8,990 | 54,986 mi