Jack Roberts

Updated Apr 2, 2010

Super job with Super Duty


jackFord’s upgraded 2011 lineup delivers the goods

Ford has built a lot of equity in its storied F-Series family of pickup trucks, claiming a customer base of 9 million drivers, including about 6 million F-150 drivers and 3 million Super Duty customers. Given the passion and dedication many of these customers have for Ford pickups, it’s understandable that the company gives careful consideration to their needs before making any changes to the trucks’ overall template.

Tow Haul capability is standard on Ford’s 2011 Super Duty.Tow Haul capability is standard on Ford’s 2011 Super Duty.

Any exterior alterations to the 2011 incarnation of its Super Duty line are minimal at best, with a beefed, chrome front grille the most obvious change. Looking closer, the new larger clamshell-style hood is indicative of where the bulk of the upgrades can be found: in the trucks’ powertrain.

Ford opted to end its 30-year relationship with International, which had supplied Super Duty diesel engines since 1982. Ford retained the rights to the vaunted Power Stroke name and notes that all 2011 Super Duty diesel engines will be designed, tested and manufactured entirely by Ford. The new 6.7-liter V-8 engine churns out 390 horsepower and 735 foot-pounds of torque – all while delivering best-in-class fuel economy, according to Ford. (It’s worth noting that I routinely logged fuel economy numbers in the 20 to 22 mpg range – according to the vehicle’s new onboard driver information system – while behind the wheel of a Power Stroke-equipped F-250 during a recent Arizona test drive.)

New powertrain, data features should please loyalists and win new fans.

In addition to the new engine, Ford’s all-new 6R140 TorqueShift automatic transmission deserves time in the spotlight. Doug Scott, group truck marketing manager for the Super Duty line, says the new transmission not only is more efficient in terms of smooth shifts in regular driving conditions, it also features a SelectShift Automatic function that allows drivers to use a Progressive Shift and “lock out” unwanted gears when towing trailers down steep mountain grades or to take complete manual control of shifts. A fully integrated engine brake also helps drivers maintain full control in downhill descents. Tow Haul capability is standard, including a Hill Start Assist feature that keeps a heavily loaded Super Duty in place with no rollback when starting out on steep inclines.

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Ford also has upgraded the interior, but the most productive – and striking – new feature is the Ford Work Solutions technology, accessed through a dash-mounted full-color LCD Productivity Screen. A wide array of real-time and recorded vehicle information is presented through this easy-to-read system, including GPS navigation, fuel economy and engine health and performance. If you’re using your Super Duty to pull multiple trailers, the system allows you to create separate data logs and track specific performance and fuel economy figures for each one. One cool feature allows drivers to call up an Off-Road screen that gives visual cues detailing the truck’s lateral and vertical position, as well as turning radius, when negotiating rough terrain.

Ford takes its commitment to Super Duty productivity seriously, which is why its engineers have added a fully integrated factory-installed fifth wheel and gooseneck trailer tow prep package that comes with a full Ford factory warranty, complete corrosion control and factory paint.

All in all, I have to say that Ford has done a commendable job upgrading the Super Duty line. The overall ride was extremely smooth, even when going 50 mph over washboard gravel roads. The new Power Stroke engine is amazingly quiet and highly responsive and delivers the promised fuel economy. Most importantly, the productivity and drivability information features are intuitive and easy to use. All told, there’s a lot here that will please Super Duty fanatics – and perhaps draw a few converts to the brand. n