Ford's F-Series full-sized pickup is the best-selling vehicle line in the country, and has been for the past 16 straight years. A large part of this success is due to choice. Ford sees the pickup field as multiple niche markets, and so has pickups or pickup-based chassis for each and every niche from car-equivalent personal use to custom-bodied specialty vehicles such as ambulances, motor homes, and stake-bed trucks.
The current generation of F-trucks debuted with the personal- use-oriented 1997 F-150 in early 1996. It was quickly joined by the heavier-duty F-250 on the same platform. The "Super Duty" series of over-8,500 lb. gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) trucks debuted in Spring of 1998. The Super Duty is based on a larger, heavier platform than the regular F-150 and F-250, with suspension design and engine choices biased towards heavy-duty use. It comes in F-250, F-350, F- 450, and F-550 models, with super-Super-Duty F-650 and F-750 versions debuting soon. The F-450 through F- 750 trucks are geared towards commercial use, but the F-250 and F-350 have found popularity with personal users as well - the Ford plant in Louisville, Kentucky is running around the clock to build them.
Super Duty pickups are available in regular cab, extended cab ("SuperCab" in Ford terminology), and crew cab body styles with single and dual rear wheel 4x2 and 4x4 drivetrains. Two trim levels are offered on all models, and a luxurious "Lariat" level is available on the F-250 and F-350. A two-wheel drive F-250 SuperCab Lariat has been my transportation for the past week. It's no basic work truck. It epitomizes the upscale personal use truck, with all of the appointments of a luxury sport-utility and a strong V10 engine. Niche marketing, indeed - this is the ultimate luxury trailer-towing vehicle.
APPEARANCE: The Super Duty has the look of a serious, hard- working modern truck. It's a brawny, wide-shouldered pickup with a massive rectangular chromed grille. In equivalent form, the Super Duty is slightly larger than the regular F-250; its more angular styling and high hood line make it look considerably larger than it actually is. It combines a contemporary, styled-but-functional look with cues from Ford trucks of the past like that bold grille. Cut-down side windows allow a lower mirror placement for better visibility. Befitting its work- truck mission, the only pickup bed offered is the full-width "Styleside".
COMFORT: In Lariat trim, the F-250 Super Duty is a viable alternative to a full-sized luxury sport-utility, especially for anyone who plans to tow a sizeable trailer. My example is a long way from a bare-bones work truck. It has the look and feel of luxury. Access is easy thanks to running boards and the standard auxiliary rear cab doors. The rear bench seat is cozy, and folds for a secure, easy-to-use cargo space. Up front is a leather-faced contoured split bench that is really two comfy buckets and a center jump seat. The center seatback does double duty as a console when folded down. A steering-column- mounted gearshift gives a clear floor. The Lariat's windows, mirrors, and doorlocks are power-operated. Instruments are easily read, and the control switches and knobs are large, well-marked, and easy to operate. The climate control system is fast and efficient in heating or cooling the cabin. There are plenty of useful storage areas, including an overhead console.
SAFETY: The 1999 Ford F250 Super Duty SuperCab has dual airbags, with the ability to turn off the passenger-side bag. Four-wheel disc brakes stop it securely.
ROADABILITY: The F-250 Super Duty is a heavy-duty truck, with Ford's traditional twin I-beam front axle and a leaf-sprung rear axle. And it has a 3600-lb payload capacity and serious towing ability, with the exact amount dependent on axle ratio and engine. Despite its serious specifications, light-effort power steering makes low-speed navigation easy. The only difficulty in parking is finding a space large enough. On the road, the big SD is a little bouncy unloaded, as expected in a pickup, but mechanically quiet and surprisingly comfortable. It's stable and solid. Standard four-wheel disc brakes, with optional antilock, stop the massive beast quickly.
PERFORMANCE: The standard engine in the F-250 Super Duty is the 5.4-liter "Triton" V8 also found in the smaller F-150 and F-250 models. This particular truck has the optional 6.8-liter "Triton" V10 engine. If its 275 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque isn't enough, a 235-hp, 500 lb-ft 7.3-liter direct-injection turbodiesel is available. Careful with that axle, Eugene. The V10 feels, and is, immensely strong right from a standstill, and helps the 5000-lb truck accelerate quickly. But little noise reaches the cabin, and the 4-speed automatic transmission handles the massive amount of torque with ease.
CONCLUSIONS: With a plethora of pickups from the compact Ranger to the extra-heavy-duty Super Duty F-Series, Ford has a pickup for every pickup need.
SPECIFICATIONS Base Price $ 23,305 Price As Tested $ 29,305 Engine Type 20-valve single overhead cam V10 Engine Size 6.8 liters / 415 cu. in. Horsepower 275 @ 4250 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 410 @ 2650 rpm Transmission 4-speed electronically-controlled automatic Wheelbase / Length 141.8 in. / 234 in. Curb Weight 5205 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 18.9 Fuel Capacity 29 gal. Fuel Requirement regular unleaded gasoline, 87 octane Tires LT265/75R16 Firestone Steeltex A/T Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, antilock optional Suspension, front/rear independent twin I-beam with coil springs/ solid axle with leaf springs Drivetrain front engine, rear-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed na / na / 12 0 to 60 mph 8.0 sec 1/4 mile (E.T.) 16.1 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Lariat trim package $ 2445 6.8-liter V10 engine $ 335 4-speed electronic automatic transmission $ 970 LT265/75R16 all-terrain tires $ 390 4.30 ratio limited slip rear axle $ 310 Trailer towing package $ 190 CA/NY/MA/CT etc emissions $ 170 Sliding rear window $ 125 All-terrain spare tire & wheel $ 365 Premium AM/FM/cass/CD sound system $ 190 4-wheel antilock brakes $ 500 Trailer hitch receiver $ 150 Chrome step bumper $ 150 Privacy glass $ 100 Lower accent two-tone paint $ 190 Special added discount ($ 1000)- Destination charge $ 640