• Sep 15th 2010 at 11:57AM
  • 63
Industry Giant Still Working Hard to Stay Ahead

2011 Ford F-450 Lariat – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ask any economics professor – competition is a good thing. Exhibit A? The large pickup truck market. Ford F-Series trucks have been the number-one selling vehicle line in the United States for more than three decades, but the automaker has never grown complacent. Each new iteration has been bigger, badder and more capable than its predecessor, and that goes twofold for Dearborn's heavy-duty models.

Despite the fact that Toyota and Nissan never followed up their light-duty trucks with three-quarter or one-ton models, just the threat of such entries spurred Ford, General Motors and Dodge to significantly up their games. In the first half of 2010, the Detroit Three have introduced revamped heavy-duty pickups to feed a segment that, while shrinking, remains large and highly profitable. With that in mind, we saddled up to the Big Daddy of the F-Series range, the F-450, to see if the behemoth could play the dual roles of load-lugger and daily ride. Click through the jump to see how we fared.

Photos copyright ©2010 Sam Abuelsamid / AOL

If you discount oddball brutes like the International CXT, the Ford F-450 defines the upper limit of pickup trucks in nearly every way. The F-450 is only available as a crew cab with an eight-foot bed, four-wheel drive, dual-rear-wheel axle and Ford's all-new 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel V8. If you need to tow large items – a single-family home or a beer-brewer's team of Clydesdales – an F-450 fits the bill with ease.

Since the mid-1990s, Ford has slowly separated the styling of the Super Duty from the light-duty F-150, and the latest iteration takes that practice to a new extreme. One look at that massive grille and it's obvious this is no truck for poseurs. From its base XL trim with black painted grille to our chromed Lariat tester, the F-450 is beyond imposing, with its vertically stacked headlight clusters, cab-mounted auxiliary lights and extended wheel arches. Despite being nearly new, the latest Super Duty models continue to retain the cut-down side glass near the mirrors and Tonka truck blockiness we've seen on every iteration for the last decade.

The only element that detracts from this Blue Oval's manly styling is its rolling stock. Even with eight-lug hubs, the 17-inch wheel and tire package looks downright tiny. Yet despite the visually small size, this combination provides plenty of load carrying capacity with a maximum payload of 5,000 pounds and a 24,000+ pound towing capacity.

Grab the handle on the A-pillar, get a footing on the side-step, and as soon as you're inside, those familiar with the last-generation Super Duty will feel right at home. Aside from some minor trim updates in the center stack, the rest of the dashboard features the same angular and ribbed hard plastic look as before. While the interior is hardly upscale, the materials appear durable and well-suited to a work vehicle likely to be exposed to dust, dirt and the occasional blast of mud. And don't worry about keeping hydrated, as the Super Duty packs a plethora of cupholders on nearly every horizontal surface.

XL and XLT trim F-450s come with a 40/20/40 split front bench, while out Lariat tester replaces that central seat with an immense center console. The two-tone black and gray leather seats are as flat as the V8's torque curve, but with high cornering forces low on the priority list, serious bolstering isn't as much of a concern as easy repeated ingress and egress.

All F-450s come equipped ready for towing and up-fitting with auxiliary equipment like winches and power-take-offs. The switch to enable the tow-haul mode is integrated into the column-mounted shift lever and the automatic trailer brake control and auxiliary switches are located at the base of the center stack. The F-450 is equipped with Ford's Sync system, which makes managing iPods, phone calls and navigation destinations a breeze with voice commands.

We haven't had an opportunity to try the new Scorpion diesel V8 in cold weather, but in warm weather, it fires instantly and runs remarkably quietly, although it's not as refined at idle as the revised Duramax diesel in General Motors' HD trucks. At light-loads, the Scorpion still exhibits a hint of the clatter that's remained a characteristic of diesels past, but it largely disappears under load and is non-existent while cruising around town or on the freeway.

Using a vehicle that's nearly 22 feet long with over 14 feet between the axles takes extra care around town, especially when you factor in the eight-foot width with the duallie rear axle. When we got our first tutorial on driving a truck with a trailer, we were told to pull farther out into the intersection when turning and use the mirrors to make sure we didn't clip curbs. Even without a trailer hooked up, the same applies to the F-450.

The big power-operated wings hanging off the doors feature a standard mirror in the upper portion with a smaller convex mirror down below to keep tabs on the rear fenders. We found ourselves checking the mirrors more frequently to ensure we weren't straying from our lane, suggesting that these massive duallies might benefit from the new lane departure warning and preventions systems currently available on other luxury models.

Ford beat GM out of the gate early this year with the announcement of the specifications for the new Super Duty, and as a result, GM's numbers came in just ever so slightly higher across the board when its trucks were announced a few weeks later. In reality, the differences are inconsequential, but that didn't stop Ford from going back to its dyno lab and coming out with some revised calibrations that have been implemented as a running change. The new settings up the output of the diesel from the 390 horsepower and 735 pound-feet of our test truck to an even 400 hp and 800 lb-ft, giving bragging rights back to Dearborn. Ford will apply the software upgrade to all existing Super Duty trucks when they come in to the dealership for service.

While we didn't have an opportunity to test this F-450 with a trailer, we did load it up for a trip to the local township compost site. With several hundred pounds of old lumber and building materials in the back, we didn't even make a dent in the 5,000 pound payload capacity. Nonetheless, the utility of a pickup with an eight-foot bed is hard to deny. And with a truck this tall, the optional tailgate step should be standard equipment. Trust us – tick the box.

In the last couple of months, we have had other opportunities to drive similar diesel-powered F-350s with trailers of 10,000-12,000 pounds back-to-back with comparable GM trucks. While the Duramax-powered haulers accelerated slightly quicker than the Fords, the exercise was effortless for the Dearborn machines. No matter what we hitched up, this truck had plenty of get-up-and-go.

Even though the F-450 is not built for runs to the grocery store, we like to focus on the day-to-day, so we also tried it out in this capacity. Once you get used to placing the duallie in the lane in order to avoid... situations, the F-450 is remarkably easier and more pleasant to drive than similar vehicles of just a few years ago. There's no dynamic prowess to speak of, but unlike GM, which uses an independent front suspension, Ford has retained its traditional twin-I-beam for lesser rear-wheel-drive Super Duties and a coil-sprung live axle for 4x4s like the F-450.

The result is a ride that is improved and actually surprisingly comfortable on smooth roads, but not as quite as well-controlled as its GM competition when the pavement is less than ideal. Over roads with repeating frost breaks, the F-450 exhibited a light longitudinal heaving motion that we haven't experienced before. Granted, it wasn't enough to make us nauseous, but it was just enough to be noticeable. Equally noticeable was the steering, which was devoid of slop or on center dead-zones, although the general sensation was that of a system that is over-boosted and slow. Like, five turns lock-to-lock slow.

But for a truck designed to tow large trailers, slow steering is helpful in preventing the driver from inducing any sway while cruising down the road. If the trailer does begin moving around, the newly standard sway control will quickly bring things back in line by applying the brakes alternately to each side of the truck until everything settles out.

During our week with the F-450, we were able to average around 15 miles per gallon – rather impressive for an 8,000 pound truck with the frontal area of a pole barn. Equally impressive was its acceleration and braking. Even on a gravel back road, the F-450 can sprint to 60 mph in just over nine seconds, and on pavement, it's even quicker. As equipped with the navigation system and a sunroof, our tester stickered at $63,655 – pretty typical for a truck of this size and capability, but high enough to turn off most poseurs who would be better served by an F-150.

The people who buy these generally need them and often accumulate a lot more miles per year than the average driver. It's not unusual for these heavy-duty diesel trucks to accumulate half-a-million miles or more before being put out to pasture. The F-450 can easily handle just about any task you put to it – as long as its massive rear wheel arches will fit.

Photos copyright ©2010 Sam Abuelsamid / AOL

Autoblog accepts vehicle loans from auto manufacturers with a tank of gas and sometimes insurance for the purpose of evaluation and editorial content. Like most of the auto news industry, we also sometimes accept travel, lodging and event access for vehicle drive and news coverage opportunities. Our opinions and criticism remain our own – we do not accept sponsored editorial.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      Only thing I see wrong with the truck is inside ... too many small buttons. It would be great to be able to operate everything with gloves on.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's not a Range Rover Jeremy.....:)
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drove a 2000? F350 at work with a powerstroke. It had about 280k on the clock, and it ran like brand new. We towed heavy equipment, which was definitely over the load rating on the truck, and it still didnt really struggle . You get what you pay for in these big trucks. Small companies like the one i worked for will buy one of these things a few years old, and run them to the ground. They have an old k2500, over 300k on the clock, beat to hell, but still no end in sight.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have a 2002 F350 with the old 7.3l bulletproof motor. I picked it up for $14,000 with 100,000 miles on it. I dont drive it much, mainly to haul landscaping stuff for the yard or towing my car. If your looking at used trucks you can pick up a nice diesel for the same price as a F150, and the diesel will last a lot longer. The gas mileage from a early 2000 F150 to a F350 diesel is about the same.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Everybody I know, including myself, who owns or has worked with a 7.3L swears by them. Since then, they haven't been as good, but I'm hoping the 6.7L becomes what the Power Stroke needs to be.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That truck is amazing. It makes my old 6 liter look ancient.
      • 5 Years Ago
      it's not Heavy Duty Diesel without the truck nuts
      • 5 Years Ago
      Great review AutoBlog.

      Comments here make me wonder if folks here never seen or been to a farm before. These trucks are a necessary part of life for many farmer.

      - You can't tow a huge cattle trailer, tow a trailer with very heavy farm equipment, bails of hay, etc with your city Prius, or even with an F150.

      - For the millionth time folks, large wheels do NOT belong on work trucks like this. Those generally only find their way onto F150s in the suburbs put on by soccer dads. Those small 'whimpy' wheels are very functional and necessary on a vehicle in this class.

      - Majority of the buyers of this truck are farmers, ranchers, or others who require a vehicle for towing extremely heavy things.

      - Styling: I truly doubt buyers care much for styling when they are working with cattle, horses, and other very dirty and muddy things, and constantly driving on unpaved roads and fields. They need something exceptionally heavy duty and reliable, because their livelihoods depend on this vehicle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I wonder, if you chained a bunch of priuses at the back of this beast, how many could it tow?
        • 5 Years Ago
        According to the rating, somewhere around 10. In reality it could probably slowly move 25-30.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like it. Love the new front end. The interior is ok, but not bad by any means.
      • 5 Years Ago
      That is one expensive rig, but that's also a lot of work for that kind of money. IMO the Fords have always been the most utilitarian-looking HD trucks, and maybe that's part of why they sell so many. I like my low-to-the-ground cars but it's hard to deny being able to stretch out in a cab like that.

      Is it just me or would anyone like to see Top Gear review these trucks? I think they could find plenty of hilarious things to do with them. And barring any "challenges", I think it'd be, um, interesting to see what they say about them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice Atari woodgrain pattern on the dash. Ugly as Hell inside and out.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. My parents have an F-450 Lariat (an 09?). They said, "Wow, it's so nice we love it." I saw it and was at a loss for words, but they genuinely like it.

        Grandparents who need to tow in excess of 20,000lbs have different standards for beauty, because they genuinely like the look and feel.

        Amusingly, they opted to not get the Nav system because it confuses them and didn't get the wood trim (because it looked cheap... but plastic is fine).

        I'm convinced that if any autobloggers were to design a HD truck, it wouldn't sell. We just don't understand, I know I don't.
        • 5 Years Ago
        lol@butthurt comments

        The Ram and Sierra HD can both tow trains too and don't stab your eyeballs when you look at them.

        • 5 Years Ago
        is that why you wear the helmet?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Read the last paragraph. In case you didn't realize, a lot of truck buyers in this size and category aren't too big on styling. Ford is the only one who offers a bed in this class. Dodge has chassis cabs, but you could probably get a bed off of a 3500 and GM only offers up to a 3500.

        So really, it's just adding comfort to what is based off of a work horse, literally.

        Styling isn't everything, and so what if the wood grain is similar to an old game system, I pay no mind to it. Utility comes first with most of these trucks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You don't - or shouldn't - be concerned about anything other than towing 20,000+ pounds with these types of vehicles. Styling be darned. :P
        • 5 Years Ago
        Just because its used for commercial purposes doesnt mean it has to be so cheap and ugly. That sounds like an excuse if I ever heard one.

        Besides, its hard to argue that styling isnt important when the truck is dressed in chrome and comical styling that can only have been inspired by the Tonka trucks I had when I was 5.
      • 5 Years Ago
      yup let the rednecks go wild
      • 5 Years Ago
      Coming from a former 6.0L Powerstroke owner who worked it hard daily (which I am really happy to be former), I really hope Ford has things together with their new in house designed 6.4L Powerstroke..From my experiences, the Super Duties are great looking and awesome work trucks when they are working right.. They will pull your trailer smoothly without a doubt. But still, I am still a bit shaky on buying a new one until this new engine proves itself to be a good work truck engine..

      Even if I have (seriously) religiously maintained my 06 6.0L (in fear of potential problems), I have had many issues with my former F350: (tranny, electrical and EGR problems) and especially front end issues with my former super duty ("death wobble", ball joints, tie rods)..

      One thing that angers me about these new HD trucks is that there are no grease fittings anywhere! I want a truck where I can grease up the ball joints, u joints and axle joints and etc.. I want a drain plug on my front and rear diffs..

      All I am saying is that if you decide to buy one of these new diesels today, trade it in or sell it before the warranty expires.. unless if you always have $5K+ available in your wallet all the time...These new trucks are totally different animals from the very reliable diesel trucks from the 90s-early 00's..
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X