Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
A hard-working truck with civilized manners.
When the going gets tough, the tough buy a Super Duty.
This is no truck for dilettantes or poseurs. If you like your Lincoln Town Car, but are considering a pickup for the added trunk space, look somewhere else. Ford's Super Duty pickups look like serious big rigs, and they are. They are heavy-hauling, heavy-towing machines. And they outsell their Dodge and Chevrolet analogs combined.
These are specialized trucks as well, trucks with long lists of options to do special jobs. Ford offers 28 different variations on the F-250 3/4-ton, and 44 more on the F-350 one-ton. Any one of them can pull everything from a horse trailer to an Airstream camper. They are all the truck most consumers will ever need. Ford also builds even bigger F-450, 550, 650, and 750 commercial-grade trucks.
F-250 and F-350 are available in regular-cab, extended-cab (SuperCab) and Crew Cab configurations. Crew Cab versions come with four full-sized doors, and are the most passenger-friendly models. Both two and four-wheel drive are offered, with three power choices: a 5.4-liter V8, 6.8-liter V10, and 7.3-liter turbodiesel V8. All models come with four-wheel-disc brakes and ABS, also standard. New for 2002 is a six-speed manual transmission, standard with the 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter engines.
Also new for 2002 is long list of interior upgrades, to make these trucks more comfortable and user-friendly than before.
Most domestic-branded pickups are offered in more configurations than any normal human can count.
All Ford F-250 models come with single rear wheels. F-350 models are available with single rear wheels (SRW) or dual rear wheels (DRW). The latter, often called 'duallies,' are good for towing as they offer higher tongue-weight ratings.
Ford Super Duty F-250 competes with the other heavyweights from Detroit: Dodge Ram 2500, Chevrolet Silverado 2500 and GMC Sierra 2500. F-350 dual rear wheel models compete with the 3500-series models from GM and Dodge.
Many trucks these days are used for work and personal duty. To address that, Ford now offers twice as many configurations as before.
Short-bed (6 3/4 feet) and long-bed (8 feet) versions are available. Three trim levels are offered: standard XL, mid-level XLT, and luxurious Lariat.
Wheelbase lengths include 137 inches (regular cab), 142 inches (SuperCab short-bed), 158 inches (SuperCab long-bed), 156 inches (Crew Cab short-bed) and 172 inches (Crew Cab long-bed).
Some folks have compared the exterior styling of the F-250 to the big-rig look of the Dodge Ram. Ford's Super Duty trucks used to share their cabs with the F-150 light-duty models, but the current line of Super Duty pickups broke from that tradition. While the F-150s have rounded edges, the Super Duty trucks look bluff-nosed and serious. Their menacing, square-jawed front ends, brawny raised hoods and aggressive headlamps are a big tip-off that there are significant differences between a garden-variety F-150 and a Super Duty. We think they are the best-looking heavy duty pickups available.
But there's more here to separate the Super Duty trucks than just looks. The Super Duty trucks ride on an entirely different platform from the F-150 models.
Once you get past its imposing look, however, you might notice that the Super Duty's dropped beltline gives it a sense of openness and accessibility. It also makes it easier to climb in, a welcome feature when juggling tools, briefcases, or even toddlers. A distinctive dip along the front door side glass improves the driver's view of the exterior mirrors, a big help when towing a trailer or for seeing around cargo boxes or dump truck bodies.
This truck is very roomy, and offers comfortable and spacious seats as well as plenty of shoulder and hip room.
Truck owners spend a lot of time in their vehicles, so the designers at Ford paid a lot of attention to comfort and convenience. The interior features a fold-down armrest, a floor console that can accommodate a laptop, and a removable hanging bin for storage that can attach to the dash. Controls are big, easy to reach and manipulate. The only exception is the instrument panel dimmer, which is a bit hard to reach. Two large cupholders are provided. The standard cigar lighter is augmented with a second auxiliary power outlet.
A new instrument cluster for 2002 includes a transmission temperature gauge when an automatic transmission is ordered.
Also for 2002, Ford has added even more car-like luxury features, including six-way power for the passenger's seat on Lariat Crew Cab models. In fact, XLT and Lariat now feature entirely new seats with increased bolster height and shoulder width. An improved lumbar support provides a greater range of adjustment. Lariat now features a sunglasses bin and garage-door opener in its overhead console. Map pockets with integrated cup holders are now standard on SuperCab rear doors, and driver's-side grab handles are standard on all trim levels. Rear-passenger grab handles are now found in all Crew Cabs.
Passenger-side airbags offer a deactivation switch on regular cab and SuperCab models. Adjustable seatbelt anchors increase safety and comfort.
The 5.4-liter V8 is rated 260 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of torque. The 6.8-liter V10 is rated 310 horsepower and 425 foot-pounds of torque. Both engines employ overhead cams for valve control. Ford calls them Tritons.
The 7.3-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel received a horsepower boost last year, from 235 to 275 horsepower; torque also increased from 500 to 520 foot-pounds. (These figures are for models equipped with the manual transmission; mated to an automatic transmission the diesel makes 250 horsepower and 505 foot-pounds.)
All three engines may be ordered with a six-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic. (The five-speed manual offered last year is no longer available.) Four-wheel-drive models offer either manual-locking or shift-on-the-fly auto-locking hubs.
With the ability to tow up to 12,500 pounds (with the optional Class IV trailer package), the Super Duty F-250 offers the best towing capacity in its class.
The F-250 feels smaller than it is, almost like a big luxury car. Steering is precise. Handling by big truck standards is crisp. Body roll is noticeably limited in the corners. And the ride quality is reasonably good, thanks to a compliant suspension. The chassis is quite rigid, which allows Ford engineers to tune the suspension for more car-like ride and handling.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, which are standard, provide excellent driver feedback. Braking performance is impressive with smooth, undramatic stops.
The SuperCab's four doors are a great way to gain access to the rear seat. The rear seat cushion folds up and forward and the seatback folds down to create a flat, steel loading surface, a perfect place to put tools and other heavy items that need to stay secure and out of the elements. XL buyers who need out-of-the-weather cargo space more than seating capacity can delete the seat entirely for a $415 credit.
The rear doors are 25 inches wide. They hinge on the rear pillars of the cab and swing out a full 90 degrees from the doorsill. This design eases the loading of gear and passengers and contributes to occupant safety with the combination of vertical beams and a cross brace where the front and rear doors meet.
Ford's Super Duty trucks are enormously popular among people who tow horses, boats, race cars, and collectibles. They are comfortable and secure feeling.
We love the Super Duty styling. And it becomes a thing of real beauty when its capabilities are considered.
F-250: 4x2 regular cab 137-in. wheelbase XL ($21,120); 4x4 regular cab 137-in. XLT ($27,140); 4x4 SuperCab 158-in. XL ($26,590); 4x2 SuperCab 158-in. Lariat ($28,730); 4x2 Crew Cab 172-in. XLT ($28,325); 4x4 Crew Cab 172-in. Lariat ($33,830)
F-350: 4x2 regular cab 137-in. wheelbase XLT ($24,805); 4x4 SuperCab 142-in. XL ($27,175); 4x4 Crew Cab 156-in. Lariat ($34,245).
Options As Tested
automatic transmission ($1,095).
F-250 4x4 SuperCab Lariat ($31,600).
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