2004 Ford F-350 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
America's most popular heavy hauler.
The 2004 Ford Super Duty pickups look like serious big rigs, and they are. The F-250 and F-350 are willing and able to pull their weight. When you need haul more than 3000 pounds, or tow more than 9900 pounds, then even the best-equipped F-150 isn't quite up to the job. That's where the Super Duty trucks come in, with payload capacities of up to 5500 pounds, and the ability to tow up to 14,200 pounds.
The Ford Super Duty F-250 competes with the other heavyweights from Detroit: the Dodge Ram 2500, Chevrolet Silverado 2500, and GMC Sierra 2500. The F-350, with its optional dual rear wheels, competes against the 3500-series models from GM and Dodge.
The Super Duty pickups feature first-class powertrains. The standard 5.4-liter V8 gas engine was revised for 2003 for quieter and more refined operation. For 2004, the 6.0-liter turbo-diesel V8 has been recalibrated for lower emissions. A 6.8-liter gasoline V10 is also available.
The Super Duty trucks are not the latest in truck design and don't offer the level of chassis sophistication of their counterparts from GM and Dodge. So they don't ride or handle as well.
However, Ford continues to update its Super Duty pickups to make them more family-friendly. The base interior was recently upgraded and a power sliding moonroof is available for crew cabs. Several other new interior features further enhance comfort and convenience for 2004. Ford sells more pickups in the over-8500-pound GVWR range than GM or Dodge.
Like most domestic pickups, the Ford Super Duty is offered in more configurations than any normal human can count. Ford offers more than 30 variations on the F-250 (the so-called 3/4-ton). And nearly 60 iterations are available in the F-350 (or 1-ton size). Any one of them can pull heavy loads. They offer more truck most consumers will ever need. (And when they aren't enough, Ford builds bigger F-450, F-550, F-650, and F-750 trucks for the commercial market.)
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 available as well. Four-wheel-drive models offer either manual-locking or shift-on-the-fly auto-locking hubs.
Short-bed (6-3/4 foot) and long-bed (8-foot) versions are available. 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).
All 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 'dualies,' are great for towing as they offer higher tongue-weight ratings.
Four trim levels are offered: standard XL, mid-level XLT, luxurious Lariat, and ultimate King Ranch. XL models are pretty basic, with only a two-speaker stereo and fixed-interval wipers. Air conditioning ($805) is optional. XLT models are equipped more like the average passenger car, while luxurious Lariats come with an overhead console, leather seats with six-way power, and aluminum wheels. King Ranch models, available only with the Crew Cab, come with four leather captain's chairs, extensive leather appointments, and unique paint and trim.
Four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS are standard on all Super Duty models.
Base prices range from $21,750 for a two-wheel drive XL regular cab up to $41,705 for a long-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive King Ranch Crew Cab with dual rear wheels.
Stand-alone options include a reverse proximity sensor ($245) for XLT, Lariat, and King Ranch (a great feature on these big trucks); and a power driver's seat for XLT ($290). Power telescoping trailer mirrors are available on XLT ($220) and standard on Lariat and King Ranch; they feature heated glass and integral turn signal repeaters. Manually telescoping mirrors are available ($125) on XL. A power sliding rear cab window is available on late-2004 models. A Sport Package ($895) for XLT SuperCabs and Crew Cabs adds chromed tubular step bars; body-color grille, bumpers, and door handles; sliding rear cab window; fog lamps; privacy glass; an exclusive twill cloth 40/20/40 split-bench front seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.
The FX4 Off-Road Package ($225) adds skid plates, Rancho shock absorbers, and a steering damper. Skid plates ($100) are also available as a stand-alone option.
Harley-Davidson Editions of the 4WD SuperCab and Crew Cab are also available. They come with all the King Ranch goodies plus 18-inch aluminum wheels and unique Harley-Davidson design cues inside and out. Color choices consist of black, black and orange, and black and gray. Prices range from $39,340 for a short-wheelbase F-250 SuperCab to $42,800 for a long-wheelbase F-350 Crew Cab.
Ford Super Duty pickups are arguably the best-looking heavy-duty pickups available. The new heavy-duty Dodge Rams are more stylish, while the GM trucks are conservatively styled. The Fords have a brawny, no-nonsense look that we find very appealing.
When the current generation of Ford Super Duty pickups appeared in 1999, they conspicuously avoided the rounder, more aerodynamic look then used by the light-duty F-150. Then and now, the Super Duty trucks looked bluff-nosed and serious, with menacing, square-jawed front ends, brawny raised hoods and aggressive headlamps. Significantly, the all-new 2004 F-150 now looks more like its Super Duty stablemates.
Super Duty's dropped sill line 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. A locking tailgate is standard.
King Ranch Crew Cabs are dressed up with body-color mirror housings and door handles, Arizona Beige wheel lip moldings, lighted running boards and special King Ranch aluminum wheels. Three two-tone paint combinations are available: Estate Green, Chestnut Brown, or Oxford White; each with Arizona Beige as the accent color.
Ford Super Duty trucks are very roomy, with comfortable and spacious seats and plenty of hip and shoulder 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 storage bin that can attach to the dash. Even the standard bench seats recline. Controls are big and easy to reach and manipulate. The only exception is the instrument panel dimmer, which is a bit hard to reach. Optional power-adjustable pedals ($120) are particularly helpful for smaller drivers, allowing them to sit further away from the airbag in the steering wheel.
Two large cupholders are provided. The standard cigar lighter is augmented with a second auxiliary power outlet. The instrument cluster includes a transmission temperature gauge when an automatic transmission is ordered.
Passenger-side airbags offer a deactivation switch on regular cab and SuperCab models. Adjustable seatbelt anchors increase safety and comfort.
The SuperCab's four doors are a great way to gain access to the rear seat. 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, a design that eases the loading of gear and passengers. Hidden vertical beams and a cross brace where the front and rear doors meet contribute to occupant safety.
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. SuperCab XL buyers who need out-of-the-weather cargo space more than seating capacity can delete the seat entirely for a $415 credit.
On Crew Cabs, the rear seat splits and folds 60/40 to form a flat loading floor. All Crew Cabs except XL now come with grocery hooks, integrated cup holders and rear-seat head restraints.
Ford Super Duty's standard 5.4-liter V8 is rated 260 horsepower and 350 pounds-feet of torque. Using computer analysis, Ford engineers stiffened the engine block for 2003, reducing radiated noise by as much as 3.1 decibels.
The 6.8-liter V10 ($600) is rated 310 horsepower and 425 pounds-feet of torque. Both gas engines are part of Ford's Triton series, and employ overhead cams for valve control.
The 6.0-liter Powerstroke turbocharged diesel V8 is an expensive option ($5,085), but it is rated 550 pounds-feet of torque at 2000 rpm, and 325 horsepower at 3300 rpm. That's more peak horsepower and torque than the 7.3-liter turbo-diesel that Ford offered until early last year. The new engine is also cleaner running and more economical.
A six-speed manual transmission is standard on all Ford Super Duty models. The 6.0-liter diesel offers a five-speed automatic as an option ($1,480), which is a sweet combination. The gasoline engines can be ordered with a four-speed automatic transmission ($1,095).
The F-250 feels smaller than it is, almost like a big luxury car. Its fenders don't seem to fill rural roads ditch to ditch as much as the Dodge trucks do. Steering is precise. Handling is good, though not as good as the newer designs from Dodge and GM. Body roll is noticeably limited when cornering. Ride quality is okay for a heavy-duty truck, thanks to a compliant suspension, but it isn't nearly as smooth as in the newer Dodge and GM trucks.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes, which are standard, provide excellent driver feedback and smooth, undramatic stops.
Ford Super Duty trucks look good, but their real beauty lies in their capabilities. The 6.0-liter turbo-diesel, particularly, is drawing rave reviews and is available with a five-speed automatic transmission.
Though not as refined as the newer designs from Dodge and GM, the Ford Super Duty trucks are solid, workhorse pickups with roomy, comfortable cabins. Perhaps that's why they remain the best sellers.
Ford Super Duty F-250: 4x2 regular cab 137-in. wheelbase XL ($21,750); 4x4 SuperCab 158-in. XL ($27,220); 4x4 regular cab 137-in. XLT ($28,095); 4x2 SuperCab 158-in. Lariat ($30,245); 4x2 Crew Cab 172-in. XLT ($30,405); 4x4 Crew Cab 172-in. Lariat ($35,960); 4x4 Crew Cab 156-in King Ranch ($39,850); Super Duty F-350: 4x2 regular cab 137-in. wheelbase XLT ($25,760); 4x4 SuperCab 142-in. XL ($27,805); 4x4 Crew Cab 156-in. Lariat ($36,375).
Options As Tested
automatic transmission ($1,095).
Ford Super Duty F-250 4x4 SuperCab Lariat SWB ($33,115).
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