Just when you thought pickups couldn't get any bigger, Ford goes and makes its Super Duty pickups, well, super-er. Indeed, whereas the outgoing model was a workhorse specializing in towing, hauling and doing everything a big truck should do, the 2008 Super Duty one adds F-150-like style and comfort -- and a Texas-sized grille.

Since it was launched in 1998 as a 1999 model, the Super Duty has come to represent some 40 percent of all Ford F-Series sales, so this is a rather important vehicle to Ford. Unlike GM and Dodge, whose heavy-duty pickups are essentially just strengthened versions of their light-duty trucks, Ford's Super Duty trucks share little with the F-150, which explains why this truck is being launched during the middle of the F-150's product cycle. That said, when the 2008 model goes on sale in early 2007, it will be hit immediately with some serious competition in the form of the HD offerings based on GM's all-new full-size pickups that are due at about the same time.

Need to tow a house?

The Super Duty will be offered in three different models: F-250, F-350 and the new F-450 (right), the latter capable of carrying three tons in the bed alone, or towing a Peterbiltlike 24,000 pounds when equipped with a fifth wheel and 4.88 rear axle. Though most critical dimensions have changed little from last year, the Super Duty's newfound capability comes thanks to a strengthened chassis, as well as an enhanced optional Power Stroke diesel, which has been enlarged from 6.0 to 6.4 liters and produces a stout 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque. The base 300-hp 5.4-liter V-8 and the 362-hp 6.8-liter V-10 are essentially carryover.

Welcome news for those who live and work in their trucks are interiors that are much more in line with those found in the F-150 lineup, with a stylish mix of materials throughout and a generous level of equipment, particularly if you move from the base XLT up into the Lariat, King Ranch and new-for-Super-Duty FX4 arrays. The instrument cluster comes with a full complement of gauges (left) for towing including a water temperature, oil pressure, transmission temperature, turbo boost and exhaust temperature. Indeed, there are buttons and gauges all over the place, though there's little risk that Ford will bewilder its customer base by installing some sort of iDrivelike controller to "clean up" the dash. Not when they have this much real estate to work with.

It now has a step to help you climb into the bed. What will they think of next?

New features of note (which will surely make their way into competitive offerings in the future) include, a folding, stowable bed extender and our favorite, an integrated tailgate step (right) that pops out of the open tailgate -- complimented by a fold-up assist "handle" -- to help truck owners step into the bed. Ford says it designed the step after seeing what some owners rigged up on its personal trucks (we shudder to think of what else Ford saw in their focus groups), and claims that the step has been tested to hold 1000 pounds, with the sticklike handle capable of supporting 300 pounds. We speculate both items will get their fair share of abuse.

For customers who tow (whom Ford claims to be some 90 percent of Super Duty customers), new power-telescoping exterior mirrors, a tow-haul mode for the five-speed transmission, and a trailer brake controller are now offered on this biggest of Ford pickups. Ford also claims that the Super Duty has tightest turning radius in its class. We'll see if all of Ford's other best-in-class boasting holds true as General Motors rolls out its HDs in the spring.

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