By Derek Price
With its aluminum body and all-new platform, the 2015 Ford F-150 is widely expected to dominate the truck world’s headlines in the coming weeks.
That doesn’t mean its big brother, the built-for-work Super Duty, is being ignored by the folks at Ford.
A stronger diesel engine and revised King Ranch trim package are among the biggest changes to Ford’s heavy-duty lineup, and I got to sample them both in a brawny 2015 F-350 this week.
The verdict? They’re nice improvements but still leave me longing for a more refined Super Duty, something buyers should anticipate now that the new, thoroughly modern F-150 will be hitting the light-duty market.
I have zero gripes about the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V8 engine, which makes more horsepower and more torque while gaining efficiency at the same time. A compacted graphite iron engine block, unusual exhaust layout and larger turbocharger combine to make it tougher than before — tough enough, in fact, to work in Ford’s bigger F-650 and F-750 commercial trucks.
It’s also an impressively quiet engine for this class. If you’re used to driving diesels that pierce your ears with their clackety-clack racket, this one is so silent — at least from inside the nicely insulated cabin — that it doesn’t sound much more harsh than a gasoline V8 does.
The new King Ranch trim package is also a sumptuous upgrade for people who like the luxurious, cowboy-themed cabin style. It has thick brown leather that would feel at home on a five-star Western resort.
Unfortunately, the spectacular King Ranch bits feel out of place in a cabin that is otherwise showing its age. Compared to the more recently redesigned heavy-duty models from Ram and General Motors, the hard plastics on the dash and overall fit and finish just don’t stand out.
Another slight drawback is the F-350’s driving feel, at least when unloaded.
When driving around town with an empty bed, the Super Duty’s suspension is rougher and noisier than the Ram and GM competitors. When pulling a trailer, though, the Ford’s suspension feels right at home and inspires confidence from the driver’s seat.
It’s clear that this truck is designed for work. That’s when it feels happiest.
While I haven’t driven it, Ford also made some changes to beef up its F-450 model for 2015. With commercial-grade, 19.5-inch wheels, new leaf springs, upgraded U-joints and bigger brakes, the F-450 now has a gooseneck tow rating of 31,200 pounds, which Ford says is the best in its class.
Pricing starts at $31,045 for the F-250, $31,940 for the F-350 and $51,720 for the F-450, which comes standard with the 6.7-liter diesel engine. The diesel is an $8,480 upgrade in the F-250 and F-350.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2015 Ford F-350 4X4 Crew Cab with 6.7-liter Diesel ($63,375). Options: None. Price as tested: $63,375
Wheelbase: 156.2 in.
Length: 246.8 in.
Width: 104.9 in.
Height: 80.8 in.
Engine: 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel (440 horsepower, 860 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Heavy-duty six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: Not rated
2015 Ford F-350
Why buy it?
The 6.7-liter diesel engine is one of the best on the market. With a mind-blowing 860 pound-feet of torque and 440 horsepower, it’s not only eminently capable but also surprisingly quiet.