2015 Ford Super Duty First Drive
Driving the Most Powerful Pickup in America
It's no secret that Ford envisioned occupying the proverbial winner's circle with the introduction of its toughest, most capable, and most efficient lineup of heavy-duty pickup trucks yet: the 2015 Ford Super Duty. Leaving rival Ram and its mere 30,000-pound tow rating in the dust and putting GM even further behind in a game it didn't want to play, Ford boasts best-in-class power (440 hp/860 lb-ft of torque for the F-250, F-350, and F-450), towing (31,200 pounds), and GCWR (40,000 pounds). We're talking half of the GCWR of an 18-wheeler, which is pretty impressive.
Then again, that's what the Super Duty is designed to do, and that's where it shines brightest. Propelling the Super Duty to this best-in-class status are a bevy of improvements for the 2015 model year, most notably the second-generation 6.7L Power Stroke engine with its larger Garrett GT37 VGT turbo, improved manually controlled engine brake, high-volume fuel system, and revised 6R140 torque converter. Although the list of improvements and upgrades for the 2015 Super Duty continues on paper, nothing can take the place of getting behind the wheel—so let's get to it.
F-250 Towing a Car Hauler: Windy Road Adventure
The first towing exercise pitted us in the driver seat of an F-250, towing a desirable 20-foot, 9,000-pound car hauler, on a windy, narrow, steep, two-lane road wedged between a creek and a hillside. While it was tempting to be swept away by the beautiful, green West Virginia landscape, a better choice was to keep both hands on the steering wheel, with both eyes glued to the road and the rearview mirrors.
With the tow/haul mode activated and the exhaust brake on (yes, unlike previous years, you now get to switch it on), the Super Duty really did a bulk of the work, making something potentially stressful actually fun. The truck was responsive to braking and acceleration cues, supplying the correct upshift or downshift based on the intensity of the input. It wasn't too quick to react, though, meaning it would hold a gear long enough to provide a burst of power without kicking into a numerically higher gear, which may provide too much speed for the situation. The exhaust brake did make a difference, as you could really tell if it was "off" on descents.
This type of load seemed to barely tap into the potential of the F-250—in fact, one would be prone to forget there was even a trailer attached. A few really steep sections might have been a cause for concern in other tow rigs, but in this setup, it was a welcomed moment to enjoy some brisk acceleration. The most frustrating part of this exercise? Town roads really do have speed limits, and it's best to obey them. Besides, a trailer is not very inconspicuous.
F-350 Towing a Travel Trailer: That Was Easy
This test route pitted the truck and trailer against a scenic section of West Virginia's Interstate 64—up and down the nearly 5-mile-long, 7-percent grade of Sandstone Mountain. The dual-rear-wheel F-350 was mated to a 12,000-pound travel trailer, more resembling the recreational traveler's load than the commercial guy who maxes out trailer capacities. On the downhill grade, the combination of tow/haul mode, exhaust brake, and cruise control held the truck at the desired speed with minimal additional braking. Despite the steep descent, there was no lack of confidence in the Super Duty's handling ability.
Getting back onto the freeway to head up the grade, the F-350 merged with confidence and, despite the steep ascent, three times we were forced to fully back off the accelerator (to keep speeds under control) and break all momentum. Obviously, since this process was repeated, the Super Duty was able to regain momentum each time. Engine and fan noise emanating from the under the hood of the 6.7L and into the cab were present but not overly obnoxious, ranking somewhere between that of the not-so-quiet Ram and the quiet GM. The Super Duty pulled the trailer nicely, void of annoying bucking or perplexing exhaust reverberation. As the F-350 and travel trailer crested the grade, a smooth tip-out (maximum throttle to no throttle) made for a comfortable transition to the level road.
F-450 Towing a Gooseneck: Makin' 'er Work
We finally got to make a Super Duty work hard, putting to use its 440 hp and 860 lb-ft of torque. Those of us who lacked commercial driver's licenses were treated to a ride-along in a dual-rear-wheel 172-inch wheelbase F-450 DRW 4x4 Crew Cab Platinum, equipped with a 4.30 limited-slip axle and fifth-wheel/gooseneck prep package. The Bronze Fire (exterior color) beauty tipped the pricing scale at $74,195. Speaking of tipping the scale, this premium hauler's load was a 26,900-pound gooseneck trailer, for a GCWR of 36,200 pounds—just a few thousand pounds shy of this F-450's 40,000-pound GCWR.
The test route pitted the truck and trailer against the same section of Interstate 64. Going down the grade, with tow/haul mode and the engine brake selected, the truck averaged about 3,500 rpm in Third gear, running up to 3,900 rpm. Unlike some of the nearby semis, the F-450 did not smoke its brakes on the steep grade. In fact, it controlled the heavy load nicely. The ride quality was about what you'd expect for such a heavy load—a bit rough, with jouncing here and there. On the uphill grade, the F-450 easily surpassed an unnamed competitor carrying a slightly lighter load. Although it appeared as though it was letting us pass, the truth was that it was—shall we say—running out of steam. The F-450 topped the hill with plenty of forward momentum and minimal drama considering the severity and length of the grade and girth of the trailer load. Oil temperature at the crest was 249 degrees and transmission temperature was 208 degrees.
Super Duty: Towing Machine
While you may favor one brand over another, one thing's for sure—the intense quest to be number one has propelled all manufacturers to step up their games and bring to market the most advanced pickup trucks we've ever seen. And while you might think the Super Duty's interior needs an upgrade or that its steering wheel feels outdated, one thing's for sure: towing is its forte and, for the moment at least, there's no upward step in the heavy-duty truck market after hauling with a Super Duty.
|2015 Ford F-450 DRW 4x4 Crew Cab Platinum Specifications|
|Price As Tested:||$74,590|
|Vehicle Layout:||Crew-cab, four-wheel-drive, five-passenger|
|Engine:||6.7L Power Stroke V-8|
|Block:||Compacted graphite iron (CGI)|
|Horsepower:||440 at 2,800 rpm|
|Torque:||860 lb-ft at 1,600 rpmv|
|Transmission:||6R140 TorqShift six-speed automatic with SelectShift|
|Towing:||19,000 pounds (conventional)/ 31,200 pounds (gooseneck/fifth-wheel)|