Underhood, International has an all-new 6.0L intercooled, turbocharged OHV V-8 Powerstroke, reported to put out over 600 lb-ft of torque and be tunable up to 350 hp. It's been rumored that International was going to replace the aging 7.3L V-8 Powerstroke with something smaller. This looks like it. It's our guess this is one of those pieces that should soon be ready for production--maybe even before the new Super Duties come out. This Powerstroke is about 75 lb lighter, has been specifically designed to be the quietest diesel available, offers almost 15-percent-better fuel economy, and includes a turbo that eliminates turbo lag. Finally, filter changes will no longer include messy drips. All filters are top-mounted and get replaced like cartridges, where it's necessary only to release the dirty one from its housing then snapping a clean one in its place. Likewise, a completely new five-speed heavy-duty automatic transmission (designed by Ford) will back up the diesel for the concept F-350, but we're also guessing this is very close to "ready to go," as well.
The Mighty F-350 dual-tank Hydraulic Launch Assist system is tied directly into drivetrain
Although the vehicle's outside look is certainly eye candy, if Ford wants this to be more than a toy, what counts is underneath. It stuck with the heavy-duty Dana 80 in the rear and solid axle Dana 50 up front, but it's reinforced both front and rear axles with beefier support arms and a heavy-duty, fairly high-tech air-suspension system. We've already identified that it can drop to the bump-stops when a door is opened. In addition, the adjustable air suspension can kneel when parked and raise to maximum height for water crossings (all controlled from the cockpit). Even more high tech, the same system is tied into front and rear sensors that can automatically, in less than a second, bleed air to match any impending collision with a smaller car, fence, or post. Using radar sensors similar to the backup beams in many car and truck products in front and rear bumpers, the computer can anticipate a crash and adjust ride height within the full limits of the air suspension, making the vehicle safer for all passengers.
One of the most promising pieces of advanced technology on the Mighty F-350 is hidden from sight and could potentially add up to 30-percent-better fuel-economy numbers. The system is called Hydraulic Launch Assist, and the idea is to capture braking energy, store it, and then transfer it into takeoff power. The system uses two highly pressurized tanks (5000 psi) filled with nitrogen located under the driver's seat, mounted to the frame, and tied into the driveline. Imagine you're holding a large spring, pressing in as hard as you can from both ends. That's the energy collected when coming to a stop, being held in the forward pressurized tank. As you release the spring, that's the energy being used to take off from a dead stop.
We're told this transfer from one nitrogen tank to the other can move a 6500-lb truck up to 25 mph without any use of the engine in just a few seconds. Since moving a body at rest takes the most energy, there's plenty of fuel to be saved here with this technology. Of course, it will only last for a few seconds, as the pressure between the two tanks equalizes until the next stop, when energy will be stored again in the front tank. This capturing of braking energy and converting it to takeoff power has huge applications for heavy fleet vehicles and larger pickups and SUVs.
"If there's one thing concept-truck teams learn pretty quick," says Pat Shiavone (more correctly good design teams), "it's that even though you have to play the exterior-truck designs pretty carefully, you can play quite a bit with the interiors." Looking more like an aviation cockpit than a truck interior, the Mighty F-350 attempts to combine individualized function with high-tech modular form. We're told that in the future truck buyers will want to more successfully customize their vehicles, choosing specific gauge clusters and message center priorities. Detachable GPS systems, altimeters, and Palm Pilots can be mounted straight onto the dash and integrated into the vehicle's main computer. A huge center console allows the driver not only to decide between transmission gears and four-wheel-drive modes, but also vary tractive force from right to left, front to rear, with an additional graduated adjuster handle.