In the world of heavyweight fighting, there's no bigger, stronger competitive set than full-size HD pickups. We're in the enviable position of watching the two biggest fighters prepare for a dramatic debut. The all-new GMT900 Silverado and Sierra was unveiled in our last issue, and its bigger brother, the Silverado HD, is getting ready for its own introduction very soon. In fact, all sorts of photos are showing up on our doorstep (see our newly extended "News" section at the front of the magazine) so we know the excitement is building. And there's more info to come.

As to what Ford's been up to, we find ourselves with another pickup-truck world exclusive, the all-new 2008 F-450 Super Duty. Not only is this an entirely new truck for Ford, the biggest of the personal-use Super Duty heavyweights, but it reveals many of the mid-life changes that'll work their way into the current F-250 and F-350 siblings. Of course, F-450 models, along with F-550s, have existed in the past in commercial configurations (chassis cabs only), but this is the first F-450 born in the mold of the one-ton F-350 dualie. Ford tells us it's simply responding to what heavy-duty truck users are calling for.

Inspired by the growing size of trailers, and that there seems no end to how much truck a real truck guy (or gal) wants, the F-450 is Ford's simple solution for those needing more towing and payload capacity than can be offered by a mere dualie. This vehicle is essentially a bigger, stronger one-ton dualie, with all the hardware to prove it. This particular model will be offered only with dual rear wheels and a crew-cab body, along with a host of interior options.

Ford let us take a peek at a two-tone King Ranch Edition with all the toys. As you might imagine, there's a lot more to this truck than some subtle exterior styling.

The frame is a modified and stiffened version of the one-ton frame, with a completely new fully boxed front section that uses longer, wider sloping frame rails to accommodate the bigger 6.4-liter twin-turbo Power Stroke and massive intercooler. The intercooler is so big it has to be mounted at an angle, tilting backward, to prevent the 'cooler from intruding into the hood.

Although Ford hasn't released final output numbers, some sources rate the new Power Stroke at 360 horsepower, with more than 650 pound-feet of torque. You can bet there's more power to be had in that block, too. At the heart of the new powerplant's big power numbers is a set of turbochargers, one large and one small. The smaller variable-vein turbo is designed to ramp up quickly, providing fast-responding low-grunt grunt, without the traditional amount of lag in an engine this size. The larger turbo is more for mid-to high-rpm power production, allowing for a flatter and longer torque plateau, even into and above 3000 rpm. The standard transmission behind the new Power Stroke is the ZF six-speed manual transmission previously offered, with the TorqueShift five-speed automatic optional.

Underneath the front end of the F-450, the wider stance is a result of the 10-bolt Dana 60 Hybrid live axle, so called because it has heavier-duty parts from Dana 70 and 80 axles. 4x2 models will continue to use the twin I-beam setup, but will now have a weight rating that's 400 pounds stronger. Both 4x4 and 4x2 versions will have an almost 45-degree tire turning angle that'll provide an astoundingly small turning diameter, relatively speaking. The front coil springs will remain unchanged, but the rear suspension has been modified: To accommodate the extra weight and strength of the commercial-looking Dana 110 rear axle (with heavy-duty square axle tubes), the leaf springs have been lengthened eight inches. The extra length is said to allow for more control, and with two extra leafs, it'll carry more weight. Ring-and-pinion gear sets are 4.88:1 with six 19.5-inch 10-bolt polished aluminum rims at the corners.

From the outside, there are no dramatic departures from previous Super Duty cues. We like that the grille is bigger (needed for better cooling) and that Ford has embossed the Super Duty name right on top of the hood in masculine block lettering. The stacked headlights are now in the lower section just above the bumper, and because of the extra width of the heavy-duty axles, fender flares were necessary to keep the tires under the body. Also, faux side vents have been set behind the front wheels and will demarcate option and trim packages.

Don't expect to see many base-model F-450s. Ford anticipates that the people interested in this vehicle won't be cutting corners on interior options, which makes sense. In many cases, these people probably have trailers equal to or much more expensive than the towee. When you own a $50,000 horse trailer that carries another $100,000 worth of livestock, you may not worry too much about an $1800 DVD system option, just check all the boxes. With that said, the King Ranch version shown here has the special saddleback leather seats, fully electric (and retractable) tow mirrors, navigation system, backup camera, rear-seat DVD player, an MP3 plug-in, and several large interior storage compartments, as well as an industry-first hideaway step and hand rail, hidden in the tailgate.

With all these goodies, we'd expect most F-450 models (especially the King Ranch version) to come in as the most expensive full-size pickup truck out there, which puts it right around $55,000. But if you have to tow, and you've got long-haul driving to do, a case could be made for spending the money. No word yet from Ford as to how many it thinks it can sell, but it could be somewhere under 10,000 in the first full year. Whether that business case will work for Ford remains to be seen. Until we can get behind the wheel and drive, we'll hold our final verdict.

F-250/350 Super Duty Changes
Look for all smaller Super Duty models to receive many of the same styling changes seen on the all-new F-450. Most notably, the larger and more chiseled front grille will be on all big trucks, as well as the redesigned dash and gauge cluster. In addition, the exclusive hidden rail and step in the tailgate will be a factory feature on all heavy-duty trucks. And, of course, all big Ford trucks will get the new Power Stroke 6.4-liter twin-tubodiesel option (which includes the high-tech particulate filter exhaust system), along with the V-10 gas motor option.

Climbing into Bed
Every once in a while, someone comes along with an idea that makes so much sense, you wonder why no one had thought of it before. That's exactly what you'll think when you see the new Super Duty tailgates, which incorporate a ladder step for access into the bed. With the tailgate dropped, a hidden slide-out step (it comes out of the inner part of the tailgate) hinges down to provide a solid foothold for those looking to climb into the bed. In addition, a pop-up rail extends to provide a type of handrail support. The solution is simple and efficient, and shouldn't add any weight to the vehicle or tailgate. Expect other full-size trucks to adopt this strategy, fast.



2008 Ford Super Duty F-450 4x4
General
Location of final assembly Louisville, Kentucky
Body style Crew cab, longbed
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4-door
Powertrain
Engine type Twin-turbo V-8 diesel,iron block/alum heads
Displacement, L 6.4
Fuel induction High pressure, common rail, direct
SAE horsepower, hp 360 (est)
SAE torque, lb-ft 650 (est)
Transmission type ZF 6-speed manual
1st 5.79:1
2nd 3.30:1
3rd 2.10:1
4th 1.30:1
5th 1.00:1
6th 0.72:1
Opt transmission type 5R110 5-speed automatic
1st 3.11:1
2nd 2.22:1
3rd 1.55:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.71:1
Axle ratio 4.88:1
Final drive ratio 3.46:1
Transfer case model New Venture Gear
Low-range ratio 2.42:1
Crawl ratio (1st x axle x low range) 36.7:1 (auto)
Recommended fuel Diesel No. 2
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 172.0
Length, in 264.5
Width, in 95.5
Height, in 84.0
Curb weight, lb 8914
Payload capacity, lb 8000
GVWR, lb 16,000
GCWR, lb 32,000
Towing capacity, lb 16,000
Fuel capacity, gal 34.0
Chassis
Construction Ladder frame
Suspension, f/r Live axle, coil spring/live axle, leaf spring
Wheels 19.5 x 7.00 aluminum
Tires 225/70R19.5
Load rating F
Price
Base price $38,000 (est)
Price as tested $53,000 (est)


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