Midmodel freshenings are typically boring. That's when manufacturers roll out the new paint colors, interior option packages, and possibly new wheel and tire combinations. Sometimes, however, a midlife remodel can look more like a significant redesign if a manufacturer has learned a few things since the vehicle's introduction. In the case of the Super Duty's midmodel freshening, Ford has made some considerable changes to the lineup.
Appropriately, Ford started with the foundation, redesigning and boxing the front third of the frame for stiffness. It's used thicker steel throughout the frame, resulting in a higher maximum towing and payload capacity. According to Ford's specifications, maximum towing capacity for the F-350 (with a fifth-wheel trailer) is 17,000 pounds, 15,000 with a conventional trailer hitch. In addition, the forged-steel trailer mount offers tow lovers the option of using a standard two-inch shank or a heavier-duty 2.5-inch hitch receiver. Factory receivers come with an insert that can be removed to accommodate the larger hitches.
Payload numbers have improved as well, with the maximum carrying capacity for a one-ton dualie being just under three tons. Across the board, when compared with previous models, payload capacities have increased between 500 and 1250 pounds. Although this extra capacity is nice, the frame change has more to do with Ford owners (and journalists) complaining about the 4x4 Super Duty's ride and handling. Gone is the leaf-spring front suspension, replaced by a much more accommodating and versatile coil-spring and locating-arm setup. Not only is the ride on 4x4s far superior to the rugged and harsh leaf-spring setup, but the coils allowed Ford to vastly improve steering geometry and turning radius, cutting almost six feet off the truck's turning circle. In addition, Ford strengthened and changed the steering gear. Braking power at all corners is improved with bigger rotors, larger braking pads, and larger twin calipers on F-250 and F-350 models.
Likewise, each engine gets a boost. The gasoline engines offered for the Super Duty get the three-valve heads that appeared last year in the new F-150's 5.4-liter V-8 engine option. Both the 5.4-liter V-8 and 6.8-liter V-10 engines get a good jump in horsepower and torque--the V-8 gets 40 more horsepower and the V-10 becomes the most powerful gasoline engine available for any 3/4-ton or one-ton pickup (355 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque). For better pulling power, Ford has done some tweaking to the Power Stroke diesel to squeeze a few more horses and pound-feet of torque, now making a respectable 570 pound-feet of peak torque at 1800 rpm. The biggest powertrain change for the new Super Dutys is the removal of the long-standing four-speed automatic transmission mated to both gas motors in favor of the TorqShift five-speed automatic, which made its debut last year with the new Power Stroke. The TorqShift not only provides better off-the-line feel and towing confidence (because of torque converter lock-up in first and second gears), but the higher overdrive gear allows for better overall fuel economy.