Another towing aid is the set of industry-first power-fold, power-telescoping sideview mirrors. The large "elephant ear" housings mount a regular mirror plus a large wide-angle spotter mirror, and the pod telescopes out 2-inches to provide better rear visibility when a wide load is in tow. In narrow passages, both mirrors can be folded parallel to the cab's sides, and all mirror functions can be controlled from inside.
Outside, the long and short pickup boxes remain the same size as the previous versions, but now have three outstanding features. The first is a step built into the top of the tailgate that can be pulled out and down when the gate is lowered. The second is an associated grab handle that folds out of the inner tailgate wall, providing a handhold as you climb up the step into the bed. The third, a foldaway bed extender, stows flat against the bed sides when not in use. It can be opened to hold cargo in place all the way to the edge of the lowered tailgate or, folded the opposite way, creates a smaller stowage area at the rear of the bed.
The chassis includes an all-new frame with a stiffer front end and bigger crossmembers that allow better mounts for the transmission and the engine, isolating the powertrain from the frame. Those improvements revealed themselves in handling that was a lot less busy than in other pickups in this weight class. Reyes told us that eliminating frame shake caused by the 1200-pound powertrain had a lot to do with the enhanced control, but the ride also benefits from rear suspension changes.
The front 4x4 suspension is the carryover twin-coil monobeam setup (twin I-beam on two-wheel-drives), but the rear has been revamped with eight-inch-longer multiple leafs. The spring pack becomes progressively stiffer as the bed load increases, so the ride with an empty bed remains even. We noticed a particular improvement through tight corners where large unladen trucks tend to hop over uneven surfaces.
As with the other models in the Super Duty class, the F-250 is available in Regular Cab, SuperCab, and Crew Cab versions and short and long beds. The models range from the lowest level XL to the high-line Lariat, with escalating levels of comfort and convenience. New this year is a King Ranch version of the Lariat Crew Cab, which is upfitted with exclusive leather appointments and other luxury items, and Ford now offers a range of styled wheels that include everything from 17-inch painted steel to 20-inch forged aluminum.
Taken as a whole, the new F-Series Super Duty is a strong evolution for Ford. Whether it'll be enough to maintain the company's leadership position in a changing market driven by fuel constraints, pricing, and increasing competition remains to be seen, but for now the F-truck is still a mighty force on the road.