Behind the high-tech, efficient, and much more powerful diesel is the same six-speed automatic as the one that is used with the gas engine. While a manual transmission is no longer available, the automatic provides several ways to control what gear the truck is in, making it easy to manage while towing and when off-road. You can put it in Drive and shift up or down with the +/- buttons along the collar of the steering-column-mounted shifter stalk. This also defines what the truck's top gear is at the time-if you are in sixth and push "-" until you're in fourth, that becomes the highest gear the truck will use until you tell it otherwise (or until potential damage could be done by keeping in that gear). If you want to get back into fifth or sixth, push "+." This is called Progressive Range Select. Want more control than that? There is a manual mode, labeled M, which you can shift to in the PRNDM21 layout. It also uses the plus/minus buttons. And there's a tow/haul mode, which assists with braking and transmission shift points. The new six-speed worked very well behind both engines with consistently smooth and timely shifts. Plus, the +/- buttons are in a great, easy-to-reach spot on the stalk. Our only gripe, and it's a minor one, is that we noticed in our preproduction test truck that there were a few abrupt downshifts at low speed.
Capability is key in the heavy-duty pickup truck segment, and the new Super Duty does not disappoint. Maximum towing capacity is 24,400 pounds (F-450) and maximum payload capacity is 6520 pounds. Those numbers are best in class-Chevrolet just released its 2011 Silverado HD's specs, which are 20,000 and 6335. Even if you remove the F-450 from the equation, the F-350's 21,600-pound towing capacity is still better than that of the Silverado 3500HD. For those who are going to use their truck for fifth-wheel or gooseneck towing, Ford now offers a $400 prep package for longbed trucks that adds a frame-mounted crossmember, five laser-cut holes in the bed including covers, and seven-pin connector integrated into the inner wall of the bed on the driver's side.
Other new features for the Super Duty include trailer sway control, trailer brake, hill descent control, tire-pressure monitoring, and a new 4.2-inch LCD screen. Located between the gauges, this screen allows you to control what is on the display and tracks things such as fuel economy, oil and transmission temperature, turbo boost, trip time, gallons of fuel used, truck angles when off-road, and you can store information about trailers you tow with the truck. There's even a checklist included for novice towers. The hill-start assist feature applies brakes when at a stop, preventing the truck (and trailer) from rolling back. To fill the gap from when you take your foot off the brake pedal to when you put it on the gas pedal, the system holds the brakes for two seconds before gradually reducing the amount of brake assist. If a trailer is connected to the truck, and you're stopped for longer than six seconds, the trailer brake will also be used. This system provides a lot of confidence while towing and can keep a trailer from rolling back into the vehicle behind you. And for those who want to go off-road, there are two options: an electronic locking diff, controlled by a pull-out knob on the dash, or, on XL- and XLT-equipped trucks, a floor-mounted shift lever and manual locking hubs. Ford also offers a military-grade spray-in bedliner, and a power takeoff that can be used when the vehicle is in motion. Ford's Work Solutions, which allows you to track where your tools are, keep tabs on other vehicles in the fleet, and access the Internet and download and print forms, is optional.