When Truck Trend was given the opportunity to drive Ford's new gas-powered F-650, we jumped at the chance to get behind the wheel. Who wouldn't want to drive a truck that size? But if you're going to borrow something like this from Ford, you have to do something special with it. After doing a little research, we found the perfect place to try out all of the truck's cool features: Dig This! (www.digthis.info) in Las Vegas. It's the only facility in America where anyone can learn to drive excavators and bulldozers, and use them to dig big holes, create hills of dirt, and have fun -- as long as you're at least 14 years old and sober. It sounded like the perfect place to try out the dump truck, and all we had to do was get it to Las Vegas. So the adventure began.

As you can see in the photos, there are several styling cues that tie the looks of this truck to the rest of the Super Duty line. The grille, door, and cab shape; door handles; and badges are all similar to those of regular Super Duty pickups. But this truck is a Class 6 vehicle, the largest medium-duty truck class available. (Classes 7 and higher are heavy-duty trucks.) This designation means the truck has a GVWR of 19,501 to 26,000 pounds. If this F-650 had a 26,001-pound GVW, we would've needed a commercial driver's license, but as it was one pound under the limit, we were allowed to drive it legally. It also means that any municipality interested in adding one to its fleet can hire any driver with a regular driver's license to operate it.

Ford's F-650 is the only medium-duty with an available gas engine. And anyone with a regular driver's license can drive it.

The truck's size is intimidating at first, but getting in and driving are pretty easy. Unlike a typical truck with a single step, this one has two -- and plenty of grab handles on both sides of the truck. If you've never driven something this size, you might expect an interior that has a lot of switches and dials, and controls that take time to learn, but the crew cab of this truck looked just like that of a Super Duty. Same steering wheel, gauge layout, and controls, with the exception of the four PTO switches, one of which operates the dump bed. It came with the XLT package, and even had chrome-ringed air vents, plus cupholders, power ports, and an iPod jack and aux port. The lack of nav wasn't a problem, but there was a panel on the driver-side doorjamb where the power mirror controls would've been. Given the choice between Sync, which is a great system, and power mirrors, we'd prefer to have the power mirrors -- you can't reach the passenger-side one to adjust it, and each mirror has two adjustable segments.

There was no clackety-clack when starting it up and no rattling in the cab, as this is a gas-powered truck. This F-650 uses a three-valve version of the company's 6.8-liter V-10 with 362 horsepower and 457 lb-ft of torque, also offered in the F-450 and F-550. It would've also been available in E-Series vans, but there were clearance issues with the heads, so the vans use the two-valve version. The engine is backed by a column-shifted six-speed 6R410 automatic. We were on our way.

Driving a truck this size in Los Angeles is a trial by fire. Even though it seems like the truck is too wide to fit anywhere, in reality, this F-650 was less than an inch wider than a one-ton dualie. Merging onto a busy L.A. freeway was unnerving at first, but traffic opens up quickly when other drivers see that a truck this size has to move over. While there isn't as much torque here as there would be in a diesel engine for a truck this size, there was no problem accelerating and getting up to traffic speed. There were some minor vibrations in the cab, but the driver's seat had an Air Ride system, making it the most comfortable seat in the truck. The ride wasn't cushy, but we only really noticed it going over bridges where the surface height was lower than that of the rest of the road. Staying at freeway speeds was easy, too. The truck was speed-limited to 75 mph because of the tires, but we set the cruise control at 70 on the open road, and achieved 5.7 mpg. Most of the time, the transmission was smooth and responsive, only being forced to hunt when we did silly things like passing slow cars while going uphill. This isn't something we'd recommend, but the truck did it quite well. We arrived in Las Vegas about seven hours later -- tired, but not overly fatigued from the drive -- and discovered that the truck's impressive turning radius made it surprisingly easy to maneuver and park.

The next day, we visited Dig This! We drove the truck onto the dirt portion of the facility and started using the PTO system. We pulled up the e-brake -- a very different one than the pedal in the light-duty F-Series -- and, engine running, transmission in Park, flipped the PTO switch. When a red light on the driver's side came on, that meant the PTO was ready. Pushing one rocker switch raised and lowered the bed; another one opened and closed the screen that covers the top of the bed. The guys at Dig This! used excavators to fill the truck with dirt, which we had fun emptying out. This truck is a tool, and it was an easy tool to use.

After spending a full day, from sunrise to long after sunset, playing in the dirt, and cruising the Strip that night, it was time to get some sleep and head back to California. The drive back was uneventful -- except that we made a stop at the track, so the test crew could record some performance data. The 15,400-pound truck, with a 7.17:1 axle ratio, took 17.6 seconds to reach 60, and braked from that speed to 0 in 160 feet. That was the first time we've ever tested a dump truck at the track.

Overall, we were impressed by the capability of this vehicle with the gas engine. It has the most available horsepower in the lineup, but the least torque, yet proved plenty powerful. We didn't get to do the road trip with a bed full of dirt, but on grades with a full payload, the diesel has the advantage. That aside, for smaller municipalities looking for a dump truck, heavy-duty snowplow truck, or just want a new medium-duty truck, they can get into the gas-powered version for an average savings of $8300 over diesel. That's a significant savings on a truck that does a lot of work, and could make an interesting vehicle for a road trip.


2012 Ford Super Duty F-650 Crew Cab Chassis XLT
Base price $61,035
Price as tested $79,524
Layout Front engine, RWD, 5-pass, 4-door truck
Engine 6.8L/362-hp/457-lb-ft SOHC V-10, 3 valves/cyl
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Wheelbase 212.0 in
Length x width x height 321.0 x 96.7 x 88.3 in
Curb weight 15,400 lb
GVWR 26,000 lb
Payload capacity 10,600 lb
Max towing capacity 17,600 lb
0-60 mph 17.6 sec
Quarter mile 21.0 sec @ 64.8 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 160 ft
EPA city/hwy fuel econ Not rated
As-tested fuel econ 5.7 mpg
On sale in U.S. Currently