Walkaround and Interior

By June 21, 2010

Walkaround

Already the biggest pickup in town, the Ford Super Duty appears imposing because of bigger horizontal bars in the grille, deeper airdam and bumper with bigger cooling air openings, and stacked lamps with the headlights on the bottom. Dimensions are easily given in yards rather than inches. The sheer vastness of the sheetmetal may overwhelm your car wash guy. The Power Stroke badges have been given a hybrid-like green leaf with B20 in reference to the ability to burn biodiesel fuel, but only compared to other huge trucks might a Super Duty be considered green.

Regardless of bulging flares or flared nostrils no Super Duty would be mistaken for anything less than a full-size pickup even with nothing scalable within sight. The clamshell hood essentially wraps around the diesel engine underneath, and the rounded edges and deeper airdam have improved the coefficient of aero drag from about 0.45 to 0.425, still a block compared to a good car at 0.25-0.27.

The doors remain unchanged, the box sides are mildly modified and have a larger fuel door for the diesel models' additional diesel exhaust fluid fill. Back-up lights are at the top of the tail-lamp assembly, so far off the ground they are really nothing more than signaling devices that the truck is in reverse. Wheels range from 17 to 20 inches in diameter, all of aluminum except the base 17-inch steel wheels.

Towing mirrors include signal repeaters that won't distract the driver; they telescope and fold (manual or powered), and include two large reflector elements for safe rear vision with the widest street-legal trailers. Rear cameras are mounted in the tailgate center latch housing, and display on the navigation screen or inside the rearview mirror.

An optional tailgate step pops a 16.7 x 4.5-inch step with a half-ton load rating out of the tailgate and raises a grab handle rated at 300 pounds to make the climb safer; the step's handle makes box access easier but may need to be lowered again to slide a load in. The tailgate includes an assist so the very heavy tailgate feels less heavy; but the assist is irrelevant if you remove the tailgate so have an assistant handy.

Short boxes have four tie-down cleats a few inches off the floor, long boxes get six. Cargo can be secured with a hefty cable lock, and the box can be protected with a sprayed-in liner.

New for 2011 is an integrated fifth-wheel/gooseneck hitch prep package. This assembly is securely mounted to the frame at the factory (and warranted by Ford) and leaves a flat floor with guidelines marked to cut out four fifth-wheel mounting holes or the center gooseneck; major hitch suppliers were consulted for compatibility and the final hitch hardware choice is left to the consumer. The Super Duty also has an inside box-wall mounted 7-pin trailer plug.

Interior Features

With almost six feet of space from door to door the Ford Super Duty cab is massive. Materials appear well assembled and are mission-appropriate. The King Ranch version makes a better Lincoln pickup than Lincoln's own, while the base model could be cleaned out with a bucket of warm water. On upper-end models, the gear-cog-like chrome surrounds for vents and gauges can create some unwelcome reflections, and the number of textures and colors (we counted up to eight) may be too much for design minimalists.

The dash is segmented in three smaller parts for a more manageable look. The instrument pod provides engine and road speed through larger dials with four smaller gauges lined up between; diesel models include a boost gauge and gas engines substitute oil pressure. Instrument needles are now blue on many models but illuminate as white at night.

The center stack houses a pair of large vents, radio and navigation located top center where easily viewed, climate control, and most switchgear, including optional auxiliary equipment switches, Tow Command, SYNC inputs and one of up to five 12-volt power points. The far side houses the passenger airbag and a sizable glovebox; where so equipped, the reconfigurable center console is similarly large and the huge door pockets (two on each front door) could hold the contents of a small tool chest and will soon require their own payload rating.

The climb in is mitigated by a deep door opening cut and well-placed assist handles; multiple choices in side steps are available. We noted a marked reduction in wind/cab noise around the center pillar in the SuperCab, and the better sealing means that big front door requires a solid yank to close with all windows up. The new diesel is so quiet you won't hear any of it at cruising speeds (the gas engine generates a more authoritative hum) and road noise is reasonably controlled since the nearest wheel is not right under your feet. Unless the road surface is bad conversation volume will be determined by how noisy your hitch setup or drunk your buddy.

Seats have been updated using F-150 parts to provide more comfort, support and adjustability for the diesel's 600-plus-mile range (unloaded). The tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, memory system and adjustable pedals allow great flexibility for his-and-hers operations. Front bench seat center riders may find the deep dash compromises their knee and foot room, especially if the driver needs the seat forward.

Adults can fit in the rear of the SuperCab but if you intend to make a habit of carrying anyone average-or-larger for any significant length or time, go for the Crew Cab. This, finally, has a center headrest to keep the passenger's head separated from the back window. It also offers lockable storage under the seat with a power point, and grocery bag hooks under the short cushion passenger side.

An electronic switch handles turn signals and high beams now; with a momentary lift the signal blinks three times automatically; unlike some competition it does not add blinks with tow/haul mode engaged. The signal lever may feel some distance away from the wheel but high-beams are switched both on and off by pulling toward you. Primary controls are all easy to find and use, with few tiny buttons to complicate driving with gloves. The reverse parking sensor can be defeated for hooking up a trailer. The daytime running lights can be turned off for good neighborly night-time entries to campgrounds or drive-ins.

The ventilation system is capable of cooling or heating the cavernous volume and keeping forward windows and mirrors clear, and seat heaters are very effective; a supplemental cab heater is available for diesel models. On many models, all outside mirror elements are heatable as well.

Some models include a productivity screen in the center of the instrument panel. In addition to odometer, outside temperature, compass and gear indications this offers six other menus. The gauge mode gives more detailed readings for oil and transmission fluid temperatures, and diesel boost pressure. A/B trip computers offer time/miles/gallons used/relative instant fuel economy (a bar graph); curiously the fuel economy history, range remaining and instant fuel economy in mpg is under another menu titled Fuel Economy.

The Truck Apps display includes an off-road screen with lateral and vertical angle indicators (no redline marked where the truck might/will fall over) and turning radius; it also provides information about the locking differential, plus 4WD, hill descent and traction control systems. The trailer submenu can store brake settings and name for two trailers and show checklists where you have to, for example, push OK when it asks if the tongue jack is raised, lights functioning, etc., for different types of trailers.

The screen also does customer Settings such as setting maintenance intervals, the compass zone, or how long the lights stay on at key-off. The Information section includes MyKey preferences, log data (engine hours, idle hours, open doors, etc.), and messages like door ajar and tire pressure warnings.

The navigation system is fairly intuitive and will be familiar to Ford family drivers, as will the SYNC system. The Tool Link aspect of the Work Solutions equipment will tell you, on the center screen, which (if any) tool or anything else you've tagged is not in the truck when you are ready to leave.

Ford's Tow Command integrated trailer brake system is easy to set up and provides better, smoother trailer braking control than any aftermarket controller. For 2011 it is compatible with both conventional and electric-over-hydraulic braking systems and the display for gain adjustment has been incorporated in the instrument pod.