enough to tow more than 20,000 pounds of trailers, heavy-duty equipment and the biggest, most impressive fifth-wheel campers around.
This is 85 more foot-pounds than the previous Power Stroke diesel in Ford's brawniest F-Series trucks.
The revamped-for-2011 heavy-duty Ford pickups also are more refined and have more electronics to tailor them to personal tastes than does any competitor. Even Internet connectivity and computer workstation capability, complete with printer, are available in the Super Duty trucks.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for a base, 2011 F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab model is $28,995 with 385-horsepower, gasoline V-8, 8-foot-long bed and two-wheel drive.
An F-250 Super Cab model starts at $31,120 with same engine, two-wheel drive and short bed.
And the biggest F-250 Super Duty, a Crew Cab model with four full-size doors and a spacious back seat, starts at $32,480 with 385-horsepower, gasoline V-8, automatic transmission, short bed and two-wheel drive. But the star of the Super Duty — the 390-horsepower, 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8 with the awesome torque — adds another $7,835 to the price.
Major competitors include the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado heavy-duty pickups that have a retail starting price of $28,960 for a 2500 HD with 380-horsepower, gasoline V-8, two-wheel drive and 8-foot-long bed. A 397-horsepower, diesel V-8 adds $7,730 to the base price of a Silverado 2500 HD.
Meanwhile, the 2011 Chrysler Ram starts at $31,980 for a 2500 Crew Cab model with 383-horsepower, gasoline V-8, two-wheel drive and short bed. Add a 350-horsepower diesel powerplant, and the price is $7,615 more.
The test Super Duty, an F-250 Crew Cab with diesel and a long list of options, topped out at more than $55,000 and was ready to haul people and stuff anywhere in high style.
I use "high" because this 6.75-foot-tall truck was so high up from the pavement, the door handles were at chest level. I could barely see the top of the Power Dome hood when I stood next to this truck. Thank goodness the test truck had running boards at the side doors to help everyone get inside. Otherwise, I would have had to bring a ladder along.
The Power Stroke diesel burbled and rumbled at startup with typical diesel sounds. But they didn't prepare me for how forcefully the truck moved forward when I pressed the accelerator. Knowing this truck weighed more than 6,000 pounds, I expected a leisurely pace.
But bristling with more than 700 foot-pounds of torque for the first time, and with all that power available at a low 1,600 rpm, the test truck showed it easily could get up and running, and it wouldn't be sluggish and slow with a heavy load in tow.
The six-speed, heavy-duty, automatic transmission is new and worked smoothly to manage the power in all conditions — uphill, downhill and on straight roads. There's no manual transmission, but the automatic includes a manumatic mode where a driver can shift through the forward gears.
The Super Duty's newfound torque comes in the first Power Stroke engine engineered and built completely by Ford. Previous diesels came from Navistar International, but disputes with the company ended the relationship.
As I drove the Super Duty, the clatter from the diesel didn't intrude as much as expected. Ford revised the packaging and components of this hard-working, overhead valve diesel and, in the process, reduced some noise.
For example, the engine now has one sequential turbocharger, not two, and it's fitted atop the engine. This is an industry first, and with new roller bearings moving the turbo shaft, plus new resonators in the intake and the extra sturdiness of the new compacted graphite iron block, noise and vibration emanating from the Super Duty diesel is markedly reduced. But it's still not as quiet as the diesel in Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Fuel mileage was a pleasant surprise, averaging 18 mpg (I drove two-thirds of the time on city and country roads, the rest on highways). The fuel tank holds more than twice what a small car does — 35 gallons, for a potential driving range, at my average mpg, of 630 miles. The federal government doesn't provide fuel economy numbers for large trucks in this category, so there's no comparison with government figures.
Passengers riding in the test Super Duty truck jiggled on their seats at times and felt lots of vibration. But everyone had great views out and sat high above traffic.
Seats are redesigned and comfortable, and there's nearly 41 inches of headroom in both front and back seats. There's even more legroom — 42.1 inches in the spacious back seat — than up front. But the high walls of the pickup bed can make it difficult to see what's inside until the tailgate is put down.
Consumer Reports says predicted reliability is worse than average.