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2005 Ford F-350 Super Duty

Truck Driver Wanna-bes Rejoice: No CDL Required

    Above all else, Ford consistently does one thing well, and that’s build pickups. We’re not talking just any pickups, but giant, imposing trucks with a commanding presence that the other guys just can’t match. In fact, it’s darn near semi-like in one of these things. You sit about eye level with fellow truckers, you occupy almost as much highway, and you burn fuel at a rate that would make even a Saudi cry. No doubt about it, one glance at the features and you’ll know the latest generation of Super Duty pickups is made for one thing: hard work. But there’s more to the story than an impressive spec sheet. What did we learn after a week in the cab? Well, we had a newfound appreciation for good coffee and for Ford’s latest heavy-hauler.
     There is a remarkable game of one-upmanship going on in the world of pickup powertrains and the clear beneficiary is the driver who tows often. When serious power is needed, Ford delivers. The base engine in any Super Duty is the 5.4-liter Triton V8, but its 300hp apparently isn’t enough for serious haulers, so Ford offers two optional engines that should satisfy any power fetish buyers might have. The top dog powerplant is a 6.0-liter Power Stroke oil-burner and its 325hp and mighty 575lb-ft of torque will make easy work of towing anything this side of the Space Shuttle. Nestled somewhere in between those two extremes is the heavily-revised-for-2005 6.8-liter V10 rated at 355hp and 455lb-ft of torque. Besides being the engine in our test truck, the V10 is newsworthy in other ways. For starters, it now features the 3-valve head that Ford first introduced on the 5.4-litert V8 in the 2004 F-150. Thirty valves ensure that the big engine breathes better than before and also ensures optimal mixing of the fuel and air before combustion. In addition to the new head, the V10 also benefits from variable intake runners.
     “At lower rpm, the engine uses the long intake runners to generate maximum torque,” Harold Lowman, commercial vehicles powertrain manager, explains. “At higher engine speeds, the intake shifts to the shorter runners. This gives you a very flat torque curve and good response across the rev range.”
     For a truck the size of a small locomotive, he’s right. Press into the throttle at any engine speed and there is power to be utilized. If you are towing often—it’s ill advised to use a one-ton Super Duty for running errands—then the torque monster diesel should be your first choice, but if you’re hesitant to order a $5,100 option, then the V10 can be had for $600 and it’ll do a fine job. If, however, your idea of a serious payload consists of two bags of black dirt from the local greenhouse, choosing either of the optional engines is like bringing a thermo-nuclear weapon to a gunfight. The standard 5.4-liter V8 will suffice for most jobs.
     Regardless of engine, the standard transmission is a 6-speed manual that most people, including those who ordered our tester, upgrade to the 5-speed TorqShift automatic. Ford charges $1,490 for the auto and it’s well worth it. Shifts are smooth but crisp and pressing the Tow/Haul button orders the computer to keep the engine in the powerband and reduce unnecessary shifting.
     For 2005 Ford has also made a substantial change to the 4×4 Super Duty chassis. The old leaf spring front suspension has been replaced by a coil-spring setup that cuts the turning radius and supposedly improves ride quality. Ford also claims steering feel is improved but don’t buy that; steering feel remains MIA. The major observation that everyone who rode in our F-350 made was some variation of, “This is the worst riding vehicle I’ve ever been in!” And it’s true. When there’s no weight in the bed the one-ton long-bed chassis our Super Duty rode on was so stiff that even over good roads occupants get jiggled constantly. Over poor roads passengers are reduced to bobble-head doll impressions and the driver has to fight to stay in the intended lane when every frost heave wants to bounce you into the next. Just another reason to make sure you intend on towing a large majority of the time.
     All Super Dutys share the same masculine styling, but ours was upgraded with 18” wheels, bright cab steps and body-side molding. It’s a successful look to be sure and one that should wear well for the next few years.
     Our Lariat truck slots in just above the XLT in the Ford model hierarchy and includes a few extra luxuries like leather seats, power front seats and cruise control on the steering wheel. Overall, though, this interior is a major disappointment. After witnessing what Ford did with its F-150 cabins we were hoping for some decent materials and at least a bit of design. We got neither. It’s no exaggeration to say that the interior materials are the worst we’ve experienced in many years. Even the leather feels cheap. The dash is a flat, black, plastic piece devoid of design with several sharp edges exposed because of poor fitment. Ergonomically, however, things are quite good with well-marked buttons and simple climate controls. The exception to that is the poor placement of the heated seat switch on the side of the seats where you can’t see if it’s on or not. The only newsworthy item in the interior is the available integrated trailer-braking system. This will no doubt seal the deal for potential buyers who were on the fence before. The system is integrated with the truck’s ABS system so you get only smooth, efficient braking. It’s a $425 option that frequent towers will proclaim worth its weight in gold.
     Our $40,810 tester came equipped with several useful options like the $245 rear-parking assist and the $120 power-adjustable pedals. The vertically challenged stand to benefit from both. Although anyone who tows will benefit from Ford’s expertise in crafting heavy-haulers able to meet every challenge. This truck craves hard work and heavy loads. If you’re the same way, this is your truck.

The Good:
Lots of power, intimidating look, great mirrors, integrated trailer-brake controller.
The Bad:
Extended cab not extended enough, horrendous interior materials, ride quality is off-the-charts bad.
The Verdict:
A great choice for regular towers; a poor choice for everyone else.


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