The folks at Ford introduced the next generation F-Series Super Duty to a drove of media in the hills of Arizona and Price Digests’ Truck Blue Book/Auto Red Book were there. Ford provided a tortuous environment in and around a working rock quarry to showcase the new trucks capabilities.
Included in the program was a 24000# trailer tow test up a mountain, a head to head drag race competition with each truck pulling an 84,000# Caterpillar front end loader, a competition relating to the new Live Drive PTO, as well as an off-road course climbing large rocks ascending and descending 20 degree hills which tested the limits of the drivers and passengers more than any limit of the trucks. The day finished with an 84 mile fuel economy run that was won by some hypermiling engineers averaging 34 miles per gallon with 1000 pounds of concrete bags in the bed. Without resorting to turning the engine off down hills or other non real-world driving techniques we averaged a respectable 24.1 mpg. The mileage course included driving dirt roads, forging ponds, stopping for school buses and merging with highway speed traffic to our final destination.
The heart of these next generation trucks are the all-new 6.7 liter diesel and 6.2 liter gas engines matched to a new heavy duty TorqShift™ six-speed transmission. When I hear the words “All-New” I cringe a little because we are bombarded every day by marketing hype extolling virtues of ALL-NEW products which are most often times merely the same old thing with an all-new color. However, all-new is an accurate description when discussing the 6.7L Power Stroke as this is a clean-sheet engine. As opposed to the previous Power Stroke, this was engineered, tested and built by Ford. They targeted attributes important to buyers of these type trucks and came away with a design that increased fuel economy by 18% while increasing horsepower by 11% and torque by 12%. There were no decibel numbers provided, however, the sound quality is largely improved and until I drove a competitive diesel truck up the mountain didn’t really appreciate how quiet these new Ford trucks really are.
One of the most striking visuals at the rock quarry was seeing an 8100# rock strapped on a new Dodge sitting on top of a fifth wheel trailer being towed by an F-550. The Dodge was at maximum capacity with the truck, rock and bed alone.
One of the things we learned at the pre-drive pep talk is the Super Duty market is a “Business of Niches”. The marketing and engineering folks spend a lot of time listening to their divergent group of Super Duty customers. Because 97% of Super Duty customers tow, a lot of effort was put into meeting the needs of towing customers. There is now a factory installed fifth wheel and gooseneck mounting. Even us desk jockeys were able to switch from a gooseneck ball hitch to fifth wheel plate in a couple minutes. An F-350 with the hill holding feature, Trailer Sway Control, engine exhaust braking and hill descent control enabled me to tow a trailer loaded with some 22,000# of stuff up and down a mountain, not a hill, but a mountain with maybe a 1000 foot drop to the level ground below. I never felt that I wasn’t in complete control of the trailer until I drove a competitive truck with a smaller load at much lower speeds up and down the same mountain.
Beyond towing and payload capacity, fleet customers have asked for fuel efficiency, lockable storage and technology that helps improve productivity. Everything is about maximizing productivity. We all have to do more with less these days. Fuel efficiency is improved 18%, there is 5’ of lockable storage under the rear seat and productivity enhancing technology is abundant.
There are some very useful productivity improving electronics including a built-in computer with internet access from Sprint™, GPS from Garmin™, Tool Link™ from DeWalt® and Crew Chief™ from microlise®. These are heavy hitters in their respective industries and to do their systems justice you need to access www.fordworksolutions.com. Suffice it to say, the systems are well integrated and simple to use.
I have to come clean and admit I hit the reset button on a fuel economy competition for the Ford Fusion hybrid last year and won with 52.8 mpg. Without the reset I would probably have gotten only 52 mpg. The F-series “Crew Chief” is GPS centric and this fuel economy challenge was monitored by way of the Internet and did not allow me to reset my figures.
The Crew Chief™ feature allows the fleet manager to monitor the activities of the driver. This is powerful stuff. Those employees stopping at the bar, girl friend’s house or sleeping on the job on a side street will now have to explain their activities. Knowing that the people writing their checks can monitor their whereabouts could change their habits.
While the management of the competition to Ford Super Duty trucks play musical chairs, Ford has been able to focus on the needs of their customers. For 33 years truck customers have voted with their dollars and have elected the F-Series as the most popular truck. Ford has just raised the bar again as they continue to engineer their F-series trucks to meet or exceed their divergent customer needs.