Heavy duty pickup truck buyers have four brands to work with to create the ultimate play/work/tow vehicle among the thousands of option specifications spread across each maker’s expansive lineup. Gas engines to turbodiesels, 6- to 10-speed automatics and ¾-ton to 1¼-ton brutes with dual-rear wheels, heavy duty trucks can now tow up to 36,000 pounds of trailer (when properly equipped), which is more weight than some states allow on conventional driver licenses.
But along the way, these work trucks also earned a great deal of panache. With each maker offering at least two, if not three, levels of premium luxury trim, these behemoths have become quite civilized. They are also ATM machines for Ford, GM and FCA.
So, with a bright white Platinum Crew Cab arriving, we tapped the big Ford for tourist duty — a long October holiday weekend to scenic New Harbor and the Pemaquid Peninsula towns of Bristol.
Stronger than a ¾-ton Super Duty, heavier too, the F-350 proved to be a capable companion as we explored the winding routes of 131 from Belmont, 235 south from Union and 32 from Waldoboro to New Harbor — each a narrow, undulating Maine road where you meet Super Duty trucks every day hauling tractors, boats and construction trailers. Our load consisted of totes of food and iced-down coolers, soft luggage bags and golf clubs — hardly the load consistent with a heavy-hauling pickup truck.
However, even the fifth-wheel pullers and the horse trailer-pulling Super Dutys must recreate now and again. For four bright autumn days, the Ford was our chariot and it excelled at the task.
Gifted with a massive panoramic sunroof and comfortable leather seats — massaging action up front, with heating, cooling and memory settings — plus the spaciousness of the heated rear seats (with a huge, flat floor below), the Platinum looked the part of a luxury SUV inside, while the huge trailer mirrors, and big pickup box outback shouted “move over” to the crowding out-of-state fleet still marauding the Midcoast.
We squirted into tight parking spots for hiking great trails, the Ford mixed it up with the fishermen at the on-the-harbor cottage, and we wished we had been in the Ford coming back from Monhegan, as the top-deck of the Handy Ferry was one wild, wet ride.
Besides ample appointments inside, the Super Duty lineup now has incredible technology standard, or optional. Pro-Trailer backup assist, Ford Pass Connect Wi-Fi, Ford Pass App for your phone connectivity, Sync 3, Ford+Alexa programming for your truck and home, plus Co-Pilot 360 safety electronic driving aids combine to create considerable computer power — like the Powerstroke Turbodiesel does.
The running boards (essential) power in and out; the dual-pane towing mirrors likewise, while the new quad-headlamps are all LED for enhanced visibility. There is even a PTO (power take-off) connection for the Super Duty as well as power outlets in the bed. Add push-button start, a smooth new 10-speed automatic plus an optional 48-gallon fuel tank and the Super Duty can handle many jobs all at once.
At week’s end, we hooked the boat up to the F-350 for one last tow for end-of-season maintenance. It is truly amazing to experience the difference between a solid half-ton pickup towing a heavy load, against a diesel-powered heavy duty truck. The Ford didn’t exhibit any of the bucking and rear-end bouncing that the half-ton truck produces, and the turbodiesel is just plain phenomenal, as the instant torque is massive fun and so much more relaxing when trying to keep a steady pace. We averaged a solid 20-plus mpg for a week’s worth of combined city, rural, highway and tow driving.
The ride is firm — when empty. On good roads, not an issue. On the secondary roads that most Mainers use daily, like our aforementioned routes, the Ford did very well. A few times, the solid axle front-end created more steering wheel shake than a comparable half-ton pickup (and more than GM’s independent-suspended heavy duty trucks), yet the stout sales numbers indicate that buyers don’t find this to be too much of an issue.
At 7,484 pounds, the aluminum body Ford is still very heavy. Base XL trim regular cab Super Duty models start at $34,035. Add $1,400 for F-350 trim and extra work duty. F-350 Platinum starts at $66,235 before options.
Power comes from a 6.2-liter, 385-hp V-8 in F-250s, while F-350s get the new 7.3-liter, 430-hp V-8 or the 475-hp, 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel. Both of the latter come with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The country’s best-selling vehicle is the Ford F-series. The Super Duty models account for more than one-third of those sales. It is easy to see why.
Next week: Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring Hybrid