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2005 Ford Super Duty F 250 Review - RoadTest

Still Super

Since being introduced in 1998 for the '99 model year, the Super Duty has become the tow vehicle of choice for those hauling everything from horse trailers to weekend homes. It's no wonder the Ford stands out in the towing crowd, especially after winning our three-way shootout between the big boys in the class of 2004 (see Spring '05 Diesel Power). Ford is constantly improving its truck because it has to stay ahead of the ever-increasing competition in order to keep its sales crown, especially in the race for diesel dominance. For every gasoline-powered Super Duty that leaves a dealership, Ford sells two Power Stroke-equipped Super Dutys, to the tune of more than 200,000 a year, out-pacing both Dodge and GM. Here is a look at what's new to the Super Duty line for 2005.

On the surface, you might be hard-pressed to spot the changes to the '05 Super Duty, but if you look closely enough, they are there, most noticeably in the contemporary headlight assembly and billet-look grille. But, the major tweaks lurk just beneath the surface. Wanting to test out a SuperCab longbed, we ordered up a differently configured truck than from our Heavy Hauler test.

Again, our test truck arrived with the exceptional four-valve-per-cylinder 6.0L Power Stroke V-8 turbodiesel engine, which, through the magic of engine control system remapping, now develops an additional 10 lb-ft of torque, raising the '05 to a mountain-moving 570 lb-ft. Right foot-taunting horsepower remains the same at 325. Another improvement over last year's model is the 250,000-mile service life rating of the new 6.0L-with proper maintenance, of course. All of this twist is routed through Ford's TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission, first seen behind the Power Stroke in 2003 and now available behind all Super Duty engines.

With the heavy-duty user in mind, Ford went to great lengths to improve the chassis, starting with thicker steel and longer boxed sections on the frame for enhanced strength and durability. All of this chassis tweaking has allowed Ford to up the payload by as much as 1,280 pounds to a maximum of 5,800 pounds on some models, making the 1-ton moniker of F-350s a misnomer. Choose an F-350 and click off the dualie box and you'll be rewarded with a 15,000-pound conventional tow rating, thanks to a new 2.5-inch receiver hitch. Go fifth-wheelor gooseneck, and that number leaps to 19,200 pounds.

Redesigned 17-inch wheels are now standard equipment, and 18-inch wheels are optional, which enabled Ford engineers to increase the brake rotor sizes. The rotors are now 5 percent larger in diameter. The larger size dissipates heat better, especially on long downhill grades. Both the F-250 and F-350 received larger calipers, with the fronts offering twin 60mm pistons, a full 11 percent better than the '04 model, giving the driver better brake feel. The rear calipers have also been upgraded to twin 48mm pucks on F-250s and F-350s and 54mm on F-350 Dualies. With bigger brakes allowing heavier loads, the parking brake has also been improved and now offers a 15 percent higher load rating. Consumers and fleet managers alike will be impressed with the expected 50 percent increase in brake lining life on single rear-wheel vehicles and double the life on dualies.

Another interesting option that came with our Super Duty was Ford's new TowCommand system, which integrates a factory trail brake controller with the vehicle brakes and ABS system for better control. It uses different braking strategies for normal and emergency braking and has a message center that can alert the driver to a malfunction or disconnected wiring. As a bonus, the TowCommand module comes with four auxiliary switches that can be used to control any aftermarket or upfitter product.

Another notable improvement for 2005 comes in the way of the new front suspension on four-wheel-drive models. The venerable front leaf spring solid axle has been dropped in favor of a better-riding, better-handling link coil spring solid axle, reminiscent of the proven system found on previous solid-axle and coil-spring Fords. This new suspension improves the Super Duty's ride and shortens the turning radius by several feet. While parking lots haven't suddenly become Super Duty-friendly, at least the newfound maneuverability will take an edge off jockeying for a primo space at the races.

We enjoyed the firm smoothness of the new coil spring frontend. Behind the wheel, the handling is noticeably improved, and the suspension works well under the 6,500-pound truck. With the trailer loaded up, our F-250 pulled straight and true and had none of the tail-wagging sensation common to other brands. Over the road, the cabin is one of the quietest in its class, and we loved the giant towing mirrors. Just as in our shootout, this Power Stroke was a joy to tow with, and with little turbo lag and no flat spots in the powerband, it always had reserve power on tap to get through anything we asked of it.

Our tester came decked out in Lariat trim, which warms the restyled dash with a Cherry Zebrano wood application, along with leather seats, special gauges, and a slew of comfort items that make you question if you are in a pickup truck or a custom luxury tow rig. With a long reach to the dash, we especially liked the redundant audio and climate controls on the steering wheel, which made for easy adjustments on the fly, particularly while towing our 28-foot trailer through the two-lane twisties. With a full day of towing under our belt, this improved Super Duty proved to be a relaxing steed, causing little tiring or fatigue to the driver with the trailer hitched up.

Off-road, our Super Duty had excellent clearance and good tires from the factory, but even on the FX4 Off-Road package, the shocks could have used better tuning. We would also order ours with the optional limited-slip differential since we got in a few situations where the extra traction would have been welcomed. However, the Super Duty with its manual hubs and manual transfer case lever, coil springs, and solid axles remains a rugged and capable platform for off-road buildups.

The Super Duty has always been a great base for aftermarket upgrades, and with the improvements for 2005, it is even better, especially for those who regularly tow or haul. After spending lots of quality time in the '05 Super Duty, we stand by our original shootout assessment that Ford currently has the best all-around diesel truck on the market. But, with redesigns from Dodge and the General lurking on the Horizon (and rumors of a V-8 Cummins for Dodge and 3/4-ton diesel Titan on the way), it's going to take more than laurels to keep the Blue Oval boys ahead of the game. For those of us who love our oil-burners, it looks like the fullsize truck game is about to get really exciting.

SpecificationsGeneralVehicle Model: '05 Ford F-250 Super Duty

EngineType: Power Stroke turbodiesel 32-valve V-8Displacement (liter/ci): 6.0/363Bore x Stroke (in): 3.74 x 4.13Valvetrain: OHVCompression Ratio: 18:1Aspiration: EFI, turbocharged, air-to-air intercoolingMfg.'s hp at rpm: 325 at 3,300Mfg.'s Torque (lb-ft) at rpm: 570 at 2,000

DrivetrainTransmission: Ford TorqShift five-speed automatic with tow/haul mode

Ratios (:1)
First 3.09
Second 2.20
Third 1.54
Fourth 1.00
Fifth 0.71
Axle Ratio 4.10
Low-Range Ratio 2.72:1

Frame/BodyFrame: Steel Body: Steel

Suspension/AxlesFront: Solid axle with coil springs and stabilizer barRear: Leaf spring/solid axle with stabilizer bar

SteeringType: Power-assisted recirculating ballTurning Radius: 52.36 ft

BrakesFront: 13.66-inch vented disc, ABSRear: 13.39-inch vented disc, ABS

Wheels/TiresWheels: 17-inch Tires: LT265/70R17

Fuel EconomyEPA (city/highway) mpg: N/A

Dimensions/CapacitiesBase Curb Weight (lb): 6,447Wheelbase (in): 130.0Overall Length (in): 247.4Overall Width (in): 79.9Height (in): 79.4Track (in): 68.3/67.2 (front/rear)Ground Clearance (in): 8.5 (at differential)Approach/Departure Angles (deg): 25.7/12.8 Fuel Capacity (gal): 38.0Seating: 5

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