We’re guessing Ford didn’t take too kindly to cross-town rival Ram’s introduction of a truck with a massive 30,000-pound rating for the 2013 model year. We say this because Ford’s top towing machine is “only” rated at 24,700 pounds and Ford is not a company known for standing by while competitors challenge its dominance in the truck market. Making things even more uncomfortable for the Blue Oval is the fact that the new Ram 3500 has proven in real-world testing to be more than just shiny numbers on a spec sheet (see ’13 Ram 3500 HD vs. ’13 Ford F-450 on page 72).
What resulted from this shifting of the poles within the truck market is a truck that Ford intends to use to reclaim the industry’s towing crown. The ’15 F-450, while not looking much different on the outside, has been touched in almost every important area under the skin. Ford engineers did a tremendous amount of work in a short amount of time, and we fully expect the ’15 F-450 to set the bar with best-in-class power, as well as best-in-class towing when it arrives on scene later this year. Isn’t competition great?
Read on for an exclusive first look and an overview of changes in store for Ford’s latest F-450.
The ’15 model year boasts the biggest chassis changes to the F-450 lineup since the original ’08 to ’10 trucks lost their unique frame to one shared with the F-350 in 2011. While the frame stays mostly the same (a more robust rear crossmember adds towing capacity for fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitches), some of the original F-450 bits return, such as the gorgeous, 19.5-inch forged-aluminum wheels—the one visual key that really sets the original F-450 pickup off. These Alcoa wheels are wrapped in LT225/70R19.5 Continental HSR tires and carry an “N” speed rating, which means they are good to 87 mph, the ’15 F-450’s electronically limited top speed.
Other changes include the return of the massive 12.25-inch Dana S110 rear axle, upsized U-joints, and a stronger driveshaft in place of the current truck’s Dana M80 rear setup, while the front retains the Dana Super 60 axle, albeit with a 1,000-pound GAWR increase to 7,000 pounds. Both axles will be stuffed with 4.30 gearing. Steering has been beefed up with a stronger steering gear and linkages. Suspension modifications include new rear leaf packs (the front retains coil springs), unique shocks, and upgraded front and rear sway bars.
Current-generation owners will be happy to know that the F-450 uses the same upsized brakes as medium-duty chassis cab models, including the parking brake and ABS calibration.
At last, end users will have manual control over the Super Duty’s exhaust brake function,
While the changes to the chassis are important, the bigger news is an improved, more powerful 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 that will be shared across the Super Duty lineup. The second-generation 6.7L’s most notable change will be a Garrett GT37 VGT turbocharger replacing the single-sequential GT32 VGT unit on today’s truck. Based on what we believe to be the popular Garrett GT3788VA PowerMax aftermarket turbo, the new GT37 loses the dual compressor wheel design for a traditional single wheel to improve performance at high altitudes. The turbine wheel’s size grows to 72.5mm from today’s 64mm, which means better efficiency at altitude and greater power potential, and it allows for much more exhaust braking capability. Because the GT37 operates at lower peak exhuast pressures, it rules out the need for a wastegate. The new turbo setup also benefits from improved oil and cooling lines with enhanced sealing, and exhaust brake operation is now manually controlled by a switch on the dashboard, a welcomed change over the current truck.
With all the improvements to the turbo system, Ford’s engineers couldn’t leave the fuel system alone. The Bosch CP4.2 fuel pump’s cam now features a longer stroke to improve flow in high-demand situations, and the piezo injectors use redesigned tips that atomize fuel better. According to Ford, the changes to the injector nozzles lessen noise, vibration, and harshness, while also reducing emissions and valve deposits. Fuel economy is expected to be similar to today’s truck.
The second-generation 6.7L Power Stroke is vastly improved, and when the numbers are relea
Ford engineers didn’t just bolt on a new turbo and fuel system and call it good; they opened up the 6.7L and tackled efficiency and durability. For example, the main bearings are now covered in a new polymer coating for reduced friction, while the crankshaft receives an enhanced fillet design to increase strength. A new, heavier damper is used to reduce rotational forces on the crank at high rpm, and piston assemblies have been improved to increase load-bearing ability. Interestingly enough, material was added to the cylinder heads, exhaust manifolds, and valvetrain for increased durability, and the 6.7L now sports five-layer head gaskets and four-layer exhaust manifold gaskets.
Not even the transmission could escape the scrutiny of Ford’s engineering team. In order to cope with the increased output from the Power Stroke engine, Ford also made major revisions to the 6R140 six-speed automatic, the sole transmission offering. In addition to a new torque converter with modified K-factor (performance curve), the damper springs are now heat-treated, and the intermediate shaft’s fatigue strength has been improved. Enhancements were made to the software calibration for improved shifting, torque management, and response.
So while each of these changes is important and significant in its own right, the sum of the parts should add up to a truck that delivers a prodigious increase in power and, therefore, capability. Ford wasn’t ready to announce any official power or towing numbers at the time we went to press, but we estimate an output of 425 hp and 875 lb-ft of torque, once again establishing the Super Duty as the most powerful heavy-duty pickup available.
With these changes, Ford is hoping to reestablish the F-450 as the undisputed king of the heavy-duty towing segment, and we can’t wait to test the production truck against its peers. Until then, it’s your move, Ram and GM.
Vehicle model: 2015 Ford F-450 Super Duty Platinum
Base price: $70,000 (est.)
Engine type: 6.7L 90-degree V-8
Valvetrain: OHV, four valves per cylinder
Aspiration: Variable-geometry turbocharger, water-to-air intercooler
Mfg.’s hp at rpm: 425 hp at 2,800 rpm (est.)
Mfg.’s torque at rpm: 875 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm (est.)
Transmission: Six-speed TorqShift 6R140 automatic
Axle ratio: 4:30:1
Suspension (f/r): Mono beam (wide front track) with coil springs, shock absorbers, stabilizer bar/Live axle with leaf springs, staggered shock absorbers; stabilizer bar standard
Steering: Power-assisted recirculating ball
Brakes (f/r): 14.53-inch vented disc/15.35-inch vented disc
Wheels/Tires: 19.5-inch forged aluminum/LT225/70R19.5 Continental HSR
Curb weight: 8,700 pounds (est.)
Max payload capacity: 6,000 pounds (est.)
Max towing capacity: 32,000 pounds (est.)
The return of the 19.5-inch wheels gives the F-450 a medium-duty stance and a road presenc
With the exception of a new exhaust brake switch on the dash, the F-450 will feature today
A factory spray-in bedliner will continue to be available for 2015, while the crossmember
Is There Anything the F-450 Can’t Tow?
Ford’s F-450 has become so synonymous with towing that NASA even uses the truck as part of the research going on at the historic Dryden Flight Research Center in the Southern California desert. We recently had a chance to watch NASA’s F-450 in action as invited guests of Sierra Nevada Corporation to observe the company’s Dream Chaser space plane undergoing testing.
Looking like a mini Space Shuttle, the composite Dream Chaser is a vertical-takeoff, horizontal-landing, lifting-body aircraft that has design roots in the famous Boeing X-20 Dyna-Soar, Russian MiG-105 and BOR-4, and HL-20 lifting-body research programs dating as far back as the 1950s. It is one of three vehicles participating in NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCD) and Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program. The goal is to develop a spacecraft that can provide NASA with safe and affordable access to low earth orbit and the International Space Station (ISS), utilizing American vehicles and rockets launched from American soil.
The composite Dream Chaser is about a third of the size of the Space Shuttle and is able to carry from two to seven astronauts, depending on the mission and cargo requirements. While its primary mission would be to resupply the ISS, other uses could include research as an orbiting laboratory and space tourism.
In order to improve the level of safety as compared to the Space Shuttle during launch, the Dream Chaser is designed to mount atop an Atlas V rocket, much like a capsule. However, unlike a capsule, the Dream Chaser can be piloted to a horizontal runway landing, similar to the Space Shuttle, giving astronauts the best of both worlds: a safer lift to orbit, and a piloted, glided landing.
Some of the unique features of the Dream Chaser include a heat shield that can be replaced in panels, instead of tiles, and a nontoxic fuel system that allows the orbiter to be handled immediately after landing. The Dream Chaser is designed to be turned around quickly, greatly lowering costs of the reusable spacecraft.
On the day of our visit, we were able observe ground testing as a ’12 Ford F-450 pulled the spacecraft up to 10, 20, 40, and 60 mph before releasing it to validate how the vehicle would perform after landing and verify the operation of the Dream Chaser’s various control systems (such as steering, braking, and navigation)—a requirement before the Dream Chaser could begin its free-flight testing. Witnessing the Dream Chaser testing on the very runways that once hosted the Shuttle program was a special experience for those of us who grew up during the Shuttle era.
We can report that the tests were a success, and despite not being able to watch the Dream Chaser take flight, it was a great honor to be on hand to observe an important milestone of what could be America’s next great spacecraft.
Special Thanks To
Dryden Flight Research Center
Sierra Nevada Corporation