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Tested: 2017 Ford F-350 Super Duty Diesel V-8 4x4 Crew Cab


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Car & Driver  /  February 2017

It drives smaller than it looks. No, really!

Longtime readers of this publication can probably recall a car review (or several) that hinged on steering feel and response. But can you name one where that specific attribute defined a full-size, heavy-duty pickup truck? The 2017 Ford F-350 Platinum is most definitely not a sports car, and yet here we are zeroing in on its steering.

Steering this Review Back on Course

There are myriad advancements rolled into the F-series Super Duty for 2017, including an all-new aluminum body and bed (just like the light-duty F-150), a stiffer steel frame, and a revised Power Stroke turbo-diesel 6.7-liter V-8 engine option. Yet for truckers who occasionally venture into crowded urban areas or tight worksites, the Super Duty’s new variable-ratio steering system could be its most noteworthy enhancement.

The setup gives the driver the impression of greater maneuverability by, as Ford puts it, mechanically adding or subtracting rotations to driver input at the steering wheel. Said another way, for a given steering input, the front wheels will turn more at lower speeds and less at higher speeds. What’s truly special about the setup is that it’s based within the steering wheel’s hub, not in the steering gear itself, as is common. This allowed Ford to retain the F-series’ hydraulically assisted recirculating-ball steering system, simplifying the manufacturing process.

How does it work? A planetary gearset mounted between the steering wheel and the steering column receives inputs from an electric motor and the steering wheel, leaving the steering shaft to the front axle as the “output.” At lower speeds, the electric motor bolsters driver inputs, turning the front wheels more for a given steering input than they would at higher speeds.

The variable-ratio setup does not reduce the Super Duty’s turning circle, yet the steering definitely makes the enormous truck feel wieldier. We experienced almost no hand-over-hand flailing in parking lots—a common symptom of large trucks’ slow steering ratios—and we also noted a greater sense of stability at highway speeds. Some road feel even manages to reach the driver’s hands. Our only qualm is that on a straight road at about 40 mph, caught between “low” and “high” road speeds, the computer seems unsure of which steering ratio to select. This is felt as odd surges or unexpected sags in response to small inputs at the steering wheel and some mild wandering.

The Rest of the Truck

Unless you try slapping magnets on the new Super Duty’s flanks, you’d likely never know its body is now made from aluminum. The fully boxed frame remains steel. The aluminum is intended to save weight; it does, but we can’t yet speak to specifically how many pounds have been trimmed. That’s because Ford also added features for 2017 and uprated the F-350’s axles and four-wheel-drive components, adding some pounds back in. Also, this F-350 had the single-rear-wheel option, while the most recent pre-aluminum 2015 F-350 we tested had the dualie rear axle. Not-quite-apples-to-peaches, this F-350 weighed 8060 pounds, compared with the 2015 dualie model’s 8520 pounds.

We can speak with more authority on the new Super Duty’s steel frame, which Ford claims is 24 times stiffer than before. The backbone indeed seems Viagra-fortified, even if the body mounts between it and the aluminum cab and bed allow some quivering. This Super Duty’s heavy-duty 350-spec suspension, which rides much harder than the more livable F-250 setup, didn’t help quell the jiggle.

Ford offers the Super Duty in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels. Our test truck came loaded up in the Platinum spec, although we photographed a King Ranch for this story. The interior is plush, with leather-wrapped seats (massaging in front), wood and metal trim, an 8.0-inch touchscreen, dual-zone automatic climate control, and more. We mention this because if this sort of luxury appeals to you more than all-out towing capability, we’d suggest sticking with the smoother-riding F-250 (or even an F-150). The F-350 is definitely a work truck underneath, so only moneyed haulers who either always have a heavy trailer in tow or load the bed often enough to calm the ride should consider the F-350 in pricey King Ranch or Platinum forms.

For those who enjoy probing the outer towing limits of trucks smaller than semis, Ford boasts that the F-350 can now lug up to 32,000 pounds. Our truck had the optional gooseneck/fifth-wheel trailer attachment required for that feat, and it also came with an adjustable under-bumper receiver hitch rated for towing up to 21,000 pounds. Increasingly larger ball mounts are nested one within the other to support 2.0-, 2.5-, and 3.0-inch trailer balls. Today, the F-series trucks’ towing maximums are class leading; tomorrow, Ram or Chevrolet will surely outdo them. We didn’t explore the F-350’s towing capacity because neither a NASA space shuttle nor a fuel tanker were handy. If you tow a mere race car or travel trailer, it likely will feel as though nothing’s back there.

The F-350’s frame can’t tow it alone, of course, and that’s where the revised 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 diesel engine comes in. Ford altered the engine’s fuel-delivery setup, turbocharger, and electronic controls to up its peak torque from 860 lb-ft to a mighty 925 lb-ft; the maximum horsepower holds at 440. This beast is an $8795 option over the standard 6.2-liter gasoline V-8, and it ably moves the F-350, unburdened or otherwise. We recorded a snappy 7.2-second zero-to-60-mph time, again, class leading (until some other HD truck beats it, of course). Engine response pulling away from a stop can seem sluggish, and that’s because the computer limits torque in the first three transmission gears (there are six total) to maintain traction while protecting the driveline. Once underway, the engine settles into a sub-2000-rpm slumber. From idle to the 3600-rpm upshift point, the diesel is smooth and so quiet that, from outside the truck, it’s difficult to distinguish from a gas mill. Braking is equally smooth, with a decently linear pedal returning a 202-foot stop from 70 mph; that qualifies as good for something that weighs four tons. We even recorded 15 mpg over the course of our test—3 mpg better than the last F-350 we tested and on par with some F-150s we’ve evaluated.

What’s remarkable is that Ford packed so many updates into the Super Duty and then kept it looking largely the same. Longtime customers, we assume, will appreciate the bluff front end’s continued likeness to a barn wall. Ford did add new C-shaped LED running lights that are more than a foot tall—their lit area and the resultant illumination are so great, in fact, that someone could almost drive at night without using the truck’s actual headlamps (almost). It also sprinkled more chrome everywhere, possibly to visually justify the Platinum’s $64,780 base price. In addition to the aforementioned $8795 diesel engine, our $79,180 truck came optioned with a $390 locking rear differential, a $370 fifth-wheel prep package, $185 inflatable rear seatbelts, $95 LED clearance lamps on the roof, $165 prewired accessory switches, a $725 bed camera, and a $495 spray-in bedliner. The most expensive item outside of the engine room was the $2785 Platinum Ultimate package, which includes a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and 360-degree cameras. To us, though, the only must-have option is the maneuverability-enhancing steering, a $685 extra on the Lariat trim and up (and standard on the Platinum). A stiffer frame, more LED lighting accents, more luxury, and higher tow ratings are expected in a redesigned heavy-duty truck these days. One that drives smaller than it looks, as does this Ford, is our idea of a big-truck breakthrough.

Photo gallery - http://www.caranddriver.com/photo-gallery/2017-ford-f-350-super-duty-diesel-v-8-4x4-crew-cab-instrumented-test

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They're raving about the steering system, despite having found it's major flaw. When at the "in-between" speed, the computer can't figure out which steering gearing to use. I like predictability in my steering, so that I know EXACTLY where my wheels are pointing. What happens if you're late-braking into a turn...and suddenly your wheel input causes the truck to turn significantly sharper once you drop below that threshold speed. Likewise, accelerating out of the turn, once you hit that speed your inputs won't be straightening you out as quickly causing you to run wide. 

Maybe most people won't have that problem...but I like curvy roads, and I love getting through those curves quickly. I don't care if I'm on a motorcycle, in a full size pickup, or even in the Mack...I just enjoy a nice, tight, narrow little hilly, twisty, curvy road.

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When approaching a 4-way stop, the vehicle with the biggest tires has the right of way!
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at this rate in a few years you will be able to buy a f350 put a commercial 5th wheel on it and air breaks and be able to use it as a semi tractor. 

 925 lb-ft; the maximum horsepower holds at 440. Ford boasts that the F-350 can now lug up to 32,000 pounds. under-bumper receiver hitch rated for towing up to 21,000 pounds. Increasingly larger ball mounts are nested one within the other to support 2.0-, 2.5-, and 3.0-inch trailer balls

that is insane for a pickup truck. 

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Was looking at a 3500 Dodge  dually under one of those little three car haulers today,if I was just using the thing for business I'd put a used single axle tractor under it I saw a whole fleet of ex doubles tractors average 750k fleet maintained clean looking for 3500 dollars each! A new dually starts at about 60k If you picked the right truck it would go a couple years with only basic maintenance! You get less fuel economy, but the lower initial cost should defray that! It is possible in most states to lower your give to reduce license tag costs!

 

 

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Yup. Used single axle semi tractor will pull more without stressing the truck 1/4 as much. Instead of working that $70K pickup at 95%, you're working a $4K single screw tractor at 20%. Less wear & tear, meaning lower maintenance costs and more longevity. In 2 or 3 years, that $70K pickup is wore the F out & worth not much more than scrap value. That $4K single screw is still worth $4K, and perfectly capable of continuing to work. Hell, even a brand new medium duty (F650/F750) would do the job better, last longer, and all for only a marginally higher initial start-up cost as these new decked out 1-tons.

When approaching a 4-way stop, the vehicle with the biggest tires has the right of way!
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4 hours ago, RowdyRebel said:

Yup. Used single axle semi tractor will pull more without stressing the truck 1/4 as much. Instead of working that $70K pickup at 95%, you're working a $4K single screw tractor at 20%. Less wear & tear, meaning lower maintenance costs and more longevity. In 2 or 3 years, that $70K pickup is wore the F out & worth not much more than scrap value. That $4K single screw is still worth $4K, and perfectly capable of continuing to work. Hell, even a brand new medium duty (F650/F750) would do the job better, last longer, and all for only a marginally higher initial start-up cost as these new decked out 1-tons.

some of the RV guys have figured this out too... just factor in the size of some 5th wheel trailers and how small the brakes are on a pick-up compared to a semi... and the sleepers on some models can be dot approved for rear seats... some are "shorting" the axles by taking out the first driver and relocating the second there to get the wheelbase they desire, chopping the frame down to suit.. quite an industry developing to support this trend..

BC Mack

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