By Barbara Ibrahim Cox
For a truck lineup that began in 1948, Ford’s F-Series has come a long way. As a tribute to its 60th anniversary, Ford gave its 2008 F-Series Super Duty truck line touches of luxury, ruggedness and functionality.
Cleaner, more powerful engine
The truck’s 6.4-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel engine offers significant improvements over its predecessor. The engine delivers 350 horsepower at 3,000 rpm – up from 300 horsepower – and 650 foot-pounds of torque at 2,000 rpm – an increase from 575 foot-pounds of torque – all while reducing particulate matter emissions by 90 percent and NOx output by 50 percent.
“We went out and analyzed customer vehicle uses,” says Rick Renwick, diesel powertrain chief engineer. “Based on that feedback, we developed tests for the engine systems and performed 780 different tests on the engines, which added up to more than 10 million miles of pre-production testing.”
As part of the engine redesign, Ford developed a ceramic catalyzed particulate filter, which operates much like a three-way catalyst. Enio Gomez, the Ford F-Series Super Duty diesel powertrain manager, says it was critical to control fuel regeneration. “We had to figure out how high the temperature of the gas from the exhaust system could be raised to burn off soot without burning the ceramic casing,” he explains. To aid recirculation, dual EGR coolers with air oxidation catalysts keep the exhaust cool.
The redesign also includes a high-pressure, common-rail fuel system with Piezo-electric injectors to control noise and emissions. Once Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel flows down through the rail, it becomes pressurized and injected into the cylinders at up to five injections per combustion cycle, which allows for more control during the combustion process.
The new engine gave Ford engineers a chance to make serviceability improvements as well. As a result, the fuel filter is now easier to access and oil change intervals have increased to 10,000 miles, which doubles most current oil change intervals. “Customers can still use mineral oil or synthetic, even with the 10,000-mile oil interval change,” Renwick says.
Tow it up
Advancements don’t end with the Super Duty’s engine. The 2008 F-450 pickup has a towing capacity of 24,000 pounds and a maximum payload of more than 6,000 pounds.
To handle heavier payloads, Ford put 19-inch commercial tires on the F-450, which comes standard with a 16,000-pound conventional trailer hitch. For those who want a different hitch, a gooseneck trailer plate is available.
Since 90 percent of Ford’s truck customers tow something, Chris Brewer, chief nameplate engineer for the Super Duty, says the company wanted to offer several new towing and safety options.
The result: a rearview video camera backup system and PowerScope power-fold, power-telescoping mirrors to improve rear visibility and boost towing safety. The camera backup system allows drivers to look in the rearview mirror and see what’s behind the truck while reversing. Green lines on the screen display the width of the truck and red lines show up when the system detects a close object.
Super-sized PowerScope mirrors provide even more visibility by extending outward 2.75 inches, and offer an adjustable main mirror with a spotter mirror for parking and towing. If you get in a tight spot, just push a button and the side mirrors fold in completely.
Although the TowCommand system with tow-haul mode debuted in 2005, this option shouldn’t be overlooked. It uses the TorqShift five-speed automatic transmission and an ABS-integrated trailer brake controller that consists of an in-dash slider to adjust trailer braking. A set of +/- controls set the desired braking pattern, and the dash monitor shows gains/outputs from 0 to 10, which can be adjusted in half point increments down from 1. The message center behind the steering wheel also displays these gains/outputs.
Drivers can use the tow-haul mode to prevent the transmission from upshifting when the truck reaches a hill, and later achieve downhill braking with a press of the pedal to maintain a steady pace.
Lap of luxury
Along with strength and durability features, Ford’s high-end packages, such as the King Ranch chrome package, supply chrome on the exhaust tip, bed tie downs, tow hooks, mirror caps and step bars.
Ford engineers added Quiet Steel, a composite laminated steel sheet, throughout the cab on all Super Duty models to help isolate and dampen engine and road noise.
To add practicality, the Super Duty’s standard steel load floor can fold down from under the backseat for hauling heavy items in the cab.
A handful of other new add-ons tie in for a smooth ride. Ford’s GPS navigation system tells drivers when they’ve missed a turn, a feature that Brewer says many navigation systems lack.
The GPS, stereo, satellite radio and CD player all come built into the dash, along with a new audio input jack for driving the stereo system. The Audiophile system is also available as an option. “As you drive faster, the stereo’s volume can be set to automatically increase, and as you slow down or sit still the volume can be set to automatically lower,” Brewer says. EW