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Powerful and fuel efficient

The big news at Ford this year wasn't just the new Mustang. It was the aluminum bodied F-150 pickup. Loyal customers of the larger Super Duty might be wondering when a new, lighter model is coming.
TOWING – Super Duty’s tow capacity maxes out at 32
TOWING – Super Duty's tow capacity maxes out at 32

The big news at Ford this year wasn’t just the new Mustang. It was the aluminum bodied F-150 pickup. Loyal customers of the larger Super Duty might be wondering when a new, lighter model is coming. Be patient it’s still more than a year way. You’ll have to make do with the current 2015 model. This new truck was my transportation up to Whitecourt to appraise three collector vehicles late in the summer. A Super Duty Lariat crew cab 4X4 pickup would hardly be my first vehicle of choice for an hour plus highway trip. But I was curious what a truck this size is like at highway speed and how good the 6.7 litre EcoBoost Diesel engine performs.

With just me onboard cruising to Whitecourt at a steady 120km/ph the onboard computer showed I was getting about 13.5 L/100km. Slowing down for the return trip later in the day at a more leisurely 110km/ph, consumption dropped to an average 11.5. After filling the tank the final calculation worked out to 14.5L/100km or roughly 21 mpg. Not bad for a mix of city and highway driving for this size of truck and its large engine coupled to a six-speed automatic. Of course anyone who buys a Super Duty pickup isn’t all that concerned about fuel consumption.

The main priority for buyers of this truck is towing capacity. The Super Duty's tow capacity maxes out at 32,100 pounds. That's 1,200 more than its nearest rival, the Ram 3500 when equipped with its upgraded 6.7-litre Power Stroke diesel V8. If you watch the TV commercials or read the magazine ads you know in recent years the heavy-duty pickup truck business has become a diesel-fueled game of one-upmanship with only three players; Ford, Chevrolet/GMC and Ram.

Since the 6.7-litre Power Stroke V8 turbo diesel debuted in 2011, Ford says its engineers have listened to customers and continued to examine each component of the engine to develop improved performance. The company claims it is the only heavy-duty pickup truck manufacturer that designs and builds its own diesel engine and transmission combination, ensuring the powertrain will work seamlessly with all chassis components and vehicle calibrations.

One improvement has seen shorter airflow from the exhaust system to the turbocharger resulting in improved turbo responsiveness – key to providing torque quickly to truck owners when they need it most. Ford also says putting the turbo inside the engine's valley helps isolate the engine's hottest temperatures, improving performance and efficiency, while also reducing noise, vibration and harshness. Another improvement is a larger turbocharger enabling more airflow and as a result more power. On the highway, the Power Stroke diesel engine is very quiet. At idle and when accelerating again, engine noise is rather subdued unlike diesels of old.

The truck has good road manners with a smooth ride. Not jarring considering the main purpose to take on rough roads or no roads at all. Certainly washboard surfaces upset the truck, but you feel little or no chassis flex and hear no creaks or groans from the body or frame. These pickups have a good reputation in the field and have proved their worth in such places as the Obed Mine near Hinton. The coalmine site and the road leading up the mountain give any vehicle a severe workout in mud, rocks and ruts.

The exterior of the Super Duty hasn’t changed for 2015 nor has the interior, which is also looking dated. Still, inside you get comfortable seating and clear instrumentation. Large knobs make them easy to use if a person is wearing gloves. The overall look is modern industrial and rather “macho”, to use an old ’70s slang term. There are plenty of places for storing stuff.

My Lariat test truck had a base price of $60,049 and a long list of options; leather seating, sunroof, power telescoping trailer mirrors, a backup camera, dash-top storage, lockable storage area under the rear seat and a clever integrated tailgate step with assist post to name a few. In all $16,000 plus in options and this is how loaded almost all of the Super Duty pickups go out the door. The Sony stereo system was terrific and playing tunes from a CD or through satellite radio a listening pleasure on the open road. If I have a major gripe about the big 4X4 it’s the effort required to hoist your body up high to clean the windshield of bugs. Bring a step stool or someone with long arms.

Garry Melnyk is a St. Albert resident and lifelong car buff who has written about new cars and trucks for radio and print publications since the seventies.