The difference between the statements “I drive a truck” and “I drive truck” is literally just one letter. But the implied meanings couldn’t be more different. The latter indicates a vocation spent behind the wheel. The former, on its own, implies ownership of a pickup truck for daily driving, work, or play. When it comes to the Ford F-450 Super Duty, a 9140-pound dualie, it’s almost as if either statement could apply.
Ford F-series trucks generally offer myriad sizes and configurations, but the F-450 comes strictly as a crew cab with a long bed, diesel power, and dual rear wheels (DRW). Between its eight-foot bed, six aluminum wheels, 266.2 inches of length—that’s more than 22 feet—and 96.0-inch girth, it is intimidating and pretty much bigger than any other daily-driver rig on the market. General Motors and Ram sell larger-than-one-ton trucks, too, but neither offers a package as similarly luxurious as Ford’s King Ranch, the model tested here, let alone the Platinum trim level that tops the range.
On the surface, that the F-450 is 100 better than the F-350 isn’t readily apparent. Both the 350 and 450 dualies carry the same bumper-tow rating (21,000 pounds), similar fifth-wheel-tow ratings (31,300 pounds for the F-350; 32,500 for the F-450), and the same 14,000-pound GVWR. If you’re towing more, hire a pro.
Digging deeper into the specs reveals where the 450 differs from the 350, besides the badge. Aside from a standard 4.30:1 axle ratio (4.10 gears are the optional upgrade on the F-350), the F-450 gets larger-diameter disc brakes at all four corners, 10-bolt wheels (versus 8-bolt units), and a wider front track. That may not sound like much, but these changes are there to fortify the towing credentials. Brake rotors measuring 15.4 inches in diameter on the coil-sprung front and 15.8 inches on the leaf-sprung rear axle—up from 14.3 all around on the F-350—are sized more like those found on a high-performance sports car. Here they are tasked with making reliable stops with a fully loaded truck without fade. Six Continental HSR commercial tires, sized 225/70R-19.5, and those big pie plates haul an unloaded F-450 to a stop from 70 mph in 209 feet. Long for a car but strong for this much truck.
With its gargantuan size and locomotive mass, the F-450 always feels big, but it also always turns out to be more maneuverable than you think. Checking the mirrors to make sure the Ford isn’t encroaching on the territory of highway cohabitants quickly becomes necessity—the truck’s eight-foot width is identical to a shipping container’s.
Thanks to Ford’s crafty in-wheel active-steering system and a long, 176.0-inch wheelbase, the truck tracks as straight as a Nebraska highway. The same steering trickery makes parking-lot maneuvering rather easy, though don’t expect to be able to nose-in anywhere. The 360-degree-view camera system, which stitches together multiple camera angles for an overhead-like view, works flawlessly. Even so, the truck’s 50.4-foot turning diameter dictates a three-or-more-point turn to tuck it into a parking spot. Thanks to the wider front track, the front wheels actually can turn more sharply than those on the F-350, which sports a 57.8-foot turning circle. We prefer to park in the back of the lot in something this large; it’s the polite thing to do, after all.
Motivating the 4.5 tons of steel frame and aluminum cab and bed is Ford’s Power Stroke diesel V-8. Ford wins Detroit’s torque war for the 2017 model year, with 925 lb-ft available at 1800 rpm, 15 more than GM’s diesel and 25 more than the top-spec Ram. Horsepower is a quoted spec, too, but all you care about in this is twist, right? Command the common-rail injectors to dump as much diesel in the cylinders as the engine can handle and the single turbocharger spools up without much haste. A half-shaft-stressing brake-torque launch is required for maximum acceleration, where the 6.7-liter V-8 will get an unloaded F-450 to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds. Just more than double that (16.1 seconds) is required for a quarter-mile pass, at which time the 450 is lumbering along at 86 mph. Top speed is just 2 mph faster. Funny aside: If one were to re-create the Libyan-chase scene from Back to the Future, the 220-percent-heavier F-450 would hit 88 mph and flash back to 1955 quicker than a DeLorean (which, for the record, did the quarter-mile in 17.0 seconds at 79 mph). If there is any modern truck worthy of a fourth dimension, this is it.
Cab Fit for a King Ranch
The King Ranch cabin is built to coddle—as well it ought. Opening at $73,950, the F-450 King Ranch 4×4 wears the third-highest base price in Ford’s portfolio, behind only the $450,000 GT supercar and another F-450, the $78,620 Platinum trim. (A base F-450 XL starts at $55,240.) The tested example, carrying $8810 in options, rang in at $82,760. Navigation, heated and cooled front seats, leather upholstery, and smartphone integration were present, and notable options included the active steering (part of the Tow Technology bundle at $1935), the $2960 Ultimate package with its power running boards and F-450–scale dual-pane sunroof, and $725 for tire-pressure-monitoring capability for trailer wheels. If only Ford offered a couple of second-row power-operated sun screens, you could mistake this for the cabin of a luxury sedan.
There is 136 cubic feet of passenger space spread among five seating positions. Perhaps the fuel economy—or lack thereof—is the biggest detraction from family duties. We observed 13 mpg throughout the F-450’s stay, during which the average price of a gallon of diesel flirted with three dollars. This behemoth returned 16 mpg on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy test, just 1 mpg worse than the gas-powered, three-quarter-ton Ford F-250. Still, it’s thirsty indeed. No wonder Ford fits it with a 48.0-gallon fuel tank.
If all your hauling, towing, and pulling needs aren’t covered by the F-450, you are driving truck, not a truck.