Having driven Ford’s F350 each year for many years, it can be difficult to tell what really is new and improved season to season.
Several years ago, the underpinnings were the news of the day. Rear springs, including the overloads, were widened to about 7.6 millimetres and the bolts that hold the truck together were increased in size and strength.
The most recent upgrades have been to the Power Stroke diesel. Ford dumped the old Navistar-Ford joint venture engine in favour of an in-house Power Stroke. The engine block is now a graphite iron, lighter and stronger than cast, with better sealing and wear characteristics.
New injector tips atomize the fuel for better burning in the combustion chamber, thus providing improvements in fuel economy, power and emissions. Other benefits include reduced engine vibration and noise from the diesel.
The F350 King Ranch is the truck targeted by others in this segment of the market as the benchmark to beat.
For 2015, there is an increase from 400 horsepower to 440 and 860 foot pounds of torque, up from 800 foot lb. The easiest way to tell this engine apart from previous ones is the location of the turbo in the valve train valley where the intake traditionally sits. For racing enthusiasts, the old Cosworth racing V8s used this design to promote packaging and power efficiencies in Formula One.
Maximum 5th wheel, gooseneck towing capacity comes up to 26,700 lb. and maximum gross combined vehicle weight climbs to 35,000 lb.
For the seriously heavy haulers there’s an F450 that peaks out at 31,200 lb. for fifth wheel/gooseneck towing and a GCVW of 40,000 lb., closing in on semi-tractor territory.
The Alison six-speed automatic may be short a gear or two by light duty standards, but it can handle the torque of this engine and the loads.
Standard on the end of the gear shift lever is the tow-haul mode and the dash has a built in balance bar for electric trailer brakes. One item often overlooked is the built in trailer sway control for electric braking systems.
How well one of these leviathans drives depends on whether you get the single or dual rear wheels and if there is a trailer attached.
My feeling is that if you are going to use the F350 for work and have the pleasure of hauling a large, double high fifth wheel camper, then the extra stability of the dual rear wheels might be your best course of action.
If you intend to occasionally haul some large loads, then the single wheel setup might be best. Talk to the dealership to figure out what is best for you.
The largest load I put in the back of the F350 was about 500 kilograms, so all I noticed was a bit smoother ride. Empty, the ride is harsh. There is no way that a steel-sprung truck will provide a pillowy-soft ride empty and let you put 2,800 kg in the truck box. I did get to try out a dually with two different trailers.
At 6,000 lb. of load, the hard part was remembering there was a trailer there. Braking distances were longer but the ride smoothed out a bit.
At 15,000 lb. of trailer, the ride was even smoother, braking distances even longer and now the trailer was big enough that I didn’t forget it was behind me, and I knew it was a double-high fifth wheel.
King Ranch interiors are comfortable with leather trim and all the amenities.
I forgot to track fuel economy but its probably equal to other big, diesel pick-up trucks.
Charles Renny is an automotive columnist and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.