All 30 trucks were loaded with half-ton weights while we had lunch, and then it was time to head for a rock quarry Southwest of Wickenburg. I lucked out this time and got to drive an F-350 6.7 Crew Cab SWB in King Ranch trim all the way there with the Ford Fleet Sales Manager who encouraged me to drive the truck as if I owned it (this was typical of all the Ford reps who accompanied us throughout the day). I was more than happy to oblige. 12 miles and three huge mud puddles from the paved road later, we arrived at the quarry for a chance to see how these trucks can perform off the road.
As one of four groups, the first thing we got was an overview of the Ford Works Solutions and Mobile Office, which includes a built-in modem, in-dash computer running Windows CE 6.0, Bluetooth enabled stand alone keyboard, and an HP printer (optional). There are five 12v power points throughout the cab and a 110v inverter and power point. There is also lockable storage beneath the rear seat, reminiscent of the Cabelas edition Super Duty. Another feature of the Ford
Works Solutions is called "Tool Link". Radio frequency ID tag information for up to 200 tools can be scanned into the computer with a corresponding tag placed on the tool. The Ford aluminum diamond plate tool box has three antennae mounted inside that will pick up the RFID info and display onscreen which tools are on board and which are not. It might not find the missing tools for you, but it might keep you from driving away without them.
Next we went uphill and took turns using with an F-450 6.7 DRW and an F-350 6.7 DRW to drag an 85,000 lb Caterpillar D988 along. I don't think many of us are ever going to need to drag 85,000 lbs behind our trucks, but it's nice to know we could if we had to. While we were up on the hill we played with an F-550 dump bed which has the new "live drive PTO" that, pretty self-explanatory, allows you to drive while using the PTO -- nice feature for a dumper or a water truck. The last event in that section was another pull, this time an F-550 pulling gooseneck that had a Dodge 5500 on the deck with a big boulder on its flatbed. Trailer and load amounted to 33,000 lbs, which the truck had no trouble pulling up and down the hills of the quarry.
Our last event at the quarry was the off road course, starting with some mild rock crawling and then up a 25 degree incline where the e-locker showed its usefulness for the first time. We stopped part way up the hill and lost traction attempting to go forward from a dead stop. A pull of the ESOF knob engaged the e-locker and away we went. On the 18 degree decline I put the truck in "hill descent" mode and took my foot off the brake; and the super duty just crawled right down without accelerating or losing traction. It's a great feature that can be used at up to 12 mph.
Our day was coming to an end with the final event: a fuel economy challenge involving all the 6.7's. I was driving a 6.7 F-350 King Ranch Crew SRW with 20" wheels and a 3:55 gear ratio carrying three passengers and half a ton in the box. Ford reps zeroed out our fuel economy display as we left the quarry; the display now shows instantaneous mpg as well as average mpg. The engineer who rode with us stated that the average MPG in testing proved accurate to 0.1 MPG. The drive to
Glendale over the prescribed route was about 80 miles, 12 of which were on the dirt road and the remainder divided evenly between 2 lane roads and Interstate 10. Before we left, I asked the engineer what he thought we would see in the way of mileage. His reply was that it should "start with a 2". We averaged around 50 mph on the 2 lane and I set the cruise at 65 on the interstate. When we pulled into the hotel the display showed an average of 24.5 mpg and I figured we had it made and won the prize, but I was wrong. The winner in the 20" wheel 3:55 ratio class clocked 26.8 MPG. The winner in the 17" wheel 3:31 ratio class clocked 29.2 mpg! Absolutely amazing for a truck of this size with this much power.
Surely final judgment is reserved for time, but if this package proves as reliable as it is capable, Ford has a big winner on their hands. That means we will too.