New 2011 Ford Super Duty Test Drive: the Event, Select Shift, Tow Gooseneck, and the ‘Competition’

On March 1st I had the pleasure of joining 49 North American journalists for the 2011 Ford Super Duty truck launch in Arizona. Here is an overview of the new features you will see as well as my personal impressions of the vehicle.

At the Prescott airport we paired up and received keys to a 2010 Ford Super Duty. The drive to the hotel provided a baseline for comparing the vehicles we would drive the next day. Following dinner and a presentation by Chief Nameplate Engineer Chris Brewer, we were able to get close looks at cutaways of the 6.2 gas and 6.7 diesel engines and the 6R140 transmission. Some of the engineers who designed these products were on hand that evening to answer our questions as well.

After breakfast we were led out to our 2011 Super Duty trucks to begin the day’s activities. First on the list, a drive of about 50 miles through Prescott National Forest on Iron Springs/Skull Valley Road onto Highway 89 in Kirkland Junction and then to our first stop just North of Congress, AZ. I drove an F-350 King Ranch crew cab short box with the 6.7 diesel through the first half of this leg. My first impression was how quiet it was in the cab of this truck. There’s no need to raise your voice to talk even when the cooling fan kicks on, its new asymmetric blade design has all but eliminated the roar exhibited in previous model years.

The majority of this leg was downhill except for a couple of sections, providing an opportunity to use the new 6R140′s Select Shift feature. By means of a +/- switch mounted on the arm of the gear selector, the driver can select the gear which will hold the vehicle at speed and disable up shifts during descent. This feature is activated by pressing the "-" side of the switch; pressing once disables sixth gear, pressing again disables fifth gear, etc. When the road levels out, simply press the “+” side of the switch to restore each of the gears to the shifting sequence. Another new feature worth mentioning is the transmission’s manual mode. Pulling the gear selector down to "M" commands the transmission to remain in the gear it is in at that time and disable upshifting or downshifting.

Next up was towing. Before getting into the performance aspects, I want to quickly mention that Ford is offering an integrated 5th wheel/gooseneck (25k lb. rated) as a $400 option this year — money well spent for anyone who’s purchasing a tow vehicle. To begin the towing portion of the program, I rode in a F-450 Crew Cab DRW with 4:10 gears pulling 23,300 pounds (GCVW 33k) up a 6% grade about 4 miles at 50 mph in 4th gear. The torque converter in the 6R140 locks up from 3rd gear on, which really helps to get power when most needed. The truck’s performance coming down was equally impressive. Using the Select Shift feature as well as the Tow/Haul Mode, the driver’s foot never touched the brake pedal and I never felt the least bit of sway or push from the trailer.

Another part of the towing program involved comparing the 2011 Super Duty to the competition when pulling a 5 ton load. I drove a 2010 Chevrolet 3500 Crew Cab SRW 6.6 Duramax first, followed by a 2011 F-350 Crew Cab SRW 6.7 in XLT trim. The Chevrolet got the load uphill just fine but was far noisier doing it. The biggest difference between the two was the hill descent – there was simply no comparison. The Chevy was unable to hold a constant downhill speed without repeated braking, while the Ford’s Select Shift, Tow/Haul Mode, and Integrated Exhaust Brake made application of the brakes unnecessary. I felt far more at ease coming down the hill in the Super Duty than I did in the Chevrolet.

- ‘SteveBricks’

Check out the rest of the experience in Part 2, which covers more towing and hauling, the descent, Ford Works Solutions, and fuel economy!

Watch the slideshows!
Part 1
Part 2

Join us in discussing the new Super Duty! What do you anticipate when it arrives?

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