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With an ideal mix of power, versatility, brawn and refinement, the 2011 Ford F-450 Super Duty is a top pick for a heavy-duty truck.
Impressive towing capabilities, wide range of configurations, refined ride and handling.
Plus-size width makes the truck unwieldy in traffic and parking lots, interior looks a bit dated, high price.
Available F-450 Super Duty Models
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The Ford F-450 Super Duty has been refreshed for 2011 with updated exterior styling, a new diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission, and many new standard and optional features. Last year's commercial-grade wheels and tires are no longer offered.
The 2011 Ford F-450 represents the top dog among the Super Duty lineup, trumped only by the F-550, which is intended for commercial use only and offered solely as a chassis cab. Compared to the supporting F-250 and F-350 models, the F-450 is only available as a crew cab with dual rear wheels, four-wheel drive and a diesel-fueled engine. The F-450 also features a wider-track monobeam front suspension and bigger disc brakes to contend with higher load-bearing capabilities. Basically, it's the Shaquille O'Neal of Ford pickups.
Like the rest of the 2011 Super Duty lineup, the F-450 receives new exterior styling to accompany its increased ability to get the job done. Behind the blocky grille is a new, Ford-built 6.7-liter "PowerStroke" turbodiesel that replaces the troublesome Navistar diesels from previous years. This big diesel is certainly adept at towing trailers or equipment, as it churns out an impressive 800 pound-feet of torque. The F-450's fifth-wheel towing capacity is a smidge less compared to last year, but at 24,400 pounds it's still greater than every non-commercial truck on the market.
We're also "dually" impressed by the Super Duty's flexibility that allows it to be configured for a variety of uses -- from a down-and dirty work truck to a luxurious hauler. Also noteworthy is the increased fuel economy and lower emissions from the diesel power plant. Regardless of which route you choose, you'll also be treated to class-leading refinement, comfort and capabilities that set the benchmark for other manufacturers to follow.
Choosing a heavy-duty truck these days is tough, however, especially with the Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra twins also receiving a redesign this year and the Ram 3500 still benefiting from its own update last year. You're certainly not going to go wrong with any of these trucks, and much of your choice will come down to brand preference and pricing. But if you need to tow more than 20,000 pounds, you have but one choice: the 2011 Ford F-450. Thankfully, we think quite highly of that lone choice.
The 2011 Ford F-450 Super Duty is only offered in a crew cab body style with a long (8-foot) bed with dual rear wheels (dually). Buyers may choose among four trim levels: the base XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch. The XL is the workhorse of the stable, with standard equipment that includes 17-inch forged aluminum wheels, a black grille and bumpers, running boards, roof clearance lights, manual-telescoping trailer tow mirrors, air-conditioning, vinyl upholstery and floor coverings, a 40/20/40-split front bench, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a two-speaker AM/FM radio.
Stepping up to the XLT will add a chrome grille and bumpers, heated outside mirrors, cruise control, full power accessories, keyless entry, an integrated trailer brake controller, a carpeted floor, cloth seats, lockable second-row underseat storage with a power point and a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio jack.
The Lariat trim level adds foglights, power-telescoping mirrors, rear parking sensors, 18-inch wheels, a power rear sliding window, chrome tubular step bars, dual-zone automatic climate control and upgraded interior upholstery. Also standard is a 4.2-inch LCD multifunction screen, wood-grain trim, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-adjustable pedals, leather seats, a middle front seat that converts into a center console, 10-way power-adjustable front seats, the Ford Sync voice activation system and an eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio.
The range-topping King Ranch piles on power-folding mirrors, two-tone paint, a body-colored grille with chrome insert, unique exterior and interior badging, remote start, upgraded Chapparal leather upholstery, heated and ventilated seats, driver seat memory and a rearview camera.
Some features on the Lariat and King Ranch trims are available on the XL and XLT models. Other add-ons (depending on trim level) include a stowable bed extender, a transmission power take-off (for powering accessories like snow plows), heavy-duty alternators, fifth-wheel mounting points (compatible with Reese hitch units), a spray-in bedliner, a sunroof, integrated accessory switches and a hard-drive-based navigation system.
The available Ford Work Solutions package is offered on XL and XLT models and adds an in-dash computer that is customizable to suit commercial users and fleets. Also available is the FX4 Off-Road package that includes an electronic locking rear differential, all-terrain tires, hill descent control, underbody skid plates and Rancho shock absorbers.
Unlike with other Super Duty pickups, a gasoline engine is not available for the 2011 Ford F-450. The only power plant offered is a brawny 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 that makes 400 horsepower and a whopping 800 lb-ft of torque. F-450s built early in the year were originally rated at 390 hp and 735 lb-ft of torque; Ford says it will upgrade these trucks to the new power rating for free. A six-speed automatic is the only available transmission and four-wheel drive is standard (rear-wheel drive isn't available). A limited-slip rear axle is standard for all F-450 models.
In addition to the impressive output, the stout PowerStroke diesel can also run on B20 biodiesel and is 18 percent more fuel-efficient than last year's engine (by Ford's account). The new power plant also produces fewer harmful emissions by utilizing a series of catalysts, filters and a urea-injection system. The new F-450 also features engine exhaust braking, just like a big rig, to help maintain control on downhill grades while towing.
Properly equipped, the F-450 Super Duty can tow up to 16,000 pounds with a conventional trailer setup. When configured for fifth-wheel towing, that figure jumps to a class-leading 24,400 pounds. Maximum payload capacity tops out at 4,920 pounds.
The 2011 Ford F-450 Super Duty comes standard with four-wheel antilock disc brakes, trailer sway control, hill launch assist, side and side curtain airbags and an SOS post-crash alert system. An integrated trailer brake controller is standard on XLT and higher models, while the Lariat trim level adds rear parking sensors and power-adjustable pedals. A rearview camera is optional on the XLT and Lariat and standard on the King Ranch model.
Most of the 2011 Ford F-450 Super Duty's interior carries over from the previous model, featuring a blocky, industrial theme. Compared to the offerings from GM and Dodge, the Ford's cabin is beginning to look a little long in the tooth. Hard plastics abound throughout the interior on lower trim levels, but are on par or better than other trucks in this segment. Opting for the Lariat or King Ranch models will add a decidedly upscale experience with rich leather and added amenities.
New for 2011, the F-450 adds a lockable bin under an available front center bench seat, which also folds to serve as an armrest. Another lockable bin is located under the rear seats that can easily accommodate longer items (like a hunting rifle) and also features a 12-volt power point. Another nifty addition is a 4.2-inch LCD multifunction display placed in the instrument panel. This display allows the driver to customize settings and relays trip computer, fuel economy, towing and off-road information.
Compared to the competition, the 2011 Ford Super Duty line has a smoother ride quality and is noticeably quieter, with wind and road noise pleasantly silenced. Even the trademark diesel clatter has been reduced to barely detectable levels. As with any heavy-duty pickup, the ride can be a bit jittery when unloaded, but the F-450 remains well-mannered over the rough stuff. Parking and maneuvering in traffic are tough, as its front end is considerably wider than those of its already gigantic siblings, not to mention the standard dually rear end.
Towing is a big part of the Super Duty's capabilities, and the new 6.7-liter PowerStroke proves that it is up to the task. Even when lugging a 10,000-pound trailer up a steep grade, the diesel ably climbs with ease -- never laboring or hunting between gears. Drivers may also selectively lock out higher gears to ensure optimal towing prowess. Descending is also made simple thanks to a well-managed automatic transmission that seems to select just the right gear at the right time.
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