Refined, desirable and expensive

BY Willy Williamson. Sep 22 03:00 am

Back in the day, pickup trucks were designed to haul cargo in the bed and tow a trailer. Creature comforts such as air conditioning and power windows weren’t common — and were often deemed unnecessary to truck purists.

My how things have changed.

Nowadays, there are pickups on the market with enough bells and whistles to rival many luxury vehicles.

Trucks initially conceived for utilitarian needs now convey a distinct image of prestige.

While half-ton pickups have been available with posh trim packages for more than a decade, larger three-quarter and one-ton trucks were a bit late to the luxury party.

Today, even the big trucks typically found on job sites or utilized for heavy towing are receiving the royal treatment.

Case in point is the newly redesigned Ford Super Duty F-350 Lariat I recently tested.

Before we move on, let’s get this out of the way: when the cost of the considerable optional equipment, fees and taxes are added to the MSRP of our tester, it rang the register at a whopping $108,664.19.

Let that sink in for a moment.

This all-new model received an extensive update for 2017 with a revised exterior and interior and myriad new features. As a lifelong General Motors fan, and the owner of a Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD, I was curious to see how the other half lives. Following a week behind the wheel of this behemoth, and once the sticker shock wore off, I can report this truck is without question the most refined and desirable pickup I’ve ever tested.

It is also the most expensive.

The tester, a Crew Cab decked out in Lariat trim and equipped with four-by-four and the FX4 off-road package, wore Race Red paint and featured camel tone leather interior.

Visually, the LED headlights, beefy chrome grill and front bumper dripping in chrome hint toward the refinements found throughout this truck. All that beauty, however, isn’t skin deep. The all-new high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy body is more dent- and ding-resistant than the previous steel body. Also new for 2017, the fully boxed frame containing more than 95 per cent high-strength steel is not only lighter than the previous chassis, but according to Ford, it’s 24 times stronger.

The tester was powered by the optional 6.7-litre Power Stroke turbo diesel V-8 engine, which produces 925 lb.-ft. of torque and 440 horsepower.

All that torque was clearly added to aid in towing, which is obviously what the F-350 was built to do. With a maximum gooseneck towing capacity of 32,000 pounds, fifth-wheel towing capacity of 27,500 pounds and a gross combined weight rating of up to 40,000 pounds, this beast offers best-in-class performance in all towing categories.

Changes for the 2017 F-Series Super Duty lineup also include a centre high-mounted stop lamp camera to aid visibility into the cargo box, which is helpful when hooking up gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers, and a trailer tow camera system which uses four digital, high-definition cameras and gives you a 360-degree bird’s-eye view from the driver’s seat.

The blind-spot information system uses radar sensors in the tail lamps to monitor areas surrounding a trailer as long as 33-feet in length.

Trailer reverse guidance provides visual cues and tips to help ease backing up a trailer, as well as an available remote camera that can be custom placed on a trailer to improve visibility when backing up, and a trailer tire- pressure monitoring system that relays information remotely to the truck’s instrument panel.

Super Duty is also the first truck to offer adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support for heavy trailers, allowing drivers to climb steep mountain grades while maintaining speed — when towing a trailer weighing more than 30,000 pounds.

The standard 6.2-litre V-8 engine, while certainly not as stout as the diesel engine, produces 430 lb.-ft. of torque and 385 horsepower. Both diesel and gas engines are backed by a TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift.

The power-assisted running boards make climbing up and into this massive truck as easy as getting behind the wheel of a family sedan. Once inside, the interior is both bright and spacious.

In Lariat trim, Ford added pretty much all the creature comforts, including power heated and cooled seats, an eight-inch display screen equipped with navigation, dual-zone temperature control and a twin-panel moonroof. A couple of the features I particularly liked were the row of up-fitter switches that allow for the installation and operation of additional lighting, and a safe neatly built into the centre console that looked as if it would be as tough to permeate as a commercial vault.

Overall, I was thoroughly impressed with Ford’s latest Super Duty offering. The level of technology is intuitive and impressive. Although the ride is quite stiff when not loaded with cargo or towing a trailer, this truck is astonishingly smooth and markedly refined. Thanks to the optional diesel engine, the power is purely intoxicating — it pulls like a locomotive.

While you can certainly spend less than $100K on a 2017 Ford Super Duty, (in fact, the F-250 XL regular cab with the gas engine starts at $32,965), you can also spend upwards of $120K on a loaded F-450 Platinum. There are many Super Duty configurations available, and it’s a sure bet work sites, highways and the occasional country club parking lot will be dotted with these sweet new rigs.

willy@freepress.mb.ca

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