By Eric Peters
It used to be that most trucks came with big V-8s, leaf springs and solid axles. If you want such things in a new truck, you’ll want to look at a heavy-duty truck such as the Ford F-250.
What It Is
The F-250 is what a truck used to be: heavy-duty in all its variants. Every F-250 comes standard with a big V-8, and you can get it with an even bigger one — or a diesel one.
It is also available with an 8-foot bed and either two or four full-size doors — two things becoming unavailable in lighter-duty trucks.
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Prices start at $34,230 for the base XL trim regular cab with an 8-foot bed, a 6.2-liter V-8 and rear-wheel-drive. XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trims are also available, with prices topping out at $84,390 for a Limited trim with a crew cab, four-wheel drive and an 8-foot bed.
Also available is a Tremor package that includes 35-inch off-road knobbies on 18-inch steel wheels; rock-crawl mode; standard four-wheel drive; locking front and rear differentials with water fording tubes for the axles and transfer case; and a raised suspension with even heavier-duty off-road shocks.
This one also comes standard with a 7.3-liter V-8, with the option to buy the 1,050 foot-pounds of torque 6.7-liter turbodiesel V-8.
It stickers for $53,820 to start.
The 7.3-liter V-8 joins the engine lineup as a value option to the diesel engine option.
It’s a big truck – with a big engine — in all trims.
It’s not much bigger than current half-tons, but much more capable.
It’s not much more expensive than a half-ton without the big V-8.
What’s Not So Good
The regular cab configuration is restricted to base XL and XLT trims.
The width of the thing makes some roads feel narrow.
The diesel engine is stupendously expensive (almost $11K).
Under the Hood
The smallest engine you can get in the F-250 is a 6.2-liter V-8 that makes 385 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque.
Optional in all trims is a new 7.3-liter monster V-8 that makes 430 horsepower and 475 foot-pounds of torque.
The third engine that’s on offer is in between in terms of its displacement – 6.7 liters — but mountainous in terms of its torque. It makes 1,050 foot-pounds, which makes pulling 24,200 pounds conventionally (and 37,000 pounds with a gooseneck) possible.
The big drag for this drags-a-lot engine is the almost $11K the option adds to the tab. Which is probably why Ford offers the 7.3-liter mountain motor as an option — for just over $2K. It doesn’t pull quite as much as the mighty diesel — but it does pull close. Equipped with the 7.3-liter V-8, an F-250 can handle as much as 20,000 pounds.
Without pulling as hard on your wallet.
On the Road
Under the skin, everything the F-250 is built on is meatier — and heavier. The cast-iron solid rear axle looks like it could support the weight of a skyscraper; the bundled leaf springs that suspend it from the frame are probably twice as thick as the F-150’s. The frame is worthy of the armor belt of a battleship and those coil springs up front will last the life of the truck.
The price you pay for this is the same price a battleship pays for its armor and firepower. It is not as agile as a light-cruiser or destroyer. It needs a few feet more to make a turn-around (about 49 feet for the regular cab with an 8-foot bed; more for super and crew cabs, which are longer), and the hydraulic (versus electric in the F-150) steering is heavier and not as precise.
At the Curb
Dimensionally and visually, there’s not that much difference between an F-250 and an F-150. Because the F-150 raided the F-250’s closet years ago and assumed the “Super Duty” look — including the upcanted profile of the driver’s and passenger’s side front doors as well as the super tall bedwalls.
They’re so close it’s hard to tell them apart unless you check for the gooseneck attachment points in the F-250’s bed or look for the Super Duty lettering embossed on the tailgate.
Or you could look inside.
Then it’s easy to tell the difference. The 2021 F-250 has a simpler dash layout — analog — and no huge secondary iPad-style touch screen, as the new F-150’s got.
It’d be nice if the F-250 had the folding-flat seats (for sleeping) and the F-150’s available massaging seats. But then, the F-150 isn’t available with a 7.3-liter V-8.
The one thing that’s not heavy metal about the F-250 is its body, which is made of aluminum, as the F150’s is. The upside is that aluminum doesn’t rust like steel. The downside is it’s easier to irreparably bend it — and harder to weld it. The heavy-gauge steel that used to be a given for truck panels no longer is, even on those trucks that still use steel to make the panels. The thinness is astonishing — as is the amount of cosmetic damage they incur when hit, as by a deer.
The Bottom Line
If you’re wanting one like they used to make ’em, they still do.
Eric’s new book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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