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Our Ford Super Duty Diary

CE Treks to the Arizona Desert to Put the Legendary Work Pickup through Its Paces
Keith Gribbins — Apr 01, 2010



Day One: Diesel Engine Dynamos


Automotive magnate and truck specialist Ford Motor Co. invited journalists from all over the country to test drive its new 2011 Super Duty trucks out in the Arizona desert. Writers flew into Prescott, Ariz., and traveled cross country a few 100 miles to Scottsdale, testing out the new capabilities of the 2011 Super Duty lineup (the F-250 through F-450 and chassis cabs F-350 through F-550).

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Day Two: Truck Transmissions from the Desert


Out in the Bradshaw Mountains of central Arizona, at an altitude of about 5,400 ft, journalists from all over the country towed 10,000-lb trailers up narrow single lane highways, testing out the real capabilities of Ford’s upcoming 2011 Super Duty trucks at the company’s big media launch. After hauling all morning, lunch at the bottom of the mountain was in proper order, and a discussion popped up -- what was the more important piece of the puzzle for Ford’s new power train -- its new diesel engines or its new 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed transmission?

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Out in the Bradshaw Mountains of central Arizona, at an altitude of about 5,400 ft, journalists from all over the country towed 10,000-lb trailers up narrow single-lane highways, testing the real capabilities of Ford’s upcoming 2011 Super Duty trucks at the company’s big media launch in early March. After hauling all morning, lunch at the bottom of the mountain was in proper order. And a discussion popped up — what was the more important piece of the puzzle for Ford’s new power train — its new diesel engines or its new 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed transmission?

These were the big discussions the automotive magnate and truck specialist Ford Motor Co. wanted when it invited journalists from all over the country to test drive its new 2011 Super Duty trucks out in the desert. Writers flew into Prescott, Ariz., and traveled cross-country a few 100 miles to Scottsdale, testing out the new capabilities of the 2011 lineup (the F-250 through F-450 and chassis cabs F-350 through F-550).

There were a myriad of new technologies and features that impressed this journalist and Compact Equipment magazine along the way. Top of the list is the new Ford diesel engine. Navistar used to make Ford’s diesel power plants, but for 2011, Ford debuted its first in-house diesel and it’s a doozy — a Ford-engineered, Ford-tested and Ford-manufactured, 6.7-liter, Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged. The new diesel engine delivers best-in-class 735 ft-lb of torque (at 1,600 rpm), 390 hp (at 2,800 rpm) and great fuel economy. Those looking for both big power and increased fuel efficiency can turn to the industry leader in truck sales for the last 30 years.

You’ll also notice that the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbocharged diesel engine is quieter. Enhancements to the combustion system, structural integrity of the compacted graphite iron block and the single turbocharger mounted to the engine block account for many of the NVH (noise, vibration, harness) improvements. But the real surprise of the new Ford diesel was the fuel economy.  Ford had a fuel challenge on the trip, and I was able to get 23 mpg on a 90-mile test run, which included off-road, highway and Scottsdale rush-hour traffic. These new diesels are ultra powerful (735 ft-lb of torque is insane) and ultra efficient (one journalist scored 34 mpg on the same fuel economy trip). These engines are even compatible with B20 fuel, allowing greener fueling options of up to 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.

Transmissions from the Desert


While the all-new diesel and gasoline engines are key reasons why the 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty maintains best-in-class towing and payload, managing that best-in-class horsepower and torque is the six-speed transmission, which delivers power quickly and seamlessly while maximizing fuel economy. Creating a transmission to serve both diesel and gasoline engines in a Super Duty application is a challenge because the gearbox needs to deliver the substantial low-rpm torque produced by the diesel engine and efficiently use the higher rotational speeds of the gasoline engine.

In the end, the solution was to use a proven architecture, but adapt it for heavy-duty use. Ford’s 6R140 TorqShift transmission uses a Lepelletier-style power-flow, which is a proven technology in rear-wheel-drive vehicles but not typically used with larger diesel engines (smart move folks). A key benefit of the Lepelletier architecture is that it reduces the complexity in connecting the gear sets and clutches. The six speeds require only five clutches, and the speeds of the clutches relative to one another are low, increasing the efficiency of the system.

The new 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission is specifically designed to handle the increased torque produced by the all-new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 turbocharged diesel and also will be mated to the all-new 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine. The six-speed balances convenience and control by automatically shifting during routine operation and also allowing complete manual control. It features SelectShift Automatic transmission functionality, which includes both Progressive Range Select and manual functions. For full manual function, customers can just pull the shift lever into “M” and use a toggle switch to select the gear desired. The display will show the selected gear, and the control system will lock the torque converter and hold that gear for a full manual transmission feel (good for hauling up mountains).

But perhaps the coolest new feature on the 6R140 transmission is the segment-exclusive Live Drive Power Take Off (PTO) with the new diesel engine, which is great for Compact Equipment customers who use PTOs for snow plowing, water tanks, lights or any other onboard application. On 2011 Ford Super Duty diesels with the PTO prep option, the PTO output gear is linked through the torque converter to the engine crankshaft. This allows the transmission to power auxiliary equipment such as snowplows, aerial lifts, cement mixers, tow truck lifts or dump trucks. The power is available any time the engine is running. The Live Drive feature is particularly useful when mobile PTO function is required during start-stop operations, such as salt spreading or snow plowing, allowing the PTO power to function outside of the engine’s ups and downs. It’s one of the clever new widgets available on the 2011 Super Duty Series.


Day 3: The Mobile Office Experience


The information age is constantly evolving, and integrated computers are on the forefront, creating new fads, tripling productivity and changing the way we work. Today we use our computers as naturally and easily as we now use our cars... or trucks. That gave Ford Motor Co. an idea. Why not integrate the ideal mobile office into the ultimate commercial work truck?

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The Mobile Office


The information age is constantly evolving, and integrated computers are on the forefront, creating new fads, tripling productivity and changing the way we work. Today we use our computers as naturally and easily as we now use our cars... or trucks. That gave Ford Motor Co. an idea. Why not integrate the ideal mobile office into the ultimate commercial work truck?

Thus was born the Ford Work Solutions — available on the Ford F-Series Super Duty, F-150, E-Series van and Transit Connect — an in-dash computer that’s integrated into the vehicle’s center stack and is capable of linking into a business owner’s main office computer network or a home computer via a cellular broadband connection. While this technology has been out for about year, I had the opportunity to see it incorporated into Ford’s newest 2011 Super Duty vehicles and the union was an impressive office on wheels.  

These in-dash computers were perfect for our high-tech contracting readership. I’ve always likened computers to Old Testament gods — lots of rules and no mercy. But Ford Work Solutions was an easy-to-access system with a remote keyboard, touch screen and optional remote printer that even the oldest, most grizzled foreman could figure out.

Users can easily access files in an office computer miles away from the jobsite using the integrated LogMeIn remote access application. Open any number of computer applications, including a word processing document, a spreadsheet or a business accounting program. Make updates and print documents in the truck on an available Ford-certified, on-board, Bluetooth-enabled battery-powered inkjet printer. The in-dash computer even includes navigation, which has features like rerouting due to construction and points of interest, with listings for local gas stations and their fuel prices, restaurants, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Centers and (of course) Ford dealerships.

But just don’t manage your paperwork, manage your other crews. With Ford Work Solutions, Crew Chief owner/operators have a telematics and diagnostics system that delivers real-time vehicle location and maintenance tracking, allowing fleet owners to quickly respond to calls and deploy fleets. Crew Chief interfaces with the vehicle’s electrical architecture and can monitor numerous diagnostic functions, including tire pressure or check engine light. It also can be programmed to identify user-set alerts such as unauthorized vehicle use, lack of seat belt usage or excessive idling. Really, the only thing missing here is a portal to World of Warcraft.


Day 4: Tow to Tow - These are Die-Hard Haul Trucks


The white-knuckled experience of hauling equipment affects both novices and veterans alike. Driving 60 mph down a steep grade in rush hour traffic hauling a skid steer loader safely is not necessarily a fun experience, so anything that can alleviate the stress of towing machinery is a welcome change to the owner/operator/equipment equation.

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Tow to Tow


The white-knuckled experience of hauling equipment affects both novices and veterans alike. Driving 60 mph down a steep grade in rush-hour traffic while hauling a skid steer loader safely is not necessarily a fun experience, so anything that can alleviate the stress of towing machinery is a welcome change to the owner/operator/equipment equation.

First off, Ford’s lauded trailer sway control (TSC) system joins the Super Duty lineup, giving customers segment-first capability. TSC is integrated with AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control, which now is standard on all single rear wheel (SRW) configurations. The AdvanceTrac control module uses additional software to monitor the truck’s motion when a trailer is attached. TSC can determine from the yaw motion of the truck if the trailer is swaying and takes measures — such as applying precise braking or reducing engine torque — to help reduce the trailer sway. It’s one of many new features that make towing easy on these new commercial capable vehicles.

Add those TSC capabilities to the cool Enhanced Tow Haul mode with integrated engine exhaust braking. This feature provides better control when hauling a heavy trailer load, especially when going down grades. Downshifts are commanded through brake pressure; enhanced customer control is enabled by a brake pressure transducer, which monitors the actual brake pressure applied. The system thinks for you when towing, working in tandem with the best-in-class towing and payload capability of the 2011 models.

Upping the ante, the company has also created the first ever factory-installed and warranted fifth wheel and gooseneck substructure directly attached to the frame. The system is factory-installed and comes with a limited warranty from Ford. The electrical connection is mounted in the side of the bed wall, providing a clean installation. That means no tearing up your truck bed when you need to mount a fifth wheel. Pretty clever.
And we can’t forget the industry-exclusive PowerScope side mirrors, which power-fold and power-telescope to enhance the towing experience. These now are standard on some Super Duty models, as is the Rear View Camera and SYNC, Ford’s industry-first, voice-activated hands-free communications and entertainment system.

We thank all our readers and Ford for the opportunity to test drive these trucks before the official launch. We suggest you test drive one yourself. Till then, roll on.

Keith Gribbins is managing editor of Compact Equipment, based in Peninsula, Ohio.


Day Five: The Luxuries in Cost of Ownership


High cost of ownership is not a luxury we can afford anymore. Ford Motor Co. realized this when they released their 2011 Super Duty Truck Series out in the Arizona desert to journalists from all of the country in early March. The company was focused on how much work these new trucks could do and how efficiently they could do it, noting of course that plenty of luxury options were available as well.

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Reborn Work Horse

GMC Unveils the 2011 Sierra Denali HD at the Work Truck Show


GMC has always been the tough and tumble professional brand of General Motors.  And with the exit of GM medium-duty trucks last year, GMC wanted to make a big splash with its new 2011 Sierra Denali HD at the Work Truck Show in early March — the first offering of the exclusive Denali line on a heavy-duty GMC pickup. The Sierra Denali HD leads a comprehensively redesigned lineup of 2011 Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD trucks that go on sale in early summer, including the most powerful diesel engine in the segment, say GMC officials.  

“The new Sierra Denali HD is the latest expression of GMC’s Denali philosophy of blending capability with premium features and styling,” says Lisa Hutchinson, GMC product marketing director. “It is a premium tool that offers many comfort and infotainment features, along with a maximum towing capacity of 15,600 lbs with the segment’s most powerful diesel — that’s enough to tow a 34-ft-long, three-axle travel trailer.”

Sierra HD’s new 6.6L Duramax turbo diesel delivers 397 hp at 3,000 rpm and 765 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. The Sierra Denali HD comes exclusively on the 2500HD chassis, in a four-wheel drive  crew cab standard box configuration. A Vortec 6.0L gas V-8/six-speed automatic power train is standard and the new Duramax 6.6L turbo diesel/Allison 1000 six-speed transmission power train is available.

An array of control features include trailer sway control, integrated trailer brake control, hill start assist, automatic grade braking, intelligent brake assist and larger brakes. Purposeful technology, including available mobile WiFi, USB connectivity, Bluetooth connectivity, XM Satellite Radio, OnStar 9.0 and navigation are also available.

Green Wheels

Freightliner Custom Chassis’ All-Electric Walk-In Van Debuts at NTEA


Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (FCCC) continues its legacy of engineering alternative-power products for the commercial vehicle industry with the introduction of its highly anticipated plug-in, all-electric, walk-in van chassis at the National Truck Equipment Association’s (NTEA) Work Truck Show. The new chassis model is the only one domestically engineered and the first in the industry to be completely all-electric (and includes an HVAC system) in North America.

“In partnership with Enova, we have developed an all-electric chassis to meet the environmental, economic and performance needs of our commercial vehicle customers,” says Bob Harbin, FCCC president. “Our vision is clearly focused on transitioning the all-electric chassis into the mainstream of our walk-in van production programs. This new program demonstrates that FCCC remains fully committed to engineering chassis options that lower operating costs and decrease carbon footprints for our customers.”

The new all-electric chassis enables fleet operators to virtually eliminate harmful emissions and cut operating and maintenance costs while delivering the performance and driver comfort features FCCC customers have come to expect. On select delivery and service routes, studies show that customers will save up to $15,000 per vehicle annually, compared with traditionally powered walk-in vans. The all-electric MT-45 chassis is expected to go into full production during the first quarter of 2011 and will undergo testing with major U.S. pickup and delivery fleets.


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