Mark Oastler | CarsGuide | 26 Sept 2018
Ford’s legendary F-Series has been America’s best-selling truck for more than four decades. A major factor in that success is the Super Duty range (F-250/F-350/F-450), which reports for duty when loggers, landscapers, miners, oil-field workers and anyone else with seriously heavy on- and off-road load-hauling requirements needs more than the entry level F-150 can deliver.
Not surprisingly, such extreme-duty towing is also required in Australia, particularly by tradies with heavy equipment, and/or for recreational and sporting pursuits that involve multi-axle caravans, horse floats, boat trailers and the like. Some of these large trailers feature a goose-neck design which requires a prime mover-style turntable coupling mounted in the cargo tub.
There are a number of small volume importers which cater for these specialised requirements, including Harrison F Trucks at Melton in Melbourne’s outer west. Harrison provides ADR-approved right-hand drive conversion, local certification and sales/after-sales service for these American giants, one of which we recently sampled for a few days to see what life is like in the world of the Super Duty.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
Our test vehicle was the MY18 F350 SWB Crew Cab Platinum 4×4 pick-up, downrated to a 4490kg GVM rating (same as the F-250) to allow it to be driven with a normal car licence. According to Harrison, Ford achieves this by simply removing an additional booster spring and block in the rear suspension, resulting in the lower ratings. It was also fitted with Ford’s FX4 off-road option (rear diff lock, skid plates, special shocks, hill-descent control), bringing the drive-away price to an eye-watering $165,990.
The Platinum is one of six grades in the Super Duty range, and one of three only available in the Crew Cab, in which it represents the middle tier above King Ranch and below Limited. Although Harrison can import most of the Super Duty model grades, it claims the Platinum delivers the best ‘bang for buck’ in terms of features and trim level, riding on stylish 20-inch polished alloy wheels and LT245/75Rx17E all-terrain tyres with a full-size spare.
As you can imagine, the sumptuous Platinum has power everything and is loaded with features that are way too numerous to list here. Suffice to say, everywhere you look there’s conspicuous luxury, from the moment the concealed power-operated side-steps smoothly extend when you open the door, and then retract when you close it.
Inside is an 8.0-inch touchscreen for the SYNC3 voice-activated infotainment system with multiple connectivity options, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, premium leather seating (with heating, cooling and even massage for the front seats), a full-length panoramic sunroof, huge power-extendable door mirrors for towing (with built-in courtesy lights), power adjustable pedals and steering wheel (which is also heated), remote-opening tailgate with fold-out step, cameras everywhere for 360-degree coverageand even a wide choice of changeable colours for the ambient cabin lighting.
Is there anything interesting about its design?
How practical is the space inside?
The sumptuous cabin has plenty of storage options, including a single glovebox, and a bottle holder and two storage bins in each front door. The centre console has an open storage cubby at the front, another open storage bin and two bottle holders in the centre, a cavernous box behind that with a padded lid which doubles as a comfortable armrest, and two more bottle/cup holders at the back.
Those in the rear seat also get a fold-down centre armrest with two pop-out cup holders and each rear door has a bottle holder and two storage bins. There are also flexible storage pockets on the rear of both front seats and the 60/40-split rear seat base cushions swing up through 90 degrees and lock into position, revealing a huge full-width storage area underneath.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The exhaust brake can also be manually selected. The 4×4 system is part-time dual-range, with auto-locking front hubs and shift-on-the-fly engagement.
How much fuel does it consume?
What’s it like to drive?
Braking is reasonably responsive but like other giant US pick-ups we’ve tested, you have to get them quite hot to make them really bite. That’s because their pad compounds tend to be on the hard side, given they have to cope with the high temperatures generated by heavy-duty towing.
The engine exhaust brake is surprisingly quiet and very effective at slowing the vehicle, aided by more aggressive downshifts in the six-speed auto.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
If you’ve got something really heavy to tow and you have the budget to do it in grand style and with minimal effort, then a Super Duty could be just what you’re looking for. Its gargantuan proportions make it impractical for daily driving in Australian city and suburban traffic, but as a heavy-duty tow vehicle, particularly for long-haul open highway work, you’ll feel like king of the road.
Vehicle supplied by Harrison F-Trucks.
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