There’s an arms race going on across America. The weapon is the heavy-duty truck. The belligerents are Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler. They’re fighting for the hearts and wallets of America’s blue-collar workers.
And so far, Ford is eating everyone else’s lunch.
Historically speaking, the Ford F-Series of pickups has always been the dominant force in the American truck market. Every couple of decades Chevrolet will come close, but by and large, the ongoing war between the big three American(ish) carmakers is being--and always has been--won by Ford.
To be fair to the other big truck makers, the numbers are mostly reflective of the Ford F-150’s dominance of the full-size pickup market. When it comes to the more heavy-duty trucks, such as the Ford F-250 Super Duty, the fight is still being won by Ford but the numbers are much closer. In this market Ford is not invincible and seems to be relying on its stellar reputation for reliability more than anything else.
Reputation and class-leading power. The 2019 F-250 comes with a choice between the standard 6.2-L FlexFuel V8 or the practically bulletproof 6.7-L Power Stroke V8 turbodiesel engine. The 6.2-L V8 will net 385 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque from standard octane gasoline but can be tweaked to run on liquified natural gas or even propane.
Power on the appropriately named Power Stroke is rated at 450 hp and a mind-boggling 935 lb-ft of torque. Which, by the way, provides for 18,500 lbs-worth of towing capacity.
Power is routed through a heavy-duty 6-speed automatic transmission which comes in either 4x2 or 4x4 configuration, depending on preference. The full 4x4 experience doesn’t become a standard feature until you spring for the Platinum trim, and the cost of adding it to lower trims seems to vary. On the base XL trim, it costs only $2,800 extra, while on the Lariat it’s another $3,185. Curiously, the King Ranch trim allows for 4x4 driving with only another $1,695 in your pocket.
This sort of price-gating of features is fairly standard across most automotive segments, but seems to be abundantly pervasive in the heavy truck segment, and extremely so with Ford.
The base XL trim doesn’t come with much else. There’s your choice of an 8-foot or 6.75-foot bed, regular, crew, or extended cab (depending on your choice of bed), tire pressure monitoring, air conditioning, stability control, vinyl seats, a rearview camera, and that’s about it. The XL doesn’t even get a CD player or power locks.
If you want what is generally considered to be standard features on most regular cars, you’ll need to spring for the XLT trim. That comes with power locks, cruise control, a radio with CD and MP3 player, 18-inch aluminum wheels, cloth seating, and an infotainment system with a 3.5-inch screen.
Luxury doesn’t come until you reach the mid-range Lariat trim, which comes with leather seats, LED head and tail lights, rear collision warning, and Ford’s latest Sync3 Infotainment system. Things like driver assistance technology (including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, and cross-traffic alert) or a premium Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker audio system doesn’t become standard until reaching the Platinum trim, and that’s hitting mid $60,000s in terms of price.
A base XL trim, regular cab, long box pickup starts at $33,150 with absolutely nothing in terms of bells and whistles. But the F-250 is a working truck, and as such it doesn’t need the creature comforts of an 8.4-inch infotainment display, remote starter, or 20-inch aluminum wheels. A reasonably appointed XLT trim, with a regular cab, 4x4 transmission, and maybe a few driver assist features, will run you around $42,500.
Compared to the 2018 Chevy Silverado 2500, the F-250 is an archaic relic. A similarly appointed LT trim in the Silverado gives you somewhat less power from its 6.0-L V8 (360 hp, 380 lb-ft), but it gives you a standard 8.4-inch infotainment system, a full suite of driver assist technology (including front and rear parking assist, front and rear collision warning, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control), and a premium sound system all for just $1,000 more.
A 2018 Ram 2500 SLT forgoes the fancy electronics of the Chevy but still comes with an 8.4-inch infotainment center and a more than sufficient 5.7-L HEMI V8 with 383 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. Such a truck wouldn’t even break the $40,000 mark.
Not as cheap as the Ram, not as well-equipped as the Chevy, but class-leading power and a reputation for being Ford tough, to borrow an old slogan. It’s a formula that has served Ford well for decades, but in an age where technology gains ever-increasing importance, will it allow Ford to remain on top?