Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ford F-Series Super Duty

Ford F-Series Super DutyHigh-Tech Hauler: Using Technology For Grunt Work

Heavy-duty trucks are the workhorses of the truck world. Capable of towing nearly 20,000 pounds (as much as 24,600 if you include the F-450), these are the pickups that haul huge loads, are built to survive the rough stuff, and see more than their share of dirt, grime, and hard labor. So it's a little strange to look at them as being high-tech vehicles. In fact, "high-tech" may be the last phrase you think of to describe them. However, that is starting to change, especially with regard to the 2011 Ford Super Duty. Ford recently gave us a sneak peek at the next F-250/350/450, and while it may not look dramatically different from what you see at dealerships today, a lot has changed under the skin to make it more capable, more efficient, quieter, and more reliable than it was before.

The overall appearance of the Super Duty has not changed all that much. But there are differences. Take a look at the nose: The headlights and side-marker lights have been restyled, as has the bumper. The grille now has two large bars, much like the three-bar grille first seen in the Super Chief concept Ford unveiled at the Detroit auto show in 2006, and there's a much larger Blue Oval up front. The hood is also new, featuring a more pronounced dome. Inside the cab, there's a new 4.2-inch LCD screen within the gauge cluster that displays trailer brake control gain, an inclinometer, fuel economy, trailer data, and more, and it can be customized to show what information you want to see. Also new to the interior is a flow-through console that includes two 12-volt powerpoints and a 110-volt inverter.

Under the hood, though, is the most significant change to the Super Duty: the engines. An all-new diesel engine will make its debut, and it was designed, engineered, tested, and built by Ford. It's a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8, with a compacted graphite iron engine block instead of gray cast iron. CGI is a stronger material, one that Ford has successfully used in other markets and is implementing here for the first time. Use of CGI also helps reduce the overall weight of the new engine, said to be about 160 pounds lighter than the outgoing 6.4-liter.

The cylinder heads are made of aluminum, as opposed to last year's iron. The 6.7 uses what Ford calls a Single-Sequential Turbocharger. As Adam Gryglak, Large Diesel Engine Engineering Program manager explains: "The Single-Sequential Turbo [SST] design harnesses the power of two compressors and one turbine in a single housing. The double-sided compressor provides airflow capability across the entire engine operating range, matching the performance of twin turbo systems. The SST design offers the fast response of a small turbocharger, as well as the increased airflow to produce more horsepower, similar to a larger turbocharger. The double-sided compressor wheel operates sequentially, as one side of the wheel flows air at low engine speeds and both sides of the wheel compress air at higher engine demand."

The intake and exhaust are completely different for 2011, with the exhaust brought inboard (in the valley) and the intake outboard. This move was made to improve throttle response and, because the overall surface area of the exhaust system is smaller, it reduces the heat transfer to the engine compartment. Its compact size makes the heat easier to manage and also increases stiffness to reduce vibration.

Fuel delivery now comes through piezo injectors, which can deliver up to five events per cylinder, and fuel is delivered at up to 30,000 psi. Use of these injectors helped Ford engineers greatly reduce typical diesel engine noise, and this engine is noticeably quieter than its predecessor. To meet 2010 federal emissions requirements, the engine is backed by an SCR system, which uses an aftertreatment of Diesel Exhaust Fluid to reduce NOx emissions. The DEF tank can be refilled by the owner (DEF is readily available), and will need it about as often as regular service intervals. Ford hasn't yet released power numbers, but they are said to be "significantly higher" than the 350 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque of the outgoing model. Fuel efficiency is said to be better as well. The 6.7 is capable of running on B20.

On the gas-powered side, buyers will have a choice of the 6.8-liter V-10 (at least for now), and an all-new 6.2-liter V-8. This 6.2 replaces the three-valve, 5.4-liter V-8. We don't know horsepower and torque numbers yet, but in the Raptor it's supposed to put out an estimated 400 horsepower (as opposed to the 5.4's 300), an estimated 400 pound-feet of torque (compared with 365 in the outgoing 5.4), and is said to provide better fuel economy.

Click to view GalleryThe SOHC V-8 uses roller-rocker shafts, variable cam timing, two spark plugs per cylinder, dual knock sensors, and more efficient airflow. The 6.2 and 6.7 will be backed a new 6R140 six-speed TorqShift transmission. The new transmission helps improve fuel economy and provides a new option: live drive PTO. You can use the PTO when the engine is running as a source of auxiliary power. There's also an integrated exhaust brake.

Even though the new Super Duty is still based on a version of the current generation's frame, a lot of work has been done to cater to those who tow and those who haul. As is the case with horsepower and torque numbers, Ford has not yet announced the towing and payload capacities of the new truck-although they are said to be higher than those of the outgoing model. Ride, handling, and steering have been improved for 2011.

Ford is now offering a factory installed fifth-wheel as an option on longbed trucks. It adds a crossmember above the rear axle, a seven-pin connector in the pickup box, and a precut hole in the bed-which comes with a fitted plug when the truck isn't being used for towing. And the factory fifth-wheel has been durability tested with a 24,000-pound trailer in tow.

Suspension has been modified to improve ride, and according to the engineers at Ford, there will now be less of a difference in loaded/unloaded ride. Another feature that's new for 2011 is the use of new brake electronics, and with that, standard hill-ascent control (applies brakes to prevent rollback when starting uphill from a stop) and hill-descent control, included with the optional off-road package. Trailer sway control and AdvanceTrac with Roll Stability Control are standard on all SRW trucks.