New engines support CNG, biodiesel (B20), E85, and get 20 percent better fuel economy during std. fuel driving
On Friday Ford Motor Comp. (F) unveiled the 2013 F-Series Super Duty. “High technology” and “heavy truck” don’t always mix like sugar and water — at least when it comes to topics like fuel efficiency and in-car electronics — but for an automaker who considers itself as a burgeoning “technology company” we were intrigued at what it would bring to the table.
I. Advanced Electronics
Ford announced that for the first time its top Super Duty models — “Lariat”, “King Ranch”, and “Platinum” — would be getting MyFord Touch. Ford has incorporated redundant knob-based climate controls (as seen in the 2012/2013 Ford Explorer) and also a new set of tactile button controls to accommodate users wearing work gloves who would be unable to fiddle with a touch screen.
The idea that someone would be driving a luxury truck and wearing work gloves may be laughable to some, but note that MFT (and the buttons) should be available in base model Super Duty trucks (e.g. the XL and XLT) as well — although it will be an option, not standard.
Our sources at Ford claim that MFT has seen surprisingly high pickup as an option on the “lesser” F-150. Thus as a standard feature, it may actually be a purchase motivator.
Available with an F-250, F-350, or F-450 cab, the Super Duty also boasts an advanced “Productivity” digital system that Ford introduced in 2011 and has been refining ever since. The system automatically detects whether you’ve properly attached your trailer and gives you advice on how to attach it, if necessary. The Productivity helper also keeps profiles on all your trailers to track their mileage and fuel economy (both average and real time).
II. New Engines
The heavy trucks also feature a brand new pair of engines — a 6.2-liter V8 gas-burning engine and a 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel engine. Ford has employed some novel engineering techniques in the new engines — for example, traditionally in large V8 engines exhaust is on the outside of the “valley”, where as intake is on the inner track. Ford reversed this, putting the exhaust inside the valley, an approach that shorts the distance to the turbo and offers better heat isolation. The cumulative result is better responsiveness, vital when towing heavy, potentially dangerous loads.
The new engines offer a fuel economy improvement of roughly 20 percent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not track fuel economy in heavy work vehicles, so there’s no official numbers, but Ford says fuel economy can reach the low 20s when the driver is load-free. Performance when hauling loads will likely dip to 8 to 10 miles per gallon.
Both engines have alternative fuel options — the 6.7L diesel can handle biodiesel blends up to B20, while the 6.2L gas-burner is capable of running on ethanol blends up to E85. For natural gas fans, a retrofitted 6.2L compressed natural gas (CNG) version is also available.
III. The Road Ahead
Driving a heavy truck isn’t for everybody, but Ford appears to be leveraging its impressive portfolio of technology even in this very purpose driven market niche. Bria Rathsburg, F-Series Super Duty Marketing Manager brags, “[The new Super Duty] has a distinct appearance and a long list of features to deliver a superior experience. Along with that it has all of the capability F-Series trucks are famous for.”
That’s good news for Ford in a market where it’s seeing increased competition from General Motors Comp. (GM) and Chrysler. It’s not exactly a level playing field — its rivals, freed of having to pay taxes can deeply invest in research and development, while Ford is forced to surrender a major part of its earnings to Uncle Sam. That said, Ford appears more than ready to rise to the occasion.