The Truth About Cars » HD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 09 Aug 2014 15:56:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » HD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Tow Rig Capsule Review: 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500 3/4 Ton http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/tow-rig-capsule-review-1999-gmt800-silverado-2500-34-ton/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/tow-rig-capsule-review-1999-gmt800-silverado-2500-34-ton/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832305 The last time I looked at my 1969 Chevrolet CST/10, it was a pile of disappointment. After reviving it and replacing a freeze plug, it proceeded to pop three more freeze plugs during warm up. Time was beginning to run out, my dad’s house had gone up to market and quickly sold. The truck was […]

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The last time I looked at my 1969 Chevrolet CST/10, it was a pile of disappointment. After reviving it and replacing a freeze plug, it proceeded to pop three more freeze plugs during warm up. Time was beginning to run out, my dad’s house had gone up to market and quickly sold. The truck was a long way away from driving out of Houston, and I needed to get it out of town. Time and money were a factor, I didn’t have time to spend money running a truck and trailer to Houston, just for the CST/10. Thankfully, three things lined up: A truck, a trailer, and a reason to drive to Houston. The truck is a customer’s, who loans the truck out in return for a few favors on the truck’s maintenance. The trailer came from my friend’s rally shop, which I moonlight at. And the Lone Star Region Porsche Club had invited me to partake in their refreshed autocross program at Houston Police Academy just before the closing deadline on my father’s house. Win-win, right? I packed the suitcase, tools and dog, hemorrhaged a gas pump to fill the truck, and blasted to Houston.

The biggest tool for this expedition was a venerable 1999 GMT800 Silverado 2500. A tried-and-true work truck, with no options other than power locks. Extended cab, with an eight foot bed – this is one of the longer wheelbase configurations, superceeded only by the four door “quad cab” with the eight foot bed.

The drivetrain is a gas 6.0L V8, the early all-cast iron version. Later 6.0′s and “LSx” truck engines moved to iron block and aluminum heads. The all-iron build of the early ones is a bit more stout against abuse. 300 hp and a flat 360 ft lb of torque work well at sea-level, providing excellent passing power and low end torque. To this day, it’s one of the friendliest gas engines in towing with its flat torque curve and excellent midrange power for highway use, and returns excellent fuel economy for a gas engine. I find the Ford 5.4 Modular and Dodge 5.7 Hemi from the GMT800 era were never quite as comfortable under load.

The transmission is a 4L80E, essentially a modernized overdrive version of the Turbo-400, the racetrack and workhorse hero for GM since the late 60′s. It also features a Tow/Haul mode, which changes the transmission mapping to ensure an easier day for the transmission and driver. Primarily, it holds third gear longer during climbs, and waits to lock the torque converter during hill climbs allowing the torque converter to torque multiply, allowing the 6.0L gasoline V8 to work harder under load. Four speed automatics seem archaic, but the gearing is well matched to for the 6.0.

Despite the air conditioning needing a recharge after a compressor replacement, the weather was pleasant enough for windows-down driving. In the GMT800′s, extended cabs do well with the rear vent windows open, which smoothly pull hot air out of the cab, negating the buffeting and noise with fully open windows. Cruise control was set at 70 mph, and three hours later, I arrived in my dad’s driveway.

trucks That weekend happened to be an impromptu Chevy truck convention. The charcoal short-cab/short-bed is my godfather’s, serving duty in Houston with my dad during his move. It’s a plane Jane Silverado 1500 half ton, with a 4.3L V6 and a 5-speed NV2500. The NV2500′s gearing allows the 4.3 to work well in its torque band, and even makes for a great short-distance tow rig with its compact dimensions and small turning radius. These positive attributes in the city detract from its appeal on longer drives. It simply doesn’t have the wheel base and weight for highway towing in adverse conditions. That said, it has towed 7 cars for me in the past six months.

Around town with the trailer unhitched, the Silverado 2500 rides well. The chassis soaks up irregular roads, never bucking and kicking -the rough and overly-stiff ride often associated with 3/4 and 1-tons is nowhere to be found. Think of something that rides like a firm Cadillac: It has the big-body teutonic feel with firm, well-controlled suspension movement. Brakes are excellent, with a firm and progressive bite from the hydraulically assisted power brakes — unique to the Silverado 2500 and 3500, as the regular Silverado 1500 uses traditional vacuum assist. This provides stronger brake boosting, and constant boost under heavy load where engine vacuum is low. The steering is well weighted, and with a direct but soft feel when centered. It’s never twitchy or sensitive, but does translate minor adjustments accurately. Sway bars thicker than Goldberg’s neck ensure that the Silverado 2500 feels well planted on the road.

And here’s the real trick of the GMT800 pickups: Supreme visibility. With a low belt line, and shorter overall height than most modern pickups, the GMT800s are very easy to drive in tight situations. Even when hitched to our 24 foot deck trailer, vehicle placement is a breeze. Interior ergonomics have always been great, for me. Everything is in excellent reach of the driver, and there’s ample storage. It’s basic GM plastics, but this 290,000 mile Silverado 2500 managed to stay pretty quiet inside. The gauge cluster is comprehensive and very easy to read. Real oil pressure, water temperature, voltage, and transmission temperature gauges flank the speedometer and tachometer. Dummy gauges, like “Cool” to “Hot” gauges you commonly see, are useless to me. They are often highly inaccurate, and wild swings in readings are not accurately counted by them, at times. With a comprehensive set of numbered gauges, a driver can spot a problem before it becomes detrimental. While mostly sharing the same cluster with the Silverado 1500 1/2 ton, the additional transmission temperature gauge for the Sivlerado 2500 and 3500 models is very much welcomed.

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But where these ingredients truly shine is on the highway with a load. Sunday, after the LSRPCA autocross, my dad and I packed up the CST/10 with boxes of spare parts, and loaded it onto the trailer.

The CST/10 weighs just under 5,000 pounds, and the trailer is about 2,400 pounds. Properly loaded, the chassis is largely unaffected by the weight. There’s more heave in the suspension over large movements, but the truck is rarely jarred by trailer movement. Braking stability is excellent “panic” stops proved stable, dead-straight, and with aggressive and effective ABS action. Everything is well-managed in poor weather, high winds and wet roads do not easily upset the Silverado 2500.

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The drive out of Houston was smooth. Thankfully, over the weekend my father and I recharged the A/C system. Life was much better after that, happily trucking along with the windows sealed tight. I took a 20 mile jog  to Cypress to visit my mother’s place, and stayed the night with a fresh start on Monday. This ended up being a good choice, as 15 miles outside of Cypress my trailer lost a wheel bearing – the hub cap had fallen off somewhere along the way. With no grease, the outer bearing fell apart, dumping the outer race and rollers on Highway 290, and quickly began to overheat. I caught it early after glancing at the mirrors to find plums of smoke coming out of the fender, and pulled aside.

Thankfully, I was only 2 miles past Hempstead, a podunk farming town off the main highway. And with an extra dose of luck, I managed to break down in front of a custom golf cart shop, which managed to have tons of space to drop trailer and backtrack to Hempstead. My dog, Quesa, happily wondered around the gravel parking lot, taking in every smell possible. Hempsted is still the old south, in the “yes sir, yes ma’am” tradition. It’s a place where you can leave a truck running while inside a parts store, to keep your dog cool, and not have to worry about anyone tampering with it.

 

10313830_10152176743973579_8805478268548247443_nBack on the highway, the Silverado 2500 is a smooth towing missile. With the cruise set at 70, we hummed down to San Marcos, where the truck would stay at a friend’s rally shop. A sleeping dog is a good sign of a smooth drive. Even with 20 mph crosswinds, the Silverado 2500 maintained a steady heading at all times. The overall fuel mileage for the entire trip, about 75% highway and 25% city, was 16.2 mpg, roughly $120. Not terrible.

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Though late, I rolled into San Marcos around sunset, and quickly unloaded the CST/10. Back to back, you can see the strong styling elements of the CST10 in the GMT800 Silverado.

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The price for one of these? Just a few grand, near me, anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 for a fantastic and livable budget tow rig. Excellent road manners, ease of service under the hood, and low running costs — these old GMT800 trucks are one of the best used-truck buys out there. With only a minor compromise in ride softness compared to the Silverado 1500, the additional hardware is worth the 2500 nameplate and both are valued near the same. Truly the last of the modest fullsize pickups.

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Review: 700 Miles In A GMC Denali 2500 HD 4×4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-700-miles-in-a-gmc-denali-2500-hd-4x4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-700-miles-in-a-gmc-denali-2500-hd-4x4/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2011 18:21:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413477 The last few years have been a struggle for a lot of folks. Financial meltdowns. Millions of bankruptcies. Massive unemployment. Our ‘global’ economy continues to experience a maelstrom of wealth destruction that seems to make nearly everyone guard their money. It’s been hell for most…. but guess what? In spite of it all you are […]

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The last few years have been a struggle for a lot of folks. Financial meltdowns. Millions of bankruptcies. Massive unemployment. Our ‘global’ economy continues to experience a maelstrom of wealth destruction that seems to make nearly everyone guard their money.

It’s been hell for most…. but guess what? In spite of it all you are among the few who have thrived. In fact you are laughing all the way to your nearest dealership.

So get your something nice! Let’s say the budget is up to $65,000. What would you buy for yourself? Would it be a lightly used Lexus with all the trimmings? A new BMW 5-Series? Maybe one of those VW Touaregs with the diesel engine and all the luxury trappings of a neo-Audi.

In my neck of the woods where the suburbs meets the ex-urbs, this question has only one suitable answer… a truck.

This is what you see when you enter the dealership closest to my home. Trucks. Not just any trucks. But 26 consecutive four-door Chevy and GMC trucks that are ripe for the taking. The GMC Denali HD 2500 4X4 is an upscale supersized Cadillac in a town where the only true upscale vehicles have 4WD and altered suspensions.

Don’t even think about getting an Impala or a Malibu in rural America. Those are parked in the back at the dealership. The way back. The Hardy Boys (even 70 year old men are still boys in the South) want you to buy big and haul ass. That’s why they put the trucks as close to your eyeballs as possible.

“Oh… my… gosh… that’s one big puppy!”

Back at home, my wife was completely in awe of the truck that we magically found on our driveway last Monday. No doubt delivered by Brazilian elves who apparently worked for a press fleet company.

The heavy duty truck Marcello’s elves left us bordered on the gargantuan

To call the GMC Denali HD 2500 4X4 large would be a mild understatement. Think about a truck that dwarfs SUV’s and most everything else on the road. How big are we talking about? I’ll put it to you this way. In downtown Atlanta I saw this seemingly small vehicle scurry right past it. I first thought at first it had been a Beetle or a Civic.

It turned out to be a Hummer.

The truck is larger, longer and heavier than the two cars we drive put together. More than seventy five hundred pounds of big. Even with a regular bed. This Denali HD 2500 along with the Ford F-250 and Dodge Ram 2500 want to make the Lincolns and Cadillacs of the road look as low to the ground as coffins on wheels.

They do it…. because that’s what the buyers want.

So with ‘big’ out of the way let’s go straight to price. The 2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD 2500 4X4 Diesel I tested will also tip the scales with a $62,124 price tag which includes over $15,000 in options. That amount alone would give most customers pause… except for a few notable things.


First off you’ll never have to pay anywhere near that price. But more on that later. Let’s first look at what guides the brow of this behemoth. A 6.6L Duramax diesel engine will offers today’s blue collar executive 397 horsepower and 765 lb. ft. of torque. That is tops for the class on paper, and is all well and good.But on the road it’s incredible.This vehicle can go from 30 mph to 70 mph with a Baruthian thrust. The engineers at GM put the torque right at the low to mid end of the scale which means that if you drive normally, you’ll rarely see it go beyond 2000 rpm’s. When you want power, you’re launched. 0 to 60 time is 7.4 seconds which for a work truck is simply unheard of.

So a plain jane Camry with a V6 is faster you say? You’re missing the point. This truck can also haul 21,700 lbs. with a fifth wheel while comfortably going 80+ mph on the open road. No kidding. No lawyers will even want to dispute that number.

Regular towing will yield 13,000 lbs. and the bed alone can haul over two tons. All of these numbers rate it top in the class. In functional terms you can’t buy the power of this truck at this price range in anything other than a new Corvette or an abandoned Libyan airfield.

If power alone could sell trucks the Denali trimmed HD 2500 would be hard to beat. But you have to look at the whole package. Here is the point where I have to throw in a disclaimer. Most work trucks have interiors that look like they came from cars that were half the price.

The one in this truck is nice… in the same way that an Impala LTZ is nice. You get thick leather seats up front that can be heated or cooled. Wood and aluminum accents throughout the cabin that aren’t ‘super-sized’ just because it’s a truck. A navigation system along with a touch screen that is surrounded with too many small plastic buttons that are of little use Plus you get a dashboard and door panels that look to be directly lifted out of a GMC Yukon Denali.

If you love GM full-sized trucks, you will love the interior of this truck.

On the road the overall set-up is tuned towards comfort and ease of use. The ride is slightly stiff without a load which is to be expected in a work truck. But the steering has a directness and precision that is more like a modern full-sized sedan than a truck. The seats in particular put a smile on my face during long drives through Atlanta and North Georgia. Over 750 miles worth in a week. Even in traffic, the Denali was a wonderful vehicle in most every respect and surprisingly easy to drive. But there are still more than a few opportunities for improvement.

GMC’s nav system is not nearly as intuitive or seamless as the Sync on the 2012 Ford F-250. For example, I was able to locate a nearby hotel and have the number called while driving down the road using the nav system quite easily. Other primary functions are easy as well.

Radio controls are on the steering wheel, the display screen is easy to read, and the trip computer offers quick feedback on the fuel economy, fluid levels and tire pressure.
So the main functions work. But I had to also read through the manual more than once to fully understand a lot of the other buttons and features. The small plastic buttons that surround the nav screen are particularly heinous in their feel and design, and should be shelved.

Another weakness? Although the vehicle is 241 inches long the back seats are also works in progress. The rear space is small compared to competitors and although an unusually upright position may be fine for kids and teens, your adult friends may not be happy if you take them on a road trip.

Finally I wish all automakers, GM included, would focus a bit more on upgrading some of the little things in their trucks once they venture into the higher price ranges. The power features along the door panels (windows, door locks, mirrors) would have been perfectly at home in a leftover Chevy Cobalt. The antenna is a base universal screw on and the intake louvre on the hood looks cheap compared to the rest of the vehicle .The bedliner also should have been upgraded with stronger materials to reflect the higher price.


Are these things dealbreakers? Not at all. But in a $62,000 truck these little things should be tended to as well. Especially since we’re talking about a truck with an asking price that can now get you a decent house in the ex-urbs where I live.

Which brings me to the key question. Is this loaded up work truck worth the ‘real world’ price? That answer has a twist given the time of year we find ourselves in.
As a 2011 changeover this model will go for thousands less than the new F-250. More than likely in the mid-50’s. With that you get a better ride, greater hauling capability, an interior that is better proportioned for most drivers, and a powertrain that is far better noted for durability.

If you are the type who buys new and keeps forever, I would consider it. But (and this is one I can’t help mentioning given what I see at the auctions) work trucks have phenomenal levels of depreciation. Due to the economy a lot of work trucks have been repossessed. It’s one of the few vehicles that is not in short supply in the used car market. As a matter of fact, when I parallel parked this truck in a street at the Atlanta zoo I happened to see…

The market on full-sized diesel work trucks is very soft at the moment, new or used. However October and the first fifteen days of November is an absolute dead zone in the car business. No tax refund checks. No Christmas bonuses. No holidays to encourage whatever conspicuous consumption is left in the marketplace.

With this also being the tail end of model changeover time, you should be able to get this truck for a lot less than $62k+. Think about right around $54,000. At that price it’s worth considering.

 A press fleet company provided me with one full tank of gas, insurance, and one nice conversation for this review. This particular model came with a Power Sunroof ($895), 20” Forged Polished Aluminum Wheels ($850), 6” Tubular Chrome Assist Steps ($689), Front Heated & Cooled Seats ($650), Rear Vision Camera System ($450), and a Heated Steering Wheel ($150).I did run over an opossum during the course of this review. I’m thinking about getting it stuffed and taxidermied so I can use it as my profile picture on Facebook. .

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Review: 2011 Ford F-250 Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/review-2011-ford-f-250-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/review-2011-ford-f-250-diesel/#comments Fri, 03 Dec 2010 20:37:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=375650 With Dodge decidedly losing the torque-war in the heavy duty pickup truck segment, it’s up to Ford and GM to battle out the pickup truck war of the decade. In this corner we have the 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty Diesel sporting the lightly retuned 6.7L turbo engine that is currently king of the pickup […]

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With Dodge decidedly losing the torque-war in the heavy duty pickup truck segment, it’s up to Ford and GM to battle out the pickup truck war of the decade. In this corner we have the 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty Diesel sporting the lightly retuned 6.7L turbo engine that is currently king of the pickup truck hill at 800ft-lbs. For 2011, Ford decided to drop the problematic 6.4L Navistar diesel engine in favor of an all-new, all-Ford 6.7L twin turbo V8 cranking out 400HP and an incredible 800lb-ft of torque. Connected to the ground via Ford’s 6R140 heavy-duty TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission, the amazing feat of engineering is not that the engine can make this much twist, but that the transmission can take it.

From the surface the F-250 strikes a very bold presence. This truck is seriously large. I parked next to two older Fords during a jaunt to Lowes and ye olde F-250 and F350 look like Tonka trucks in comparison. Matching the curb presence of the Superduty is the super-duper price tag. Starting at $28,020, our tester tipped the scales at $54,605. And diesel lovers will need to have especially deep pockets to see the King, depending on option packages the diesel is at least a $7,835 option. As Mel Brooks said: “it’s good to be the king.”

When you step inside the F-250, you realize that while Ford is spending big bucks improving the quality and feel of their passenger car interiors, relatively little is being spent on work vehicle interiors. Sure the interior of the F-250 looks butch, but for a vehicle that can easily cost more than any Lincoln it’s a pity that the F-250, even in decked-out King Ranch trim, still sports the same hard and nasty plastics on the inside as a Chrysler. That being said, there is a reality that a work truck needs to be capable of being ridden hard and put away wet, so perhaps an interior “Made Like Rubbermaid” finally does have a place. In all honest truth the Ford interior is just as good as the Dodge 2500, but somehow I expected more. King Ranch buyers beware; your edition doesn’t get any better dashboard components. While function over form may be good for most aspects of the interior, the steering wheel scores low marks with my personal scale. All the right functions are available on the steering wheel, but the controls surfaces are angled awkwardly making their use uncomfortable in the long term. In comparison, the GMC 2500HD has a very carlike interior, cheesy-fake-wood and all. While I appreciate the car-like styling, it both clashes with the work theme of a truck for me and yields no positive tactile feedback.

Before we delve into cargo hauling we should explore what exactly truck numbers and models mean these days. Once upon a time a truck shopper had really three options: half-ton, three-quarter-ton, or a one-ton pickup truck (F-150/F-250/F-350 in Ford nomenclature). The name refers to the payload capacity of the truck, and of course in our automotive world progress has meant that shortly after the names were coined, payload capacities started increasing every year. You can now expect a half-ton pickup to be rated to safely carry three-quarters of a ton or more in this century. Ford’s own three-quarter-ton F-250 when properly spec’d out will haul over two tons (4,080lbs), the F-350 with a single rear axle will haul over two tons (4,700lbs). If duallies are your thing, the F-350 will bring home some serious bacon with a whopping three-and-a-half tons (7,070lbs) of cargo hauling capacity. Counter-intuitively, the F-450 delivers a modest two-and-a-half ton (5,200lbs) cargo capacity as it is tuned primarily for towing.

Class leading payload and towing numbers are great, but the little known detail about these ratings is that it all depends greatly on what options you tick when you’re in the showroom ogling your future cowboy Cadillac. Our tester F-250 sported a much lower cargo capacity of 2,006lbs according to the door label due primarily to the 4WD option, short bed, crew cab and large shiny chrome wheels. Buyers keep in mind that the tire selection often has more to do with your cargo capacity than other options so if you need to haul some crap, you’d be best served with the small boring wheels and lots of rubber. Of course as with most drivers I didn’t look at the door label until we’d overloaded the F-250 with 3,360lbs of concrete. Oops.

Out on the road, the F-250 is a confident vehicle. While adjectives like sporty will never be applied to any large pickup, the F-250 was surprisingly agile on the road, loaded or not. Unladen, the F-250 and F-350 exhibit more jounce on uneven road surfaces than the GMC 2500HD, but with some weight in the bed the truck feels more “planted” than the GM.

As our test truck was equipped with a factory Class IV receiver with integrated trailer brake controller and both 4-pin and 7-pin trailer plugs, we decided a home improvement run was in order. Our hauling test included the F-250, 2,880lbs of concrete and a mixer in the bed, a 1,680lb trailer loaded with 3,360lbs of concrete and 2,100lbs of cinder blocks plus yours truly behind the wheel. This all adds up to 16,758 which is as close as we could get to the rated 20,000lb GCWR of the F-250. For a vehicle combo that weighed in at over 8 tons, the F-250 accelerated briskly with not so much as a harsh shift to accompany the linear thrust. Ford cites the extremely low 3.96:1 first gear as the reason take-offs with a heavy trailer are so effortless, after a week in GM’s 2500HD I am inclined to believe Ford (the GM Allison’s first gear is 3.1:1 in comparison). While I would hesitate to call the F-250 fast (our tester ran to 60 in 9.0 seconds), adding a few tons in the bed does little to dampen the feeling of the vehicle. Turbo lag is almost absent, unusual for a large diesel V8 which makes the Ford diesel feel faster than the GM despite the GM 2500HD running to 60 slightly faster.

Owners that frequently haul large loads will appreciate the amount of control Ford allows over the new 6 speed automatic transmission. In addition to the requisite “full-manual” control you can also limit the gear range, or just cause the dash-display to show your current gear, a feature I found particularly handy. It’s these small features that make the Ford F-250 a great work companion, the integrated step in the tailgate, auxiliary switches in the dash for your electrical equipment, and a wide variety of Ford warranted accessories to choose from. As this is essentially a new transmission for Ford, reliability is an unknown especially with the stump-pulling torque the Scorpion V8 can dish out.

During our week with the F-250 we averaged 18.2MPG, slightly higher than our week with a similarly configured Ram 2500 and GMC 2500HD under similar conditions. The downside to the Ford diesel’s mileage numbers is that the Ford is the only three-quarter-ton truck that uses urea injection to reduce NOx emissions adding an extra layer of expensive and complexity to the picture. That being said, when the job is finished, it’s hard to go wrong with the F-250. The combination of class-leading power, excellent payload numbers and the often-lauded Ford SYNC system, the F-250 is a great truck to drive to work every day, whether that’s in the city or on a construction site.

Readers who are following TTAC on Facebook were given the opportunity to ask reader questions of the F-250. If you would like to ask questions of car reviews in progress, or just follow TTAC, checkout our facebook page. FB fans, here are your answers: David B: The transmission is a willing dance partner. Soren L: Fairly long. Richard S: Urea consumption is hard to figure, I am told that you should estimate an additional 2% on-top of diesel to compensate for the urea. Jake T: better; you run over the baddies. Tony J: Nope, this diesel is totally smoke-free and the exhaust doesn’t even really smell “diesel.”

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of diesel for this review.

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