Review: 2009 F-250 Powerstroke FX4 Crew Cab Cabela's Edition

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
review 2009 f 250 powerstroke fx4 crew cab cabela s edition

Many years ago, in the pages of CAR, the inimitable LJK Setright considered this question: Presented with the last gallon of fossil fuel on earth, how would you burn it? The elaborately justified answer: he would spend it flying a “motor glider,” flying from thermal to thermal across the majestic open sky until the last drop was spent. Setright, regrettably, was not an American. Had he been, he would have understood that the proper way to burn the last gallon of fossil fuel would be to dump it into a Ford Super Duty.

At its electronically managed speed limit of one hundred miles per hour, the F-250 PowerStroke FX4 Crew Cab Cabela’s Edition covers just four and a half miles per gallon of precious, overpriced diesel fuel. Traffic vanishes ahead of the Ford’s metallic-green, tractor-trailer-tall bluff nose, flitting out of the left lane with silent, cooperative felicity. Each off-camber curve of the wandering Kentucky highway causes the massive, high-pressure, high-sidewall rubber to sing angrily and the steering to twitch as this three-ton road locomotive finds and loses grip.

Potential buyers of three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks should be aware that the suspension and tire choices necessary to pull and carry big loads significantly affect handling and braking. A half-ton F-150 can be hustled along like a Crown Victoria, but disaster awaits the Marlboro Man who treats an F-250 in similar fashion.

Like the modern Porsche 911, Colt Gold Cup or Gibson Les Paul, the Ford Super Duty pickup represents a near-perfect meshing of design, inspiration and ceaseless refinement. As a consequence, it is immensely satisfying to own and operate. Every feature is useful, every sharp corner has been made smooth, each aspect has been improved over and over again. The competing Dodge Ram is alternately clever and masculine while the Chevrolet is deliberately dowdy and businesslike. But neither has the sheer self-confidence which permeates the Super Duty.

The diesel-train impression engendered by the Ford’s flat flanks, massive size, and storming power is only reinforced from inside the cabin. The luxury of space, long abandoned in upscale cars in favor of gadget-laden, thick-consoled claustrophobia, is provided here in spades. It’s possible to stretch out, relax, and let the F-250 more or less drive itself.

Unlike heavier-duty pickups of old, the Ford does not follow highway camber, tramline on road imperfections, or wander in crosswinds. There’s plenty of time to fiddle with the on-board electronics, which aren’t quite up to the standard of Ford’s recent automobiles.

SYNC in particular is almost useless thanks to the noise from the clattering diesel. Nearly every request is met by the SYNC Tutorial. In the unlikely event one gets far enough in the menu to select a song, the frustrating nature of the interaction is likely to end up delivering a song which happens to rhyme with “uck.” The same’s true for the Bluetooth compatibility. This vehicle is simply too noisy at higher speeds to have an effective phone conversation.

Still, the fact that we are discussing the ease of Bluetooth-enabled conversation in a three-quarter-ton, off-road-focused truck is an indicator of the rather bordello-esque level of comfort enjoyed by F-250 passengers. Six people can ride very easily in this vehicle, and motorcycles fit easily in the bed thanks to the outstanding bed-extension device. The ride is surprisingly good, almost as decent as an F-150’s. Ford’s sublime “Tow Command” integrated trailer-brake controller is provided for those of us who pull heavy loads and it’s worth ten times what they charge for it.

It is very possible to drive five hundred miles with a heavy load behind you and arrive as refreshed as if you’d undertaken the same journey in a current-generation S-Class. It’s very far from being a motor glider, but it’s still a tremendously satisfying way in which to burn some dead dinosaurs.

With that said, there are a few issues which require discussion. The first is the PowerStroke diesel. The installation of Dodge’s dead-reliable, effortlessly powerful Cummins engine would make this a nearly perfect vehicle. As it is, the various PowerStroke engines haven’t been perfectly trouble-free over the years. So, once again, as in the half-ton market, Ford has the best truck with a second- or third-best powerplant.

Also problematic: this particular F-250 variant. Ford already makes the best-possible F-250: The King Ranch. It’s a sublime combination of fantastic seating and heartland-appeal visuals. This “Cabela’s Edition” is crass on the outside and regrettable on the inside, replacing the King Ranch’s buttery leather seats with three-tone, logo-infested affairs that are neither comfortable nor handsome. The off-road-specific stuff is nice, if you’re into that kind of thing—but if you are, chances are you aren’t looking at giant crew-cab trucks. Priced similarly to a Hublot “Big Bang” watch, the Cabela’s package is just about as visually offensive.

Reasonable people might also wonder about the current appropriateness of selling a fuel-guzzling, six-thousand-pound, fifty-six-thousand-dollar truck which trades towing capacity, comfort and aesthetics for purported nature-crushing “off-road” ability. Out in the real world, these trucks will be rare, glimpsed occasionally behind a sea of XLT and King Ranch F-250s plying America’s highways. That’s as it should be.

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2 of 43 comments
  • Justin.82 Justin.82 on Aug 13, 2009

    It's a nice truck but damn ugly! Ford makes a good truck for 2 reasong 1. They are not run by the government and 2. They know the market - That's why they were so successful in the 90's because of trucks! I just wish I could desingn for them. I would make the truck look better. It just looks ugly but I'd still drive it because it's built well!

  • Shooter04 Shooter04 on Oct 19, 2009
    "The biggest issue with trucks like this is that the fuel economy isn’t that great considering they are diesel." Uhm...poor fuel economy because they are diesel? I own a 2000 F250 7.3 diesel and my friend owns a 2004 F250 V10 gas. I get 20 mpg highway, he gets 12. Lets not even get into his city mpg. (9 anyone?)

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