Review: 2012 Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch 4×4
“No paired phones detected!” lamented the driver info display, taking me aback, since I’d never asked it to detect phones, paired or otherwise. The message soon disappeared, then, a few hours later, elbowing aside actual useful information (MPG, fuel range, that kind of thing) the screen flashed the warning that my truck’s engine would shut down in 50 miles—49—48—unless I replenished the diesel exhaust fluid right away. Now, the Ford F-250 I was driving was a diesel, a species I’m not used to, so I consulted the driver’s manual to see what to do. My concerns were founded – I was worried about running low on the stuff en route to a distant purveyor—there being none within a 25-mile radius of my home–and enduring the humiliation of having the truck shut down to idle speed which, apparently, it would do soon after the prescribed 50 miles (46—45) had elapsed….
Long story short, nothing happened. One ignition cycle later, the message was gone and the systems check was telling me, “Problem with the diesel exhaust fluid? You nuts?” In short, it was a glitch in the onboard electrics, the second in as many days. There was a third, brief one, when the back-up sensor started chiming urgently, as if detecting obstacles behind me–in an empty parking lot, far from curbs.
I mention all this at the outset because these flaws marred an otherwise delightful week behind the wheel of my test vehicle, a 2012 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4X4, King Ranch Edition. And I’m not the only one to notice: indeed, FoMoCo has issued a fix for its trouble-prone MyFord Touch connectivity system (though not available on the Super Duty), for which Consumer Reports, among others, has taken the manufacturer to task in recent weeks. I’m assuming that my tester had a similar, though unrelated, malady. God knows I’m no techie, so don’t take my word for it. All I can report is what happened.
Now, let’s move on to the good stuff. There’s lots of it, because this is a great truck. Big, too–around 6 feet high, 20 feet long, and weighing more than three tons. Despite all the heft, it’s a cinch to drive, even fun. Mind you, I didn’t think so at first. The sheer dimensions of the thing struck terror into my heart: Oh God Oh God Oh God I yammered fearfully. Well, it took me all of five minutes to get over that and feel confident and relaxed at the wheel. Soon I was looking down on the rest of humanity for the miserable insects they were. Suburbans and Expeditions scuttled by beneath my haughty gaze. Lesser vehicles crept humbly away. Only the semis rose above me, and not by much.
So I headed for the hills and sought out the rough bits: the truck conquered them all, in 4-High or 4-Low, with no strain, and no wonder. The sophisticated FX4 off-road package with which my test vehicle was equipped bundles together all-terrain tires, electronic locking rear differential, hill descent control, skid plates, and Rancho shock absorbers. (What are Rancho shock absorbers, you ask? I have no idea, but they work fine.) Off-road, the Super Duty rides like–surprise!–a truck, but within a context of overall solidity and squeak-free construction that imparts confidence.
Then I went onto the freeway, where the truck was equally in its element. It handled precisely, and its magnificent 6.7-liter Powerstroke Turbodiesel V-8, with 400 ponies (and 800 lb-ft of torque!) under the hood delivered exhilarating and seamless power sufficient to haul the ensemble from 0 to 60 in a mere, and sporty, 7.8 seconds, on a flat, dry roadway under calm skies. The Super Duty’s ride is steady and smooth on the highway, but on rough surfaces the truck reveals its essential truckness with occasional quivers and bounces—nothing major, and nothing that renders the ride unduly uncomfortable. The steering is pretty good, not exactly razor-sharp but with more feedback than you’d expect in a truck this size. This makes parking less of an ordeal than I’d anticipated. The brakes are huge, and they need to be, with a three-ton mass to bring to a halt. Fortunately, they work fine, and exhibit no fade, even after emergency applications instigated by the sudden lane-changing of morons.
I never had the opportunity to make use of the truck’s prodigious 14,000-lb. towing power, or its claimed payload capacity of 4,290 lbs., but I have no reason to doubt that these figures are the real deal. I did manage to toss–or have tossed on my behalf–eight 2-cu.-ft. bags of mulch in the 6.8-ft. cargo bed, but it was like a feather’s weight for a muscular hauler such as this.
After a couple of days I was really feeling at home with the big fellow, and started to notice envious gazes turned my way. There’s no shortage of trucks on the roads ofTexas, and many a connoisseur pickup driver was distracted by the sight of the heavily chromed two-tone maroon-and-ochre King Ranch Edition, ruling monarch ofTexaspickups. Affordable by monarchs, too, but probably not by you and me. My tester carried a lofty price of $49K. Mind you, Ford offers so many variations on the theme, starting from a base price of $29K for your common-or-garden single cab F-250, that—as they say—there’s one for every budget. Mine boasted KR badges galore, unique shiny-chrome 20-inch wheels, mesh chrome grille containing football-sized Blue Oval emblem, heated and cooled leather power captain’s chairs, a limited-slip differential, alternative axle ratios, 8-speaker audio system, HD radio, satellite radio, Ford’s mostly-cool SYNC electronics interface and AppLink features, dual-zone automatic climate control, moonroof, rear-view camera, chromed tubular running boards, and remote start. Nice. Plus, the King Ranch edition looks great, with the stance and poise of a thoroughbred. That massive mesh grille up front leaves no doubt as to who’s boss, when it looms up in the rearview mirrors of lesser breeds.
Inside, the King Ranch motif rules. The floor mats are adorned with the name, and the “Running W” symbol of the great South Texas cattle ranch is branded in the premium saddle-leather that sheathes the sumptuous seats which, up front, include a middle seat that converts niftily into a center console with plenty of room to accommodate your average busy millionaire rancher’s laptop, hanging files, lasso, spurs, etc. The dashboard is busy without seeming cluttered; the touchscreen and HVAC controls are easy to use, and wood inserts abound (they looked so real they must be fake). The solid-feeling steering wheel contains redundant audio controls and cruise control switches, and the gauges in front of the driver are instantly comprehensible and efficiently backlit beneath their housing. Visibility in the high-riding cabin is excellent, aided by innovative split-pane rearview mirrors, incorporating normal and convex lenses to eliminate blind spots, that fold inward or extend outward at the push of a button. Rearward, there’s plenty of legroom, and the seats conceal lockable storage bins, easily accessed with the flick of a handle. Because there are hideaways for your gear all over the place in this truck, I had to perform an extra-vigilant search before handing over the keys, to make sure I hadn’t absently hidden away a pair of sunglasses, an umbrella, gloves, or a wallet. Inside the cab, there was room to spare for my weekly grocery shopping, plus various dry goods.
Fuel economy? Not so that you’d notice. Actually, the truck’s appetite for low-sulfur diesel isn’t as voracious as you’d think. The EPA hasn’t estimated its mileage, because it doesn’t have to, but the truck itself, via the driver info display, admitted to an average of 16.5 mpg, with a peek over the 20-mpg line occasionally, at freeway speeds with cruise control on. Given that fuel-tank capacity is 35.0 gal., you have a substantial range, around 500 miles or so, between fill-ups. As for safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn’t crash-tested the Super Duty, but overall it imparts a feeling of exceptional solidity, and boasts advanced safety gear: stability control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes, trailer sway control, hill start assist, side-curtain airbags, rear parking sensors, and power-adjustable pedals.
All of which is to say, this is one fine vehicle. Too bad about the electronic glitches, but fortunately they weren’t disabling, and with all the press attention Ford’s been getting, I’m confident a fix is on the way. That being the case, I’d heartily recommend the Super Duty as a sturdy workhorse, loyal companion, and serene highway cruiser. If had a monarch’s (or millionaire rancher’s) bank account, I might well buy one myself. As it is, I’ll just gaze enviously from a distance, and get out of the way when that huge grille with its gigantic Blue Oval looms in my rear-view mirror.