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CarGurus Expert ReviewThe Good
With a turbodiesel V8, compliant ride, better-than-adequate handling, a roomy cab and a pile of standard goodies in the higher trims, Ford’s 2012 F-450 Super Duty pickup trucks once more bring a whole lot to the table.The Bad
The big 2012 F-450 Super Duty, however, won’t win any prizes for fuel economy, has a somewhat aged look to the cab and will be almost impossible to maneuver in crowded parking lots or downtown traffic.
The CarGurus View
There’s a reason Ford’s Super Duty lineup is tops in its class: It just does the job better. Class-leading towing and payload capacities, handsome profiles, plenty of work-related add-ons and room to carry the whole crew are part of the reason. Then there’s the fact that the F-450 Super Duty is the only one-and-a-half-ton pickup available to the average consumer, an advantage that ultimately elevates this workhorse to a level of its own.
At a Glance
A true beast of burden, the 2012 Ford F-450 Super Duty full-size pickup truck is in a class by itself as the sole one-and-a-half-ton pickup variant available for general consumer use. Furthermore, this behemoth comes in only in the dual-rear-wheel (DRW) configuration with the standard 8.2-foot bed, and is delivered solely in the 6-passenger Crew Cab configuration with its traditional 4 independent front-opening doors. Finally, all trims are delivered with the standard 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 and 6-speed automatic, and all come with standard part-time 4-wheel drive (4WD), with either manual hi-lo gear selection and manually locking hubs or electronic hi-lo selection and auto-locking hubs, depending on the trim selected. Changes from the 2011 variations are negligible, meanwhile, with a bit more towing and payload capacity the only noteworthy upgrades.
As with the entire Super Duty lineup, the F-450 family consists of the base XL trim, the lower-midlevel XLT, the higher-end Lariat and the almost decadent King Ranch. The lower trims are dedicated work vehicles with few concessions to creature comfort or appearance, while the two higher trims sport a heady selection of standard cabin amenities and exterior panache. Options are plentiful throughout the lineup, but tend to jack the already hefty MSRP into the realm of opulence; sort of an oxymoron in the pickup-truck world. Ford does, however, make available its popular SYNC and Work Solutions packages lineup-wide, both of which are all but de rigueur for the modern workhorse.
Make no mistake, this big pickup is designed to be a working fool. Fuel economy is downright pitiful, the ride, though better than some, will not be mistaken for a luxury sedan, and garaging this monster means a significant addition to the house or the barn. Then there’s the massive turning radius and wide stance that ought to present challenges aplenty in downtown traffic, not to mention pretty near every parking lot on the planet. Owners do, however, get the pleasure of telling anyone who’ll listen that their rig is the biggest, baddest pickup in the county—or at least on the block.
The sole powertrain available to Ford’s 2012 F-450 Super Duty lineup is a 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 mated with a 6-speed shiftable automatic transmission. This combo will put out some 400 hp at 2,800 rpm and a whopping 800 lb-ft of torque at 1,600 rpm. Towing capacity tops out at 17,500 pounds with the standard straight hitch, while the available gooseneck or fifth-wheel lash-ups will allow a max of 25,000 pounds. Economy numbers for this potent mill are unavailable, somewhat of a tradition for these larger-than-life vehicles. On a more positive note, an auxiliary transmission fluid cooler is standard with the turbodiesel, while a brake hill-holder and rear limited-slip differential are also delivered with each trim. Finally, the turbodiesel V8 and its accompanying 6-speed automatic come with a tow/haul mode, exhaust braking and a limited-slip rear differential for increased towing capabilities.
The standard part-time 4WD configuration that graces all trims sports manual hi-lo gear selection and manually locking hubs in the XL and XLT, while electronic hi-lo gear selection and auto-locking hubs are standard in the Lariat and King Ranch versions, thereby enabling true shift-on-the-fly capability.
Reviewers are mighty impressed with the turbodiesel’s awesome pulling power. The 6-speed automatic also draws reviewer kudos in allowing this Titanic-sized pickup to cruise uphill almost effortlessly while towing even the heaviest load. More than a few reviewers also remark favorably on the unusual quietness in the diesel at idle. Under heavy acceleration, however, the bombastic bluster from this hefty V8 has reviewers wishing for just a bit more sound insulation in the cab. Finally, the part-time 4WD system is lauded by reviewers as perfectly suited for semi-serious off-road travel.
Ride & Handling
While the F-450 Super Duty will never be confused with anything but what it is, reviewers find it surprisingly compliant on all but the most hard-hearted of roads. The standard 17-inch painted alloy wheels that equip all four trims mount all-season radials and are adept at cushioning most ruts and bumps. Virtually all pickups running with an empty bed are, however, prone to some jittering on broken pavement, and reviewers are quick to point out that Ford’s oversized rig is no exception.
Steering, on the other hand, is described by virtually all reviewers as numb and somewhat ponderous. Like most of the breed, the F-450 line sports a solid live-axle front and rear suspension braced by front and rear stabilizer bars. Such a system is notable for toting heavy loads, but not so much for its alacrity on twisty mountain roads or winding backwoods trails. Overall, however, reviewers are quite taken by this big truck’s adroitness in normal driving conditions.
Though the F-450 Super Duty lineup is more than adequately equipped for bushwacking, according to most reviewers, the optional FX4 Off-Road Package, available trim-wide and with all-terrain tires, skid plates, descent control and trail-taming Rancho shock absorbers, with electronic shift-on-the-fly capability added to the lower two trims, allows this monster to feel right at home over even the most demanding mountain trails. Finally, standard trailer sway control throughout the lineup impresses reviewers, as does the integrated trailer brake controller that’s standard on the XLT, Lariat and King Ranch and optional on the XL.
Cabin & Comfort
Spartan and down-to-earth would describe the 2012 F-450 Super Duty XL trim. This dedicated workhorse sports standard step running boards, along with a trailer hitch and wiring on the outside, with vinyl upholstery, telescoping tilt-wheel steering and air conditioning endowing the cab. Standard entertainment, alas, is confined to an AM/FM in-dash radio with a pair of front-door-mounted speakers.
Moving up to the XLT trim begets a chrome grille, cloth upholstery, remote power door locks, power windows and heated, power-adjustable outside mirrors. Cruise control with steering-wheel-mounted controls also grace this lower-midlevel trim, as does an MP3-capable single-CD player with four speakers and phone pre-wiring.
Climbing into the F-450 Super Duty Lariat, prospective buyers will find such added attractions as tubular running boards, premium leather upholstery, eight-way power-adjustable front bucket seats with power lumbar support and digital keypad power door locks. Added posh is provided by a leather-trimmed steering wheel and center console, with simulated wood trim on the dash and doors, while dual-zone climate control, power-adjustable pedals and rear parking sensors add a little extra comfort and convenience to the ride. Nine speakers, along with Sirius/XM satellite radio, a USB connection and Bluetooth hands-free communications round out the added standard entertainment and telematics features aboard.
The flagship King Ranch takes only the best from its lesser siblings and adds some extra cabin leather, multi-level-heated front seats, a universal remote garage door opener and a rear-view camera to the list of standard goodies.
Options are geared toward both work and comfort, with lower trims eligible for many features found standard in the higher trims. Ford’s touted Work Solutions packages, including the Crew Chief Telematics Package that tracks idle-time, vehicle location and speed, as well as vehicle diagnostics and vehicle maintenance reports with an additional subscription can be complemented by Live-Drive Power Takeoff that powers added job or seasonal power equipment from the transmission whether the vehicle is moving or at idle. A spray-in bedliner, the Heavy-Service Suspension Package and a tailgate step are all handy extras, as is the popular upfitter switch panel that allows added electrical devices to be installed. All of these options, along with the FX4 Off-Road Package, gooseneck/fifth-wheel tow hitches and a Rapid-Heat supplemental cabin heater are offered for all trims, as is remote engine start, a power-sliding rear window and power-folding trailer-towing mirrors.
The XLT and higher trims, meanwhile, can be fitted with upgraded 18-inch cast aluminum wheels, as well as Ford’s well-received SYNC hands-free audio and communications system with GPS directions, traffic alerts and route information, not to mention Bluetooth-assisted communications. Finally, the Lariat and King Ranch trims can be equipped with DVD-based navigation and a power moonroof, with the King Ranch additionally eligible for HD radio, NavTraffic and a DVD-capable dashboard display screen.
Reviewers laud the roominess found in all F-450 Super Duty trims, with many commenting favorably on the under-seat secure stowage offered standard across the lineup. Many reviews, however, are concerned that this big pickup’s cabin decor is becoming a bit dated and that a number of commonly used switches and controls are just out of comfortable reach for the averaged-size driver. Doors, on the other hand, are lauded as being wide enough for easy entry and exit, while seats are described as comfortable in lower trims, downright plush in the higher trims. Most reviewers are quick to point out, as well, that the standard running boards, found on all trims in either step or tubular form, are a downright necessity for clambering into the high cab.
The 2012 F-450 Super Duty is one hefty pickup truck, obviously a positive thing safety-wise, though perhaps not so much for the driver of anything it hits. Nevertheless, all trims are equipped with 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic brakeforce distribution, as well as traction control and Advance-Trac with Roll Stability Control. Dual front side-mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags and the SOS post-collision safety system are all standard across the lineup, while XLT and higher trims get a standard remote antitheft alarm and turn-signal-integrated mirrors. The Lariat and King Ranch are further equipped with standard front fog/driving lights, while all trims are eligible for the optional exterior back-up chime.
In keeping with their outsized profile, heavy-duty full-size pickups are rarely subjected to the rigorous testing common to their lesser road-sharing brethren. Suffice to say that very few vehicles on today’s roads are going to seriously threaten these beasts.
What Owners Think
Wallet-thumping fuel usage, an over-the-hill cabin look and some dashboard display glitches leave a few owners frustrated with the 2012 F-450 Super Duty, though virtually all concede that they bought this truck for its muscle, not for its gas mileage or its glitz. The huge turning radius takes some getting used to, at least from most first-time owners, while the plastic oil pan leads to worries that a hefty ping from debris or rocks might lead to some costly engine damage. Finally, a number of owners describe the 6-speed automatic transmission as competent, though not without the occasional misstep.
Those owners, however, who need off-the-wall towing capabilities, not to mention decent off-road performance and heavy-duty job requirements, are effusive in their praise of Ford’s F-450 Super Duty lineup. Many owners are pleasantly surprised by this rig’s compliant ride, while others are impressed with its unusually competent handling characteristics. Finally, the roomy cabin, comfy seats and, on the higher trims, the nearly extravagant comfort, convenience and appearance bling, all combine to keep owners mighty happy with their super-size workhorse.
by Eric Tallberg
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