Hitting the open road conjures up visions of beautiful landscapes blasting by, meeting new people at small towns along the way, and the ever-present control of your own destiny. At horizon's end, a new journey awaits with mystery, intrigue, excitement—the surprises making a road trip such an epic adventure. Needing to tow our 36-foot enclosed trailer from SoCal to Austin, Texas, with Project Novakane safely tucked inside for the 2011 Heatwave show, we reached out to Ford for a suitable dualie. Hearing our towing needs, Ford Public Relations delivered a 2011 F-450 dualie to our office and told us to have fun. Driving 1,373 miles one way while towing 19,500 pounds is a marketing dream come true, and we were about to find out if the F-450 was indeed ready for super-sized duties.
Programming the route into Ford’s navigation netted us an estimated driving time of 21 hou
Walking out of our headquarters in Irvine, California, three of us editors—myself, Associate Editor Max "New Guy" Matthewson, and freelancer Harley Camilleri—made our way towards the F-450 like astronauts walking in slow motion towards the space shuttle. Cue the theme music to Armageddon. Loaded up with our bags, camera gear, cooler, and snacks, we went to hitch up the 36-foot tandem axle trailer with one small glitch in the matrix—we needed a gooseneck ball. Bummer. At 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, no dealerships in the area had the part we needed, and the soonest we could have it in our hands was 9 a.m. the next morning. Two hundred and fifteen dollars and 15 hours later, we installed the ball and loaded up, for real this time. The only problem now was Novakane was having some tuning issues and we made a last-ditch effort to make it run before we left Cali. After going through three ECUs and maxing out a credit card, we headed east without a running race truck in the trailer. Leaving SoCal at 10:36 p.m., we had 21 hours of driving in front of us. Start the timer.
As a road trip connoisseur, I made sure I was the first driver and quickly took control of the radio, thermostat, and seating position. Sometimes being the boss has its advantages. Right out of the gate, we noticed the new 6.7L turbo was impressive, with incredible low-end torque (all 800 lb-ft) and great top-end passing power. Smooth can accurately describe the ride quality of the fully loaded F-450 dualie, and despite the absence of an engine exhaust brake on the Power Stroke diesel, the TorqShift six-speed auto did an excellent job of downshifting to aid in braking. We also immediately noticed a sense of anticipation from the TorqShift tranny that proved perfect for finding the right gear while motoring up and down grades. The factory installed trailer brake controller made dialing in the proper trailer input a breeze. Putting through California at the law-enforced 55 mph when towing, the F-450 was returning an admirable 10.7 mpg. With the Arizona border in sight, it was time to see if the Power Stroke had the cojones to go faster.
Side by side with other truckers, our big F-450 fit right in with our brothers of the long
Answering that question in short, yes, the 6.7L has stones the size of the Arizona desert. Pushing the speed limit to an editor-friendly 75 mph, the landscape was blurring by with a blistering pace. Inside the four doors, our confines looked more like a luxury car than long-haul work truck. Leather seats, that were both heated and cooled, proved to be comfortable yet firm enough for long-term sitting, and thanks to the multipower driver's seat, finding the right seating position was an easy task. Steering wheel controls for the radio and cruise control also proved valuable and allowed the driver to supersede any radio station mutiny by the passengers. For the last time New Guy, there will be no Lady Gaga while we're in the truck. Back to the Ford, with the speedometer reading 70-plus, the engine was no longer in its mileage-friendly rpm and we quickly realized after a $142 fill-up, 8.1 mpg wasn't something Ford PR would want us to report.