Off-Road Test: 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch 4WD

Off-Road Test: 2011 Ford F-250 Super Duty King Ranch 4WD
Words and Photos by Dan Sanchez for

The 2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty definitely has strong towing and hauling capabilities, mostly because of its new 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 diesel engine and six-speed TorqShift automatic transmission. While the Job 1 Super Duty’s 390 horsepower and 735 pounds-feet of torque give it incredible hauling and towing performance, we wanted to see how it handles a variety of off-road situations.

First, let’s put things in perspective. It doesn’t seem right to compare the off-road capabilities of the average 2011 Super Duty to those of the purpose-built Ram Power Wagon or Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. The Super Duty’s off-road capabilities are intended for a different use, such as hauling hay out into a ranch, towing a horse trailer or even making its way to a primitive campsite or washed-out backcountry road. In this instance, a local horse ranch provided the perfect environment for this King Ranch edition truck, which we put through a variety of steep hills, deep rutted trails and thick brush that gave way to large boulders and rocks.

Our King Ranch test model had good articulation, but it’s not intended for extreme off-road capabilities. Its ride height was a limiting factor, and a good aftermarket suspension lift would take its off-road capabilities up several notches.

The Super Duty’s monobeam, front coil-over and leaf-spring rear suspension hasn’t changed much from the previous year. It still provides good traction and moderate articulation with a heavy chassis.

While many trucks, including military vehicles, are switching to independent front suspension systems, Ford is keeping with the Super Duty’s front straight solid axle. It’s true that an IFS system may save some weight, but many off-road enthusiasts know that a straight front axle is a tried-and-true, economical front drivetrain with an impeccable record for reliability. So we’re glad the 2011 model sticks to its roots and offers an alternative to those who prefer it.

Ford’s dedication to old-school wheeling capability and dependability also includes the continued availability of manual locking front hubs. Although they seem redundant these days, manual locking hubs have the advantage of staying locked once engaged, which is great if you want that extra bit of security for crossing tough trails and fields.

We really like the Super Duty’s information center. An off-road gauge in 4x4 models shows the truck’s off-center from front-to-rear and side-to-side in degrees.

Switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive in most instances, however, only takes a twist of the dial on the dash, and the 4.2-inch LCD information screen in the center of the instrument cluster lets you know when four-wheel drive is engaged. The information screen is a great asset to this pickup. We loved the high resolution and easily mastered the five-way button on the steering wheel that’s used to navigate through the various menus. We switched to the Off-Road gauge, which shows your degrees off-center from front-to-rear and side-to-side. This is great when you know the truck’s limitations, and it gives you a better understanding of the terrain, especially in situations where you can’t see over the hood as you crest a hill.

One thing that Ford engineers tout about the 2011 F-Series Super Duty is its ride comfort. At first, we didn’t realize how smooth the ride was until we exited the vehicle and found ourselves staring down a two-foot rut from the driver’s door. The combination of a reinforced chassis and the Michelin LT275/65R20 tires absorbs much of the road shock to keep the ride comfortable and predictable. Although we only put the 2011 Super Duty through some mild off-road terrain, the truck’s smooth ride continued to impress us. Much of the vehicle’s electronic stability control is intended for towing, but it also works well to keep the Super Duty from getting you into an unmanageable off-road situation. Ford engineers also altered the truck’s spring rates and internal valving on the shocks to improve stability. This was primarily for towing purposes and to carry larger loads, but in off-road situations, it also delivered additional performance and comfort here as well.

A solid straight front axle with manual locking hubs is unique among today's HD pickups. While it’s cumbersome to lock, it is extremely reliable.

As in previous models, the rear axle uses staggered shocks to control heavy loads and minimize side-to-side movement. Equipped with a 3:55 gear ratio, our test model didn’t have any problems climbing up nine and 10-degree inclines. Our King Ranch edition was also equipped with an electronic locking rear differential, which was helpful when we found ourselves in a position where one side of the truck was on rock and the other was over loose dirt on a steep incline. Hill Start Assist kept the Super Duty from rolling back and allowed us to slowly add power to climb with confidence. Coming down, the vehicle’s Hill Descent Control – which debuted in a Ford truck on the Raptor F-150 --- maintained its speed, making the Super Duty easy to maneuver and glide down at a moderate speed. The truck automatically controlled the brakes. All we had to do was steer.

On the street, the Super Duty is a torque monster. Just for fun, we switched off the traction control and punched the throttle. The rear wheels actually spin slightly as the turbos kick in with the full 735 pounds-feet of torque. The 6.7 is very quiet and sounds different from the old 6.0-liter and 6.4-liter Power Stroke diesels. While there’s a brief moment of turbo lag, you can definitely feel when the power kicks in. Keeping the drivetrain smooth also adds to the truck’s impressive ride. Ford’s 6R140 six-speed automatic transmission always seemed to keep the engine in its power range and is designed to have less low-clutch speeds, which makes shifting quicker to reduce wear and load.

The 2011 Ford Super Duty 4x4 remains a solid platform that provides reliable capability in a variety of terrain. It’s definitely a heavy-duty work truck, and it isn’t designed to feel like a passenger car to appease soccer moms or weekend cowboys. It’s the real deal for towing and hauling heavy loads, and with a strong, new powertrain that’s raising eyebrows, we have a good feeling that the 2011 Super Duty redefines what a heavy-duty diesel truck is all about, even when it’s not on pavement.

Ford decided to stick with the straight front axle and coil spring front suspension to make the Super Duty a true workhorse. The rear axle on this model was outfitted with an electronic locking rear differential and 3:55 final drive ratio.


Excellent review Mike! I love reading about the new Super duty and am also happy to see the new ones on the road.

Are you going to do a similiar review of the new Dodge Ram HD and GM HD's?

Id like to hear about how the Rams solid axle set-up compares (not the Power Wagon) and how GM's brand bew beefed-up IFS system stacks up.

They are all great truck and we would love to hear about them!! :) Thanks Mike.

@Garrett: We're working on the GM HD off-road review.

Have you see this one we did for the Ram 2500?

Nice work Mike, that is certainly one impressive truck! looking forward to reading your job 2 comparisons!

@Alex: Me too! :-)

Great gob FORD!
The best Heavy Duty Truck!

Good stuff!

great article, I know a minor lift and that thing will go anywhere, mine 08 does!

I also love the manual hubs.

Funny, we haven't heard much from our friend Bob lately.

@ Mike, yep saw that article. It just slipped my mind with so much pick-up and diesel news flying around these days! Thanks for reminding me, appreciate it.

Cant wait for the HD shoot-out!!


Please no, don't even say it's name.

Great story, Mike Levine. Ooooh, that King Ranch truck dipped in brown and tan paint is soooo sexy...making me want dessert, LOL! Anyway, nice to see Ford (and RAM)sticking with solid front axle for HD's.

Still dont like the front end too big of lights grill emblem (ugly)and I hope Ford improved their transmissions.My 98 Ford didnt last my 02 Ford and my 06 Ford all puked around 75,000.Dont know about the manual hubs,I found them to be troublesome in cold weather here.The Dodge and GM's fly by me and I am stuck in the freezing weather fighting to get them engaged !! I need a new truck and seriously looking at the Dodge's,looked at the new Ford's and cannot get used to the front,they finally lost me !! Yeah I was pretty much a Ford guy,not loyal though I own a Charger for the wife,will try a Dodge again last truck was a 92 Ram 350.

Saw a similar one at the dealer , good looking truck!!!

"what's his name" must be under a new alias.
I like the painted bezel on the grill.
The plastic air dam on the front of the new Ford SD is huge. I'd remove it for any semi-serious off-road use.

Great article. Still can't get used to the 2011's looks though. BTW- the Super Duty's front suspension would not be considered 'coil over', just coil.

For the insane price, why doesn't it have real headlights?

Dual beam headlights belong on $15k vehicles, like the Ranger.

I wouldn't agree with the front axle's "impeccable record for reliablilty". Ball joint and wheel bearing issues are very common on Super Duty's.

If you like the Super Duty, the pics don't do the looks of the 2011 any justice. Must see in person.

"It’s true that an IFS system may save some weight, but many off-road enthusiasts know that a straight front axle is a tried-and-true, economical front drivetrain with an impeccable record for reliability."


Maybe if you want to really really SLOW off-road!

Desert racing: good luck winning today with straight axles!

U.S. military: they are getting rid of their tried-and-true staright axle suspensions for independent suspensions that can HANDLE the speed and mobility requirements of today's battlefield!

Let's face anybody can go slow off-road and trail-ride races, the key is the ability to handle terrain at various speeds and see if your suspension can handle it!

The U.S. military is one of the best barometers of off-roading and they are buying few straight axled front ends and spending more on fully independent suspended trucks!!!

I can go slow with my IFS like any other straight-axled front rigs but I can turn it up a notch and hit graded roads, washes and other terrain at speed and not loose control as easily as would a narrow straight-axled front would!

it is cool King Ranch Ford F250 pickup. it like cowboy pickup or Texan pickup. it is traditional pickup.

@ oxi

While it is true that the military is going all-independent, straight axles have one chief advantage over fully independent systems, and it's the ability for the axles to articulate. I've seen plenty of HMVV's put a tire or two in the air while traversing certain terrain. But independent suspensions can handle "relatively sedate undulations" at much higher speeds. But as you cited, it's tough for any independent suspension to take on a set of axles on terrain that calls for articulation.

What an overpriced pile of junk. King ranch off road lol.

Well the purpose of the military vehicles that have IFS are not the same purpose as pickup trucks. They are used primarily just for carrying people. The TRUCKS that are used for carrying those vehicles and other heavy loads, have solid axles. Look at semis. They don't have independent suspension! I'm sick of the uneven tire wear on my IFS. Funny, that the rear driving tires (solid axle) are fine. Even though I push the pedal hard. I want a solid front axle!!

@ GMC Your right about the pics not doing the real thing justice. It looks even worse in person. You could serve a turkey on that front Ford emblem.
I wonder if the auto lock hubs are still available. They were vacuum operated on the last body style. Lots of problems with the seals. Ridiculous to have anything vacuum operated with all the electronics these days, even more so on a diesel.


I agree New Super Duty looks great in person.

So Mike you didn't dislike anything at all about the new SD?

For me we can start with the gigantic front emblem and the ridiculous looking front air dam. In fact the whole front end made me puke a little in my mouth. I'm sure it's a great truck but the slabs of chrome and clark griswald headlights aren't helping.

Love the front end with the color matched bezel on the King Ranch:

I wish they would design one to compete with the power wagon with the diesel as an option. Bring the Hoss!

I'm glad they are sticking with that front axle, from what I've seen IFS trucks are usually not as reliable once you lift them up.

That's very true, lift an IFS truck and that's when the trouble usually starts.....

Great review. for those of you that don't like the looks i understand, when i first saw the pictures i was displeased and still wish they stuck with the amazing 2005 super duty styling which dodge smartly mirrored. Even though it displeases me, when i see this truck in person on the road, i can't help to notice how amazingly intimidating it is. I mean it looks like a tank truck with that {}[=]{}, and its something i like but at the same time the front end seems unessessary, but looks great as a dually.


You need to start learning of what the U.S. military is using on the battlefield.

For heavy trucks that carry just about everything the military needs, the U.S. Army is now buying dual-IFS equipped PLS-A1's and for the Marines they run the LVSR which ALL 10 axles are independently suspended and can carry as much if not more than the PLS.

U.S. Army tactical trucks are more on road than off-road where the Marines LVSR is built to handle more off-road terrain than the PLS is.

For medium tactical trucks the Marines use the MTVR, a fully independent suspended truck built for off-road which has proven so tough they typically use them as the lead vehicle in convoy's because it has survived IED attacks better than any other vehicle would.

The reality is looking at MRAP's. In Iraq they ran 40,000 pound straight-axled MRAP's which did fine on Iraq's graded roads but as soon as they were sent to Afghanistan they started to break axles and get stuck off-road. Afghan roads are not easy to go over.

The Pentagon put in an urgent request for the M-ATV which was 25,000 pounds, offered the same protection as the heavy legacy MRAP's but it ran the MTVR's independent chassis underneath which meant it could handle the rough Afghan terrain and AT SPEED! Something the straight axle MRAP's could not.

The Pentagon is even swapping out straight axled Cougar's, etc... with independent suspensions in the field to handle and survive better off-road.

Most military trucks are being developed and built with independent suspensions and more and more of them are entering service the world over.

Jeeps were replaced with the fully independent Jeep which later was replaced with the HUMVEE which will be replaced with M-ATV and JLTV in the light category, all independent suspensions.

In due time the U.S. Army will replace their HEMTT A2's and A4's down the road with independent suspensions likewise just as they are starting too with the PLS.

The Marines are already there because their requirements are much more rigid and tougher for the battlefield and they do not opt for convoy trucks like the Army does.

U.S. military, desert racing, short course off-road racing, even at Moab, we see more and more independent suspensions...


Not true, the problem is what you said, lift an IFS...

How about properly building one. Simply lifting one to get big tires on will get you in trouble.

A properly built Long-travel suspension system will be as strong if not stronger than any straight axle.

When people just talk lift, I tend to look the other way. It's suspension travel, not lift. Yes you want to clear the way for larger tires but do it the proper way.

Have you seen how much abuse desert truck suspensions can take!

Have you seen how much weight and off-roading a Marine MTVR can take with its independent suspensions!



If you build the IFS suspension properly, you can get solid articulation.

I was reading an article in a magazine about a straight-axle 4-Runner vs. an IFS 4-Runner and the darn IFS 4-Runner could articulate as well as the SA.

The suspension was built solid and the front track was widened thus the suspension could handle the terrain better, had more ground clearance and was smoother on the trail.

It kind of left the SA 4-Runner behind a bit...

I do not mind the SA's but I want to be able to turn it up a notch off-road sometimes and run higher speeds and I feel much safer running an IFS than a SA where I could loose control bouncing around and the cornering would be better with an IFS.

@ Oxi,

the problem with IFS in the private sector is the strength, design and durability.

Much different animal then the US Military.

Not big fan of chrome grille like blacked out better. But then again I'm sure there will be lots of after market parts to customize to fronts. Do that and now NO reason to hate it.

Oxi - You do know there is more to off roading than racing right? SHow me how many trail runner and rock crawlers run IFS. What you mention for lift and articulation costs huge money and is one reason you will never see manufacturer offer it. You are looking at a full custom front suspension. Lost people want to bolt up a kit and get a little higher or run larger tires, not run Baja. BTW another fact you conveniently leave out about IFS is way move moving parts to wear out and require replacement. Not to mention ease of servicing. The vehicles you mention being replaced by IFS are legacy vehicles. I.E. they have seen a hard life. Naturally they will break compared to a brand new updated version. No different than anything else. The true test will be in years of service not immediate performance. BTW I know plenty of people who will attest to the Hummer not being all that and have ruined their fair share of them in Iraq "running at speed". The independant suspension on what you are building is no the same as the desert racers you keep crowing about. Saddle your Tacoma with armor plate and add 2,000 plus lbs to it and let us know how good the suspension fares. You are a master at missing the point.

With enough investment, independant suspension can be built to do anything a solid axle can do and do it with just as much reliability. However, when built to a price like an OEM pick-up truck, solid axles are the far stronger and more capable set-up.

The reason the military can use independant suspension on multiple axles is because they spend much, much more money on them than we do pick-up trucks.


You made perfect sense. Thanks!

Oxi says i need to go a billion miles an hour when I go off-road, so I should listen to him. LOL. I HATE independent suspension on trucks! I have no plans on going desert racing in Iraq! If I was, Ford does offer a high-speed desert racer. It's called the Raptor. I don't want it. I want the Super Duty!

@ Alex neither the Super Duty or the Raptor are any good off road. Just look at the rear shock mounts and you'll see what I mean. :)

@Jordan, I think all three manufacturers still let us down there. We really need dual rear shocks on each side, or air suspension or something. Keep the solid axles though!


The military does not race, they travel more off-road than the guys that show up at Moab every year for some slow speed stuff...

Military trucks run year round, in all conditions, terrains both slow and fast off-road yet when the U.S. Marines buy tactical trucks, they buy independent suspended medium and heavy trucks, now why is that?

I though solid axles were the toughest yet the Marines do not use them anymore, now why is that?

The Hummer has always been a weaker vehicle, I have seen them break their tiny axle shafts off-road, that is why they are being replaced with stronger trucks like the M-ATV...

Legacy you say? We went into Iraq in 2003, these MRAP's are not that old bud, they just cannot handle the terrain in Afghanistan and cannot meet mission requirements of both slow and faster speeds off-road with their weight!

Independent suspensions are getting better and stronger. Those who seek lift only for larger tires to look kool on the roads get what they deserve, weak suspensions that cannot handle the larger tires and off-roading.

You need to properly build a IFS system and it will outperform any solid axle in ALL conditions.

The closer to stock classes in the desert are more realistic of what you can do to a truck and still be a daily driver.

The key is not the racing aspect but how to build a reliable and tough suspension that will not break for local wheeling and out perform the SA's.

You missed the point! Ever been to a desert race? They do not all fly around doing over 120, their are spots the toughest trucks in the world can barely run over 10 mph.

The key is the ability to run over all types of terrain at yes, even all types of speeds off-road, hence what the military seeks out of their trucks today. Agian a much better barometer than running the slow stuff at Moab all the time.

Oxi - 7 plusd years old in a war environment is old. Do you have any idea of the wear and tear those things take day in day out? Or the maintenance facilties? If you want to believe that a truck that weighs as much as an M-ATV is great off road fine. FWIW the Marines don't actually "choose" anything. They are given what the DoD tells them they need. For better or worse. There are many items that they are issued that are not exactly the best in the world or the best for their application, however it is what they get to work with so they deal and move on. If the Marines all ran Chevy Colorado's in the desert would that mean it is the best truck out there for off roading?

I'm already seeing many of these new trucks on the road.
It always amazes me that a logger or construction contractor will buy these fully loaded trucks - put an aluminum checkerplate box liner, headache rack, fuel tank, and job box in the back and take it to work and pound it to death in 3 - 4 years.

Ok...when's the big Ford/GM/Dodge diesel shoot out you guys always do? I've been waiting for that for awhile now...and quite frankly, I'm getting impatient!! I'm not even in the market for a diesel (unless they'd do the F150), but I find myself wanting to read an updated version since the previous one is a few years old. I LOVE the diesel shootout. I want one, but probably don't need one when a 1/2 ton will do.

So let's get on with it shall we (you)!! I think everyone's trucks are up and running full power now. I know I'm good to go!! :-)


I have a 4x4 but need it for traction in snow and dirt/mud roads where I live and work !!

I dont care if I can jump my $50,000 truck,how fast it goes on 2 wheels ect..I need it for TRACTION IN SNOW/ICE/MUD!!

I dont beat on it,thats why you see new trucks with trailers towing old 20 year old Jeep's & trucks to the trails to beat on them,nobody beats on their new truck in the bush ,desert !! Unless your an entitled person who draws a inheritance cheque every month !!

And if you do take your newer truck out in the bush ect..(I have ) You drive SLOW !! Dont speed over bumps so you dont damage anything on the truck..yes new Toyota drivers do this too,here they drive at a crawling 3 mph speed not to wreck their newer trucks ! Never have I seen a newer model truck going full boar in the bush..old beat up ones sure,new ones NO !!!

99% of the people who buy new 4x4's do not I repeat DO NOT take it off road to beat around in the bush and desert !!!Yes,for work purposes or just a reliable daily driver that gets them home in the snow after a day at the office, but they do not drive 60 mph in a bush doing jumps,I guess by the sound of your posts you do not know a thing about reality !!!

The only thing I don't like is the headlights! The soild front axle is the best thing for a 3/4 or 1 ton. There are things that can happen off-road with IFS. I bust boot clamps every time I jump my truck so I have to put straps on the lower control arm to keep from over extending. Drove trough thick brush and some big sticks rip into the rubber boots on the cv joints and end my day. IFS is to many moving parts and and more can go wrong real quick. Ford is doing the right thing with the new Super Duty and keeping the sraight axle. The painted outside of the gille does look better than fully chromed. I will be in the maket next year for a ton and it will be a SA,4x4,KINGRANCH, SUPERDUTY.

Who are we kidding here? Did I go to the wrong website? I thought I typed NOT!!!!! After noticing the Ford advertisement on the website and everything pro-Ford, I understand what this is all about. Let me make a "bold" prediction.......Ford is going to win the shootout and it's going to be all about how "great" Ford is! Puh-leaze, this site has turned into a joke. You don't bite the hand that feeds you, huh Mike? Do you really have to put pictures of Ford's on all the monthly sales reports? Yes, they are the leader in sales, but come on! Why not post pictures of the top 3 leaders? Say what you want, but we all know you make your money on advertising and right now, it's all Ford. If you don't promote their trucks, they don't buy advertising. It's as simple as that. Everybody has a price, everybody!


First off, LMFAO. Second, you dont like it grab you purse and leave.

@ shane craig- If you know so much about advertising and websites why don't you start your own and quit crying! You can name it!!! If you don't like the site, BYE!!!!!

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