REVIEW: 2015 Ford F-350 King Ranch proves a luxurious performer when put through the ringer (PHOTOS)

2015 Ford F-350 King Ranch Super Crew 4×4 towing Case skid steer

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A diesel pickup’s pulling power becomes glaringly evident when subjected to a long, steep uphill grade with 14,000-pounds in tow.

Similarly, a truck’s livability and level of comfort is tested after you spend a lot of time behind the wheel or riding along as a passenger day in and day out, which is what those who work in the construction trades do with their work and, sometimes, personal vehicles.

Although I haven’t spent as much time in the 2015 Ford F-350 SuperCrew as I would like, a couple weeks being both driver and passenger, with and without trailers in tow, has given me a pretty good perspective on one of Ford’s most revered workhorses.

My first few days in the latest iteration of the venerable F-350 were spent last summer when Ford invited several dozen of us automotive scribes to the drive the truck up and down the “Beckley Grade”—an intimidating six-mile long stretch of Interstate 64 that includes three miles of grade between 6 and 7 percent as it reaches the summit.

15F350BWS_1447The Beckley is a power tester in every sense of the word, especially when you have a 33-foot, fifth wheel travel trailer hanging off the bed. Ford’s 2015 F-350, with the second generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke generating 440 horsepower and 860 lb.-ft. of torque, led the way to the top with the best top speed and fastest time in impromptu flat-to-the-mat runs against comparably-equipped Chevy Silverados and Ram 3500s.

This year I once again slipped behind the wheel of a similarly equipped 2015 F-350 King Ranch SuperCrew 4×4 for a week driving along the coast and Willamette Valley regions of Oregon. It was this dedicated seat time that my appreciation for Ford’s attention to detail in the interior comfort and overall setup for the working man (or serious RVer) came into focus.

The King Ranch is a leather-lover’s dream truck: The quality of the materials, attention paid to stitching, and overall interior feel is rich in western heritage. This truck is just as much fun to drive as it is spacious. It’s quick. It’s strong. It’s tall.

For a big pickup the four-door F-350 4×4 is also very responsive to both steering and braking, requiring a light touch to do either. Grade-braking with a load in tow is also well done; a light touch on the brake pedal in tow/haul mode initiates both exhaust braking and/or a down-shift depending on how long and hard you are braking.

Then the truck does a good job holding that speed without any extra braking effort on the driver’s behalf.

The ride, well, that’s not quite as rewarding: This is a heavy-duty truck and you know it when encountering bumps, curbs or potholes. It’s ride is stiff and just what one would expect from a single-rear-wheel one-ton that has enough payload capacity (3,800 pounds) to carry an Escape in the bed, or the towing capacity to pull two more F-350s behind the hitch (14,000 pounds) or on a gooseneck trailer (15,700 pounds).

When the F-350 is used to tow a loaded trailer, like I did when transporting a Case skid-steer on a 20-foot tandem-axle Landoll tilt-deck, it immediately settles into a smooth, comfortable ride. It likes—no,it needs—to be driven loaded down.

2015 Ford F-350 King Ranch Super Crew 4x4 towing Case skid steer

The availability of power, loaded or unloaded, is never an issue. In fact, when there’s 440 hp and 860 lb.-ft. of torque underfoot you have to pay constant attention to the speedometer to avoid nuking city and highway speed limits when the truck is being driven empty.

Speaking of speed, when I was towing the fifth wheel RV trailer in Kentucky and the equipment trailer in Oregon, there was never a point where I wished the 6.7L Power Stroke had more muscle. It has plenty. Roll down on the throttle and the big turbo-diesel moves out with ease. It doesn’t seem to matter what’s in the bed or in tow. The low-to mid-range torque is impressive.

15F350BWS_1373Fuel economy doesn’t seem to take a big hit, either. This new second-generation 6.7L—with the larger turbo, bigger injectors, higher-capacity fuel pump and other upgrades that give it a big power bump over the previous engine—does a commendable job keeping mpg under control.

I observed 14.3 miles per gallon in light city driving and 19.1 mpg during a 130-mile trip on flat interstate running 70 miles per hour. Both numbers were with the truck unloaded with one passenger.

Towing the 10,400 pound equipment trailer load, with a passenger, netted 10.2 mpg driving the same interstate at 65 mph.

Those unladen city and highway numbers are within a few tenths of what I saw testing the same truck back in 2011—and are similar to what both Ram and GM’s less-powerful V-8 turbo-diesels are showing.

It’s that kind of performance, along with the level of interior fit and finish you find in a King Ranch edition, that sits well with me. The 2015 F-350 SuperCrew 4×4 is a workhorse in every sense of the word.