Ford Motor Co. says it will retain its sales leadership in pickups by extensively redesigning its F-250, 350 and 450 Super Duty series with new "in your face" styling, an extensively reworked diesel engine and a newly offered F-450 factory pickup option. The redesigned models went into production in time to meet tighter federal diesel exhaust emissions limits last month.

The F-450 Pickup with a 6.75- or 8-foot-long bed allows customers to tow extra-heavy trailers without the need to buy and install a custom-built tow body on a 450 series cab/chassis truck, Ford executives said. The F-450 comes only with dual rear wheels and, depending on cab style and powertrain, can haul up to 6,000 pounds and tow a trailer weighing 16,000 to 24,500 pounds.

The new model includes the same forward frame, axle and suspension as Ford's medium-duty F-450 cab/chassis truck; its rear frame has splayed main rails to support the pickup body's floor. Aftermarket pickup conversions use cab/chassis vehicles with straight frame rails and suspensions better suited for various work-truck bodies, executives said.

Exterior styling of the 2008 Super Duties takes cues from the Super Chief concept truck, with a high, sculpted hood, large grille, stacked headlamp pods, crisp fender flares and liberal splashes of chrome. Windows remain tall for good visibility. The grille sits 4 inches higher to accommodate a larger radiator needed to cool the EPA '07-spec diesel.

Functional air vents on the fenders identify the engine; red signifies diesel while black is used for the gasoline engines. Power telescoping/power fold mirrors allow easy adjustment for trailer towing and for squeezing through tight spaces. Both mirrors extend or retract at the touch of a single switch, and pushing another switch causes both to fold back against the doors or deploy outward.

Interior designs have a modular look, a radio-navigation system is available on some models, and new audio and DVD options will keep backseat passengers occupied. The interior benefits from use of "quiet steel," a composite of steel and sound-deadening compounds employed behind the dashboard and in the floor, and a sound-damping back panel in the rear wall. The object is to enable people to converse in normal tones of voice and be heard throughout the cab.

The pickup box wears a new tailgate with the Ford blue oval moved to the center and the Super Duty name embossed on the lower edge. A lift-assist system is now included on all tailgates, and a built-in step with pole-type grab handle is optional.

New tail lamps are at the corners and the larger, wider rear bumper, housing the four-pin/seven pin trailer connector with shared hinge, was toughened to improve capability and to help balance the overall design.

The International-built Power Stroke V-8 diesel meets the emissions limits with a larger, 6.4-liter displacement, advanced electronic controls, high-pressure fuel delivery through Piezo-electric injectors, double turbocharging and exhaust aftertreatment. The standard rating is 350 horsepower and 650 pounds-feet. The new diesel is said to be quieter and more fuel-efficient than the current 6-liter V-8.

Still available are two Triton gasoline engines: the 6.8-liter V-10, rated at 362 horsepower and 457 pounds-feet, and the 5.4-liter V-8, with 300 horsepower and 365 pounds-feet. Both engines use new air box and exhaust systems, and electronic throttle control with stationary elevated idle control to drive power take-offs.

Standard transmission is a six-speed manual with the five-speed TorqShift automatic being optional. The TorqShift has new gear sets and a three-plate, two-stage torque converter to reduce turbine noise when the converter is locked.

Like other Super Duties, the F-450 Pickup can be bought with a 2-door Regular Cab, 4-door Super Cab or 4-door Crew Cab. XL, XLT, FX4 and Lariat trim levels are available, as is the King Ranch leather interior package. Ten wheel styles in 16-, 18- and 20-inch sizes are available in F-250 and F-350 trucks; the F-450 Pickup, like the 450 chassis/cab, comes with 19.5-inch wheels.

By Tom Berg

Senior Equipment Editor