Easy totame Ford’s brute
The F350 offers tonnes of fun and power, writes Neil Dowling
IT’S like Gulliver dragging his feet through a forest . . . tiny trees are cast aside as the giant marches on. The Ford F350 — all chrome grille and thunder — commands all before it and isn’t to be messed with on the freeway or shopping centre car park.
It used to be a feeling beloved by certain types who bought 4WDs: to have a clear view across traffic and feel protected from collisions, they said.
The problem is a lot of other people started driving SUVs and the view ahead was blocked by the sight of hundreds of SUVs.
Not any more. Fork out $155,000 and the road is yours again.
It’s enough to buy the strength of a five-seater ute that will take 1.6 tonnes in the tray and tow up to 5.2 tonnes.
Tradies will love this toy for big kids because, apart from the hauling capacity, it’s loaded with mod cons and has enough sheet metal to wear their business name in big letters.
Yes, it’s big — scary big. But the biggest surprise is how easy this ute is to drive and how the controls fall readily to hand, though not the hand you might expect.
For example, the gearshift lever that connects drive from the 6.4-litre twin-turbo V8 diesel to the five-speed automatic transmission is on the right side of the steering wheel.
The F350, along with a few other trucks from the F250 to F450, is imported with the steering wheel on the left and converted by extensive engineering and clever cabin work.
The utes come into Melbourne new and are immediately pulled apart. The dashboard is taken out and a righthand-drive version installed.
The vehicle sits confidently on the road because of its steering and suspension changes and because it’s 2m high, 2m wide and weighs 3.6 tonnes.
But once you are accustomed to the ballroom dimensions, it’s as easy to drive as a Falcon.
Maximum torque hits at 2000 revs, so there’s no need to keep prodding the accelerator. It runs with some of the best utes from the traffic lights and every upchange brings another kick forward.
More caution is exercised in the dirt. The 4WD writing on the flanks indicates this has potential in the dirt, but I’m only about 2km into a dirt road when fear comes over me like a cold blanket.
I’m in a 4WD area but it’s midweek and I’m alone. The ute is starting to find difficulty and I’m already in low range.
And I figure that it will take about six days and a couple of heart attacks for me to dig out this 3.6-tonne thing if it sinks. So I carefully reverse out.
Out the back the bed has handy fold-out plastic railings— called a bed extender but more like fences — to extend the cargo area over the opened tailgate. Or you can reverse it to create a smaller, safer area to store goods. And to get up on the tray, the tailgate has a slip-out, extendable step and a hand rail that locks into position.
The F350 was provided by Barbagallo’s in Perth. It has four more F350s on the way, including a black Harley-Davidson edition. F250, F350 and F450s are available and, later, the F150 will be added.
Odd spot: the F350’s gear lever is on the right of the steering wheel. A fold-out step gives access to the tray.