I considered myself pretty fortunate to be in the market for a new Ford F-250 in September 2011 to haul around my new camper. Not only were the 2012 models coming out soon, which motivated dealers to get rid of the 2011 trucks still on their lot, but 2011 was also the year Ford unveiled significant changes and improvements to the F-250. These included new exterior styling, new in-house diesel and gas engines, a new six-speed automatic transmission, as well as new options and standard features not found in previous years. Buying a new truck in the past had always been a treat, but this time I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Unfortunately, last September the pickings were pretty slim if you wanted an F-250 XLT in a color other than white that had a crew cab, a short-bed, and a 6.2L gas engine. After numerous test drives and dealer visits, I finally found my F-250, but it was located in Las Vegas and had to be shipped to a local dealer here in Arizona. I received big savings through dealer rebates buying when I did, though it still set me back $41,000. If you’re looking for a higher trim line model like a King Ranch with the 6.7L Powerstroke diesel and four-wheel drive you’ll be paying more than $60,000 for it! Unless I win the lottery there’s no way I’ll ever pay that much for a new truck.
In spite of the slim pickings last September, I was still able to find an XLT loaded with most of the features and options I was looking for. Standard features for the XLT trim level include a chrome grille and bumpers, heated outside mirrors, cast-aluminum wheels, cruise control, full power accessories, keyless entry, an integrated trailer brake controller, carpet, cloth seats, a lockable second-row under-seat storage with a 12 volt power outlet, and a four-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player and auxiliary audio jack. The options already installed in my truck included a 10,000 pound GVWR, tow package, tailgate with fold out step, power rear window, backup sensors, power telescoping side mirrors, spray-in bed liner, chrome tube steps, and a 150 watt inverter.
Choosing between the brand new 6.7L Scorpion Powerstroke Turbo Diesel and the 6.2L Boss V8 gas engine was difficult. I love diesel engines. I owned a 2003 Ford Excursion with the 6.0L Powerstroke Turbo Diesel and loved the power and torque of that engine and the whine of that turbo when it kicked in. However, the $7,800 cost for the new 6.7L Scorpion, the increased maintenance and operating costs, along with reduced fuel efficiency brought on by more stringent EPA diesel standards, ultimately scared me away from buying another one. Yes, there’s always some element of risk buying a new vehicle with a new engine design. Fortunately, Ford has an excellent track record with in-house engine designs, so I felt good going with the new 6.2L gasser.
Featuring a cast iron cylinder block and lightweight aluminum cylinder heads and pistons, the 6.2L Boss V8 produces an impressive 385 horsepower and 405 pound-feet of torque. The 379 cubic inch engine features a 2-valve per cylinder SOHC valve train with roller-rocker shafts, two spark plugs per cylinder, and dual-equal variable cam timing. It also has much wider bore spacing (4.53 inches) compared to earlier engines which allowed Ford to employ larger bore diameters and valves. Built-in features for the 6.2L Boss V8 include piston cooling jets for improved fuel economy, an oil cooler for improved towing, a deceleration fuel shut-off capability for improved fuel economy, and an E85 flex fuel capability. If you’ve seen the 6.7L diesel under the hood, you’ll notice that the engine compartment with the 6.2L is much less crowded and that you can actually see the engine block!
The 2011 Ford F-250 also features the new 6R140 TorqShift 6-speed transmission. Somewhat surprising, this transmission is mated with both the gas and diesel engines, unlike the other manufactures that have separate transmissions for each. The 6R140 allows drivers to switch to a manual mode which electronically locks out some of the higher gears to prevent upshifts when hauling a heavy load like a truck camper. The transmission also features a full-manual mode when needed. One feature I really like about the transmission gear indicator is that it highlights the gear in which you’re driving. You can actually watch the gear indicator progress while the transmission shifts from first gear to sixth. Pretty cool!
The Tow-Haul mode is one feature I really rely upon when hauling my truck camper. The mode provides better control down steep grades by downshifting the transmission, if needed, to provide additional levels of engine braking. Ford has enhanced Tow-Haul transmission downshifting through the use of a brake pressure transducer, a device that monitors the amount of brake pressure applied. The transducer provides the controller with the exact information needed when downshifts are required. What’s great is that the Tow-Haul mode can be activated either manually, with the push of a button, or it can be activated by the truck controller automatically when it senses the need. What’s the bottom line? The engine braking system works great and really saves wear and tear on your brakes and on your nerves.
The fluid and tank capacities of the 2011 F-250 are pretty standard for a V8. My truck came with a 26 gallon gas tank, but can be purchased with a 35 gallon option. If you are switching from a diesel to gas engine like me, you’ll like that the oil capacity of the engine has dropped from 15 quarts to just seven for the 6.2L engine. If you prefer to change your own oil, you’ll probably find that the filter is larger and torqued much higher than what you’re accustomed to so beware. The amount of coolant needed to keep this big engine from overheating is 21 quarts.
Weighing in at 6,686 pounds (a figure confirmed at a local scale), the 2011 F-250 is a big truck. The crew cab, short-bed model is 20.5 feet long, 6.4 feet high, and 6.6 feet wide and offers a sturdy 156.2-inch-long wheelbase, a great platform for towing and hauling a heavy load. Even the short-bed is the longest in the industry at 6.75 feet. I really like the rugged body styling of the exterior, though I’m not a huge fan of the block style front chrome grille. I actually prefer the matte black grille and bumper offered with the lower XL trim line, so I may switch this out at some point in the future.
Remember when the terms “half-ton,” “three-quarter-ton,” and a “one-ton” accurately represented the payload for pickup trucks? Well, those days are gone for good with all three classes of truck capable of hauling much more weight. For instance, my three-quarter-ton F-250 has a rated payload of a whopping 3,314 pounds. Buyers need to be aware that options like four-wheel drive, a heavier diesel engine, a crew cab, and a short bed will reduce the payload of your truck, so choose your options wisely, especially if you’re in the market for a truck camper. Fortunately, I was able to overcome the crew cab and short bed payload liabilities somewhat by purchasing the 10,000 GVWR option which increased my rated payload by 600 pounds.
If you need to tow a large trailer, the 2011 F-250 will be more than adequate. The maximum tow rating for my truck with the 3.73 rear axle is a respectable 12,700 pounds. The 4.30 rear axle, however, will net you an additional 3,000 pounds. I knew we would use our truck more around town rather than hauling a camper, so I wanted the 3.73 to improve gas mileage. If you want your truck more for hauling, then the 4.30 axle will serve you better.
The 2011 Ford F-250 comes with an impressive array of standard safety features. These include 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, trailer sway control, tire pressure monitoring, hill launch assist, stability control, side curtain airbags, and an SOS post-crash alert system. An integrated trailer brake controller is standard on XLT and higher trim levels, while the Lariat trim level offers rear parking sensors. A rear-view camera is optional on the XLT and Lariat and comes standard on the King Ranch model.
You won’t see much of a difference in the 2010 and 2011 Ford F-250 interiors. In fact, the F-250 interior is looking pretty dated with its simple, industrial theme. If you like hard plastic, you’ll like the interior of the Ford F-250, but to be fair the interior is pretty comparable to the interiors found in Dodge and Chevy trucks. The dashboard displays are well laid out and the switches are easy to reach. I really like the fact that the F-250 has air conditioning ducting for the rear seats. This is a great feature to have, especially if you live in a hot climate like we do. A new feature in the 2011 F-250 is the lockable bin located under the rear seats that is large enough to store tools, rifles, and other valuables. While the lockable bin provides valuable storage space, I don’t like how the bin encroaches on the floor space with the rear seats folded up. This is one feature I really like about the new F-150. Ford would do well to offer a “bin-less” backseat as an option in the F-250.
So how does the truck perform in real life? First off, compared to other trucks I’ve owned and test driven, the 2011 F-250 ride is much quieter. The new six-speed TorqShift transmission shifts smoothly, efficiently, and effortlessly. The Tow-Haul mode makes descending steep mountain grades with a 3,000 pound truck camper a breeze without smoking your brakes or raising your blood pressure. Gas mileage for this three-quarter-ton truck is better than I expected with 13 mpg city, 16 mpg highway. Better yet, I consistently get 12 to 13 mpg with the truck camper mounted–not too shabby considering the mountainous terrain found here in Arizona. And speaking of the mountainous terrain, the 6.2L engine has zero problems climbing steep mountain passes, though on one exceptionally steep overpass it requires about 4,200 rpm to do so.
As for the ride, the 2011 F-250 gets a better than average grade. I found the ride to be firm on smooth surfaces, but somewhat harsh on surfaces that were uneven. The ride, however, was noticeably improved by ditching the garbage OEM shocks and replacing them with Bilstein 4600 gas shocks. While the tire pressure monitoring system provides some added peace of mind, I wish the system could be self programmed to allow tire pressure variations for loaded and unloaded operation. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the beefed up leaf springs that came with the 10,000 pound GVWR package were stout enough to support a 3,000 pound truck camper without any rear sag, whatsoever. Some have been critical of the steering, but I found the steering to be fine for a heavy duty truck and a big improvement over the steering found in my 2003 Ford Excursion. Overall, the truck is fun to drive and has proven to be very dependable—not one visit to the shop has been required in the nine months I’ve owned it.
Would I recommend the 2011 Ford F-250 to others? Absolutely! The combination of class-leading power, superb payload numbers, and smooth handling make the F-250 a great truck to own not only as a daily driver, but also as a rig to tow or haul your favorite toys. Fortunately, the 2011 Ford F-250 delivers the goods in such a way that you’ll look good doing it.
Note: This is an independent review. I do NOT get paid to review products on this website. I will only recommend products in which I use and believe in and which I think will benefit my audience. The views expressed in my reviews are personal views and are written without any influence, whatsoever. That said, I reserve the right to engage in paid affiliate marketing and promotion with brands, companies and individuals whose products I review.