A couple of years ago, I went to the press introduction of Chevrolet's then-new Duramax diesel-powered HD truck and came away suitably impressed by the Duramax's smooth, relatively quiet operation and great gobs of torque. Recently, the specter of true diesel high-performance was once again raised when Sandy Walsh of Ford Motor Company made arrangements to provide OFF-ROAD with a new Super Duty for a full-tilt buildup, and fortunately, the 4x4 is powered by Ford's all-new 6.0L Power Stroke diesel engine. The truck is simply wonderful in almost every respect. The turbocharged, intercooled V-8 engine is unbelievably powerful and impressively smooth, and as it's backed by the new TorqueShift five-speed automatic transmission, acceleration and fuel economy are maximized
Around-town driving is just plain fun with so much power on tap. Usable torque is available at 1,000 rpm, and the pound-feet just keep coming, all the way to the 6.0's redline of 4,250 rpm. One day (actually one hour) of driving convinced me that Ford's Power Stroke is the best diesel engine - ever. The Power Stroke has the type of real-world torque that pushes you back in the seat, literally, at any rpm. So the Rattler (it is a diesel after all, so it does rattle a bit at an idle) claims its first victim: yours truly.
As with all the test and project vehicles I've had the pleasure to drive, I treat my friends to demonstration rides. When I first came home in the big SD, my long-time friend Joe Sarracino was in the neighborhood, so I took him for a little ride in the Super. Now, Joe's not really an enthusiast, but he sandblasts power-generating turbines at electrical generating stations, and the company he works for has a fleet of work trucks powered by big-block Rats. Joe was more than a little impressed with the Ford's torque: "I'll have to tell my boss about the power of this truck. What engine is this again?" With those words, I knew the Rattler had taken Victim Two.
A few days later, I was called into service by another friend, the lovely Vanessa, who needed a set of shelves installed in her Hollywood-chic garage. I was offered breakfast in exchange for the manual labor, so I accepted (seemed like a good deal at the time). Anyway, it's Saturday a.m., and I let the big guy run on the lightly trafficked SoCal freeways. It's fun driving this hulking beast - that 560 lb-ft of torque makes the 7,100-pound truck feel agile; not small, just muscular, kind of like an All-Pro NFL linebacker or DE. I got to Vanessa's home in record time, and before we headed out to breakfast, I gave her the grand tour of the Ford, pointing out its various features and Cobalt Blue paint. Near Vanessa's home is a long, uphill freeway on-ramp, and after the throttle went WFO, you know what happened; the Rattler claimed Number Three.
Mike Duval (good friend, ace mechanic/fabricator, and GM of Off Road Unlimited) was the Rattler's next victim. After doing a tech shoot on Mike's '04 F-150, we took a little demo ride in the Rattler, and I quote, "Dude, this thing is awesome!" Yeah, people like Mike still talk like that. It meant he liked the Power Stroke - a lot - and that's saying something since Mike has rolled up many a mile in every form of F-150 and F-250 you can think of. Better than the Triton V-10 you have in your Excursion, Mike? "Yes." Better than the supercharged Triton 5.4 V-8 in your F-150? "Oh yes, dude, definitely."
So, the Rattler struck for the third time and I wasn't surprised - merely amused. Editorial Director Kevin Wilson has just entered my plush, nicely decorated office. "Mollis, I need to tow my boat this weekend. Where are the keys to the Super Duty?" Better call the medics. I sense that the Rattler is about to strike again.