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The F-250 was an old school heavy-duty pickup. In addition to its manual transmission, it was a regular cab with an eight-foot-long cargo box and a cloth bench seat. The only luxuries were an upgraded six-CD stereo ($300), reverse sensors ($245) to help back the truck up and Ford’s slick integrated trailer brake controller ($230). It also included the auxiliary switch kit option ($85) that adds four extra switches to control accessories like a winch or snow plow. What’s puzzling is our sample unit was missing Ford’s excellent tow mirrors to complement the trailer brake controller.

By opting for the manual transmission diesel over the automatic, you’ll save $1,490 when buying the truck – that’s about nine fill-ups, which is depressing. But this F-250's fuel economy blew away the heavier automatic transmission Super Duty’s I’ve driven recently. In crew and extended cab configurations, I’ve not been able to get over 12 mpg unloaded. The relatively lightweight regular cab F-250 averaged 15.9 mpg.

The question we’re left to ask is, is the 6.4-L V-8 Power Stroke diesel worth its $6,895 premium over the standard 5.4-L gas V-8 or $6,295 premium over the optional 6.8-L gas V-10? As with all pickups, it all depends on how you’re going to use the truck.

If you’re towing with the Power Stroke, you’ll gain up to an extra 3,400 pounds pulling a conventional trailer and 7,000 pounds pulling a 5th wheel trailer over the 5.4-L gas V-8 with the same 3.73 rear axle our tester had, plus we'd expect significantly better pulling performance and fuel economy over the lower horsepower and torque 5.4-L motor. The Power Stroke diesel is definitely worth the extra cost, in our opinion, over the standard 300 horsepower / 365 pounds-feet 5.4-L V-8 gas engine.

Compared to the 362 horsepower / 457 pounds-feet 6.8-L V-10, the decision is much more difficult. A regular cab 4x2 V-10 F-250 with a shorter 4.10 rear axle can pull the same maximum 12,500 pound conventional trailer load as our 3.73 F-250. The V-10 is only 200 pounds less capable pulling a 5th wheel when it’s equipped with a 4.30 rear axle. You'll pay a penalty in fuel economy compared to the diesel -- say you'll average 5 mpg less with the gas V-10 than the V-8 diesel -- but with the current average cost of gas at $4.11 and diesel at $4.80, if you drive 12,000 miles per year it would take only 4.6 years to break even on the Power Stroke. We'd pay the extra $6,295 premium to select the Power Stroke V-8 in the F-250 we drove because it's an excellent powertrain for this configuration.

TEST VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS:
2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty XLT 4x2 Single Rear Wheel Regular Cab

Engine Size and Type: 6.4-liter V8 Power Stroke Diesel
Horsepower (hp): 325-hp
Torque (ft-lbs): 600 lb-ft

Transmission: 6-speed manual

Rear Axle: 3.73 Limited Slip

Base Price: $26,580
6.4-L V-8 Power Stroke Diesel: $6,895
6-Speed Manual Transmission: $0
Traction Control: $130
Reverse Sensors: $245
Integrated Trailer Brake Controller: $230
Auxiliary Switches: $85
Premium AM/FM Stereo and 6-CD Player: $300

Price as Tested: $35,320
Destination & Delivery: $950
Total MSRP: $36,270


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