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The improvement in ride and handling was immediately noticeable leaving the nursery. The F-450 was better planted (no pun intended) on the road. Rear bucking over expansion joints and tarmac flaws disappeared.

With its 4.88 rear axle, acceleration wasn't quick unloaded but torque was always present. Now, loaded, acceleration felt only marginally slower than empty - testament to the Power Stroke V8 diesel’s lower gearing, dual sequential turbos and strong 600 lb-ft available at only 2,000-rpm. If you want to see hard performance metrics for a similar truck, read our Heavy Duty Shootout for empirical data.

The transmission's tow haul mode helped in stop and go city traffic, holding its gear and reducing the need to constantly foot brake and accelerate. On the freeway we cruised at 60-mph and a lazy 2,250-rpm. Tow haul mode helped again climbing and descending hills in the Santa Monica Mountains. But while steering was nimble at low speeds, the 8,600-lb pickup, with 4,500-lb of soil, had moderate understeer doing reasonable speeds on the twisty hills between Calabasas and Malibu.

The last step was hauling the load up a steep, narrow driveway to the Wildlife Center. We pulled up to a fenced area where the garden was planned and backed the F-450 into a pen with only two-inches of clearance on either side of the pickup’s rear wheel arches. It was so tight we had to fold the side mirrors in to get the truck all the way back.

Finally, we lowered the tailgate, grabbed some shovels and tossed out the fresh soil into a pile to be spread by the volunteers the next day. That's the only time I've even been thankful for having a thick plastic drop-in bedliner instead of a spray-in liner. And, to be filed away for future reference, if you're moving dirt in back of a pickup, lay down a tarp on the bottom of the cargo box. It would have made cleaning the last few pounds of dirt from the bed much easier, simply sliding out the sheet.

But the most painful part of the soil hauling expedition was still ahead. We stopped to fill the truck with diesel on the way home. Contrary to rumor, it's not called an F-450 because that's the price of a gallon of diesel at some stations around Los Angeles. We got away with $4.09 per gallon.

After driving 180-miles over three days around LA County, loaded and unloaded in almost every traffic condition possible, we averaged a gut clenching 9.2 9.5 miles-per-gallon. The truck consumed just shy of 20-gallons of ultra low sulfur diesel for a grand total of $81.36. Yeah, that hurt our wallet, but at least it felt good knowing we helped Bambi.

2008 Ford F-450 Super Duty Lariat 4x4 Dual Rear Wheel Crew Cab

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

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Rear Axle: 4.88 Limited Slip

Base Price: $50,355
4 Rear LT225/70Rx19.5G BSW Traction Tires and
2 Front LT225/70Rx19.5G BSW All Season Tires: $190
4x4 Off Road Package: $225
Extra Heavy Duty Alternator: $75
Electronic Shift on the Fly: $185
Engine Block Heater: $35
Rapid Heat Supplemental Cab Heater: $250
Powre Slide Rear Window: $185
Power Moonroof: $995
Memory Group: $225
Upfitter Switches: $85
Reverse Vehicle Aid Sensor: $245
Tailgate Step: $375
Power Adjustable Pedals: $120
Sirius Satellite Radio: $200
Traction Control: $130
Navigation Radio with Audiophile 6-CD: $1,875
Heated Front Seats: $220
Rubber Floormats: $25

Price as Tested: $55,995
Destination & Delivery: $925
Total MSRP: $56,920

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