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Ford is giving its F-Series Super Duty trucks some upgrades for 2015, and we're happy to say that one of them is an improved Power Stroke diesel V8. Also, Ford is strengthening the top-of-the-line F-450 to handle more abuse. And if wild west-style luxury is your thing, the automaker has performed minor cosmetic updates to its King Ranch Edition trucks, as well.
The turbocharged 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 is currently rated at 400 horsepower and 800 pound-feet of torque, and Ford only tells us the new and improved Power Stroke can "produce power beyond today's" engine. What, then, did Ford actually improve upon? First, the Blue Oval swapped in a new, larger turbocharger. The new Garrett GT37 turbine unit is 72.5 millimeters in diameter, eclipsing the old GT32's 64-mm diameter piece. Ford states output increases with the new turbo setup, but since the new turbocharger operates at a lower peak pressure than the old one, the automaker was able to eliminate the wastegate system and reduce the engine's complexity. Ford even redesigned the turbo's oil and cooling lines to make the powerplant simpler. A byproduct of the larger turbo is better engine exhaust braking, which is controlled manually by a button on the dashboard.
Ford claims the upgraded diesel engine is more powerful, more robust, more efficient and more refined than before.
When one speaks of sporty and fun-to-drive utility vehicles, few would put the Ford Explorer in the same category as the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8, BMW X5 or Porsche Cayenne. Yet, with just a few reservations, I'd toss the new-for-2013 Ford Explorer Sport close to that arena for consideration.
As a recap, the sportiest of Explorers is fitted with Ford's twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter Ecoboost V6, making 365 horsepower and 350 pound feet of torque. Acceleration is brisk (figure about 7 seconds to 60 miles per hour), as power goes to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. Contributing to its more athletic demeanor are larger front brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, chassis upgrades, quicker steering ratio and a more aggressive wheel/tire package. Cosmetically, the Sport is distinguished by its blacked-out lights, black trim and noticeable lack of chrome (with the exception of the door handles).
Ford recently handed me the keys to a Ruby Red Metallic Explorer Sport. Rather than mindlessly drive the big seven-passenger all-wheel drive hauler in soccer mom circles around Los Angeles, I loaded up my family and embarked on a long weekend road trip to Yosemite National Park.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's investigation into 2008 Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickups, which was originally opened last year, has now ended without a recall. NHTSA was looking into steering failures on some 336,000 trucks.
The issue rested with the steering gear - NHTSA received five complaints of failures - which was redesigned in 2005. According to the report on the matter, investigators "found evidence of broken sector shaft gear teeth and piston damage consistent with incidents of single event overload."
NHTSA investigators, however, "found no evidence of fatigue or material property defects in any of the fractures. Analysis of complaint rates by vehicle build month showed no patterns indicating potential manufacturing quality issues and no difference before and after Ford introduced design changes to the input shaft and sector shaft seals in July 2007 to address potential leak concerns," according to the report, obtained by The Detroit News.