Its beefy frame and heavy-duty suspension let the vehicle haul 6,120-lb payloads — or tow loads up to 24,5000 lb in fifth-wheel setups. Underneath, a sturdy backbone comes from a hydroformed front-end cage that attaches to a rear C-channel frame. Rear leaf springs are 8-in longer than previous models for more torsional stiffness.

We put our tester through its paces by loading an old 3,400-lb Honda onto a trailer and towing it 50 miles to a repair garage. What wowed us most: the Trailer Brake Controller (TBC), which Ford says is the first to come factory installed and fully integrated in a full-size pickup. (You don’t have to buy and install a separate box.)

Basically, the TBC uses electronics to sense how quickly the tow vehicle is slowing, and applies voltage to the trailer brakes based on this data. The brakes are electromagnetically controlled, so hitting the pedal hard gives them more stopping power while a softer touch gives them less. The TBC provides exceptionally smooth stopping. In fact, it was so smooth, we often forgot that we were towing a vehicle.

Also useful while towing are the big side mirrors that fold in and out. The bottom mirrors are convex, giving a great view for backing up a trailer. You can even see the knobs on the rear passenger doors.

Our tester came with a 6.4-liter V8 diesel, an option that adds about $7,000 to the vehicle price. The diesel is much improved from engines of yore and emits no black smoke or noxious odors. It gives a quiet, strong, and smooth ride, especially for a 1-ton suspension. Particulate emissions are said to be equivalent to those of gasoline engines with similar size and power.

The diesel cranks out 350 hp and 650 lb-ft of torque, and can produce peak torque at only 2,000 rpm for jobs like snow plowing that need plenty of low-end muscle. The Super Duty is too large to require government fuel ratings, but we considered the 14 miles/gallon our diesel got quite respectable for a work truck. Our truck had only 5,000 miles on it, and mileage should get better past the break-in period.

Though basically a great work truck, the Super Duty does not stint in looks or luxurious touches. We particularly liked the optional stair step hidden in the tailgate for easier access to the bed and its contents. Just squeeze the handle on the tailgate and down drops the step. A handy grab bar in the bed flips up for a handhold.

The Super Duty comes standard at $36,840. Options including diesel engine, traction control, Sirius satellite radio, leather captain chairs, and stowable bed extender brought our tester to $56,780.

—Leslie Gordon