Back in the 1960s, the initials “KR” meant King of the Road, as in Carroll Shelby’s high-powered Mustang GT500KR. These days, there’s another KR roaming the freeways, but this one’s a truck, and “KR” means “King Ranch.”
Ford’s King Ranch edition, introduced on its full-size pickups in 2001, is a marketing package produced with the help of Texas’ King Ranch. This giant ranch takes up a space approximately the size of Rhode Island in south Texas, and has been a fixture in the ranching industry for many years. The decision to link it with a tough pickup was a no-brainer.
Appended to the F-350 crew cab, the King Ranch package turns this Truck (with a capital T) into a large, unusually hard-working luxury sedan. The King Ranch’s Castano leather is serious cowboy-grade stuff, with coarse stitching and thick seams. The interior is draped with the stuff, for a look that’s at once rugged and comfortable. The King Ranch’s quad captain’s chairs, steering wheel and consoles are topped in Castano leather. Floormats are branded with the King Ranch logo. Beyond the allure of the King Ranch leather, Ford’s Super Duty series is our favorite among heavy-duty pickups, thanks in part to tall, comfortable seats (leather or not) and an upright, business-like dash. With the front console folded out of the way, it’s easy for a third front-seat passenger to slide out to either side. It can be equipped for play as well; options include a reverse-sensing parking aid and a power sliding rear window. The interior is so large it echoes, and if it were any bigger you’d expect a mounted deer or buffalo head hanging over the rear window. We’d happily pick a King Ranch F-350 if we had to do a day of towing.
The King Ranch is distinguished on the outside by beige wheel moldings, grille and bumpers and by body colored door handles and mirrors. Special wheels and a discreet King Ranch badge (that is, if you consider “big” and “chrome” to be elements of “discreet”) are also included. Otherwise, the look is all Ford Super Duty. That means a tall eggcrate grille with a brick-shaped hood and Ford’s signature “nostrils” on either side of the grille. The running boards on the King Ranch edition are lighted, which is handy for all but hard-core off-roaders. A choice of six foot, eight-inch or eight foot beds is available, and the F-350 can be had with single or dual rear wheels. The Super Duty is the squarest of the full-size pickups, as if it’s more interested in working hard than in style.
That just might be true. Ford doesn’t call it a Super Duty for nothing, after all. The 6.0 liter Power Stroke diesel cranks out 560 ft-lb torque at just 2000 rpm. The king of Ford’s heavy-duty engines produces 325 horsepower and has been retuned for improved emissions. With this powerplant under the hood, the F-350 will tow up to 13,700 pounds, and haul more than two tons of cargo. The Power Stroke diesel has been engineered for relatively quiet operation, but it still gurgles to life with a distinct big-truck sound. Despite the nice interior, you’ll never forget that this is a Truck, not for a moment. The 6.0 diesel comes with a five-speed automatic transmission that’s geared nicely to keep the revs down where they belong. The F-350 feels less overworked on the freeway than the competition.
The suspension is designed for work first, comfort second. The Super Duty F-Series still uses Ford’s twin I-beam front suspension in two-wheel drive configuration. This suspension dates to the 1960s. The twin I-beam design is known about equally for its strength and for a ride that isn’t exactly Lincoln-grade. A live rear axle can be equipped with a choice of 3.73, 4.10 or 4.30 rear ends. Anti-lock brakes are standard equipment, and the big discs at all four corners have no trouble stopping this truck. Thanks to its long wheelbase, our crew cab tester actually had a passable ride on-pavement. The F-350 was still happier when bumping through a pasture than rolling down the open road, however. Get it in a parking lot and the F-350’s way out of its element; the only good news is that you’re sitting up high enough to see over most of the other cars. Maneuvering in tight spaces is not this truck’s strong point.
The King Ranch package is offered on F-250 and F-350 models, and hits the street with a $36,165 bottom line. Our test truck was about as big a pickup as you can get; an F-350 Super Duty Crew Cab optioned up with four-wheel drive, the Power Stroke diesel and King Ranch package, and dual alternators for towing. It even had a backup alarm, like a piece of construction equipment. All this ability carries a price; almost $50,000, to be exact. F-350 Crew Cab prices start around $26,740, but for $48,115, a truck like this will tow or haul just about anything, and thanks to that “KR,” it’ll do it in high style.
All specs are for the 2004 Ford F-350 King Ranch Crew Cab, which we tested.
Length: 262.0 in.
Width: 79.9 in.
Wheelbase: 172.4 in.
Curb weight: 6402 lb.
Cargo box length: 98.6 in.
Towing capacity: 13,700 lb.
Payload: 3425 lb. (up to 4710 with dual rear wheels)
Base price: $36,165
Price as tested: $48,115
Engine: 6.0 liter direct-injection diesel V8
Drivetrain: five-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Horsepower: 325 @ 3300
Torque: 560 @ 2000
Fuel capacity: 38 gal.