Ford’s second-quarter earnings may be in the dumps, but that didn’t stop the company from handing us the keys to a bright orange 2019 Ford F-650 dump truck. The Blue Oval tasked us with picking up and dropping off a load of mulch for Wolverine Human Services, a Detroit-based child-service agency that maintains an apple orchard, a greenhouse, and a playground around its general premises.
Appealing directly to the Tonka-truck-obsessed children we once were-and kind of still are-the $82,140 truck did not disappoint. Its sky-high seating position and slow but direct hydraulic power steering made piloting the F-650 both simple and memorable. Meanwhile, the brutally stiff suspension served as a constant reminder that this is indeed a commercial truck. With an empty bed, the F-650’s rear end bounced mercilessly over even the slightest road irregularities. Predictably, though, the rear end promptly settled down after adding a couple thousand pounds of mulch to the bed.
With a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,000 pounds-just one pound shy of requiring a driver in Michigan to have a commercial driver’s license-the F-650 is not made for moving with any sense of urgency. A diesel-drinking 6.7-liter V-8 with as much as 330 horsepower and 725 lb-ft of torque is available, but the rig we drove was equipped with Ford’s trusty 6.8-liter V-10 mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. With 320 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, the big 10-cylinder was plenty stout enough to handle a brief drive with a full load of mulch in the bed. For those worried about fuel economy, it gets whatever it gets, but a 60-gallon fuel tank ensures a steady diet of gasoline.
While driving forward in the F-650 was an enjoyable experience, we found backing up the big beast proved to be generally terrifying. With no backup camera and the big dump bed blocking our view out the back window, we were forced to rely on the hand signals of a spotter and the truck’s large elephant-ear-style side mirrors to reverse in and out of the mulch pickup and drop-off locations. Between our fear of misinterpreting the spotter’s hand signals and our annoyance with the incessant beeping of the truck’s backup alarm, it was a relief that we didn’t accidentally run into something or-gulp-over someone.
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Fortunately, our worries never became reality, and we were finally able to complete a personal goal decades in the making: unloading the contents of a dump truck’s bed. After undoing a handful of exterior latches, we were instructed to push the button to raise the truck’s bed. With mulch flowing freely onto the ground below, both our community duty and childhood dreams were fulfilled. Now can someone help us play Mr. Plow?