Pros: Smooth muscular look with power to match, reliable, and Ford tough.
Cons: Stock tires are awful and take away from the capability of this truck. Seat room.
A year or so ago, my good ol' dad bought an Emerald Green 1999 F250 Supercab XLT 4x4 with 99k miles to replace his totaled 1996 F150 4x4 (I also have or will have a review on that). What surprised me is that this F250 does not look like the Super Duty we know and love. It holds the smooth unique look of the F150's. Apparently, this seemingly rare "Light-Duty" F250 was made from 1997 to 1999*, and was actually a heavy-duty upgrade package on F150's. This package consisted of a heavier-duty frame, suspension, and brake system than your typical F150, and also included lower gearing and a bigger cooling system. This package was perfect for those who wanted a higher payload than an F150, but didn't have the use for the heavier Super Duty F250. These LD F250's came stock with the stout Triton 5.4L V8. In 1999, the 5.4L had 260 horsepower and 345 ft/lbs of torque. Coupled up with the 3.73 limited slip differential, you've got some great acceleration and power even when only applying a little throttle.
As I mentioned before, this F250 looks exactly like F150's from 1997-2003, except for F250 decals instead of F150 decals. Very smooth, elegant, car-like lines make this truck look like it is at home in the city. Replace the stock tires with some more aggressive all-terrain or mud-terrain tires, and this truck goes from elegant to muscular-looking. In our situation, we replaced the tires with 33x12.50x16 Goodyear Wrangler MT/Rs.
I believe all of these LD F250's came with the "styleside" instead of the "flareside" beds. The reason behind this is that the main idea behind the LD F250 is to make the truck more work-oriented, so more room in the bed of the truck is understandable. However, the LD F250's were available with either the six-foot bed or the eight-foot bed. They were also available in regular cab or supercab configurations; as well as XL, XLT, or Lariat trims. They can also be had in either 4x2, 4x4, or 4x4 Offroad configurations.
In 1999, Ford added the fourth door to the Supercab. Thanks to this, there is now no need to go onto the driver's side door to access the back seat. The cab opens up easily, and seems very roomy this way. Looks can be deceiving, though. Anyone over four-feet tall will find the back seat cramped. Putting two or three people back there for a long trip is torture. There is SOME relief if the front passenger scoots their seat up, but at the sacrifice of their own leg/knee room. With the passenger seat all the way up, there is very little knee room. While the back seat is understandable, it was very disappointing for me to find that there could possibly be not enough room for an adult to sit comfortably in the back seat. Fortunately, that was the only downside to this truck's interior.
Our truck came with Captain's chairs for the front, and a 60/40 split bench seat for the back. The driver's seat came with a six-way power driver's seat. Very nifty feature. Anyone old enough to drive will feel very comfortable in these seats. Both front seats also came with a manual lumbar support feature. You can adjust just how much support there is for your lower back. The front seats are both very comfortable, while the back seat is pretty much average as far as most rear seats go in most trucks with extended cabs. The console center normally is very roomy inside; big enough for two or three sixpacks of soda to fit. Our truck, however, came with a six CD changer. The console is still pretty cavernous with a CD changer in there, it's just harder to access. All controls are easy to operate, and don't require much effort to use. The dash sits lower than what I'm used to when riding in a truck, but it quickly warmed up to me. Since the dash is lower, it is easy to see what's right in front of you. This, however, is what caused the front leg/knee room problem for the front passenger. The gauges are all easy to read and understand. The speedometer goes up to 100MPH; the tach goes up to 8,000 RPM; and there are temperature, battery, and several other gauges to monitor your truck's vitals. The cup holders in the front are big enough for your Big Gulps from 7-11, and are easy to reach. The cup holders in the back are integrated in the side-doors storage cubbies, which is pretty neat and doesn't take up extra room in the back.
The stereo system is all right for most people. Ours came with a AM/FM/Casette stereo with the six CD changer (which came stock from the factory) in the console. There is no distortion whatsoever at any volume, with or without the bass or treble turned up. The CD changer performs flawlessly and it doesn't skip at all (we've taken it over very rough mountain trails and the changer doesn't miss a beat). It's not a great system for those who love to hear their bass, but it's not too bad. The factory speakers have some really good quality sound, there's just very little bass. With some subwoofers, it would sound really great.
Acceleration on this truck is unbelievable. It has a lot of power and grunt at lower RPMs, and doesn't feel sluggish at all at higher speeds. When next to a kid in his "souped-up" ricer car at a stoplight, my dad always gets a devilish grin on his face. And he feels even more devilish after smoking ricer after ricer in his All-American V8 truck. By all means, it's no sports car; but it's definitely not for the faint-of-heart when under acceleration. The 3.73 limited slip differential does wonderfully when delivering the power to the ground--maybe a bit too wonderfully. It doesn't give in to corners at all, so going around corners takes some control of speed. Don't get me wrong, it handles great when turning, it's just that both tires spin at the same speed rather than the outside tire spinning faster than the inside tire. This causes some wheel-hop around corners, unless you take care not to take them too fast. It did this even with the awful stock tires also.
Gas mileage is average for a truck like this; getting mid-teens around town and high-teens on the highway.
After adjusting the driver's seat and power mirrors, you're ready to go. The truck starts up quickly, but there emits one small annoyance. Some 5.4L V8s from 1997-2001 had a piston knock problem. It is not an uncommon problem, but rest assured it does no harm to your engine. It just makes start-ups in the morning a bit more noisy (like diesel-engine noisy). Our truck's piston knock doesn't last more than five seconds, but on others it may last up to a few minutes. After that, the truck runs as quiet as most factory V8s do, without sacrificing that wonderful V8 growl. It's almost a bit too quiet for my liking; I was hoping for something a bit more noticeable. In cold mornings, the truck's heater and defrost work quickly. In hot summer days, the AC is ice-cold within a few minutes.
Stopping power and feel is as good as any passenger car. It definitely doesn't feel like you're in a big, heavy truck when braking. Handling is also very much car-like. Steering accuracy is excellent and has no unpredictable characteristics. In any kind of panic-manuever, the truck handles beautifully.
The only thing that reminds me that I'm in a truck is the actual ride. It's smoother than my dad's past F150 and other trucks I've ridden in, but it's no car. Then again, you have to remember that the heavier-duty suspension of the LD F250 package contributes to this, while providing a higher payload. It's actually pretty smooth in any driving situation, whether it be highway or city driving. Just don't expect it to be a Cadillac. I actually prefer a truck-like ride rather than the disconnected feel I have from a Cadillac.
So, does the Light-Duty F250 perform like it's supposed to?
Most definitely. It does everything any other truck can do and it does it with an added sense of sophistication.
Towing with this truck is great. It pulls heavy loads without feeling weighed down like half-ton trucks do; yet it doesn't drive like the heavier 3/4 ton or one ton trucks do. Even pulling loads higher than it's rated to pull had caused no problems. We hauled a dual axle horse trailer (all loaded up it was about 8,500-9,000lbs) for twelve hours from Vernal UT to Kingman AZ, and had no problems that the truck would cause. We did have a tire blow out on the trailer which caused it to fishtail violently, but the truck and driver handled the situation beautifully. This is truly the truck for those who haul something to heavy for any half-ton to haul regularly.
Off-road capability is not too bad on this truck, either. It's a bit too long for my liking with a less-than-desirable departure angle, though. It doesn't hold us back, though. Occasionally, we'll take the truck up to the mountains to go play. This is where that 3.73 limited slip differential shines. There's unbelievable traction with this truck, and we've tackled some pretty precarious situations. It has done better than my dad's previous F150, which was shorter in wheelbase. I do, however, hate "push-button 4wd." While this truck performs flawlessly when switching drive configurations, I just don't like knowing that these electronic gadgets get broken easier than something manual.
We bought this truck with high mileage on it. For a 1999 model, it had just a tad bit more than 99,000 miles. Since our purchase, we have put on another 10,000 miles and it has shown no problems that come about with high mileage and it performs like it probably did when it was new. It doesn't feel like there is a need for replacing any worn parts or that the engine itself feels tired. In our course of ownership, it did need the alternator replaced, and our wipers suddenly became possessed (they come on whenever they want to, seemingly triggered by nothing; I don't mind it, it adds character to the truck). But other than that, it has absolutely held up the Ford tough tradition in our family. Just like any other Ford truck we've had.
*After 1999, this same package is available as the 7700 Payload package. It comes with everything I've mentioned except for the F250 decals.
I wrote this review back in November of 2003. It is now March 4, 2005, and I've decided it's high time for an update on this truck.
It now has over 131,000 miles on it and still performs just like it did when we bought it. I stress that while it is a daily driver, it is not entirely babied, especially when spring and summer roll around and our activities become more frequent.
It has done four or five trips to Las Vegas (8hrs away) and Phoenix (12hrs away) since the last time I wrote. It's towed and hauled various things on two of those trips. It's been taken camping numerous times, and was used in recreational offroading, the most memorable time being Moab. The truck hasn't had anything done on it except the tires, and still handled beautifully and everything we took it on (granted, these trails we were on are not the ones most featured in magazines and TV with all the rock-ready Jeeps, but they weren't merely dirt roads either).
In all this time, we've had two issues. One being entirely maintenance-oriented, which would be the complete brake job it needed done at about 117k miles. The other being a coil that went out shortly after a tune-up it received at 125k. Instead of having just one coil total, this engine has a coil for each cylinder, eight in all. One had failed which caused a misfiring situation when the truck was under moderate to hard acceleration, or traveling up moderate hills. The problem coil was discovered with a quick scan (Autozone or Checker will scan for free), and a $50 coil fixed the problem. The one that failed on ours was the #4 coil, which is the one all the way in the back on the left side. I've been told it is not an uncommon failure, as most of the time when a coil does fail, it is usually the #4 coil and it is because the condensation of the AC lines directly above it drips onto the coil causing it to short out after a period of time. However, ours lasted this long with liberal use of the air conditioner, so I don't see the coil failing again for the rest of our ownership.
Despite how rough we've been with the truck, it still has absolutely no squeaks or rattles that are expected with a truck that has over 100,000 miles. Everything still performs flawlessly (including power windows, mirrors, locks, and seat; cruise control, CD changer, speakers, etc.). The interior has held up well, but the carpet probably could use a good shampooing and the plastic edging along the bottom by the door the door is scratched. The seats have held up exceptionally, showing little signs of wear and not losing any support in any area. The plastic front bumper has been cracked in various areas due to a navigational mistake during the Moab trip, but is the only thing I can think of that needs to be replaced.
My parents are soon trading it in for a super-duty with a diesel engine, as they have just bought a 30ft travel trailer and want to tour the country. I only wish that the next truck will be as good as this one; it will be missed.
UPDATE: July 8, 2006
Ok, so my parents never traded it in... They did buy a 30ft fifth wheel travel trailer, and actually use the LD F250 to tow it around. It's done wonderfully considering it is a gas-engine (it's not able to keep the speed limit up long, moderate-grade hills, but who cares). It now has 155,000 miles and hasn't had a problem since the coil failure. An exhaust mount became loose at one point (my parents live up a dirt road now so it's understandable why it became loose) but it was fixed in less than a few minutes with an impact gun. This truck has truly exceeded my expectations. It still runs and drives exactly the way it did when we bought it in March of 2003.
UPDATE: October 13, 2012
The truck has still been going strong all this time, up until a few months ago. Just a hair under 250,000 miles, an electrical-based issue cropped up and has prevented the truck from starting. My parents have a new truck so it has been sitting since then, but my dad has said he will be getting it fixed.
Over the past six years, the transmission developed a shudder shifting into overdrive. It's been like this for a few years now, but is now just a run around work truck for my dad so it was never looked at. It is STILL sporting the original engine and transmission, and there are no leaks nor is the engine burning a drop of oil. While it doesn't feel as powerful as it once did, it still has no problems accelerating and maintaining speeds well above the posted speed limit.
The only other issue that it had was that it recently lost 4wd. While I think it is just a vacuum line probably, my dad never had the chance to look at it.
Steering still feels really tight and the truck drives straight and true. The shocks on the other hand could stand to be replaced. The interior is still rattle-free although the driver's seat is now showing signs of wear and tear which I would definitely expect after this many miles.
I'm very impressed at the stout reliability of the engine and transmission. The rest of the truck has proven to be durable as well.