Plenty of folks besides country singer Alan Jackson are going to buy them a Ford truck and cruise it up and down the road this summer.

Some are going to cruise it up and down with a load of bricks in the bed or a trailer hitched on the back.For those people hauling a lot more than a dog and a gun rack, here's just the thing: The new Ford Super Duty F-Series pickup.

Built on a heavy-duty platform, the new F-Series is designed for commercial and heavy recreational users likely to load up 8,500 pounds or more gross vehicle weight (truck, cargo and all).

Ford introduced the Super Duty in January as a 1999 model and launched sales in March. The new version, which is beautiful as well as dutiful, will no doubt haul off an even larger share of the truck market for Ford.

In case you missed the announcement, the F-Series truck is the best-selling vehicle in the world and the best-selling full-size truck for 20 straight years. In the 50 years since its introduction, the F-Series has racked up more than 26 million sales, including 8 million vehicles still on the road.

Meanwhile, the over 8,500 gross vehicle weight segment has been the fastest growing in the past five years, expanding at better than an 80 percent rate. Ford has the lion's share of that market, which is fueled in part by the roughly 1 million business start-ups in the United States each year.

With Super Duty in the mix, Ford buyers now have 44 possible pickup configurations to choose from, including regular cab, SuperCab, crew cab and Class A motor home chassis. Trim levels are standard, XL, XLT and Lariat.

Boxes come short or long, and a version called the F-550 offers the first 17,500 pound or 19,000 pound gross vehicle rating.

The Super Duty is also available as a 4-wheel or rear-drive truck. The 4x4 is built to handle snowplowing with a regular cab, SuperCab or crew cab for the first time.

Ford offers three engines - V-8 and V-10 Triton gasoline engines or a Powerstroke diesel that can be mated to a new six-speed manual transmission. The optional automatic has also been upgraded for the 1999 models.

The Super Duty SuperCab also comes with four doors as standard equipment for the first time. The SuperCab's rear seat is standard on XLT and Lariat models of the F-250 and F-350.

Super Duty prices begin at $19,160 for the F-250 regular cab 4x2. That's just $395 more than you would pay for the standard F-250. Prices can climb as high as $33,605 for the F-550 crew cab 4x4.

The truck that made the press review circuit was an F-250 regular cab base-priced at $21,550 and loaded with $2,445 Lariat trim and other options that drove the total up to $27,190 including destination charge.

The options list included $335 for the new Triton V-10 engine that puts out 275 horsepower and 410 foot-pounds of torque. The 6.8-liter engine is the first V-10 in an F-Series truck.

For pure, raw power, it's hard to beat the F-250 Super Duty with that big V-10. But if you're buying it only to bolster your ego, you'll pay a premium for unleaded. Although the Environmental Protection Agency doesn't require posted ratings on trucks over 8,500 GVWR, the V-10 should burn fuel at the rate of about 12 miles per gallon in the city and 16 on the highway. The tank holds 29 gallons.

One thing a truck is not supposed to do these days is ride like a truck. With a pickup like the Super Duty F-250, that seems like an absurd requirement. But Ford did what they could to soften the ride for more car-like qualities.

Still, there is no doubt that the Super Duty is a truck once you hit a bump or a pothole. Those big leaf springs in the back - longer and wider than the standard F-250's - tell you this truck is begging for a few tons of cargo.

The Super Duty's new front suspension rigging, longer wheelbase and upgraded steering are designed for better directional stability.

Heavy-duty, four-wheel disc brakes are built for reliable stops when the truck is fully loaded. Anti-lock braking is a $500 option.

Boarding the high-riding truck is a big step up, so designers offer an optional running board to ease access. The doors are also wider than on previous models, improving access to the storage space behind the seats in the regular cab.

To keep the cab cleaner, Ford installed seals along the bottom of the doors. Teflon bushings keep the door hinges from squeaking without requiring oil.

Inside, the Super Duty is designed to provide its owner with a mobile office.

The bench seat, split in a 40-20-40 ratio, comes with a center fold-down console that can store a laptop computer and other gear. Credit Dodge with this invention and Ford for having enough sense to copying the design.

Interior amenities are typical of other Ford trucks. Controls for the ventilation system are easy to identify. Switches for the lights, power windows and locks are where you would expect to find them. Heating and air conditioning work quickly. Stereo quality is excellent. And the instrument cluster is easy to scan.

WHAT'S NEW: New 1999 model, V-10 engine, six-speed manual transmission, four-door SuperCab option.

PLUSES: Power, hauling capability, mobile office amenities, ergonomics, 44 possible configurations, price range.

MINUSES: Fuel economy, handling.

BOTTOM LINE: No one can catch Ford in a truck race.


Additional Information

1999 Ford F-250 Super Duty Truck

Type: Full-size, three-passenger, regular cab pickup truck.

Price: $21,550 base, $27,190 as tested.

Where built: Oakville, Ontario; Louisville, Ky.

Power: Triton, 6.8-liter, 275-horsepower V10 engine; auto transmission.

Fuel economy: 12 city, 16 highway mpg (estimated); 29-gallon tank.

Chassis: Body on frame; twin I-beam/coil-spring/stabilizer bar front suspension; solid rear axle/leaf springs/stabilizer bar; power steering with Haltenberger linkage.

Brakes: Power discs, ABS.

Length X Width X Height: 226.6 x 80 x 76.3 inches.

Box Length X Width X Height: 98.6 x 50.9 x 20 inches.

Wheelbase: 137 inches.

Tow capacity: 14,017 pounds.

Gross vehicle weight: 13,500 pounds.

Payload: 3,840 pounds.

Options: Lariat trim includes auxiliary step, power mirrors, air conditioning, aluminum wheels, mid-ship fuel tank, six-way power driver's seat, remote keyless entry ($2,445); V10 engine ($335); 4-speed auto transmission ($970); all-terrain tires ($390); limited slip axle ($310); towing package ($190); sliding rear window ($125); spare tire and wheel ($365); premium AM/FM/CD/cassette stereo ($190); ABS ($500); trailer hitch receiver ($500); chrome step bumper ($150); privacy glass ($100).