If you think riding a raucous, powerful Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a bold experience, try getting behind the wheel of the new-for-2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty Harley-Davidson pickup.
This 3-ton, four-door truck rides on 20-inch, Harley-inspired wheels. The driver towers over other vehicles and can wind up, as I did, eye to eye with the driver of a cement truck.
Indeed, the Harley Super Duty is so tall, it makes the ground-hugging, little Mazda Miata roadster look like a mere bug on the road.
This truck is so big, it doesn't necessarily fit in downtown parking garages. Complicating things is the height, which puts the roof perilously close to concrete ceiling beams in the garages and snags the stationary antenna, and the far-out PowerScope mirrors on the doors, which can bump into parking ticket dispensers.
With a turbodiesel V-8 under the hood, this pickup has torque like no other -- a whopping 650 foot-pounds at a low 2,000 rpm.
The 2008 model year marks the first time in the 11 years in which Ford has been selling co-branded Harley-Davidson editions of its F-Series pickup that a heavy-duty Super Duty truck gets the same treatment as light-duty, Harley-Davidson F-Series trucks. Previously, it was on the F-150 body.
By the way, both Ford Motor Co. and Harley-Davidson are celebrating 105 years of production this year.
THE STARTING MANUFACTURER'S suggested retail price, including destination charge, is $46,130 for the Harley-Davidson Super Duty with a V-10 gasoline engine. The preferred engine for people who tow, however, is the 6.4-liter, Power Stroke diesel V-8.
The diesel doesn't come cheap. It's priced as a $6,895 option, which pushes this pickup past the $50,000 price range.
With fuel -- and diesel, even more so than gasoline -- priced as high as it is these days, I didn't expect to find many people interested in this truck.
I was wrong. Harley-Davidson fans and full-size truck owners who tow trailers and boats knew about this truck and wanted to get inside to see the special, black-and-dusted-copper leather front seats that look and feel an awful lot like regular living room chairs.
They loved the large, raised, chrome-colored Harley badge on the top of the center console lid. They marveled at the spaciousness of the back seat, where 41.8 inches of legroom rivals that of the front seats of many large cars.
The typical diesel ruckus emanated from the hood at idle, but it was soon drowned out by the strong power sounds as the truck accelerated with unexpected grace.
The 350-horsepower V-8 parsed its power delivery commendably in stop-and-go traffic, so I didn't need to put on the brakes every time I needed to slow. I could just let up on the accelerator and the truck immediately began to slow.
The transmission -- a Torqshift five-speed automatic -- worked smoothly, and steering had a mainstream feel without being sloppy.
This truck, with standard four-wheel drive, can tow motorcycles with ease. The maximum towing capacity is 12,500 pounds.
The federal government doesn't require trucks in this weight class to post fuel mileage ratings on the window stickers. Consumer Reports estimated the F-250 Super Duty with Power Stroke diesel gets about 10 miles per gallon.
This was what I got in the test truck.
With diesel selling now for more than $4.15 a gallon, the fuel bill for the 30.5-gallon tank could top $120.
THE DRIVER'S SEAT IS UP high. I made good use of the cab steps provided.
The ride was truckish, bouncy over bumps and a feeling of a lot of mass at the wheels, but the truck didn't feel loose.
Views out front and to the sides of this truck were amazing. If no tractor-trailer was in front of me, I could see all the way to the next hill on the highway. In residential areas, I easily peered over fences.
The test truck had both a rearview camera and rear parking sensors that beeped to tell me when I got close to an object behind me.
There are no crash test ratings for the F-250, but the sense of security in this big truck is palpable. Still, standard safety features are few and include anti-lock brakes and frontal air bags but no side air bags or curtain air bags.
In addition, traction control is an option, but all Harley-Davidson Super Duty trucks come with standard four-wheel drive.
THE VEHICLE: 2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab Harley-Davidson Edition, a four-wheel-drive, four-door, five-passenger, heavy-duty pickup
BASE PRICE: $26,075 for base, two-wheel-drive F-250 XL Crew Cab; $37,515 for Harley-Davidson model
DESTINATION FEE: $925
PRICE AS TESTED: $58,000
ENGINE: 6.4-liter, turbodiesel, overhead valve, Power Stroke V-8 producing 350 horsepower
TRANSMISSION: Five-speed automatic
EPA MILEAGE: Not required to be reported
FUEL CAPACITY: 30.5 gallons
LENGTH: 246.2 inches
WHEELBASE: 156.2 inches
CURB WEIGHT: 6,560 pounds
BUILT IN: Kansas City, Mo.