There’s no question about the F-Series being the most important model line at the Ford Motor Company. Led by the light-duty F-150 that was redesigned in 2015, the F-Series has been the best-selling vehicle in America for more than 30 years. Clearly that’s a record not to be messed with, but the time has come to introduce an all-new F-Series Super Duty. This redesign marks the first time Ford has completely redone the heavy-duty pickup since it was introduced in 1999. After spending a day exploring the innovative features and impressive capabilities of the F-250, F-350 and F-450, we don’t think Ford has anything to worry about. “This is the best heavy-duty truck we’ve ever made,” said Doug Scott, Ford truck marketing manager. “We listened to our customers and created the toughest, smartest and most capable Super Duty ever.”
The Super Duty gets a new exterior look, a completely updated interior and a number of new features designed around comfort, cargo hauling and towing just about any size trailer. But many of the updates are hidden from view, such as the high-strength aluminum alloy body and box, powerful engine lineup and high-strength steel frame. The new frame is 24 times stiffer than the previous version, and liberal use of aluminum has lowered the truck’s overall weight, giving the Super Duty increased hauling and towing capabilities — in many cases the best in its class.
The F-Series Super Duty pickup is available in a seemingly infinite number of configurations. The F-250, F-350 and F-450 are available with regular cabs, extended cabs, crew cabs, long beds, short beds, 2WD, 4WD and a number of option packages. Trim levels are XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum.
The XL is the base-level trim of the Super Duty trucks. With a starting price of $32,535 (F-250, regular cab, 2WD), the XL features a black-painted grille and bumpers, black door handles, 17-inch argent-painted wheels, a removable tailgate with key lock, and black running boards (F-350 DRW/F-450 only). The interior is very basic with air-conditioning, an AM/FM stereo and a vinyl split-bench front seat. Even though this is the base trim, the XL is still safely equipped with multiple airbags, traction control with roll-stability control, a Safety Canopy system and Post-Crash Alert System. Four-wheel-drive versions feature manual-locking hubs.
Moving up to the XLT changes the base price to $36,470. Upgrades over the XL include chrome front and rear bumpers, a chrome grille, 18-inch cast aluminum wheels, a trailer-brake controller and BoxLink, which includes four innovative locking cleats in the truck bed. The interior has a cloth bench seat, an upgraded stereo with available SiriusXM Radio, a rearview camera, power windows and door locks and SYNC, Ford’s voice-recognition communication and entertainment system with a 4.2-inch display screen. Crew-cab variants also feature lockable storage under rear seats that can also be folded flat for additional cargo-carrying ability.
Buyers have to move up to an extended cab or crew cab to get a Lariat Super Duty, and prices for this higher-end trim start at $45,105. Lariat stands out with fog lamps, a chrome 2-bar grille, power-adjustable pedals, body-color door and tailgate handles, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and 18-inch Bright cast-aluminum wheels. Passengers will enjoy the power leather seats, dual-zone climate control, two 110V/400W power outlets, and a premium Sony audio system with 10 speakers. Lariat also gets SYNC3, featuring an 8-inch touchscreen display, two USB ports for charging and a reverse sensing system. Four-wheel-drive versions get shift-on-the-fly 4WD.
This luxurious Western-themed Super Duty has a starting price of $54,260. Available only as a crew cab, the King Ranch upgrades the Lariat with a two-tone exterior, LED box lighting, a remote tailgate release, power-folding and power-extending rearview mirrors, and illuminated running boards. Unique Mesa Antique Affect leather seats, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel, pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, voice-activated navigation and remote start are all standard equipment on the King Ranch.
The ultimate Super Duty is the Platinum. With prices starting at $61,775, the Platinum features power-deploying running boards; a unique satin chrome grille; LED headlights, fog lights and taillights; a tailgate step; and 20-inch polished aluminum wheels. Also standard are multi-contour leather seats, a power-tilt steering wheel, Adaptive Steering, automatic high beams, a blind-spot information system and cross-traffic alert.
These big trucks have incredibly spacious interiors, and Ford makes good use of that space. During the Super Duty press event we spent most of our time in the higher-end Lariat and King Ranch; both offer attractive, comfortable front seats. Our drive took place in Denver on a day when temperatures soared well above 90 degrees, and we soon appreciated the extremely efficient ventilated seats.
Plenty of Storage
The new Super Duty possesses an impressive number of storage locations. The bin beneath the center armrest is cavernous, with enough space for multiple laptops or even a hanging file system. Deep pockets on either side of the lower console provide additional room, and two glove boxes provide even more space.
It’s hard to imagine more new ideas around cupholders, but Ford has a good one. The main storage area between the front-seat occupants offers two cupholders on the right, storage bins on the left. However, a cover slides over to provide four cupholders when needed. Simple idea, but also quite brilliant.
There’s plenty of room in the rear seat of the crew cab for three adults. Legroom is a bit tighter in extended-cab variants, but there’s enough passenger space for short drives. The rear floor is flat and seat bottoms can be folded up out of the way for additional storage. Another innovation in the new F-Series is a lockable rear-seat storage bin. The bin actually unfolds out of the floor to create an ideal location for storing valuables. When the seat bottom gets lowered into place the storage bin is completely hidden.
The new Super Duty can be equipped with two 110-volt outlets – one in the dashboard and one in the rear seat – that provide up to 400 watts of power. That’s enough for a laptop, exterior lights or even charging power tools.
Rear doors on the extended cab open 170 degrees, and with no B-pillar there’s easy access to the truck’s interior.
Ford improved the tailgate step for the new Super Duty by hiding it in the top of the tailgate. Simply pull the step out of the tailgate and the visible handle telescopes into place. This is one of our favorite new features, since it makes climbing into and out of the truck bed easier on the knees.
Under the Hood
Two engines are available for the 2017 F-Series Super Duty. The F-250 and F-350 have a 6.2-liter V8 engine putting out 385 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. Although this engine will provide plenty of power for most uses, when it comes to towing the diesel is the better bet. The second-generation 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8 turbodiesel puts out 440 horsepower and a mind-bending 925 lb-ft of torque.
Both Super Duty engines are teamed with 6-speed automatic transmissions. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings are not available because the GVWR of this truck is greater than 8,500 pounds. Ford is not required to have the EPA test the Super Duty, nor are they required to provide their own numbers, so they don’t. That said, during our short drive of an unladen F-250 Super Duty with the diesel engine, the trip computer showed about 15 mpg.
It’s always a bit unnerving when the steering result doesn’t match the steering input — our concern with Ford’s new adaptive steering system. The system changes the ratio between the steering action and how much the wheels turn; at low speeds the amount of input needed decreases, and at high speeds the system lowers the sensitivity so sudden inputs don’t unsettle the vehicle. We tested the system at both low and high speeds and confirmed it to be completely seamless — actually making maneuvering and parking much easier.
While some Super Duty buyers will be concerned about the new luxury amenities, most truck shoppers will want to know what it can do. For this truck, perhaps the question should be “What can’t it do?” Here are a few of Super Duty’s extreme stats: With a gooseneck trailer, a diesel-powered F-450 can haul up to 32,500 pounds. The same truck can tow a fifth-wheel trailer weighing in as much as 27,500 pounds or a conventional trailer up to 21,000 pounds. Maximum payload is 7,630 pounds, which means it could haul a maximum-loaded F-150 in the truck bed — if it could fit.
The new Super Duty has unique features that make towing tasks much easier and safer. Multiple cameras offer viewing assistance while hooking up a trailer, helping the driver line up a tow ball under a trailer hitch without another set of eyeballs. The remote tailgate release allows hookup to a gooseneck or fifth-wheel without even getting out of the cab.
Once on the road, the F-Series Super Duty continues to assist the driver via adaptive cruise control — a radar-based system that tracks the car in front and matches speed at a set distance up to a desired speed, or down to about 20 mph. This system has become common on many new vehicles, but for the Super Duty it works even when pulling a fully-loaded trailer. The blind-spot warning system also works with a trailer. The driver inputs the length of the trailer and the system will warn if a vehicle is in the next lane but hidden from view.
When it comes to parking, Ford offers an auxiliary camera that can be attached to the back of a trailer. The additional camera gets integrated into the system through the standard wiring, and is viewable in the main display along with other camera views. An available trailer reverse guidance system helps the driver back up in a straight line; it can also warn of an impending jackknife.
On- and Off-Road
During the press trip we had the opportunity to test many aspects of the new Super Duty, including trailer towing, off-roading and unladen on-pavement handling. The first thing we noticed is the quiet ride. Even with the diesel engine, the Super Duty’s cabin shuts out practically all engine and road noise.
Great Power and Handling
With no payload and more than 900 lb-ft of torque, the Super Duty moves very quickly off the line. It may weigh several tons, but that power comes on smoothly and will push you back in the seat. Handling is also quite impressive. We took the truck up some winding mountain roads, and with very little body lean and the adaptive steering system lessening the need for steering input and corrections, the truck actually feels smaller. We wouldn’t call it agile or sporty, but for a big truck it handles well.
The Super Duty is also quite capable off-road. With high ground clearance and the added visibility of multiple cameras, the big truck feels right at home in rough terrain and deep water.
For towing work the F-Series Super Duty really shines. In an F-250 equipped with the diesel V8 engine, we pulled a 10,000-pound box trailer attached with a standard hitch. The high-torque diesel easily accelerated to highway speeds, and cruising at 60 mph seemed almost effortless. This was about half of what the F-250 is capable of towing, so we weren’t taxing the truck that much. Adaptive cruise control worked exactly as expected, with the truck applying the trailer brakes automatically as needed for a very smooth ride. An additional nice touch: The Super Duty’s quick-turn signals that normally flash three times for a lane change flash five times when towing a trailer.
During our press event we also experienced a Ford F-450 pulling a 30,000-pound trailer — close to the maximum-rated weight for this truck. Even with the additional load on the motor, the Super Duty still had no problem climbing hills or accelerating from a stop. And with the multiple camera system, parking a very long trailer is not a problem.
Right for You?
A heavy-duty truck has specific tasks at which it excels — primarily hauling and towing very large loads. Although some folks will purchase a new Super Duty based on its bold styling and size, most will purchase out of need for its capabilities. So if you’re looking for a truck that can provide extreme towing or hauling abilities while carrying passengers in the utmost comfort, or if you need a mobile office that can also handle any workhorse tasks, the all-new Super Duty will certainly fit the bill.
Bottom Line: Super Duty offers up an excellent combination of passenger comfort and convenience with extreme towing and hauling capabilities.
Pros: Impressive capabilities; almost infinite configurations; quiet, comfortable ride.
Cons: Bed camera only on when in reverse; top trims very expensive.