Ford has gone all in with the redesign of its critically important Super Duty series of large pickup trucks. The Super Duty had been refreshed and updated, but it hadn’t been completely rethought in two decades.
Ford makes a lot of money off these ginormous F-Series pickups, so a new Super Duty was a big risk. Customers from this type of truck, optimised for work and for towing, are among the most demanding in the auto industry.
The carmaker had already taken one huge risk with its legendary F-150 full-size pickup, switching to aluminium from steel in production. That worked out well, so Ford moved on to the Super Duty lineup, the F-250 and its larger stablemates.
While I had checked out the new F-150 and been pleased, I had never actually driven a Super Duty. It was a big missing piece of my ongoing professional development.
Plus, who doesn’t like a big ole pickup? So when Ford told me I could borrow a 2017 F-250 Super Duty Platinum 4×4 Crew Cab, with a mighty 6.7-litre Powerstroke turbo diesel engine, I said heck yes!
Here’s what it was like to have this mountain of a pickup in my driveway for a few days last year:
I think the tree was intimidated. I didn't even think to ask my Prius how it felt. It was acting like it wanted to go hide in the garage.
The F-250 is actually the lowest level of the Super Duty line, which includes F-350 and F-450 models. The F-250 Platinum is the premium 250 offering, stickering at over $A79,000. Our test truck was well-optioned and came in at nearly $A96,000.
The 6.7-litre turbo diesel V8 is the Incredible Hulk of motors. It cranks out 440 horsepower, but more importantly a monumental 925 pound-feet of torque, which gives this pickup a towing capacity that's nothing short of astonishing. Mount a gooseneck rig in the bed and you're good for over 16 tons. If only I'd had a military surplus MRAP to haul around!
Like the F-150, the F-250 Super Duty has a convenient retractable step to make bed access easier. You may have seen the Howie Long Chevy Silverado commercials in which the former NFLer talks a little smack about this 'man step.' I appreciated it, however.
A new dresser from IKEA was a piece of cake for the Super Duty. I could have bought four and still had room for Swedish meatballs.
The F-250 Super Duty came with four-wheel-drive. I didn't get the chance to tow a boat through mud, however. There was no mud, for starters. And I have no boat.
This is a truck with a back seat and can easily accommodate three adults. Or one first-grader in high style. The leather upholstery is 'Black/Brunello.'
The driver is confronted by the usual instruments, but also surrounded by lots of extra buttons and switches to control the drivetrain and to set up the Super Duty for towing duty.
The Super Duty has A LOT of cameras, and can be specially equipped with extra ones for towing big trailers.
The system can create a useful bird's-eye view of the truck. Believe me, when you're dealing with a pickup this large, you want to be able to see into all your possible blind spots.
Navigation is excellent. I've sampled Sync3 on four Ford or Lincoln vehicles since its introduction last year and thus far, I've been impressed with the design and the ease-of-use.
Vehicle functions can be operated with the touchscreen. A trend in pickups these days is relatively luxurious, high-tech interiors. Sure, you can still get a basic, non-frills work truck. But the typical Super Duty owner is a professional who uses his or her pickup for work and all but lives in the vehicle.
You've also got satellite radio, in addition to full Bluetooth functionality, AUX and USB inputs, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The audio system in our tester sounded superb.
I don't have a lot of experience with trucks this large, but the Super Duty has a devoted following and is the working pickup of choice for countless professionals who depend on their trucks for their livelihoods.
It would have been good to sample the F-250's towing capacities, but that was a bit beyond the scope of what we could arrange in our limited time with the truck. We'll have to give Ford the benefit of the doubt, which isn't much a stretch, given that owners have been towing and hauling anything and everything for decades with this beast.
I can talk about driving the F-250. I won't kid you -- there's a learning curve. The pickup is the size of a bus. The engine pulls like a freight train. You're waaayyy above the road. But for a vehicle of this size and bulk, once you get accustomed to making proper use of the mirrors, get a sense of where everything begins and ends, and learn how to work all the camera options, you can enjoy a level of road presence known only to long-haul truckers.
There have been plenty of times when I've been lucky to have the fastest car on the road. Having a vehicle that nearly the biggest is another ball game and creates a different type of confidence while imposing an additional layer of responsibility.
The power served up by the massive V8 is stunning, but the Super Duty manages it well, with a capable 6-speed automatic. The handling, for a truck this big, is excellent. The ride is also comfortable and relatively quiet, although have that mighty slab of a front grille hammering through the atmosphere generates an understandably higher level of wind noise than what you might be used to from a more aerodynamic vehicle.
Fuel economy is sort of beside the point, and our test truck wasn't yet rated. But the use of additional aluminium in the design has lessened the overall bulk ‚ although not by much, so you should be able to get something like 15 mpg from the diesel. (Ford used the weight savings to bolster structural strength elsewhere in the Super Duty, with the understanding that owners would be willing to trade extra MPGs for more capability.)
Super Duty loyalists famously expect to run their pickups 'to failure.' I didn't even come close to that. But I did over a few days develop a renewed understanding of how seriously Ford takes one of its most profitable segments. The company just doesn't mess around when it comes to big trucks. At all. And the new Super Duty is no exception.
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