First Review: 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty
When it comes to heavy-duty trucks, capability is king. But making a truck that has the best capability is no longer good enough, not even in the heavy-duty truck segment. These truck buyers want more -- more features, more luxury and a nicer ride. Fortunately, Ford appeals to all with its 2017 F-Series Super Duty lineup, all-new for the first time since the 1990s. We went to the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado, to see how the new Super Duty would fare while towing and hauling, all at elevation.
Improvements to the Super Duty line start at the foundation, with an all-new fully boxed frame, 95 percent of which is made of high-strength steel. It uses up to 10 crossmembers, depending on vehicle layout, to increase torsional stiffness. All of these changes make the frame stronger -- up to 24 times stiffer than in the previous Super Duty, says Ford -- and the truck more capable.
Another huge perk: The stiffer frame makes the truck quieter, and helps reduce vibration and harshness. We drove F-250s and F-350s, powered by both diesel and gasoline engines, and this is the quietest the Super Duty has ever been. The truck is also roomier than before, as another change for the line is the use of new cabs. For 2017, the Super Duty line now shares its cabs with the F-150, which was Ford's plan from the start. Not only does the cab change mean more rear-seat legroom (by nearly four inches in the Crew Cab), it also means the rear seat now has a flat floor like the F-150 and many of the same styling cues. The shared cabs will make it easier to incorporate future updates and changes throughout the F-Series line.
The Super Duty now has features that are offered in cars -- and some that aren't. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are now available, as is a 360-degree camera. An 8-inch display serves as the hub for Sync 3, audio, phone, navigation and more. The truck comes with push-button start and column shift. Niceties like seat massagers are available for driver and front passenger, as are heated and cooled seats. You can even get a washer that'll clean the front camera. A truly clever detail in the cabin is the cup holders. There are two generous cup holders in the center console, but you can slide the top and instantly create room for four beverages.
On the Road
Some trucks feel big and imposing when you drive them, but the F-Series Super Duty has a new-for-2017 adaptive-steering option that makes driving in parking lots and on tight, twisting roads much more manageable. Adaptive steering allows variable steering ratios, which means quicker response with less steering effort when parking or taking low-speed turns, and a slower, more relaxed response on the highway and when towing. On a tight autocross course, response was quick and crisp, and the steering made the truck feel smaller and more agile. Yet when towing a 10,000-pound trailer, steering was smooth. Adaptive steering is available on XLT-and-higher trim levels as a standalone option, and at a cost of $685, it's a bargain. In addition, the updates Ford made to the suspension (twin I-beams in front with 2WD trucks, monobeam with 4WD), including retuned shocks and new springs, noticeably improve the truck's ride. This, plus the quiet cabin and responsive engines, make the large trucks very easy to live with.
Both the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 and the 6.2-liter gas V8 received significant updates for the new model year. On the diesel side, the 2nd-generation Power Stroke's horsepower remains the same at 440, but torque was increased by 85 lb-ft to 925. It continues to use a TorqShift 6-speed automatic as the sole transmission. That pair provides a healthy source of power -- it's easy to get to speed and stay there. Mid-range passing power and acceleration are excellent, and there is an abundance of torque in reserve. Whether towing or empty, the Super Duty felt stable and confident, and power delivery is smooth and strong.
While the Power Stroke is the rumbling workhorse capable of towing up to 32,500 pounds in the F-450, the 6.2-liter is the sportier option. For 2017, the 350-horsepower gas V8 has 25 more lb-ft of torque, now 430, plus a lighter, more efficient 6-speed automatic transmission. Not only does a 6.2-liter V8-equipped Super Duty represent the least expensive model (starting at $33,730), which will appeal to value-seekers and fleet buyers, this combo provides quick power and makes a 5,700-pound truck feel spry. If you're concerned about range, Ford offers a 48-gallon fuel tank with either engine.
Lighter and More Capable
Don’t let the Super Duty's aluminum body scare you. Its military-grade aluminum allowed for significant weight savings. The F-450 can tow up to 32,500 pounds, which is impressive, but also doesn’t reflect the heart of the heavy-duty market. Most truck buyers want a crew cab. If you want to tow with an F-250 Crew Cab, you can pull up to 21,500 pounds. That goes up to a best-in-class 32,000 with a dual rear-wheel F-350 Crew Cab. We towed with F-250s and F-350s; both are excellent tow vehicles, with new features that make towing even easier.
The exhaust brake now has an "auto" mode. When you are driving down a grade with auto mode on and you take your foot off the brake, it works with adaptive cruise control and sets the truck's speed. There's an updated list of towing stats within the new instrument cluster, with helpful data when towing as well as a checklist for first-timers. The Super Duty is available with up to seven cameras that'll help when hooking up a trailer by yourself. It works with the blind-spot system and can be adjusted to factor in the length of the trailer, and makes it easier to park with a trailer in tow. You can also get a system that monitors trailer tire pressures.
Carrying payload is easier, too. Maximum payload is now best-in-class 7,630 pounds with the F-350, 4,200 with the F-250. The bed design is based on that of the F-150, but uses thicker, tougher aluminum with thicker crossmembers underneath. A new and improved tailgate step is available, as are loading ramps. You can even lower the tailgate while sitting in the cab or by using the remote. We tested a Super Duty with significant weight in the bed, and it drove essentially as if there was nothing there at all.
The F-Series Super Duty pickup truck lineup starts with the 3/4-ton F-250, continues with the 1-ton F-350, and finishes with the even more capable F-450. There are two bed lengths, 6.5- and 8-foot, 2WD and 4WD and single or dual rear wheels. These line up with the Chevy Silverado HD2500/3500, Ram 2500/3500 Heavy-Duty, and GMC Sierra HD2500 or HD3500.
In many ways, the F-Series Super Duty is best in its class when it comes to capability, and first to market with tech, safety and convenience features. But all this comes at a price. There are five trim levels for the F-Series Super Duty: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum. When it goes on sale in September, you'll be able to get into a regular-cab F-250 XL with the short bed and 6.2-liter gas V8 for a fleet-friendly $34,000, but if you went completely hog wild, you could spend as much as $84,000 for a 4WD F-350 Platinum dualie. The Super Duty's starting price generally matches that of the competition, and while the top gotta-have-it-all price is higher than that of the competitors, the Ford offers many features not available in other trucks in its class.