Dedicated to Be Heavy-Duty
A Victory & Reseda review of the 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty
In the pickup business, a half-ton full-sized pickup is what consumers and fleet buyers actually get.
Half-ton pickups are indeed important for both types of customers in the segment. It has always been this way for decades. Dealerships stock more half-ton pickups than they do anything else – whether these showrooms are in urban, suburban and rural locations.
However, we have seen the growth of heavy duty pickups, thanks to those who need more capacity and capability. Commercial and fleet buyers know that heavy duty pickups can do more jobs with more payload and towing capacity. They also know that their available diesel engines can produce a mass of torque for bigger jobs to be accomplished. Retail consumers have caught on to Heavy Duty pickups for their need to tow larger items for recreational purposes – such as large campers, boats, race and collector vehicles.
Heavy Duty pickups have always existed through the decades. Though one needed a trained eye to distinguish between a half-ton, a three-quarter-ton or one-ton version of each. They shared the same cab and bed designs, although the crew cab was the domain of the larger capacity pickups.
It was not until 1998 when one of the pickup truck manufacturers decided to dedicate a specific platform for their heavy duty pickups. It began a trend for North American automakers to start distinguishing their heavy-duty versions of their full-sized pickups from their more popular and common half-ton versions.
Who was the first manufacturer to introduce a dedicated heavy-duty pickup truck? Ford – with the first F-Series Super Duty. Since then, the Super Duty became the truck to beat in its class.
For 2017, Ford moved the bar in terms of heavy-duty pickup truck development. It did so by taking what they learned from the latest F-150 and applied them on a larger scale. The result is an all-new F-Series Super Duty.
Ford presented this all-new pickup in the guise of its most popular configuration: A three-quarter ton F-250 Crew Cab with four-wheel drive and a short box. They added the newly reconstituted 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8 turbocharged diesel engine that is available on all Super Duty pickups. It is a common sight in a lot of places where you will find such trucks, which should make working with it easier…
Well, actually, there are a few curve balls here. As I mentioned earlier, Ford worked on the F-Series Super Duty by taking the formula from its smaller half-ton F-150 that was introduced back in 2014 and applied it on a heavy-duty pickup. The frame is forged by using a stronger grade of rolled steel – designed to handle the larger capacities heavy duty pickups were expected to handle. The frame on the F-250 tester is fully boxed. Like the F-150, Ford made the cab and box out of military-grade aluminum.
The result is an average weight loss of 350 pounds, depending on weight category. A further result is a new design approach to the Super Duty that has influenced the 2018 update for the F-150. However, both the cab and box are designed similarly to the smaller F-150, but with some distinctive features – such as the imposing and hard-to-miss front end. Plus, the height of the cab and box seems taller compared to the F-150, which explains the taller taillights out back.
My tester came with the top-of-the-line Platinum trim. The main two distinctions of the Platinum trim are the additional grille holes on the two wide horizontal bars across the front end and the large chrome applique across the tailgate. Not to mention the finishing touches of its chrome 20-inch alloy wheels.
Had I known that the cab of the Super Duty is shared with the F-150, then I would have thought I've seen double. The instrument panel is the same for both F-Series models – which is normal for the five other heavier-than-half-ton trucks out in the market. This is a blessing because the F-150's cabin is quite good.
Drivers have two dials flanking a wide TFT information screen. This display offers the most information screens I have ever seen in any vehicle, including one dealing with the vast array of active safety features for towing. The Super Duty needs to offer a lot of information for the driver, as it now offers the most technology offered in any truck – period. Everything is right out of the F-150, except for the Super Duty "Easter eggs."
A taller cab means a higher seating position than usual. You can sit lower, but it would not help in taking command of this heavy duty pickup. Most controls are within eye sight and reach. A few are well below eye sight and may need to be worked with while fully stopped. The Platinum seats are nicely upholstered in Brunello leather. While the cabin looks sumptuous, the seats are balanced between comfort and support. Splitting the front seats is a wide center console offering a multitude of storage for everything from laptops to mobile devices to big cups of soda pop.
Rear seat room is superb, just like an F-150 SuperCrew. You can fold up the seat cushions for more cargo space, which came in handy with a lawn chair, detailing equipment and a musical instrument – a big one, mind you.
Sony provided the soundtrack for the F-250 Super Duty Platinum. Ten speakers provide a sweet sound throughout the crew cab interior. Driving this sound is Ford's SYNC 3, which includes Apple CarPlay and its own selection of information and audio playback options. And, frankly, you do not need to play country music to enjoy this big truck…
The PowerStroke diesel V8, known internally as the Scoprion, offers smooth operation while laying down some serious power. While it has 440 horsepower on tap, the torque number remains the most amazing – 925 pound-feet of low-end grunt. If you are unfamiliar with trucks, this is an important number. With massive torque, this truck is capable of pulling more than one would consider. This particular F-250 has a maximum tow rating of 15,000 pounds. Models with higher capacity have even higher maximum tow ratings – up to 32,500 pounds using a fifth-wheel gooseneck hitch.
As for payload, this F-250 can haul 3,350-3,450 pounds in the box. Depending on which grade, cab and box configuration, a Super Duty can haul up to 7,650 pounds maximum payload.
Let's crunch some further numbers here. This Platinum F-250 tester rides on a 160-inch wheelbase with a 6-3/4 feet box behind the crew cab. This brings the entire truck to an overall length of 250 inches. In all, this is one staggering truck. If you're a heavy-duty pickup person, you may think I'm over-exaggerating here. And, you're probably right. The point being is that you can set up the right combination of capacities and configurations to maximize the use of your pickup. You have to have the right capacity numbers before you pick out your truck – plain and simple.
Another number you may want to watch for is its fuel economy. How about an average of 16.5 MPG in our care with the PowerStroke diesel? Normally, diesel-fueled three-quarter ton pickups would average much less than that. Using the formula of a lighter cab/box structure for weight loss does have the same benefits Ford enjoys with its F-150 for its Super Duty line.
Normally I would get into the driving dynamics of this vehicle. Actually, I'm going to skip that part. To really measure the worth of a heavy duty pickup is to actually utilize it. That means hitching a trailer to it, loading it up with a day's project in the box and so forth.
No one wants to drive a heavy duty truck empty. If you have to, it is a really enjoyable pickup for its class. You do feel the weight loss in this truck. The ride is smooth and the steering is quite good. Brakes are superb for its class. But, there is one quality one would enjoy from driving this Super Duty – its ability to make a 250-inch long pickup that sits 81.5 inches high feel smaller than it is. That is not a remarkable feat in itself, but if you have never driven a heavy-duty pickup – it will shock you. For those who do – of course, it comes as no surprise.
The bit of news that the new Ford F-Series Super Duty to parse out is the commitment to making the job of driving a heavy-duty pickup easier. With the onset of driver assistance technologies, Ford has gone further to include these technologies while the truck is towing a trailer. That means extending the rearview camera to include the rear of the trailer, along with extending the blind spot monitoring and lane keeping alert also. Including these technologies are indeed important and I'm certain that we will see Ford's competitors catch up here – if not already.
Back to numbers for a moment, there is one that will definitely shock you. Pricing for the F-250 Super Duty starts at $32,535. As soon as you say you want a Platinum trim with four-wheel drive in a crew cab with the short box, that base price jumps to $62,110. Our tester came complete with a sticker price of $77,015. A chunk of it is the $8,595 6.7 liter PowerStroke V8 turbocharged diesel engine.
Being the first to break out its heavy-duty pickups from its main platform, Ford made sure that it continues its commitment to providing a dedicated product employing the latest technology to ensure that the highest towing and payload capacities are satisfied. Its customers are highly loyal and continue to buy and lease these big trucks and extending Ford's 40-year best-selling vehicle sales legacy.
That means this is a superb pickup truck, right? That requires some qualification. In terms of the heavy duty pickup truck market, the Ford F-Series Super Duty has a commanding presence backed by the legacy of leadership in engineering and design. The result is sales leadership – 40 years in the making.
So…yes…it is a superb pickup truck.
DISCLAIMER: vehicle provided by the Ford Motor Company
All photos by Randy Stern