Ford’s new generation of big trucks
By Howard J. Elmer
What’s new or unique with the 2017 Ford Super Duties?
By Howard J. Elmer
Almost twenty years ago the Super Duty line of Ford trucks was born. Built to tackle the biggest jobs that pickups could handle, the Super Duty gained a following right away. Today, the newest Super Duty introduction is just as important as that original one – because the number of jobs for these trucks just keeps on growing.
This F-series Super Duty line-up of trucks is all new for 2017, including the adoption of the same aluminum cab that the F-150 got two years ago. That fact alone makes this next generation of Super Duty special. With the engineers adding the all-aluminum body, this now means there is only one design for both classes of Ford trucks; and that in turn means that updates and improvements to any and all the cab systems will now be available to both half-ton and Heavy Duty trucks in the same year. It also seems appropriate then that this alignment of truck bodies is coming on an all-new chassis as well.
Adding strength and reducing weight, this new Super Duty is 24 times stiffer than its predecessor. The fully boxed frame is taller and has up to 10 cross-members, which include the under-box supports for the factory-installed fifth wheel/gooseneck hitch receiver.
The new Super Duty is claiming several victories – its latest top numbers are 32,500 pounds towed, with an F-450 and a maximum payload of 7,630 pounds. Both these numbers are now being touted as best in class. But as every truck guy knows, what you can haul is just as important as being able to brag about your engine. So the second generation of the 6.7-litre Power Stroke turbo-diesel (the most common Super Duty powerplant) has also boosted its horsepower and torque to 440 and 925 pound-foot respectively.
Of course, one of Ford’s strengths is the offer of multiple features, including engines. The base engine is a 6.2-litre V8 that makes 385 horsepower and 430 pound-foot of torque. For Super Duty chassis cab buyers there is also a gas V10 option.
At the press drive in Denver, there were a variety of trucks available to drive but I was immediately drawn to the F-450 towing the gooseneck trailer with a nice 30,000-pound load of landscaping stone. I too wanted to experience those maximum tow limits, in part because I still find it amazing that pickups today are built to haul weights that were considered commercial loads back when I started driving tractor-trailers in the early 1980s.
The Power Stroke powered F-450 handled the weight and the chassis is noticeably stiffer – even in jackknife 180-degree U-turns the truck does not tilt or squat. Under moderate braking it retains a level attitude without any hobbyhorseing and much of the driving was up and down the foothills at the start of the Rocky Mountain range. So, while my initial focus was devoted to the weight claims that Ford was making, as the kilometers clicked by, another side of the towing experience caught my attention. This new line of Super Duty has more towing help/convenience features than any that have come before it.
It starts with seven cameras placed around the truck, including one in the rooftop brake light array. With this one you can easily see the trailer pin as the truck backs up to the hitch. It even has a “magnify” button that doubles the image size. Hooking up (bumper or in-bed) is now an easy one-man job. Meanwhile the other cameras offer 180-degree views off the nose or a 360-degree birds-eye-view.
In this Super Duty, Ford has installed an inter-related series of new stopping features meant to keep you cool and your shorts clean.
It starts with the Towhaul feature that uses the transmission to slow the load, as does the engine exhaust brake found on the diesel. The gearshift lever also has a manual gear selector; and if the transmission is kicked down using the brake, it will hold its gear. But the most significant improvement comes with an addition to the adaptive cruise control. It will use the truck’s brakes, engine brake and the trailer’s brakes – through the trailer brake controller to hold the pre-set speed of the rig; while going downhill, all automatically. Similar to the system that General Motors uses, this improvement will relieve the white knuckles often caused by being pushed by your load.
The other feature that made itself noticeable was adaptive steering. As the name implies the steering ratio “adapts”. At slower speeds when the driver is turning pin to pin the travel shortens up (by as much as one complete revolution of the wheel) while at highway speeds it gets longer offering a more sensitive on-centre feel. Again, for backing up while towing, this is a great innovation.
How about tire pressure monitoring? Old hat you say. Yes – but this is tire pressure monitoring of your trailer. Ford offers wireless sensors that can be fixed to the trailer tires to display pressures right in the centre dash display.
If you’re sensing a theme, it’s because clearly there is one. First you have to build a truck that can handle the weight it’s claiming – Ford has done that. Then – you need to give the driver the tools to haul all that weight safely and create systems that reduce the stress that comes with trailering. Sure you may have the skills that towing demands, but the systems in this truck can only make you better at it. The 2017 Super Duty Ford has accomplished both goals.
The pricing for the 2017s starts at $39, 849 for the base F250, regular cab, gas model and walks up through the varied cab models and trims to $46,749 for the F-350 crew cab – again the two-wheel-drive, gas model. Add four-wheel-drive and dual wheels (F-350s) and you’ll plunk down another
$6,000 on average on each model. For pricing with the Power Stroke diesel, just add another $9,950 to any model
Trucks will be at dealers this fall.