Technically, the 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty marks the start of a fourth generation of this heavy-duty truck. But the last time Ford launched a from-the-ground-up all-new Super Duty—not just new powertrains, an exterior refresh, or refinements—was in 1998 with the official debut of the entire brand and line. The world was a different place. The original PalmPilot had just debuted a year earlier, LeBron James was still figuring out how to dunk at Riedinger Middle School, Titanic had become the first movie to gross $1 billion, a 23-year-old Bear Grylls became the youngest Brit to climb Mount Everest, and Google was finding its footing as a tech company.
When first introduced, the Super Duty name was an organizational move, just Ford’s way of saying the F-150 is for personal use and the F-250s and beyond are for more serious, work-dedicated activities. Today, those lines aren’t so cut and dry; the F-250’s livability has improved so greatly that people can and do use these trucks as personal vehicles, not just as workhorses.
Really Did a Number
This latest heavy-duty Ford test truck was an F-250 XL 4×4 with the 6.8-foot bed, SuperCab body, 148.0-inch wheelbase, and single rear wheels. As its yelling TV commercials have shown, Ford really loves talking about numbers and how they assert the brand’s dominance as the premier pickup option. This truck also shouts in person, from its enormous curbside presence to the roar of its engine under load.
There are two available powerplants for the F-250. Our test truck had the gasoline engine rather than the headline-hogging Power Stroke turbo-diesel 6.7-liter V-8. The SOHC 6.2-liter V-8, which features port fuel injection and the ability to run on E85, makes the same 385 horsepower at 5750 rpm as it did in 2016, but the torque rating is up 25 lb-ft to 430 at 3800 rpm thanks to a long-runner intake manifold and revised camshaft profiles. That gives Ford bragging rights to more torque than any of the competitors’ standard V-8–powered heavy-duty trucks.
The new Super Duty followed the F-150 into adopting an aluminum body in an effort to save weight, with Ford claiming that it dropped more than 300 pounds with the redesign. Some of that savings was offset by the adoption of a fully boxed steel frame, a stronger suspension, and an upgraded rear axle, but it’s hard to put a fine point on it, since the weight of heavy-duty trucks varies so much within the lineup. For example, our last F-250 tester, a diesel 4×4 Crew Cab, flattened the scales at 8300 pounds. This one, which is at the light end of the Super Duty range, came in at a relatively featherweight 6532 pounds.
The light weight meant there was plenty of power to overcome the inertia of the truck’s mass, and the F-250 hustled to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and nearly hit its 98-mph top speed in the quarter-mile, with a time of 15.3 seconds at 92 mph. Part of the credit goes to the new six-speed TorqShift-G automatic transmission that is standard with the 6.2-liter gas engine.
Ford rates this model as being capable of towing 12,600 pounds and hauling 3560 pounds in its bed—so it needs stout brakes. The four discs brought the rig to a full stop from 70 mph in 195 feet, which is not great in objective terms, but in this class, anything short of 200 feet is worthy of applause. In our testing, the brakes showed no sign of fading.
This F-250’s modest mass helped it to actually grip corners better than the most recent F-150 we had, pulling 0.79 g, despite the feeling that we were driving on stilts (our truck measured 81.5 inches tall). In our 1200 miles with the truck, which included an unloaded cruise-control highway trip to Chicago, the 6.2-liter managed 13 mpg. On our 75-mph highway loop (not included in the overall mpg figure), this F-250 averaged 15 mpg, versus 17 for the F-250 diesel. The EPA doesn’t require the rating of trucks with a GVWR over 8500 pounds, but these figures are in line with others of its ilk that we’ve tested.
The road manners and ride quality of the F-250 are impressive, even at this lowest trim level. Engine noises are largely experienced by those outside rather than inside the truck. The huge dimensions make it a bit lumbering around town, and it often takes a couple of extra maneuvers to park it, but the steering is precise and light. There’s no real feel, but you aim a thing like this more than you steer it. At higher speeds and without a load in the bed, the F-250 will bust the occasional dance move over bumps, but it’s composed, and the firm but absorbent suspension is livable on a day-to-day basis.
Do the Duty
The XL we tested was technically the base trim level, but it had $5660 worth of add-ons that elevated the truck’s looks and gave it a few creature comforts. The most expensive was the $915 Power Equipment Group, which adds power locks, power seats, power windows, an alarm, keyless entry, and upgraded door trim. The $720 XL Value package provides a 4.2-inch center-stack screen with a basic CD- and MP3-equipped stereo system, chrome wheel-hub covers, chrome bumpers, and cruise control. A $495 spray-in bedliner, a $375 tailgate step, and $60 LED bed lighting upgraded the box to make it tougher and more work-friendly. Also work-oriented were the $85 extra-heavy-duty alternator, a $90 engine-block heater, and $165 upfitter switches in the overhead console. A 3.73:1 limited-slip rear differential ($390), an integrated trailer-brake controller ($270), a CNG/propane prep package ($315), and all-terrain tires ($455) added versatility.
Our truck had the $365 Sync system with voice activation, which worked fine as an elementary head unit, but the display wasn’t a touchscreen, and there was no backup camera—which will be required for all cars starting in 2018. This truck had only one USB port, but converters could easily be plugged into one of the two 12-volt sockets; for $75 more, a 110-volt AC outlet is available. For $825 total, buyers can opt for the Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System, which includes an upgrade to Sync 3 infotainment. The extra $385 over the equipment on our truck seems more than worth it for the reassurances of cameras everywhere on a machine the size of an F-250, plus the convenience and connectivity of the full Sync 3 suite.
We have well-documented love for the F-series. We’re borderline obsessed with the hypercapable F-150 Raptor, and the F-150 line earned our recent 10Best Trucks and SUVs full-size-pickup award. Meanwhile, the Super Duty has drastically improved upon every selling point that Ford was going after when it first debuted, reasserting its position on the heavy-duty throne.