Super Ford Targets the Customers Who Matter Most
Towing a trailer would appear to be one of the most difficult tasks ever. But with miles of experience and many repeats of the coupling and decoupling motions, it’s a cinch. You get used to lining the truck up with the trailer and guesstimating how far you should reverse without ever seeing the hitch ball from the driver’s seat. You get used to swinging out wide.
To the uninitiated, this entire ordeal may just make the whole heavy-duty truck segment the ideal nominee for complete autonomy. The brand-new 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty is certainly on the right track. All that super weight, length, width, and height can make checking your surroundings challenging, so up to seven cameras feed data into the Super Duty’s electronic brain. Two side-view mirror cameras observe the flanks. A tailgate camera gazes behind. A camera in the high-mounted center brake light watches over the bed. You can place a camera on the trailer that can tap into the truck’s 12-pin electrical connection (courtesy of a 7/12-way connector and 4/7-way adapter). There are two cameras looking forward. Only one actually spits out an image on the truck’s center display screen; the other is used to provide eyes to the lane departure warning.
The cameras enable other driver assists including jackknife warning and straight-line back-up guidance, both of which helpfully overlay graphical aids on the center screen’s camera views to reduce driver workload. Autonomy appears to be the end goal of this suite of technologies including a radar-empowered Blind Spot Information System, which can be adjusted to cover the trailer. The adaptive cruise control can keep a (startlingly) tight gap to the vehicle ahead, and it does its darnedest to hold the preset speed.
About all the Super Duty needs is an intelligent autonomous controller for the old-school hydraulic-assist, recirculating-ball steering, cloud connectivity, and a googol checks and balances and it’s basically ready to tow a camper cross-country with minimal human involvement. That day will come. For now, though, there’s no reason to believe existing heavy-duty truck shoppers, the important ones that do the driving—and the towing—will be displeased with the Super Duty.
The cabin materials represent a huge step up from the previous truck, there’s tons of space inside for hitch balls and mounts, and you can alter the number of center console cupholders (from two to four or four to two) with a sliding section. The ride is exactly what you’d expect from this class of vehicle: wonderful and supple when loaded, incredibly stiff in the rear end when not. The 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8, now 65 lb-ft torquier to a peak of 925 lb-ft at 1,800 rpm, drives as stoutly as ever. (Horsepower stays at 440.) The 6.2-liter V-8 is no slouch, but the additional gasoline-fueled revving doesn’t feel as “right” as the diesel.
The capability impresses. It’s remarkable that the truck’s steel frame is up to 24 times stiffer and more trailer-ready than before, and the cab and box are now aluminum, but it’s not that shocking. This thrusts the weight savings to up to 350 pounds (159 kg) over the previous model. The reality is that drivers that use heavy-duty trucks for their intended purpose need all the excess capacity they can get. In some aspects, boosting those heavily marketed tow ratings (now 32,500 pounds (14,742 kg) on the gooseneck and 21,000 pounds (9,525 kg) off the hitch) is a way for Ford to catch up to the hardworking customers that overload on payload and trailer weight simply because it gets the job done. We’re sure they’ll use the Super Duty for all it’s worth. Until the autonomous version comes along and computers do all the work.
|2017 Ford F-250/F-350/F-450 Super Duty|
|BASE PRICE RANGE||$33,730-$78,320|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/4WD, 3-6-pass, 2/2+2/4-door pickup|
|ENGINES||6.2L/385-hp/430-lb-ft SOHC 16-valve V-8, 6.7L/440-hp/925-lb-ft turbodiesel OHV 32-valve V-8|
|CURB WEIGHT||5,700-8,600 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||231.8-266.2 x 80.0-96.0 x 77.9-81.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.2-8.3 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||Not rated|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|