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PowerSteering: 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty Review

PowerSteering: 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty Review

By Christian Wardlaw, August 21, 2017

Introduction
Except for within the segment containing America’s traditional pony cars—the Camaro, Challenger, and Mustang—no more contentious a “Mine is bigger than yours” contest is played than in the large heavy-duty pickup truck category.

In recent years, Ford and Ram have duked it out over whose truck really does tow the most weight and carry the most payload. Each automaker fielding trucks in this class is continually upgrading their products to give them a competitive edge, seeking to retain loyal buyers while capturing brand defectors from other companies.

2017 Ford F-250 Lariat front quarter left photoIn 2017, Ford performed a metaphorical cannonball into the large heavy-duty truck pool. The redesigned 2017 Ford F-250, F-350, and F-450 models are better than ever, laying “military-grade” aluminum bodywork over a frame that is 24 times stiffer than before, and employing a new optional turbodiesel engine churning out 440 horsepower and 925 lb.-ft. of torque.

According to Ford, maximum towing capacity for the 2017 Super Duty measures 21,000 lbs. with a conventional trailer (up to 32,500 lbs. with a gooseneck trailer), and maximum payload capacity is 7,630 lbs. These figures lead the segment, by Ford’s estimation.

Our reviewer, a suburban dad whose own 250 lbs. is about the maximum amount of weight he ever needs to put into a vehicle, evaluated an F-250 SuperCrew Platinum with a short bed, 4-wheel drive (4WD), turbodiesel engine, extra-cost paint, roof clearance lights, and the Platinum Ultimate option package. The price came to $78,270, including the $1,295 destination charge.



What Owners Say
Before we discuss the results of our evaluation of the new 2017 F-Series Super Duty, it’s helpful to understand who buys this large heavy-duty pickup truck and what they like most and least about it.

Not surprisingly, Ford F-Series Super Duty buyers are similar to those of all large heavy-duty pickup trucks. The majority are men (93% for the Ford, 92% for the segment), their median age is 56 (vs. 54 for the segment), and they earn a median annual household income of $109,722 (vs. $111,773).

In terms of buyer sentiments about vehicle preferences and selection, few differences exist between F-Series Super Duty buyers and those of all large heavy-duty trucks. Super Duty buyers are more likely to identify themselves as hometown retired while buyers in the segment most often identify themselves as practical buyers.

Beyond this, Super Duty buyers are more likely to prefer to buy a vehicle from a domestic company (93% vs. 90%), are less likely to make fuel economy a first consideration when choosing a vehicle (42% vs. 46%), and they are less likely to pay extra for the latest safety features (69% vs. 72%).

Buyers say their favorite things about the F-Series Super Duty are (in descending order) the engine/transmission, exterior styling, visibility and safety, interior design, and seats. Buyers indicate their least favorite things about the F-Series Super Duty are (in descending order) the storage and space, driving dynamics, climate control system, infotainment system, and the fuel economy.


What Our Expert Says
In the sections that follow, our expert provides his own assessment of how the new 2017 F-Series Super Duty performs in each of the 10 categories that comprise the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout (APEAL) Study.SM

Exterior
With the new Super Duty, Ford uses the same styling themes it developed for the light-duty F-150 model but avoids that smaller truck’s somewhat generic appearance.

Up front, the F-Series Super Duty is bold enough to satisfy customers seeking to emulate over-the-road semi-trucks, without resorting to unnecessary flourishes or garish trim. Flanks are decorated with simulated fender vents, but they’re nicely integrated into the design instead of appearing like tacked-on auto parts store extras. Around back, tidy vertical taillights frame the tailgate.

The F-250 Platinum test truck had body-color bumpers, mesh grille detailing, cab clearance lights, chrome telescopic side mirrors, and a brushed aluminum decorative panel on the tailgate. These features, plus the large spoked wheels, added just enough glamour to signal its stature atop the trim level ladder without going overboard.

In short, Ford gets every styling element of the F-250 Platinum SuperCrew exactly right.

Interior
Contrasting nicely with the White Platinum exterior paint, Brunello brown leather seats, black carpets, and silver trim gave the F-250 Platinum’s cabin an appropriately upscale appearance.

Granted, materials remain rooted in work-truck territory, designed to take a beating first and to look rich and feel good second. But the leather, padded console and dashboard tops, and the soft upper door-panel material make it easy to forget about this luxurious truck’s plebian origins.

2017 Ford F-250 Lariat interior photoControls are easy to locate and use, and primary knobs and buttons are large enough that someone wearing gloves can operate them. Others are too small for that, and owners will definitely need to remove them to use the Sync 3 infotainment system.

Seats
Thanks to myriad power adjustments and a massaging feature, the Super Duty Platinum’s front seats are a terrific place to spend time. Heating and ventilation add comfort under a variety of weather conditions, and the test truck’s rear seats also offered heating elements.

Three large adults can easily clamber into the SuperCrew’s rear seat, where generous thigh support and legroom are in store. Rear air conditioning vents also help to improve comfort levels, and power-deploying running boards make it easy for everyone to climb aboard this tall truck.

Climate Control System
During testing, temperatures were mild. The F-250’s heater had no trouble dispatching chilly mornings, and the few times the temperatures climbed into the 80s the air conditioner proved effective.

Buyers who choose the turbodiesel engine can opt for a rapid-heat supplemental cab heater, which I assume would be helpful on a January day in Fargo, North Dakota.

Infotainment System
Ford offers its latest infotainment system for the F-Series Super Duty. Called Sync 3, it responds quickly to input, features large virtual buttons on its touch screen, and renders information with modern graphics. Better yet, it has volume and tuning knobs for the radio, and they’re oversized so that you can grasp them while wearing gloves.

Siri compatibility and a sophisticated voice-recognition system make it easy to use Sync 3 without futzing with the screen. Smartphone-projection technology supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and MyKey technology supplies certain programmable limitations designed to promote safer teenaged drivers. Sync’s 911 Assist function uses your smartphone’s data plan rather than a paid subscription to service.

The test truck also had a Sony premium sound system that provided clear, crisp sound quality.

Storage and Space
Storage space is plentiful within the Super Duty’s cabin, especially if you’ve got cups. In addition to a large bin and a covered tray, the center console supplies four giant cupholders for front-seat occupants and two for rear-seat riders. You can thank the column-mounted transmission shifter for all of this space.

Additionally, a shallow tray is hidden behind the silver dashboard trim in front of the front passenger, just above the glove box, and slots are mounted to each side of the center console. Door panel bins are small, suitable for bottles, but a deep tray resides atop the dashboard. Don’t leave anything melty up there.

Like other trucks, the SuperCrew’s rear-seat cushions flip up to allow for plenty of locked and covered storage. The test truck’s tailgate had an especially useful integrated step to make it easier to climb up into the bed, and Ford offers a variety of bed liners, bed mats, bed extenders, box lighting, and other utility solutions to serve a variety of truck buyers.

Visibility and Safety
You sit up high in a Ford F-Series Super Duty. The F-250 test truck put me nearly eye-to-eye with long-haul truckers, and visibility is outstanding. Following a Suburban in traffic? No problem, because you can see right over it.

The test truck had a few upgrades that improved visibility, including telescopic side mirrors with separate blind-spot sections, parking-assist sensors, and a terrific 360-degree camera system with a top-down view, rear view, and forward view. I actually used this to negotiate a narrow drive-thru, and it legitimately helped the long and wide F-250 to get around the restaurant without a scratch.

2017 Ford F-250 Lariat rear quarter left photoAdditional innovations that I did not use include a camera that provides a view into the cargo box to make connecting gooseneck and 5th-wheel trailers easier, a Trailer Reverse Guidance system and a reversing camera that can be placed on the trailer itself to make reversing a relative breeze, and a tire-pressure monitoring system for the trailer that the driver can reference within the cab.

Ford also offers adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, a brake-support system specifically designed for use with trailers, and a blind-spot warning system optimized to take into consideration trailers that are 33 feet long.

Man, now I really wish I had a trailer to tow. This stuff sounds awesome.

Engine/Transmission
A 6.2-liter V-8 engine is standard for the F-250. It makes 385 horsepower at 5,750 rpm and 430 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,800 rpm. The test truck’s 6.7-liter, turbodiesel V-8 engine added $8,795 to the sticker price, in the process delivering 440 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and 925 lb.-ft. of torque at 1,800 rpm.

Is that extra power, made at more accessible engine revs, worth the price? That’s a personal decision that only you can make. What I can tell you is that the PowerStroke diesel is a fantastic engine.

Paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission and 4WD, the mighty 6.7-liter thundered across California’s Owens Valley region and up into the Sierra Nevadas without any trouble, returning 16.1 mpg during a family road trip. Granted, we weren’t towing anything, or hauling much aside from a few packed suitcases, so make of this commentary what you will.

Furthermore, we needed to engage 4WD just once, and doing so is a piece of the proverbial cake. You need to be selective about the trails you take, though, because an F-250 SuperCrew is tough to get turned around should you encounter an impassable section or, as is common in California, a fence or a gate marking a private property boundary.

Fuel Economy
As mentioned previously, the F-250 returned 16.1 mpg during a week of driving that included a long road trip with lots of highway and mountain routes. Driven locally in the suburbs, the truck eked out a dismal 12.2 mpg. On one section of level, straight freeway with the cruise control set at 75 mph, the PowerStroke diesel returned 20.8 mpg.

Driving Dynamics
Because I evaluated this truck unburdened by a trailer or a payload, the ride was unyieldingly stiff. However, the improvement in chassis strength is undeniable, the truck remaining firmly glued to the road surface, never feeling skittish.

Steering is fairly slow and feels vague on center, and though the brakes are stout and capable a Super Duty does require extra distance to haul itself down from speed. This could explain the test truck’s overeager forward-collision warning system, which sounded unnecessary alarms on multiple occasions.

None of these traits count as detriments against the F-250, as all heavy-duty pickups are calibrated to tackle heavy loads. Sharp steering is unhelpful in such situations, big brakes are a requirement, and suspensions settle down when tasked with managing thousands of pounds.


Final Impressions
Hands down, the Ford F-Series Super Duty is the most capable large light-duty truck. But it is not the most appealing one, according to the results of the 2016 U.S. APEAL Study. That distinction goes to the GMC Sierra Heavy Duty.

As a reviewer with more than 20 years of experience driving myriad vehicles, this is difficult for me to understand, despite the GMC’s new Duramax diesel engine option. In my opinion, the Ford F-Series Super Duty is king of large heavy-duty truck mountain.

But the Voice of the Customer is a strong one, and buyers of these types of trucks have spoken. Given the imminent arrival of redesigned Silverado, Sierra and Ram trucks for 2019, the game is only going to get tougher for Ford.

Ford Motor Company supplied the vehicle used for this 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty review.

For more information about our test driver and our methodology, please see our reviewer profile.


Additional Research:


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