2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty Test Drive

Ron Sessions | Feb 03, 2020

Introduction

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty with Tremor package front view

Photo: Ron Sessions

As with the Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra and Ram pickups, Ford offers both standard- and heavy-duty versions its F-Series full-size pickup trucks. The major domestic pickup truck manufacturers don’t publish the sales numbers of the regular- and heavy-duty pickups separately, but Ford says of the 896,000 F-Series pickups sold in the U.S. in 2019, roughly one-third were heavy-duty models. Ford dubs them Super Duty models, available in F-250, F-350 and F-450 configurations.

There are 256 possible Super Duty build combinations, including 2-door Regular and 4-door SuperCab and Crew Cab body configurations, 2- and 4-wheel-drive powertrains, and a choice of single- or dual rear-wheel axles. Regular Cab models are equipped with an 8-foot bed while SuperCab and Crew Cab versions offer a choice of the 8- or 6.75-foot beds.

Available Super Duty trims include the very basic XL work truck, mainstream XLT and Lariat, well-equipped King Ranch and Platinum and range-topping Limited. Including the $1,595 destination charge, the bare-bones, Regular Cab, 2-wheel-drive F-250 XL starts at $35,300 and ranges up to $92,125 for a top-of-the-line, 4-wheel-drive, F-450 Limited Crew Cab.

The 2020 Super Duty isn’t all-new but undergoes a significant mid-cycle update. The big news is the addition of two new engines to the Super Duty pickup’s powertrain lineup: a 7.3-liter gas V8 engine with 430 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque that replaces the previous V10 and a third-generation 6.7-liter PowerStroke turbodiesel that develops 475 horsepower and (for now) a segment-leading 1,050 lb-ft of torque. That beats the 910 lb-ft available in the 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel V8 of the current Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC Sierra HD pickups and the 1,000 lb-ft of twist in the high-output 6.7-liter Cummins 6-cylinder turbodiesel of the Ram Heavy Duty pickup.

An all-new 10-speed TorqShift automatic transmission is standard with either the 7.3-liter gas or 6.7-liter diesel engine. It’s of heavy-duty build and not the 10-speed automatic that was jointly developed by Ford and General Motors.

Ford also ups the ante for 2020 with 24,500-lb Super Duty maximum payload and 37,000-lb gooseneck max towing ratings, again topping the numbers currently published for the truck’s Chevrolet, GMC and Ram Heavy Duty competitors.

Other changes for 2020 include the addition of a Tremor off-road package, the availability of Ford’s Pro Trailer backup Assist and the expansion of standard and optional infotainment and driver-assistive technology.

Styling and Design

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty design rear view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2020 F-Series Super Duty rolls with the same basic squared-off design as the F-150 with aluminum body construction, but is taller and beefier with up-gauged axles, suspension, brakes and powertrain components. Design-wise, the 2020 Super Duty models receive a mild styling refresh. Uplevel trims get revised LED headlamps and tail lamps, and updated bumpers. Dual-rear-wheel (DRW) models receive a unique grille.

Outside, the Super Duty model walk looks much like the F-150’s The XL is a bare-bones work truck with a black grille and bumpers, halogen headlamps (with automatic on/off and high-beam assist), manually telescoping trailer-tow side mirrors and 17-inch steel wheels.

XLT adds a chrome grille and bumpers, BoxLink locking bed cleats, power side mirrors, rear privacy glass, and 18-inch alloy wheels, while Lariat trim brings fog lamps, power-telescoping trailer-tow mirrors, color-keyed door handles and a power sliding back window.

King Ranch upgrades with accent-colored bumpers, LED cargo box lighting and a power tailgate release, while the Platinum and Limited grades add color-keyed bumpers, a satin aluminum grille, chrome door handles, quad-beam LED headlamps, LED tail lamps and 20-inch polished alloy wheels.

King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trims are only available with the Crew Cab.

Features and Controls

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Pro Trailer Backup Assist

Photo: Ron Sessions

Climb up into the cab and anyone familiar with the F-150 will feel right at home as the Super Duty’s is virtually the same. No harm, no foul, and the Super Duty’s low-cut doors and free-standing trailer mirrors are a boon for outward visibility. Although there are a lot of right angles and hard plastic showing as well as a plethora of buttons and knobs to look at, the interior design is workable and functional.

Inside, the work-oriented XL has standard manual door locks and crank windows, vinyl flooring and manually adjustable vinyl seats. XLT adds carpeting, cloth seats, power windows and door locks, cruise control and a keyless remote. Lariat brings dual-zone automatic climate control, leather-covered power-adjustable front seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. King Ranch trim upgrades to antique-look leather seat coverings, remote engine start, a heated steering wheel and pushbutton start while the Platinum and Limited bring extra-soft leather seat coverings.

Among the many Super Duty options is a moonroof, available on XLT and higher trims.

Previously offered only in the F-150 pickup and Expedition SUV, Pro Trailer Backup Assist is newly available for the Super Duty pickup. The system takes the guesswork and angst out of backing up a trailer. When switched on, the driver takes hands off the steering wheel and uses a medium size knob about the size of the F-Series radio volume or tuning knob on the lower dash just above the console to steer the truck and trailer as they are backed up. A 360-degree overhead camera display and a rear camera display with trailer reverse guidance, also included with the Pro Trailer Backup Assist, help the driver guide the truck and trailer into position. The system, which now also works with gooseneck trailers, is an option for XL, XLT and Lariat trims and standard in King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models. Currently, there’s nothing like it available in the Super Duty’s Ram, Chevrolet and GMC heavy Duty competition.

A new Tremor off-road package available on all but the base XL trim of the F-250 and F-350 gives the Super Duty a 4WD equipment set to compete with the Ram Heavy Duty’s Power Wagon offering. The Tremor package brings a front-end lift, progressive-rate front coil springs, upgraded performance twin-tube shocks and 35-inch off-road tires on 18-inch matte-black alloy wheels. While that’s not exactly full-blow Raptor territory, the Tremor rolls with 10.4 inches of ground clearance and the capability to ford 33 inches of water. Skidplates protect the fuel tank and 4WD transfer case and a shorter front air dam is less likely to get snagged on rocks and stumps. Raptor-style fixed steel-mesh running boards aid the climb up into the cab. Driveline upgrades consist of an electronic locking rear differential and a limited-slip one at the front axle. Also included in the Tremor is Trail Control, which is best described as off-road cruise control, as well as driver-selectable drive modes including a rock-crawl mode. The Tremor package is available with either the 6.7-liter turbodiesel or the 7.3-liter gas engine. An optional integrated front winch is available as well.

Safety and Technology

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty dashboard technology

Photo: Ron Sessions

New for 2020, all Super Duty models come standard with FordPass Connect featuring an embedded 4G LTE modem for in-truck Wi-Fi access for as many as 10 portable devices and the ability to locate a parked truck, check its status, and remote start, lock and unlock it.

The XL comes with SYNC voice recognition and a basic 4-speaker AM/FM/MP3 stereo with a 4-inch screen, 911 Assist and AppLink and a single USB port, and XLT-and-higher trims add SYNC3 with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone mirroring, SiriusXM and come with five (2-door models) or seven (4-door models) speakers, two 400-watt 110-volt power points and a pair of smart-charging USB Type-C ports. Lariat-and-higher models add a 10-speaker premium B&O by Bang & Olufsen stereo and two more USB ports for the rear seat.

Voice-activated embedded navigation with pinch-to-zoom capability comes standard with King Ranch, Platinum and Limited and includes HD radio, as well as 5 years of SiriusXM traffic and travel services.

Also available is wireless charging and the newest USB Type-C fast charging ports.

All models include a standard backup camera display in the center infotainment screen. XLT-and-higher grades now come standard with Ford’s CoPilot 360 technology as well as Driver-assistive tech such as blind-spot monitoring with trailer coverage, rear cross-traffic monitoring, a lane-keeping alert system and a forward collision alert system with auto emergency braking.

King Ranch and higher trims add reverse sensing.

Driving Impressions

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty water fording capability

Photo: Ron Sessions

I spent a day and put more than 150 miles behind me in a trio of 2020 F-Series Super Duty pickups North and West of Phoenix, Arizona. A first light, I climbed into a 4WD F-250 Lariat Crew Cab with the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V8 and 10-speed automatic. The drive took me West of Phoenix on the interstate where the torquey diesel had no problem getting up to the posted 70-mph speed quickly. At cruising speeds, the diesel was as quiet and well-mannered as any big-inch gas V8. Riding empty, the F-250’s ride motions were civilized with no freeway hop or jounciness noticeable. The same could be said for the secondary road heading North in the general direction of Kingman, even as the road abruptly turned to dirt and gravel. The only hiccup occurred while taking a short track into the desert for photos and snagging the huge front airdam which extend well below the front bumpers on some rocks and stumps while turning around. Luckily, the airdam is flexible plastic and suffered no damage. During this leg, observed average fuel economy was 18.3 mpg, not bad for a truck weighing three tons.

Because all Super Duty pickup models have a gross vehicle weight rating above 8,500 lbs, the EPA does not issue fuel economy estimates.

The next leg was at a rock quarry where Ford had set up an off-road course. My ride for this segment was another F-250 Crew Cab with the new Tremor off-road package. Obviously, Ford set up this course around the capabilities of the Tremor, but as I picked my way over boulders that exercised the truck’s locking rear and limited-slip front differentials and the off-road mode of the traction control system, I began to trust the Super Duty’s capabilities.

One neat feature that I was grateful to have in the truck is the forward-facing camera, which gave me a reassuring peek at the trail ahead over steep breakovers when all I could see over the tall hood with a naked eye was the sky.

Another section of the trail was flooded and just the scenario to test the Super Duty’s 33-inch water fording capability to great drama. Deep, muddy tracks on both side of the water hazard gave the opportunity to exercise the Tremor’s aggressive 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires which somehow found purchase to keep moving through all of that muck.

A third leg found me in an F-350 Crew Cab with the new “big” 7.3-liter gas V8. Over this 60-mile stretch of dirt back roads, I saw an average 16.2 mpg on the trip computer. A higher GVW rating and higher rate springs gave this truck a slightly stiffer ride, but it was well behaved over washboard sections and unfazed by deep dips in washes or whumps over cattle grates. The 7.3-liter also didn’t waste any time getting up to speed.

The last leg Ford set up was at the base of the Yarnell Grade just North of Congress, Arizona where they had a variety of big trailers hooked to Super Duty pickups with the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel. State route 89 climbs 1,300 feet in just four miles there and it’s a popular testing route for development engineers testing cooling systems and trailer-towing gradeability uphill and brakes downhill. While my lack of a commercial driver’s license prevented me from piloting the truck pulling the maximum-rated gooseneck load in excess of 30,000 pounds, I did drive one with a 14,000-lb load up and down the grade. In normal driving, you don’t necessarily feel the 1,050 lb-ft of torque the 6.7-liter turbodiesel puts out, but climbing the Yarnell Grade, the Super Duty pickup had no problem getting up to and maintaining the posted speed. Tow/haul mode kept the truck in the lower gears, the brakes offered reassuring response with zero fade and when hooked to a conventional rear hitch, the 10-speed TorqShift automatic served up seamless shifts. A second run in another Super Duty with a gooseneck-hitched load did, however, experience more abrupt shifts, something the Ford engineer riding along said they were aware of and in the process of refining.

Conclusion

2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty trailer hauling capabilities

Photo: Ron Sessions

Big in Suburbia, stable on the interstate, rock solid on twisty dirt roads, capable over rugged terrain off-road and cool, calm and collected towing big trailers on steep highway grades, the 2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty is all about the task at hand.

There is a battle raging now between Ford, GM and FCA for horsepower and torque bragging rights. And right now, the Super Duty has the edge under the hood as well as with payload and towing capabilities. That will likely change back and forth as competitors work to make their numbers come out on top.

But just a tiny fraction of heavy-duty truck customers spec out their trucks for the really big jobs. As far as the Super Duty is concerned, two-thirds of its sales are F-250s.

The Super Duty doesn’t have the big, portrait-style infotainment screen of the Ram HD or the trick, origami folding tailgate of the GMC Sierra HD, but it has a large following of customers who along with the F-150, make the F-Series far and away the best-selling full-size pickup on the planet.

Updated in a broad spectrum of areas that count with commercial pickup buyers, I see nothing in the 2020 F-Series Super Duty pickup to change that equation.

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