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2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty Test Drive Review
Cars, SUVs, and crossovers have evolved and become different things over the years, but heavy-duty pickups have a job to do, and no amount of innovation or passing trend can get in the way of that job. From work sites to highways and the back country, if you need a stump pulled, a load hauled, or a whole lot of gear moved, America’s big three-quarter-ton and one-ton trucks are the ones to get it done.
The Ford F-150 is a half-ton pickup, and while Toyota and Nissan offer trucks with such capability, it's only the American Big Three that offer three-quarter-ton enhanced-capability pickups. They have big beds, tall suspensions, strong construction, and stronger axles.
The Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty are one such franchise in this massively capable type of truck. They’re all-new for 2017, and what's instantly apparent is that for all their immense capability, they also offer a lot of new tech that not only stays out of the way, but makes truck ownership easier.
Look and Feel
Meet the Tonka Truck for adults. Pickups keep getting bigger, but it's just crazy that they can dwarf someone 6-foot, 3-inches tall, like me. The new design is possibly even bolder than that of the 2016 model. It features a huge chrome grille that now expands into the headlights. The headlights themselves are larger than the previous setup and closer to the size of a man’s torso or a dorm fridge.
Since big trucks have a job to do, designers can tweak some elements of the Super Duty, but from the cab back, things have to stay pretty traditional, and if you discount the wild grille and headlights, the overall design is basic. If you stand in front of a Super Duty and look at it from there, it actually looks taller than it is wide and creates quite an imposing first impression.
The Super Duty is available with one of three cab sizes and one of two bed sizes. The Regular Cab is your standard “single cab,” with two or three seats, depending on whether you get bucket seats or a bench. The SuperCab is Ford’s extended cab—it features rear clamshell half-doors that require the front doors to be open before they can be opened. Finally, the SuperCrew is the full 4-door model. Both SuperCabs and SuperCrews seat 5 passengers with buckets or 6 with the front bench.
Any of these cabs can be had with either a 6-foot, 9-inch (“standard”) bed or the 8-foot (“long”) bed. The F-150 offers the SuperCrew with a short bed and a regular bed, but the F-250 takes things a step further by offering its largest cab with its largest bed. But many work crews need a full 4 doors and the biggest bed you can get.
Once you actually climb up into this beast, things look very modern, but somewhat cold. This is something you'll see in some Audi and BMW interiors. They have a fine layout and all the best technology, but lack a welcoming warmth you might find in competitors. By comparison, Ram and Chevrolet Silverado interiors are like a welcoming den.
Heavy-duty pickups are supported by two pillars: the power of their engine and drivetrain, and the capability of their chassis, frame, bed, etc. As far as power goes, the Super Duty has it in spades. Two engines are available, a 6.2-liter gas V8 or a 6.7-liter PowerStroke turbodiesel V8.
The gas V8 makes 385 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque. In general, torque is often overlooked in favor of horsepower, but when you’re towing, hauling, or pulling up a tree stump, torque is the more important number. If you need brute power, check out the diesel V8. It makes 440 hp and 925 pound-feet of torque! That’s an insane amount of twist coming from the wheels. In fact, that number makes the Super Duty best-in-class for torque in full-size trucks.
Power gets sent through a 6-speed automatic to the rear wheels or available 4-wheel drive with a Low range. A variant of the 6-speed automatic is called the TorqShift G SelectShift and is designed to manage the added torque.
That best-in-class torque puts up best-in-class towing numbers. When properly equipped, a Super Duty can tow an astounding 21,000 pounds. If you set it up with a 5th-wheel trailer, it can tow 27,500 pounds, and if you put in a full gooseneck trailer setup, it can tow a mind-bending 32,500 pounds. All those figures are best in class for their respective towing qualifications. If you need to tow above all else, there’s a Super Duty for you.
The EPA is not required to post fuel-economy numbers for commercial trucks like the Super Duty, but in mixed driving, I got 15.9 miles per gallon. Ask around and you can expect a Super Duty with the diesel engine to get somewhere between that number and 15 miles per gallon even.
Form and Function
The Super Duty might have a cold interior, but it gets the job done when it comes to storing all your stuff. Doors have two tiers of cubbies, including cup and bottle holders. There are cup holders in the center of the transmission hump, as well as another set of cup holders in the center divider, which has its own cargo compartment and folds up to reveal the third center seat. Fold it down for a center armrest, and it also reveals some added cargo space directly behind the front seats. Two glove boxes also add storage. Space in a single-cab truck is a priority, so all these storage options are paramount.
Out back, the bed features an extending step and handle built into the tailgate. With the tailgate down, this step telescopes out, making it easier to climb in and out of the bed. This is a nifty feature, but Chevrolet does it better by cutting simple steps into the corners of the bumper. Ram has neither, but old-school truck guys will tell you, anyone should be able to put one foot on top of the rear tire and throw the other leg over the bed wall. If that’s not your flavor, the Ford step system is a welcome option.
Once in the bed, the spray-on bed liner is a nice touch and frankly a must-have in a modern truck. It will help keep the bed from getting dented and thus help resale value, or help keep the bed from denting and letting water seep into the frame area. Either way, bed liners are good. Combined with the optional LED bed lights, the rear area of the Super Duty is a great place to work.
Perhaps the most impressive and surprising element of the Super Duty is the level of technology on hand and how seamlessly it's integrated into this big beast. It has up to seven cameras, including several that face rearward. Together, these cameras make trailering easy to the point where it’s not even fair. In the past, backing up a trailer was a harrowing task. You had to turn in the opposite direction the way you wanted the trailer to go and compensate perfectly to get it right.
But Ford makes it easy with the Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System. Using the same cameras as the surround-view system (more on that later), including one at the top of the cab, it gives enhanced views of the trailer area, and you can even hook up a backup camera on the trailer itself and run it through the connecting cables.
As for connectivity and infotainment, the Super Duty features the latest version of Ford’s Sync 3 system. It's greatly improved from the old system and has easy-to-read fonts and icons as well as a sensible menu layout. That said, it's not as good as Chevrolet MyLink or Ram’s Uconnect system, which have some of the best user interfaces in the market. Sync is a very good system, but it also has very strong competition.
Sync 3 has some strong usability of its own. In addition to Bluetooth smartphone pairing, it features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support. Our test truck did not have a navigation system of its own, but we were able to use my iPhone’s Maps app via CarPlay, and it worked seamlessly. Perhaps the best aspect of this interface is that if you look up an address on your phone in the Maps app and hit “Navigate,” your iPhone instantly broadcasts those directions to the CarPlay interface on the touchscreen.
Super Duty trucks feature massive compound mirrors. Each large main power side mirror features a manually operated trailering mirror below it. This provides a wide angle of view, which allows anyone behind the wheel to see the trailer and anyone in the area that would typically be a blind spot. This truck is so large that its blind spot is on either side, but straight down in the lane. These mirrors provide that view. When you’re towing, they also telescope and extend out from the truck for even better visibility.
As stated before, the truck features cameras all over, which work together to provide a 360-degree view of the Super Duty’s surroundings. Using toggles on the touchscreen, you can select which view to use when parking. You can even see the front camera alone, which is a huge help. The square front end has such poor breakover visibility that the camera's ability to see right in front at a lower level lets you get much closer to objects when parallel parking than if you were just “eyeballing” it. The Super Duty also has a full complement of airbags, traction control, and an SOS post-crash alert system.
Base MSRP for the 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty is $32,535. The F-350 starts at $33,705. Ford is known for its variety in truck trims, and the Super Duty does not disappoint. You can get it in base XL trim, XLT like our test model, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum. Each trim level offers its own unique design and equipment, and many have their own grille design. The Platinum is the ultimate upscale heavy-duty pickup and features a remote tailgate release, unique leather seating design, navigation, and an adaptive steering system that will help keep you under control even when towing or hauling a big load.
Not every Super Duty will live as charmed a life as the Platinum, but every F-250 and F-350 Super Duty will leave the assembly line with the capability to do an incredible amount of work, take a beating, and keep on moving for hundreds of thousands of miles. Just now, the Super Duty has some clever tech features that will never get in the way of it doing its job, but actually help the with towing, parking, and many other functions, from the worksite to the parking lot.
From open-wheel racecars to specialty off-road vehicles, George Kennedy has driven it all. A career automotive journalist, George has been a contributor, editor, and/or producer at some of the most respected publications and outlets, including Consumer Reports, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, Autoblog.com, Hemmings Classic Wheels, BoldRide.com, the Providence Journal, and WheelsTV.
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