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2020 Ford F-350 Super Duty Test Drive Review
Heavy-duty trucks are all about getting work done. They have the highest tow ratings of any non-commercial vehicles, and they have the features and tools for worksites and contractors. But a trend over the past decade is the increasing popularity of the “luxury truck.” Owners also use their trucks as commuter cars, family haulers, and road trip vehicles.
The 2020 Ford F-350 Super Duty is offered in a wide variety of trims to accommodate its equally wide variety of potential uses. For 2020, the F-350 gets a new 7.3-liter V8, expanded use of the new 10-speed automatic transmission, and a new off-road-inspired trim called the Tremor. But which Ford Super Duty is right for you?
Look and Feel
The styling has been updated for 2020 with a more detailed grille and headlights. The new grille moves away from the gaudy chrome-clad bars of the 2019 model, but is still imposing in its own right. The massive headlights are just as large, but thanks to some additional detail and contouring, they look a bit less like a glass-fronted dorm fridge than before. These are all little touches, but the result is a more mature looking heavy-duty pickup.
But it’s still nothing more than just a modest evolution of the design that was introduced for the 2017 model year. Consider the medium-duty Ford F-150, which has been redesigned for the 2021 model year. As these updated trucks hit the road later this year, the Super Duty will continue to look more and more dated. The next major redesign for the Super Duty is not scheduled until 2023.
While the front end received its modest update, the cabin is unchanged. The blocky styling is not particularly inviting. As trucks have grown into the luxury vehicles they are today, rivals like Ram have stepped up, providing far more welcoming cabins. But the interior of the F-350 Super Duty is ideally suited for work use and features plenty of usable space.
Trim levels for the 2020 Ford F-350 Super Duty are XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited. Standard features on the XL trim include 17-inch steel wheels, black front-and-rear bumpers, and black door handles. It gives the XL the ultimate “work truck” look. Inside, the XL comes vinyl seats, manual climate control, a 2.3-inch instrument panel menu screen, and a basic AM/FM/MP3 stereo.
Moving up to the XLT adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, chrome bumpers and door handles, black running boards, and bed tie-downs. The XLT also adds a larger 4.2-inch LCD instrument-panel screen, cloth seats, a wall-style power outlet in the center console and rear seat console, and the SYNC 3 infotainment system. SYNC 3 includes an 8-inch touchscreen and support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The Lariat bridges the gap between a work truck and a luxury truck. It adds a chrome step-bar, leather upholstery, an 8-inch LCD screen in the instrument panel, dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front seats, and power-adjustable pedals.
The King Ranch features a unique two-tone exterior design, a remote-release tailgate, and LED bed lighting. The King Ranch also features special saddle-style leather upholstery, ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a memory setting for the seats and power-adjustable pedals.
Moving up to the Platinum adds 20-inch polished aluminum wheels, heated-and-ventilated seats, and Ford’s Multi-Contour front bucket seats with massaging function. The range-topping Limited provides power-retractable running boards, a number of unique visual touches, a panoramic, dual-panel sunroof, and a premium audio system by Bang & Olufsen.
Standard power comes from a 6.2-liter gas V8 engine. It makes 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. There is also a 6.7-liter turbodiesel Power Stroke V8. It puts out 475 hp and an astounding 1,050 lb-ft of torque. New for 2020 is a 7.3-liter gas V8, putting out 430 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque.
The 6.2-liter V8 routes power through either a six-speed automatic transmission or an available 10-speed automatic. The 10-speed comes as standard equipment on the 7.3-liter gas engine and the 6.7-liter diesel engine. Power is routed to the rear wheels or available four-wheel drive with low range.
All engines make more than enough power. Acceleration is swift for such a heavy vehicle. If you have passengers and gear in the truck, any engine will get you up to highway speed quickly. When properly equipped, the F-350 has a conventional towing capacity of 24,200 pounds. It has a fifth-wheel towing capacity of 32,500 pounds and a gooseneck trailer capacity of 37,000 pounds. When properly equipped, it also can provide 7,850 pounds in maximum payload capacity.
The F-350’s size and height are felt in corners. Models set up for higher towing capacities will be “chattery” over bumps when not towing or hauling. This is generally expected of heavy-duty trucks, but it should be noted the Ram 3500 has a smoother ride.
For 2020, Ford has added the Tremor off-road package to the lineup. The Tremor package is optional on the XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels. This package adds 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler all-terrain tires, a lifted suspension, graded off-road shocks and springs, and Trail Control as well as a special rock-crawl drive mode. The 2-inch suspension lift and a shorter front air dam provide 10.8 inches of ground clearance, according to Ford. The whole package is set off with black matte-finish wheels, a black grille, and body-color front-and-rear bumpers.
Form and Function
The F-350 is offered in Regular Cab, Super Cab, and Super Crew configurations. Super Cab is an extended cab with rear-hinged half-doors. It provides a decent amount of space for rear-seat passengers, but requires opening the front door to access it. If you have kids or use the rear doors a lot, this can get old fast. But if you only use the rear seats occasionally, or use them to store gear out of the elements, it’s a good solution.
The Super Crew is a full four-door crew cab with a massive cab. The rear seats have tons of headroom and legroom, and they fold up to provide a large load floor for gear. There are also in-door pockets on all four doors that can hold large water bottles. Meanwhile, the front-seat occupants can take advantage of the massive center console with multiple deep pockets. The center console bin is large enough to store most laptops.
Ford offers the F-350 with either a 6-foot-9-inch bed or an 8-foot bed. The regular cab comes only with the longer bed, while the Super Cab and Super Crew are available with either bed lengths. The 8-foot bed is also available in a dual-rear-wheel configuration, also called a “dually.” This bed setup is available with all three cab sizes. The bed also features a step that extends from the end of the tailgate when opened. This is helpful for loading items into the bed without having to reach over the bed walls.
The F-350 soldiers on with the current version of Ford’s infotainment technology—SYNC 3. Newer vehicles like the 2021 F-150 have the latest SYNC 4 system, but SYNC 3 is still one of the best infotainment systems on the market today. It gets standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone compatibility. It has a very intuitive menu layout, and large icons at the bottom of the screen for Audio, Phone, Navigation, Apps, and Settings. A Home icon ensures you can always jump out of a deep settings menu to the home screen.
SYNC 3 does have the occasional buggy hiccup. This is often experienced when first turning the truck on or jumping back and forth between SYNC 3 and Apple CarPlay. On the subject of CarPlay, SYNC 3's “Home” icon is not available when in CarPlay or Android Auto. That means getting to a SYNC menu from a CarPlay menu requires backing out to Apple’s home screen then finding the “Ford” icon. Both Chevrolet’s and Ram’s infotainment systems make switching between menus easier.
Some of Ford’s most impressive tech comes in the form of towing features. Pro Trailer Backup Assist includes a 360 camera, wide-angle backup camera, and Trailer Reverse Guidance. Backing up a trailer can be quite a chore, and involves a lot of counterintuitive steering inputs. Trailer Reverse Guidance takes the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands as they operate a dial in the dash to “point” the trailer where they need it. The system calculates the steering angle required by the truck to get the trailer where the driver wants it and makes all the steering inputs on its own.
The Ford F-350 Super Duty comes standard with a full array of airbags, automatic high beams, traction control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Moving up to the XLT trim level adds automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and blind-spot monitoring. The blind-spot monitoring system can even account for trailers, thanks to sensors in the rear corners of the truck. The Lariat adds a reverse-sensing system, while the King Ranch adds the aforementioned Pro Trailer Backup Assist as standard equipment.
Moving up to the Platinum trim adds adaptive cruise control and adaptive steering, as well as upgraded quad-beam LED headlights. The range-topping Limited provides all these features as standard equipment.
The EPA does not require fuel-economy reporting for heavy-duty trucks. The rationale is that these are design for use as commercial vehicles. But contractors and their accountants need to know how much their annual fuel costs will be. Owners report average fuel economy of around 11.5 mpg with the 6.2-liter gas engine. The new 7.3-liter gas engine returns around 11 to 14 mpg. The diesel engine has a low of around 11 mpg, but it also can return as much as 19 or even 20 mpg on the highway.
Base MSRP for the 2020 Ford F-350 is $35,500 for the XL trim level. The Super Cab starts at $37,885, while the Super Crew starts at $39,150. A Regular Cab XLT starts at $40,340, A Super Cab short bed Lariat starts at $48,450, while a Super Crew King Ranch starts at $60,850. The F-350 Platinum starts at $67,745, while the range-topping Limited starts at $85,105, though it comes with nearly every option included.
Spend enough time researching full-size, heavy-duty pickups, and you may become numb to how truck prices have skyrocketed—to the point where $80,000 and even $90,000 trucks have become commonplace—but it’s still a shock to many shoppers. Trucks have gotten more and more luxurious to meet the demands and needs of their owners. But if you need a truck for work duty, there is still a place for you and your budget. The XLT trim level delivers enough content and features, but at a price that will not induce sticker shock. The Ram 3500 is certainly a nicer pickup, but Ford offers the features and powertrains for those that need their trucks to get work done…without busting your budget.
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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