Every so often, a vehicle comes along that is so well-thought-out that words fail to capture its excellence.
While that praise is normally reserved for supercars and luxury vehicles, we’re talking about the 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty. It’s a remarkable heavy duty pickup that transcends the traditional spec race and features a host of improvements that not only make this the most capable Super Duty ever, but also the most connected and user friendly.
That’s just scratching the surface as Ford talked to owners to discover their pain points and come up with practical solutions. These run the gambit from basic to high-tech, but they show why Ford is America’s best-selling truck brand.
A More Progressive Take On Built Ford Tough
Super Duty pickups have always been easily identifiable by their rugged appearance and that remains true of the redesigned model. However, as designers explained at a press preview earlier this month, the 2023 Super Duty adopts a more progressive take on Built Ford Tough.
The F-150’s influence is immediately apparent as the truck features a more modern and streamlined design. Starting up front, there are minimalist headlights which are now recessed and incorporated into the grille. Buyers will also find new C-shaped LED daytime running lights, which are echoed by a similar C-shape design for the taillights.
Further back, designers ‘sucked in the upper body’ while pushing the lower body out. They also added functional front fender vents, which reduce under-hood air pressure while also aiding engine cooling.
More: 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty Offers Tremor, FX4, And XL Off-Road Packages
Designers paid special attention to improving access to the bed as there are new side steps and a corner step rear bumper. Ford also incorporated grab handles into the rear bed rails to aid in steadying yourself.
Speaking of the bed, Regular Cab models are available exclusively with an 8 foot aluminum bed that has a capacity of 78.5 cubic feet (2,223 liters). SuperCab and Crew Cab variants offer the 8 foot bed as well as a shorter 6.75 foot bed, which has a reduced cargo capacity of 65.4 cubic feet (1,852 liters).
The F-250 and F-350 ride on 17-, 18- or 20-inch wheels, while the monstrous F-450 has 19.5-inchers. Customers can also get single and dual rear wheel setups.
Rounding out the highlights are LED box lighting, an available power tailgate, and the popular Pro Power On-Board option from the F-150. The latter provides up to 2 kW of juice and this can be used for powering everything from tools to tailgating equipment.
Ford will also offer STX, Sport, and Black Appearance packages as well as three off-road focused packs – XL Off-Road, FX4, and Tremor – that we talked about in a previous article.
A Comfortable, High-Tech Cabin
While the Super Duty has always offered impressive specifications, their interiors have often left plenty to be desired.
Ford is now addressing the complaints with a higher quality cabin that boasts an evolutionary design as well as high-tech features. In particular, drivers will find a new 12-inch digital instrument cluster that is customizable and easy to read. It’s joined by 8- and 12-inch infotainment systems, with the latter being standard equipment on everything except the entry-level XL.
Elsewhere, there’s a lower center console and an optimized center stack that groups physical controls together. Designers also moved the wireless smartphone charger closer to the driver, while adding a center console slot that can hold a tablet upright.
Since Super Duty owners often work long hours, the truck offers the Max Recline Seats that debuted on the F-150 a few years ago. They recline nearly horizontal, so owners can relax or get in a little shuteye when they’re not driving.
For those wide awake, they can rock out to an eight-speaker B&O audio system. However, audiophiles will likely want to upgrade to the available 1,080-watt B&O Unleashed sound system that boasts 18 speakers.
Other highlights include 5G connectivity, over-the-air updates, and wireless Android Auto and Apple Car Play. The truck also offers a color head-up display and up to 28 different camera views.
Putting equipment aside, the Super Duty Crew Cab offers spacious seats with plenty of head and legroom in both rows. While that’s not surprising, the rear passenger compartment is notable for featuring flip-up seats and a flat floor which enables it to hold bulky items. For smaller things, there’s a collapsible bin that resides beneath the rear seats to keep cargo secure and hidden.
An All-New 6.8-Liter V8 And A High-Output Diesel
New 6.8-liter V8
Heavy duty trucks need heavy duty engines and Ford doubled down by introducing two new options. The most notable is the newly standard 6.8-liter V8, which replaces the old 6.2-liter unit and is effectively the son of Godzilla.
It features a cast iron block and aluminum heads as well as sequential multi-port fuel injection just like its larger counterpart. Ford wasn’t ready to release performance specifications, but said they’re “targeting more low-end torque to make starting on steep grades and merging onto highways easier.” That’s a bit vague, but we can expect the engine to eclipse the 6.2-liter’s output of 385 hp (287 kW / 390 PS) and 430 lb-ft (582 Nm) of torque.
Buyers looking for more power can opt for a 7.3-liter Godzilla V8. It features a handful of upgrades for 2023 including optimized tuning and an improved air intake. Thanks to these changes, customers can expect best-in-class horsepower and torque for a gasoline engine. Numbers remain a mystery, but it should outgun its predecessor that developed 430 hp (321 kW / 436 PS) and 475 lb-ft (643 Nm) of torque.
High-Output 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8
On the diesel side, the 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 returns and should continue to produce around 475 hp (354 kW / 482 PS) and 1,050 lb-ft (1,422 Nm) of torque. However, the big news is the addition of a new high-output variant that features upgraded exhaust manifolds, a unique turbocharger, and optimized tuning. Ford is keeping specifications a closely guarded secret, but said they’re targeting best-in-class power and torque.
Regardless of which engine is selected, all are now paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. That isn’t the only change as four-wheel drive is now standard equipment on XLT models and above.
Ford Brings Towing Into The 21st Century
Heavy duty trucks are designed for towing and approximately 96 percent of owners use them for that purpose. Given numbers like that, it’s not surprising Ford paid a lot of attention to improving the towing experience.
The results are nothing short of remarkable as Ford developed an assortment of class-leading features and technologies. One of the coolest is Pro Trailer Hitch Assist, which makes connecting trailers a breeze.
As the automaker explained, a camera locates the hitch and automatically drives the truck backwards to align perfectly with it. Owners don’t have to worry about steering or having a spotter as everything is done automatically under their watchful eye. This is a game changing feature and something that sets the Super Duty apart from the competition.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg as Ford also developed Trailer Navigation. While many consumers have written off factory navigation systems, Ford’s Trailer Navigation is a lifesaver as owners enter the size and weight of their trailer, and the navigation system will then find the best route. This promises to make towing in unfamiliar areas far less stressful as the navigation system will avoid tight turns, low bridges, and other obstacles – all based on their specific trailer.
The Super Duty also features Onboard Scales and a Smart Hitch. The scales help to prevent the truck from being overloaded as cargo weight information can be displayed in real-time on the infotainment system, the FordPass app, and an indicator in the taillights. The Smart Hitch, on the other hand, helps owners determine the trailer tongue weight distribution so they can adjust the load to keep things balanced.
Another feather in the Super Duty’s cap is the industry’s first Tailgate Down Camera and Tailgate Down Reverse Sensing System. Engineers cleverly installed a camera and reverse sensors in the top of the tailgate, so even when the tailgate is lowered, drivers can see behind them and get alerts about nearby obstacles.
Ford also developed a blind spot sensor that can be mounted on trailers and warn drivers about approaching vehicles in adjacent lanes. The beauty of this system is that it indicates potential hazards in the side mirrors, just as it would normally do when not towing a trailer.
Another cool accessory is the 360-Degree Trailer Camera System. By mounting cameras on a trailer, drivers can get a bird’s-eye view of not only the truck but the trailer too. This should eliminate the need for a spotter when driving into and out of tight spaces.
The features don’t end there as Ford is addressing the problem of trailer thefts with an aptly named Trailer Theft Alert system. If the truck is locked and the trailer is disconnected, owners will be notified via the FordPass app. This means they can potentially intervene and prevent a thief from making off with their trailer as well as all the equipment inside.
Besides all the tech, Ford is aiming for best-in-class payload and towing capabilities. Numbers will be released at a later date, but the outgoing truck offered a maximum payload capacity of 7,850 lbs (3,561 kg), a maximum gooseneck towing capacity of up to 37,000 lbs (16,783 kg), and a maximum conventional towing capacity of up to 24,200 lbs (10,977 kg).
Built Ford Tough
Underpinning the truck is a high-strength, fully boxed steel frame that has been designed to handle the rigors of heavy duty use. Ford didn’t go into many details, but the truck features a new rear axle and an upgraded braking system with 14.29 inch (363 mm) discs front and rear on the F-250 and F-350. The F-450 goes one step further with larger discs that measure 15.39 inches (391 mm) up front and 15.75 inches (400 mm) at the rear.
Ford subjected prototypes to millions of miles of testing and all versions feature rear leaf springs as you’d expect. However, there are two different front suspensions as rear-wheel drive models have an independent twin I-beam setup whereas four-wheel drive models sport a mono beam.
Drivers will also find up to six different driving modes known as Normal, Eco, Tow/ Haul, Trail (4×2), Off-Road (4×4), Slippery, and Rock Crawl (Tremor). They’re joined by an assortment of assistance systems including Intelligent Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Lane-Centering, Automatic Emergency Braking, and Auto High Beams. Other highlights include Intersection Assist, a Lane-Keeping System, and a Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert.
Arrives Early Next Year
While there’s a lot more to say about the redesigned Super Duty, there’s no denying it has all the hallmarks of being one of the most impressive heavy duty pickups on the market. It’s clear Ford put a lot of thought into making this the most capable and innovative Super Duty ever, and we’ll get a better idea of how well they succeeded when the truck launches early next year.