New Car Previews

Preview: 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250/350/450

Dallas, Texas – Sitting in the stands at the Texas State Fair, you know where the term “redneck” comes from. Everybody around me had one, and so did I after a half-hour of 90-degree Lone Star midday sun, waiting for the new 2017 Ford Super Duty F-250/350/450 to appear.

The new Super Duty certainly has a stature commensurate with its prodigious capabilities. Not too sinister, though; more a friendly giant.

Eventually it did in spectacular fashion, but not before various Ford executives, along with enthusiastic owners and dealers were introduced and had their say, including one gentleman named Mr. Crappie and a couple of cable TV celebrities responsible for dangling a half-dozen or more Super Duties from a Super Duty chassis tethered to a crane.

Quite an impressive stunt, although I couldn't help thinking that was one heck of a crane!

But the Texas State Fair annually welcomes three million visitors, many of whom presumably arrive in a pickup. It is, therefore, an obvious and favourite venue for a Ford truck unveiling. People love their trucks there, talk about them affectionately and use them for a wide range of work and recreational activities. The Super Duty, especially, is built for the extremes found in places like Texas... and Canada for that matter.

Introduced in 1997, the Ford Super Duty has emerged as the industry leader for commercial and fleet applications, and a vehicle of choice for those who require superior towing and payload capacity. Although the Super Duty has evolved over the years, the 2017 model represents an all-new generation featuring “more of everything,” according to Ford executives. Keeping in mind that 90 percent of Super Duty owners tow and 70 percent tow frequently, many of the new features are designed make the towing experience easier and safer.

The F-Series Super Duty consists of pickup truck and chassis cab segments. Pickup trucks are ordered fully built from the factory, but chassis cabs comprise the rolling chassis and are modified with bodies and equipment for specific applications like EMT trucks, heavy-duty tow trucks and telecommunications installation vehicles.

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For 2017, the F-250, F-350 and F-450 pickups are visually identical (although grille treatments and exterior may vary by trim). The difference between the vehicle designations resides in their capability to tow and haul.

They are big vehicles, the top of the cab a good 2.1 metres (about seven feet) from the ground. Approaching a Super Duty, big men meet their match; smaller folk clamber. The new Super Duty certainly has a stature commensurate with its prodigious capabilities. Not too sinister, though; more a friendly giant. 

There are three primary areas of improvement for 2017: body, frame and electronics. The body is now made of “military grade” aluminum alloy that is lighter and more dent and rust-resistant than the current steel-bodied Super Duty trucks. Because the use of aluminum significantly reduces vehicle weight, Ford is able to take some of the saved weight and add it to other parts of the vehicle (suspension, hitch, brakes) to increase strength and capability. Even so, the overall weight of the 2017 Super Duty decreases by up to 175 kg (350 lb) compared with the outgoing model.

The chassis is now made of 95-percent high-strength steel and is fully boxed in the F-250 Super Duty trucks. The chassis sections are taller and stronger, and Ford reports an increase in torsional stiffness of 2,400 percent. While this seems an extraordinary multiple compared with the outgoing chassis, apparently the box frame and sturdier high-strength steel are sufficient to generate such an improvement. The F-350 and F-450 do not use a fully boxed chassis, using instead a boxed cab and open chassis behind the cab.

2017 Super Duty models will use the same cab found in the F-150, harmonizing the cabs across the range of pickups. Regular Cab, SuperCab and Crew Cab are longer, roomier and feature new interior design. A dual compartment glove box, overhead mounted aircraft style auxiliary switches to operate aftermarket equipment and a flat SuperCab and Crew Cab second-row floor enable large items to be easily accommodated. Underseat storage compartments are also supplied.

The new Super Duty also receives an array of safety and convenience electronics. Up to seven cameras are fitted, for instance, supporting features like the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) and Lane Departure Warning. Unlike the BLIS system found in other Ford vehicles, when fitted to the Super Duty it monitors traffic beside both the truck and the trailer.

Cameras also permit a 360-degree bird's eye view from within the truck and, if fitted, a view behind the trailers. A camera placed at the rear also aids with hitching up, enabling the driver to precisely position the truck for an accurate hitch without having to get in and out of the truck. A centre high-mount stop light camera is directed into the box, permitting the driver to not only check box contents, but also for easier hookup of fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers.

Adaptive steering will be available, which changes the steering ratio as speed increases or decreases. Less turning of the steering wheel is required when travelling slowly and making sharp turns.

Adaptive cruise control will also be available, along with collision warning with brake support. Enabling truck and trailer to maintain a set speed and matching the speed of vehicles ahead. If the driver becomes too close to the vehicle ahead, red lights flash on the windshield and a warning sound chimes. If the driver does not apply the brakes, the brake system is pre-charged to stop when the brake pedal is pressed. If the driver doesn't brake, the system (at least in other Ford vehicles) is able to bring it to a stop in an emergency.

Super Duty is also decked out with LED lighting in the box, in the sideview mirrors to light up a camp or worksite and in the taillights and stacked quad headlights. Inside, the latest Sync 3 HMI manages infotainment and vehicle settings and at the rear, the damped and keyless remote lockable tailgate features a built in step with assist. Available power retractable side steps aid with entry and exit.

A familiar range of powerplants is available, but will be “stronger,” including the Ford-built 6.7L Power Stroke V8 diesel, the 6.2L V8 gasoline engine with a new transmission for the F-250 pickup, and the 6.8L V10 gasoline engine. While actual numbers were not forthcoming in Dallas, the engines in combination with the structural changes will produce an increase in performance that will enable 2017 Super Duty owners “to tow and haul more than ever before,” according to Craig Schmatz, Super Duty chief engineer.

There are five models in the Super Duty lineup – XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum – and each of these models will be available for the F-250, F-350 and F-450.

As for the spectacular debut, a small fleet of Super Duty models converged simultaneously from all directions in front of the bleachers and cheering guests. Hauling boats, giant trailers, kitted out as tow-trucks and cable company trucks, they hinted at the vast range of tasks and applications the Super Duty is designed to perform. It's a big truck for big jobs, no doubt about that.

The 2017 Super Duty will be built at the Kentucky Truck Plant, and will go on sale in the fourth quarter of 2016. Specific numbers for horsepower, torque, payload, towing capacity and pricing will be available as released. Driving impressions will be forthcoming at that time.