If you need to tow a mountain, you should use a Ford Super Duty.
By consistently offering one of the most compelling trucks on the market, the Ford F Series has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 43 consecutive years. Both General Motors and Ram have recently released all-new competitors in the heavy-duty pickup truck segment while the fourth-generation Ford Super Duty has been on the market since the 2017 model year.
The competition from Chevrolet, GMC, and Ram may have a three-year age advantage, but Ford is striking back with a heavy update for its Super Duty trucks - the F-250, F-350, and F-450 - for the 2020 model year. Most of the changes are found under the hood, where a new 7.3-liter V8 joins the lineup and the Power Stroke diesel has been heavily updated. There is also a new Tremor Off-Road Package, which gives the Super Duty additional capability. Ford invited us to Phoenix, Arizona to sample its latest refresh on the Super Duty lineup.
Most of the changes to the Super Duty's design can be found at the front. A new front end design allows for better cooling under heavy loads and for the first time ever, the dual-rear-wheel models get a unique grille to further optimize powertrain cooling.
The most noticeable addition to the Super Duty lineup visually is the new Tremor Off-Road Package. Not only does this package add significant off-road performance for the F-250 and F-350 models, but it also gives the trucks a more rugged appearance similar to the F-150 Raptor.
The Tremor rides on 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac tires, which are the largest available on any heavy-duty pickup truck and come wrapped around 18-inch matte black wheels. Combined with a two-inch lift and shorter air damn, the Tremor offers 10.8 inches of ground clearance, 33 inches of water fording ability, and the best approach and departure angles of any Super Duty. We imagine the Tremor package will be a hot seller because it is basically the closest you can get to a Super Duty Raptor.
Ford has made some major changes under the hood of the 2020 Super Duty, giving it best-in-class power and torque for both the gas and diesel engines. The base engine is a 6.2-liter V8 mated to either a six-speed or new 10-speed automatic transmission, producing 385 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. But since this engine is a carryover, Ford didn't have any on hand for us to test.
A new 7.3-liter V8 joins the lineup, producing 430 hp and 474 lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful gas engine ever offered in the Super Duty. Those who need to do more towing can opt for the heavily updated 6.7-liter turbo Power Stroke diesel V8, which offers 475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft of torque (both best-in-class). With this mighty engine, the Super Duty offers up to 24,200 pounds of conventional towing, 32,500 pounds with a fifth-wheel, or 37,000 pounds with a gooseneck.
The Tremor package can be equipped to any Crew Cab F-250 or F-350 XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, or Platinum model with either the 7.3 or 6.7. Ford boasts that opting for the Tremor's off-road capability won't have a significant impact on towing capacity, which will exceed the Ram 2500 Power Wagon.
Ford put most of its effort into improving the powertrain options for 2020 so the cabin updates are minimal. The decorative trim pieces on the Lariat have been updated and changed to Onyx Argento wood on the Limited trim that also features genuine leather finished in either Ebony or Highland Tan, ash wood, and brushed aluminum trim. It also gets a Miko suede headliner for added luxury.
Sitting in the higher trim Super Duty models like the King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited is a luxurious experience, although the new Ram HD bests Ford in regards to interior materials and technology. While the Ram features an available 12-inch touchscreen interface, the Super Duty makes do with the same eight-inch screen it's used for the past several years. The small screen can make it tougher to use features like the surround-view camera and hitch views but we'll admit screen size is not at the forefront of why people buy heavy-duty trucks.
Heavy-duty trucks like the Ford Super Duty are massive and provide more space than most buyers will ever need. The F-250, F-350, and F-450 can each be configured as either a Regular Cab, SuperCab, or Crew Cab, with the latter providing the most space for passengers. The SuperCab model offers 33.5 inches of rear legroom, which is ideal for buyers who only plan to have passengers back there occasionally. We suspect the Crew Cab will be the most popular body style for non-commercial buyers, as it offers a massive 43.6 inches of rear legroom.
As for cargo space, Ford offers a choice of either a six-and-three-quarter-foot bed or an extended eight-foot box. The former offers 65.4 cubic feet of storage while the latter offers 78.5 cubic feet. Payload capacity varies drastically across the lineup but Ford claims best-in-class ratings in both the 250/2500 and 350/3500 segments.
One might expect a truck built for work purposes to be tiresome to drive but the 2020 Super Duty is more refined than ever. Heavy-duty trucks like this have a tendency to feel bouncy when they aren't towing a trailer but over most terrain, the Super Duty felt surprisingly compliant. We did notice some vibration over rougher tarmac but it wasn't enough to be bothersome. The cabin is remarkably quiet and even the off-road-oriented Tremor package only created slightly more road noise. Especially when optioned in one of the higher trims, we would have no qualms spending an extended period of time driving the Super Duty.
Both engines feel remarkably strong, with the 7.3-liter V8 emitting a wonderful engine note when you mash the throttle. With no trailer behind it, the Super Duty gets up to speed effortlessly with the 10-speed automatic shifting smoothly in the background. The 7.3-liter will offer plenty of power for most buyers, but the 6.7-liter Power Stroke is the star of the lineup. With over 1,000 lb-ft of torque on tap, it transforms the Super Duty into a rocket ship. The Power Stroke delivers effortless performance and is much quieter than its gas counterpart. Ford didn't quote any 0-60 mph figures but we have a feeling the Power Stroke could lay down some impressive times.
Ford set us up with a variety of trailering options so we could test the Super Duty's towing capacity. We towed two trailers each weighing up to 9,400 pounds up a mountain pass with both the gas and diesel engines. The 7.3-liter V8 handled the job perfectly well, although it clearly makes the trailer weight known. The Power Stroke, on the other hand, effortlessly pulls a trailer as if it weren't there. This engine is so capable, in fact, you will need a commercial driver's license to take full advantage of its max gooseneck towing capacity. No matter how much stuff you need to move, the Ford Super Duty can move it.
Trailering is now easier than ever thanks to Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature. The system allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel to rely on the Pro Trailer Backup Assist knob. They can then steer using the Trailer Reverse Guidance system, which provides trailer angle and direction and gives steering suggestions. Ford even gave us an opportunity to try out an F-550 in dump truck configuration with best-in-class 300 lb-ft of power takeoff torque, more than 50 lb-ft more than its closest competitor.
Ford will not offer a Raptor version of the Super Duty (for now) but the new Tremor Off-Road Package is as capable as most truck buyers will ever need. This is the first Super Duty model to take advantage of Ford's Trail Control system, which offers selectable drive modes including a special rock crawl mode. We had a chance to drive the gas and diesel-powered version of the Tremor over a variety of off-road situations including logs, steep vertical inclines and declines, thick mud, soft sand, and deep water.
The Tremor felt infallible in all circumstances and will almost certainly pass any off-road challenges you can throw at it. It is worth noting that this is still a very large vehicle, so narrow off-road trails lined with tree branches could spell trouble for the Tremor's paint job. Buyers can choose either the 7.3-liter gas or 6.7-liter diesel with the Tremor package, but the even torque distribution and lighter weight of the gas engine felt more capable in our brief time with the truck. However, if you plan to use your Tremor more for towing, the diesel is the better option.
'Built Ford Tough' is more than just a catchy slogan, it rings true with the new Super Duty. Early examples of the truck dealt with recalls relating to the transmission case casting, block heater connector, right rear axle shaft, and the steering system, although we suspect these issues have been ironed out in the mid-cycle refresh. A recent lawsuit has been filed regarding the 10-speed automatic transmission used in the full-size Ford F-150, but this does not necessarily mean the Super Duty will be affected.
Pricing for the Ford Super Duty has one of the largest spreads of any model on the market. Six trim levels are available for the F-250, F-350 single-rear-wheel, F-350 dual-rear-wheel, and F-450. These include XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited. For the F-250, pricing starts at $33,705 for the XL, $38,485 for the XLT, $46,600 for the Lariat, $59,000 for the King Ranch, $67,415 for the Platinum, and $84,775 for the Limited. Adding the Tremor Package to an F-250 or F-350 costs $3,975.
Upgrading from the 6.2-liter V8 to the new 7.3 on the F-250 is a no-brainer $2,045 option ($1,750 on the F-350) while the Power Stroke diesel is a more thought-provoking $10,495 decision (standard on the F-450). For owners who plan to tow frequently, the Power Stroke is worth every penny.
If your goal is to configure the most expensive Super Duty possible, an F-450 Limited starts at $90,530 and can approach the $100,000 mark with accessories. For the majority of buyers, we suggest the Lariat trim level, which provides an acceptable level of comfort without the exorbitant price tag of the higher trim levels. Plus, we think most truck buyers can live without massage seats and fancy leather.
There is a reason why Ford sells an F-Series truck roughly every 30 seconds. It doesn't matter if you need a stripped out work vehicle or a luxurious family hauler, there is a Ford Super Duty to suit your needs. The addition of the 7.3-liter V8 is a welcomed one, although it is the 6.7-liter Power Stroke that stole our hearts. It offers effortless passing power, unbeatable towing capacity, and enough grunt to knock the moon out of orbit. The Tremor version is a great addition as well, offering Ram Power Wagon-rivaling off-road capability with better towing figures.
If we had one complaint, we wish Ford could have spent more time improving the cabin to match the new Ram but we suspect most heavy-duty truck buyers would prefer stronger powertrains over a plush interior. That said, we have no doubt that the Ford F-Series will continue to be the best-selling vehicle in the US for 2020.