It can even make driving "America's most boring highway" fun again.
Let’s say it all together now: Nine hundred and twenty five pound-feet of frickin’ torque. That’s a ton of twist—or 9 tons if you’re measuring in pounds of tow capacity—enough that Ford’s ultra refined 2017 F-250 SuperDuty Crew Cab feels like it could tow the moon if Elon Musk’s reusable Space X rockets can find a way to put a lasso around it. Even though it shares a prefixing letter with the popular and hugely capable F-150, the F-250 starring in our adventure leaves the factory as another breed entirely.
Originating in 1999 as a line of dedicated work trucks independent of the daily driven F-150s, Ford’s SuperDuty F-Series trucks are for more than the casual hauler. These are steak knives for the red meat aficionado, Everclear for the alcoholic who wakes up with only the goal of inebriation in mind, and the 2017 model marks the commencement of the marquee’s fourth generation. One thing is immediately apparent from a single brush with the new F-250: even with more rugged hardware that extends its capabilities, Ford has engineered this truck in such a way that its work focus doesn’t hinder around town abilities when the day is over and the time is card punched. But you won’t learn that by looking at it from the outside.
Stout lines, enormous proportions, and an imposing grille that’ll put Texan belt buckles to shame differentiates the F-250 from its smaller sibling, but this is no relic of the past. The body panels are made of military-grade aluminum alloy just like on the F-150, but despite the extreme weight-savings measures, the 2017 F-250 can be saddled to the point it’s heavier than the outgoing model if you get liberal with the options. Ford may have cut buttery fat, but it added quite a bit of muscle, not all of which can be found in the engine bay. The extra beef comes from the high-strength steel box frame with added reinforcement that can be felt at every bump in the road as well as in the driveline components, rear axle, and four-wheel drive system.
Equipped with the $8,595 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 that uses a single turbocharger mounted in hot-V configuration (like on the Mercedes-AMG GT), the F-250 SuperDuty Diesel Crew Cab makes an astonishing 440 horsepower and 925 lb-ft of torque—explaining the need for stout bones and driveline components that can keep up. That power gets routed to the rear (or all four wheels when the transfer case gets involved) via a six-speed automatic transmission that keeps 20-inch aluminum wheels spinning whether or not 18,000 pounds of trailer or 4,200 pounds of payload are along for the ride. Posting numbers like that is impressive, but it’s behind the leather-wrapped steering wheel that it all comes together.
Ten-way power adjustable seats make for wonderful captain’s perches whether on the construction site or soaking up highway miles. Visibility in all directions means making U-turns, merging lanes, or backing up requires no leaps of faith—less so with the rear parking sensors beeping and an army of cameras (which includes one overlooking the bed) displaying all there is to see on the 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display. The real feat of engineering becomes clear when on the road. We'll just put it this way, steering feel was obviously a well fleshed-out concept for Ford. The effort required to turn the wheels strikes a proper balance between weighty as you’d want it to be for a large vehicle but not so much that it contributes to driving fatigue.
A direct feel makes snaking through parking lots a breeze, but never did that agility translate to darting behavior at highway speeds. If driver mistakes are somehow made despite the F-250's approachable nature, you could count on the brakes to not only bite, but bite hard—a boon to all living things in the path of a cargo-carrying F-250 attempting an emergency stop. And though the harsh ride quality jars occupants at every pothole and expansion joint, the stiff suspension becomes a celebrated feature when the bed is loaded with the sorts of Titanic cargo it’s designed for. Almost as fun as toggling the upfitter switches (a $165 option) and pretending the F-250 is a big rig is using its 925 lb-ft of torque for roadway feats that don't involve towing.
At highway speeds there are plenty of thrills to be had by squeezing the throttle, waiting for the transmission to downshift, and surprising everyone in the right lane with a spooled turbo and a speedometer relentlessly fording towards the F-250’s 97 mph top speed. As much of a joy as the F-250 is as a highway cruiser or around-town bully that sets tailgaters and turn signal offenders straight, Ford couldn’t remedy every large car malady. In this case the two main headaches are the F-250's size and a price to match its dimensions. During a weekend Highway 5 trip from Northern California to Los Angeles, the F-250’s anxiety-inducing moments involved parking garages.
Orchard owners trekking to LA's famous farmer's market with fresh foods in tow will find that the F-250 will fit into cramped spaces with patience and the help from the cameras, but low-clearance garages scared us into thinking the paint on the roof was a goner more than once. It’ll get through unscathed, but it’s best to park the F-250 outside where it can be appreciated. That is, after all, what our tester was optioned for. With a $495 spray in bedliner, a tailgate packed with a $375 assist step and grab handle, the $1,125 chrome package, and $1,240 chrome-colored wheels, the exterior is built to reflect braggadocios sparkles of sunlight to pedestrians while putting up with the elements of nature and the rugged work materials it’ll rub surfaces with.
While work is the entire point of Ford's SuperDuty trucks, it's nice to show off the fruits of your labor, especially when those fruits have an MSRP of $66,945 including the $1,195 delivery charge. Not many of the extras pushing up our tester's $51,815 base price upwards were of the nonsensical variety. Of that $15,130 check cut for the options (including hte $8k diesel engine), $135 went to all-weather floor mats, $295 was slated for the FX4 off-road package, $570 made its way to the SYNC navigation system, $250 could be found in the supplemental heater and $75 engine block heater, and two $710 slices go to the trailer towing camera and the Lariat Value Package in addition to the previously outlined extras.
Combined, these add up to a price tag that'll make most take pause before pulling the trigger. Yes, the F-250 is a big investment. Yes, it'll now post bigger tow ratings and more impressive numbers than it ever has before, but the magic of Ford's SuperDuty segment is how the package comes together. It doesn't just call upon its tugboat of an engine and stiff bones to get the job done. The F-250 reaches back through decades of job and life experience, earning the bacon to feed every member of the family but not forgetting that raising them right is just as important. By getting both the big things and the small things right, the F-250 remains the standout that'll stay ahead of the competition. Lord knows it has the torque to do so if all else fails.