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Auto review: 2020 Ford Super Duty proves that popularity doesn't always mean mediocrity

By Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

These days, a product's popularity is often a poor indicator of its quality. Consider McDonald's hamburgers, which don't taste remotely like beef, and Starbucks coffee, which always seems burned.

Yet popularity can just as often indicate a product's excellence, as is the case with Ford's F-Series Super Duty medium-duty pickup. It commands more than 62% vehicle market share in mining, 60% of the government fleet, 50% of emergency vehicles, 50% share in the petroleum industry, 47% of the construction industry, and 45% share in utility services according to IHS Markit U.S. registration data. And it does so with good reason.

How does Ford engender such loyalty?

It starts under the hood, with a standard 6.2-liter V-8 that generates 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, although most Super Dutys have a new 10-speed automatic transmission with normal, tow/haul, eco, slippery, deep sand, and snow drive modes. Not enough for you? Sample the 7.3-liter V-8 generating 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, or the new turbocharged, intercooled 6.7-liter V-8 diesel engine rated at 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque, which delivers a maximum payload of 7,850 pounds, conventional tow rating of 24,200 pounds, fifth wheel tow capacity of 32,500 pounds, and gooseneck tow capability of 37,000 pounds - 1,500 pounds more than its closest competitor.

All come with rear- or all-wheel drive as a two-door Regular Cab, SuperCab extended cab, and Super Cab crew cab. Regular Cabs come with an 8-foot bed, while SuperCab and Crew Cabs come with a 6 3/4-foot bed or an 8-foot bed. Offered in ascending XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited trim levels, each has a distinct persona. The XL is a basic work truck with manual air-conditioning and vinyl floors, while the XLT adds a bit more civility, like power windows. The Lariat is fancy enough for most buyers, unless you're a hedonist, in which case you'll want the dude-ranch ready King Ranch, its city slicker cousin, the Platinum, or the fully-loaded Limited.

For the new model year, Ford has treated the Super Duty to a front and rear facelift, although the revisions are fairly conservative, so you can be forgiven for not noticing.


More importantly, Ford has made a useful truck even more so, by offering options that tailor the truck to your needs, be it the Snow Plow Prep Package or the Tremor Off-Road Package that includes such as Trail Control, which is basically cruise control for off-road driving. If you opt for the Tremor, consider adding the factory-installed integrated winch by Warn, with 12,000 pounds of winching power. Someday, you may need it.

Yet the Super Duty can also serve as your mobile office thanks to its embedded 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi access for up to 10 devices, as well as wireless charging and USB-C ports.

And it can tow tons, while making the task of backing up a trailer far easier thanks to Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Being a novice at such maneuvers, I found it makes it as easy as turning a knob and watching the screen as it guides you on which way to back up. You'll never again make a fool of yourself while towing. It's standard on King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models, and optional on XL, XLT and Lariat. Other driver assistance features include trailer sway control, lane-keeping alert, blind spot alert with trailer coverage, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and forward collision alert.

But the biggest surprise comes once you hit the road. Driving a Ford F-350 Limited unladen is truly comfortable, which you'd never expect. While rippled road surfaces are noticeable, they're not felt at all when trailering, as the suspension provides a fuss-free experience, with little to no excess body motions and excellent bump absorption. This is one medium-duty truck that doesn't beat you up.


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