2023 Ford Super Duty Preview Drive: Cool tech, great torque


ROMEO, Mich. — An entire pandemic ago, Ford hit its F-150 with a robust mid-cycle update that included a new electronic architecture capable of supporting a whole host of futuristic gadgets. Now that the worst of the supply chain disruption is behind us, the Ford Super Duty lineup is getting in on the fun. Ford’s commercial-grade truck gets a similarly comprehensive overhaul for 2023, touching on many of the same points, only tweaked for the customers who need a bit more capability than what is available from today’s already-impressive half-tons.

This time around, the Super Duty is available with four engines rather than three, though unlike the F-150, you won’t find anything hybrid here. The old 6.2-liter V8 was tossed in favor of a new 6.8-liter engine based on the “Godzilla” architecture. It’s good for 405 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque — improvements of 20 hp and 15 lb-ft, respectively. That may not sound like much for such a large, all-new engine, but remember, this is a normally aspirated V8 built for two things: torque delivery and durability. Above that, the 7.3-liter V8 gains 10 lb-ft of torque (for a total of 485) but retains its 430-hp output figure.

Then there are the two diesels. Technically, they’re both a 6.7-liter Power Stroke, but in standard and new high-output variants. The standard diesel packs 475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft of torque, carrying over from last year. The new high-output version offers up 500 hp and a ground-shredding 1,200 lb-ft of torque. If you spec it right (the handbook of tow/haul combos was 22 pages long), you can get a Super Duty that can haul 8,000 pounds of cargo (best in class for gas engines) or tow 40,000 pounds (best in class … period).

By the way, you’ll want the 2WD F-250 with the 6.8-liter gasser to pull off the former and the 2WD F-450 with the H.O. diesel and a gooseneck trailer for the latter. Naturally, Ford presented us with the opportunity to play with several of these combinations, including 24,000-, 30,000- and 40,000-pound towing setups on the company’s own development course.

The diesels are especially giggle-worthy. Even with tens of thousands of pounds pressing down on the box, the tires can struggle a bit for traction. The normally placid 10-speed also makes itself known with this much weight behind it, but any suggestion of drama disappears quickly as the truck gains momentum. Steering is tight and the nose planted, but that’s as much about properly loading the truck as it is about fundamental capability.  We weren’t able to test at highway speeds, but stability up to 50-55 mph was excellent and the brakes were confidence-inspiring even on some sturdy grades.

If you’re reading this, chances are the above paragraph is largely irrelevant to you. Bear in mind that the max trailering for an F-150 is currently 14,000 pounds, resulting in a gross combined weight rating north of 19,000. Once that exceeds 26,000, you need a commercial driver’s license. As you might have already ascertained from the numbers thrown around above, that’s mighty easy to do in a Super Duty.

An F-250, -350 or -450 may just seem like paths to climb the F-Series mountain for those who want the biggest, baddest full-size truck, but realistically they’re geared toward different customers. Ford groups them under its “Ford Pro” brand with its other commercial offerings. After all, the Super Duty is set up for outfitters and riggers who need them to perform specialized functions. Many of Ford’s most capable Super Duty vehicles are barely recognizable as Ford trucks by the time they’re put into service in the hands of end-customers.

The F-150’s new trailer tow and camera tech trickles up to the Super Duty, and while drivers of the above upfitter trucks should probably be able to drive without them, they’re welcome for everyone else. Especially those on the recent end of camper and/or boat trailer ownership.

With the F-150’s electronics migrating over, implementing features similar to those found on the refreshed half-ton was made relatively simple. Autoblog Tech of the Year winner Onboard Scales made the port over virtually unchanged, as did the 2.0-kilowatt version of the Pro Power Onboard generator system. Ford also added a new set of backup sensors and a camera to the top of the tailgate that work only when the tailgate is lowered (disabling the standard bumper and tailgate camera). With it, it’s easy to get within inches of a loading dock.

Meanwhile, Ford’s Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is basically magic. With nothing but a sticker added to the trailer and the Super Duty’s onboard camera, the truck’s computer can back up directly to the hitch point every time with the press of a button. Ford is also hoping to lead the sector away from upfit switch blanks, incorporating tiles into its Sync 4.0 infotainment system that allow upfitters to map compatible hardware directly to the existing interface.

Ford also let us play around with the Super Duty Tremor on a stretch of its off-road development course. Like the Expedition Timberline, the Super Duty makes good use of Ford’s Trail Turn Assist feature. While it was introduced to help Bronco get a feature edge over Wrangler and tighten its turning circle a bit off road, Trail Turn Assist really shines in these longer trucks that might otherwise find trail corners too tight to be negotiated in just one go. It’s a bit more expensive than simply making a three-point turn, but it’s far more likely to impress your passengers. The Tremor’s off-road camera setup is handy for that too.

The 2023 Super Duty began shipping in May. It starts at $45,765, including a $1,795 destination charge. Our brief time with Ford’s updated truck indicates that its update is as thorough and compelling as the F-150’s was two years ago. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to sample one in the real world, which we expect will come along soon. In the meantime, Ford’s existing customers can rest assured that the fundamentals that make the F-250, F-350 and F-450 so ubiquitous in the commercial, fleet and trade workers of all kinds.

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