Traveling in Luxury: Our Long Weekend With the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited
For $90,000, is it a truck or a high-end living room on wheels?
More on The 2020 Ford F-250 Here!
Welcoming Our 2020 Pickup Truck of the Year Winning Ford F-250
Ford F-250 Super Duty Wins Truck Trend's 2020 Pickup Truck of the Year Award
Truck Trend's 2020 Pickup Truck of the Year Recap: The MASTERPOST!
TruckTrend's annual Pickup Truck of the Year evaluation is widely recognized as one of the automotive industry's most detailed, comprehensive, fascia-to-tailgate evaluations of the rigs that are rolling out for an upcoming model year. Manufacturers are invited to submit vehicles to the study, understanding they will be tested and scored objectively and without preference at any point, and also agreeing that should its truck win, an example of the winning model will be provided to our group for use as a one-year evaluation vehicle.
Ford's F-250 Super Duty Limited took top honors for model year 2020, beating Chevrolet, GMC, Jeep, Ram, and fellow Blue Oval competitors that were put through their paces for what can only be called a grueling week of driving (on- and off-road), towing, hauling, braking, and even blazing down a quarter-mile dragstrip. And on July 20, TruckTrend editor Jason Gonderman took delivery of this Rapid Red F-250 Limited barely one week after returning the previous-year's PTOTY winner, a 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie, back to the manufacturer. To get an idea of what our long-term-truck reports are all about, we strongly recommend you review Jason's six-part series on the 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie.
Although these loaned vehicles are officially left in Jason's charge, members of MotorTrend's truck group are able to drive them at length at any time, to further review and gather additional impressions about the rig that was selected as TruckTrend's Pickup Truck of the Year.
With the F-250 powered by Ford's all-new, third-generation 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8 engine (475hp/1,050 lb-ft of torque) and TorqShift 10-speed automatic transmission, its towing and hauling capability was of major interest to all of the PTOTY judges—especially me—as those impressive performance statistics were bigger than the output of all other diesel rigs in the heavy-duty segment when they were announced in early 2019.
Can it tow and haul? You're damn right it can! The 2020 F-250 Super Duty Limited we reviewed for PTOTY made quick and easy work of the payloads and loaded trailers that we dragged through the quarter-mile at Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California, and especially over a 12-mile stretch of 6 percent incline (and decline) on I-15's Cajon Pass, near Victorville, California.
In the big picture, the 6.7L-powered 2020 F-250 is a beast that can handle all of the tasks that any buyer— ranging from contractors and builders, to farmers, ranchers, and even outdoorsmen—would use heavy-duty trucks for. However, when the rigs are lined out with the high-end accessories and creature comforts that are offered for Super Duty in Limited trim, particularly to the financial tune of $90,000 for the truck we received, it's easy to forget that work of any sort actually is a truck's true purpose.
Today, luxury definitely is a criteria that matters a lot in assessing a truck's capability. So much so that manufacturers are now quick to highlight interior treatments and amenities that enhance the driving and riding experience. Although we're not familiar with any formal surveys about truck buyers' interior wants and needs, or their desires for rigs beyond having confirmation they generally are able to do what trucks do, we have a strong feeling that some fully decked-out machines like our long-term F-250 are often purchased and never used "like a truck" in their lifespan.
That was my focus when I requested the big Ford's key. A thousand miles were logged on a similar truck during the 2020 Pickup Truck of the Year testing, that distance was a collective that included travel on highways, fire roads, sand dunes, and at a full-on off-road facility. As a long-term vehicle, Jason will use and test the F-250 Super Duty Limited extensively throughout the year. But, before he gets into that, I wanted to see how a vehicle like this measures up when it's used solely for transportation—both locally, and on a very big road trip.
So, in lieu of using a four-door sedan, my wife and I embarked on a four-day, 1,550-mile journey in the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited. It was a route that took us from Los Angeles, California, up to the northern part of the state (via Highway 1 and the amazing Pacific coastline), with stops at Morro Bay, Carmel, WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway, and Monterey on Day 1, and then through San Francisco, Sacramento and over the incredible Donner Pass of the Sierra Nevada mountains (7,250-foot elevation), on Day 2's trip east across I-80 to Reno, Nevada.
Our trip continued with a Day 3 passage through time—several ghost towns that are legitimate throwbacks to Nevada's silver-mining heyday—and miles of desolate space on Route 95 between Reno and Las Vegas, and we closed on Day Four with a day trip home.
As the driver, performance, handling (especially through switchback turns and changing elevation levels, in the infamous "Corkscrew" chicane at Laguna Seca Raceway), and of course, fuel economy are the points I studied closely. Crystal focused on creature comforts, of which there are many in the Limited, and how well a vehicle this size can serve as regular transporter, concert hall, sleeping chamber, massage spa, and even a mobile office (literally).
Let's get right to it. With the ten-speed TorqShift automatic transmission managing things, the 6.7L Power Stroke turbodiesel engine in our 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited performs beautifully, with torque and power "there" when you want and need them. Throughout the entire 1,500-plus miles of our trip, on freeway or rural two-lane blacktop, I never found the drivetrain in a "lost" or "hunt" situation.
And, in a big test going up and over the 30-mile-long Donner Pass, the truck ripped through the high altitude without missing a beat, at a steady 70 mph on the incline. On the descent, the engine-brake performed perfectly and took a big load off the truck's service brakes, which would have taken a beating on the 6 percent downhill grade.
All critical temperatures remained normal, and systems never failed despite ambient temperature in the high 100-degree range in Reno and Las Vegas. The powertrain feels really good at 75-80 mph, but interestingly (and understandably), the truck's top speed is around 100 mph.
One of the caveats about our trip was that it was mapped out for limited freeway travel. California is a beautiful state, with exciting roads that challenge drivers and vehicles. Cars like Porsches and Nissan GTRs are better suited for negotiating some of the up and downhill hairpin turns, switchbacks, and sweepers we encountered, but they are manageable in the big truck, provided common sense is used and driving style isn't too "spirited."
There were a few instances of the truck's suspension showing its true colors, through back-end bouncing and almost coming around in a hard canyon turn: a mark of a heavy-duty chassis. In city-driving conditions, the truck's size becomes more of a negative, actually. Parking (indoor and outdoor) the F-250 is a process that can require a few maneuvers to successfully execute, and thus it became a bit frustrating and/or annoying at times when we stopped at places that had small parking areas and also in a narrow drive-through. You don't just "wheel this big boy into the space."
Large. Roomy. Spacious. All of these terms more than adequately describe the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited's cabin. Even though our travel party only included two adults, the long-term rig can easily support a group of five—possibly six—in an adults and kids package. With seats folded up, we used the rear area as storage for an ice chest, snack pantry and luggage.
Incredibly comfortable heated/cooled/multi-position and massaging power leather seats are reason No. 1 why I could drive this rig anywhere, anytime. The seating, an attractive dash/instrument layout, and other tasteful interior treatments really bring the class and sophistication of a high-end home's living room to this truck, which further supports my notion that some F-250 Limited models may never appear at a job site, tow a trailer, or do anything other than transport their owners to and fro. In theory? Yes, that's a tremendous waste. However, we're in no position to suggest how one should spend his or her money. If room, style, and comfort in a big vehicle are the wants, this truck definitely provides all of that (including WiFi, which enabled both me and Crystal to work from the road, a killer Bang & Olulfsen Beoplay Premium audio system, dual HVAC climate control with crackling-cold air conditioning, and a panoramic sunroof).
The long-term 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited is finished in a brilliant Rapid Red finish that, when the truck is clean, really pops during the day or night. Exterior styling is one of the qualities that helped this rig become TruckTrend's Pickup Truck of the Year. With the grille and lighting package, as well as the wheels and tires (which aren't even the higher-end pieces), this rig is laid out right and received a ton of compliments at the various places we stopped; the best one was a "niiiiiiiiccccccce trrrrrrruuuuccccckkkkk" exclamation from an admirer as we entered the underground parking garage at the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas.
I've saved the fuel stats for last because I think that at the end of the day, and despite every bell and whistle in the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited, "how was the fuel mileage?" is the question that almost everyone wants answered. In a word, the fuel economy was "great" for this extensive road test.
We covered 1,550 total miles in the loop from and back to Los Angeles, averaging 387.5 miles per day. And remember, we traveled with no payload or trailer, and I typically drove on the plus side of posted 50-, 60- and 70-mph speed limits (between 5 to 10 mph over). Well, with with the exception of some of the one-horse towns between Reno and Las Vegas, where strict 35-mph speed restrictions are enforced, and on one particular occasion where we were stuck for 20 miles in a no-passing area on Route 95 behind some type of hay bale apparatus that had a top speed of 5 mph.
There were times when the truck's data center showed average fuel economy being as high as 21 and 23 mpg, but hard calculations confirmed a more accurate 18.6-mpg average for our four-day tour. Now, that's not saying the truck is incapable of pulling down 23 mpg. I believe that if driven conservatively (and that's actually a challenge with this rig; it seemingly "wants" to do 80 mph at all times), fuel economy in the 20s can be achieved.
Of course, the towing fuel-economy numbers are of considerable interest. As the year continues with the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty Limited, I'm sure Jason will have the long-term rig dragging a trailer somewhere, so standby for that info in his upcoming series.