2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty - First Look
The New Class of Working Class
Apple, Boeing, GE, Microsoft, Nike -- all American companies that have a history of innovation that revolutionized the industries they competed in. Not to be left out of this esteemed group, of course, is Ford Motor Company. One can look back on Ford’s lengthy history and pinpoint such significant events as the mass-produced Model T, the V-8 engine, and the Mustang. For truck guys, the 1999 Ford Super Duty is yet another one of these revolutionary milestones on Ford’s historical timeline. It’s a truck that set new capability standards in the market and redefined what “heavy duty” could mean to the buyer, while helping solidify the company’s 38 years of truck sales leadership.
Like a cannonball into the kiddie pool, the original Ford Super Duty made such a splash 17 years ago that the truck market was forever changed. Breaking the heritage of sharing their cab with the F-150, the Super Duty brought a vehicle so large and so much more capable to market that it was its own class of truck. With 44 configurations and GVWRs all the way up to 19,000 pounds in the F-550, the Super Duty had the heavy-duty truck market covered. Such a departure from the then-current norm of using the same body for a 1/2-ton as a 3/4- or 1-ton, it’s a truck that reinvented an entire segment. In our Feb. ’98 inaugural issue of Truck Trend, we said, “The Super Duty will have horse haulers drooling, snow-plow operators sprouting dry heaves, and anyone who tows their classic to shows contemplating whether Ford dealers will take a kidney as a down payment.”
Using the same basic platform and cab for 17 years, the Super Duty has been refined and improved to ensure it remained relevant in hotly contested truck space. It’s remarkable to note that ageing Ford claims 43 percent of the registrations in the 8,500-14,000 GVWR segment, while nearly 65 percent of new chassis cabs sold are Fords. Clearly the heavy-duty market is hugely important to the success of Ford Motor Company.
OverviewFor the ’17 model year, the Super Duty is enjoying its first complete redesign in nearly two decades, with what Ford is calling the “most significant product action” in seventeen years. While the basic aluminum body structure is shared with the handsome F-150, the front clip, hood, fenders, lights, and beds are all unique to the Super Duty. The new “mil-spec” aluminum body is stronger than the old steel body and more dent resistant. In order to handle higher loads, the Super Duty uses thicker gauges of aluminum in key areas. For example, the Super Duty’s 8-foot box has 14 percent more aluminum by mass than the F-150’s comparable box. A new floor pan pattern with wider, deeper beads is also thicker, as are the box inner bed panels and the D-pillar. The beds use stronger crossmembers, as well as a new one-piece sill reinforcement.
So how much would you guess the Super Duty’s mass benefitted from the switch to aluminum? It would stand to reason that if the F-150 is in the 700-pound range, that the Super Duty must be 800 or 900 pounds right? Well, not exactly. Ford pegs the number at somewhere around 350 pounds net. So what happened to that extreme diet? The answer is simple, Ford reinvested the weight savings right back into capability, while still light-weighting to an impressive degree.
Because the switch to an aluminum body resulted in such a massive weight savings (Ford says more than 500 pounds from the old steel body to the new aluminum one), the company focused on increasing already stellar capability. Ninety-five percent of the fully boxed frame is made from high-strength steel, using rails that are 1.5 inches taller, resulting in a frame stiffness that is up to 24 times higher than the old frame. Other improvements include larger axles, a heavier-duty driveline, bigger brakes, and tougher transfer cases. Additionally, all Super Duty trucks now come standard with weight-carrying hitches.
While the company won’t be releasing hard numbers until next year, the new truck is being referred to as the most capable Super Duty ever. Ford tells us these trucks will have the highest payloads and highest fifth-wheel/gooseneck/conventional towing rating of any Super Duty to date. As the year progresses, we are sure those claims will expand to include best-in-class bragging rights.
PowertrainYou won’t find any EcoBoost engines lurking under the Super Duty’s aluminum hood, as Ford has decided to stick with the familiar for its powertrain offerings. Carrying over are the 6.2L gas V-8, 6.8L gas V-10 (chassis cab only), and potent 6.7L Power Stroke diesel V-8. An all-new six-speed transmission, which Ford is calling the TorqShift-G, will also debut behind the 6.2L V-8. The rest of the lineup will get a version of today’s six-speed 6R140 TorqShift transmission.
Ford hasn’t released many details about improvements or power outputs of these engines, but we do know that the SOHC 6.2L V-8 will benefit from larger intake valves and dual-equal variable cam timing. It will also be E85 capable and available with a CNG/propane prep kit (as will the three-valve V-10 on chassis cabs).
The biggest unknown is just where the popular 6.7L Power Stroke V-8 will end up in regards to horsepower and torque. Ford tells us we can expect “improved performance” and fuel economy but nothing to indicate to what extent. We’ve heard over and over again that Ford has its sights set on being the first manufacturer to reach 1,000 lb-ft of torque. We believe it to be highly likely that the company will reach that number, along with around 450 hp, but it’s all conjecture until Ford decides to make an official announcement.
ExteriorOne of the controversial new features of the Super Duty is the vertical placement of the model name in the functional fender vent. We’ve never seen the F-Series use this type of treatment, and being on a black background doesn’t allow the color of the vehicle to come through the logo as it does on the F-150. This new design touch might be one that takes us a while to get used to.
Features we love are the LED bed-lighting system, the latest version of the tailgate step, Ford’s Tough Bed spray-in liner, and Ford’s new BoxLink storage and cleat system. The short bed of the Super Duty also retains the front stake pockets, something that is curiously lost on the F-150 -- a shortcoming for those who use bedrail-mounted racks for work or action sports.
InteriorUsing the F-150’s body has benefitted the Super Duty with up to 4 additional inches of cab length over the outgoing truck, resulting in a roomier cabin. The Super Duty also shares the dash and totally flat rear floor with its 1/2-ton brother, but it adds some unique storage solutions such as a two-tier glove box and dividable and locking rear underseat storage. The higher-amperage upfitter switches have been moved to the overhead console and now total six, two of which are powered at all times. Other items shared with the F-150 are an 8-inch productivity screen, improved trailer brake controller location, multi-contour seats with optional massaging function, and inflatable rear safety belts. You can now get up to two 400W/110V power outlets.
TechnologyPerhaps the biggest story about the Super Duty is just how loaded with technology it is. At the heart of these upgrades are up to seven high-resolution cameras. A forward facing camera in the grille, side-view cameras in the mirror bases, and a new camera in the tailgate work together to provide the 360-Degree View with Split-View system introduced in the F-150. A new center high-mount stop light (CHMSL) camera is available over the bed to make hooking up a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer easier, even including a new zoom feature so you can see the hitch. A remote-mount rear camera can be placed on the back of your trailer to make reversing maneuvers easier, giving you visibility never before possible when towing. In fact, Ford has included a new color-coded trailer coaching system to alert the driver if trailer angle becomes too tight or close to jack knifing. Finally, a forward facing camera at the top of the windshield provides lane departure warnings and facilitates adaptive cruise control, a feature that is now tied into the exhaust brake for exceptional downhill speed control.
In addition to the cameras, the Super Duty is now equipped with blind-spot monitoring, and unlike the F-150, it remains functional when a trailer is attached. Tire pressure monitoring will now have the ability to monitor trailer tire pressure.
About the only thing the Super Duty doesn’t have is the F-150’s Pro Trailer backup assist. Unfortunately, the Super Duty chassis isn’t equipped with the same electric-assisted EPAS steering setup as the F-150, so the capability isn’t baked into the platform as it is on the 1/2-ton trucks. However, it will use a new adaptive steering system that will be able to adjust to different driving situations and reduce the amount of steering input needed, depending on speed and load.
The Super Duty will also benefit from the all-new and much-improved Sync 3 communications and entertainment system, along with support for Siri Eyes Free.
Chassis CabNot to be forgotten, the F-450 and F-550 chassis cab models also receive a full upgrade. High-strength steel frame rails are boxed to the back of the cab, before transitioning to C-channel the rest of the way for easy upfitting, and additional crossmembers are added for big increases in strength. Just as with the rest of the Super Duty line-up, the chassis cab models also benefit from aluminum body construction and a number of features available in the pickup model.
Initial ThoughtsWith regular cab, SuperCab, and SuperCrew cabin layouts; two drive types; 6.5 and 8-foot bed lengths (or a chassis cab); F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550 models; and XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum trim levels, the dizzying array of choices available with today’s truck essentially carry over for ’17. The virtually limitless combinations should mean that there is a truck available for every conceivable need.
On a side note, we’d venture to guess that the 350 pounds of weight savings will back the curb weight off enough from the 14,000-pound GVWR for the F-450 pickup that Ram will have to drop the company’s protest of the F-450 being in a higher weight class, but we are interested to seeing the response. No doubt Ram is readying one.
Our only negative takeaways were the lack of features we are beginning to see from the competition. No options for air springs, in-bed storage, or bed-mounted power outlets seem like potentially missed opportunities, but we doubt the consumers will care much considering just how many class-exclusive features are available. We also wonder if the F-250 will see a detuned, higher-economy version of the Power Stroke engine to better compete with the upcoming Titan XD. We think consumers in the market for middleweight capability would clamor for such a truck.
From what we know so far about the new Super Duty, there is a lot to be excited about, with much, much more news to come. Ford assures us that we won’t be disappointed by the end results, which are a quieter, tougher, smoother riding, more capable, more powerful Super Duty.
The truck is deserving of the 13-inch Blue Oval on the grille and poised to carry FoMoCo into the next chapter of the heavy-duty pickup wars, with Ford hoping history will continue to repeat itself.