2023 Ford Super Duty Review: First Drive
Not just about the claims anymore
Vehicle Size and Weight
When it comes to heavy duty pickups, conventional wisdom says, “it’s all about the claims”, meaning that how much they can tow and haul is what moves them off dealer lots. Basically, the bigger, the better.
And while gargantuan payload and towing figures remain key purchase considerations in the segment, the deployment of advanced technology is another rapidly expanding front in the HD arms race.
Consider the Ford Super Duty, which is all-new for 2023, and features not only incredibly powerful gas and diesel V8 engines, but also a wide array of advanced technology designed to make these workhorses more efficient when it comes to performing HD truck tasks such as – you guessed it – towing and hauling.
AutoGuide recently spent a couple of days going hands-on with the new Super Duty, driving it on-road and off, and learning more about its many tech features.
Four V8 engines – two gas and two diesel – power the 2023 Super Duty lineup. The 6.8-liter base gas V8 is all-new, while the 7.3-liter now has more horsepower and torque. Also of note, the 7.3 and High Output 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 Diesel offer best-in-class horsepower and torque, according to Ford. All engines are paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission and can be had with either standard rear-wheel drive, or 4x4, which is standard on XLT and above.
- 6.8-liter V8 – 405 horsepower / 445 lb-ft. torque
- 7.3-liter V8 – 430 horsepower / 485 lb-ft. torque
- 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 diesel – 475 horsepower / 1,050 lb-ft. torque
- High Output 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 diesel – 500 horsepower / 1,200 lb-ft. torque
As for maximum towing, the figures for F-250 variants we drove are as follows. These apply to conventional towing for 4x4 Crew Cab models with a 6.75-foot box.
- 6.8-liter V8 – 16,600 pounds
- 7.3-liter V8 – 18,200 pounds
- 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 diesel – 22,000 pounds
- High Output Power Stroke V8 diesel – 22,000 pounds
The Super Duty has a maximum payload rating of 8,000 pounds (F-350). Capaciity for F-250 models vary depending on engine, cab, and box length. A regular cab 4x2 with an eight-foot box and 6.8-liter V8 is rated at 4,268 pounds.
On the styling front, the new Super Duty is more evolution than revolution, but there are some features to take note of. Among these are seven new model-specific grilles that are designed to improve engine cooling under heavy loads. New signature C-clamp headlights are designed for a wider, more prominent front-end look, with LED lighting now available on all grades. Long side vents, another new feature, are designed to reduce air pressure under the hood and improve aerodynamic performance.
Like other truck lines, Super Duty has a range of available customization options, including STX, Sport, and Black Appearance packages that come with specific trim, paint, and wheels. A new XL Off-Road Package for F-250 and F-350 trims (4x4 single rear wheels), bundles 33-inch tires, raised air dam, water-fording axle vent tubes, skid plates and an electronic locking rear differential.
Meanwhile, the Tremor Off-Road Package offers a front-end lift, unique suspension tuning, Dana front axle with a limited-slip differential and axle vent tubes, 35-inch Goodyear tires, unique 18-inch wheels, Trail Control, drive modes that include a rock-crawl setting, and Trail Turn Assist, which is available on the Bronco, and is new for Super Duty.
Notable cabin features include a standard 8-inch multimedia touchscreen (12-inch unit standard above XL), configurable 12-inch digital instrument cluster display, four USB charge ports, and available wireless charge pad. Max Recline Seats that fold almost flat, along with a 640-watt, eight-speaker Bang & Olufsen Sound System are other features of note.
Loads of Tech
As mentioned, the 2023 Super Duty offers loads of tech designed primarily to assist with towing and hauling. During our hands-on session with the truck, we participated in several demonstrations to learn how some of these tech features work. Of note, not all features are available on all grades.
Tailgate Down Camera and Rear Park Aid Sensors: This feature, an industry first according to Ford, uses a camera and sensors mounted at the top of the tailgate to provide visual and audible alerts when the tailgate is lowered while backing up to aid in loading the bed or hitching a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer.
Onboard Scales with Smart Hitch: Used for estimating payload weight in real time either on the multimedia display or via the FordPass smartphone app. The Limited grade also enables the predictive payload weight though four indicator lights in the taillights, which will also blink if the load is too far forward or too far back.
Pro Trailer Hitch Assist: Simply by pushing a button, the Super Duty’s cameras can locate the trailer an owner wants to hitch to and control the steering, acceleration, and braking to position the hitch ball directly below the receiver.
Pro Trailer Backup Assist: A push of a button, along with a dash-mounted knob, allows the operator to control the direction of the trailer by turning the knob to the left or right which steers the truck while backing up. The truck’s cameras give the operator a split-screen, left-side / right-side perspective on the multimedia display.
Trail Control & Trail Turn Assist: The former is like cruise control for off-roading, while the latter enables the driver to virtually lock the inner rear wheel, either left or right, to reduce the turn radius to 180 degrees for navigating tight corners.
Overall, the demonstrations I participated in did a great job of highlighting Super Duty’s broad range of available towing and hauling capability. The truck makes excellent use of visual aids, such as cameras, sensors, and taillights to guide the user through hitching and towing practices.
For someone who doesn’t hitch and tow trailers often, I found Smart Hitch, and Pro Trailer Backup Assist to be quite useful. As I discovered, hitching a trailer, and backing up with one attached is more challenging than it might appear. These features make completing those tasks so much easier.
Tailgate Down is also quite handy for owners who will be loading and unloading their beds on a frequent basis. Once again, the deployment of cameras and the multimedia screen is well executed, and easy to follow.
On the Road (And Off)
In addition to the demos, I spent time driving several variants on road and off. On the off-road course, we drove a Lariat equipped with the Tremor Off-Road package to experience the truck’s general handling and performance, and specifically to test the Trail Control and Trail Turn Assist features. Both impressed, as they helped this massive truck negotiate rocky, muddy, and generally rough terrain with ease. Being able to reduce the truck’s turning radius with Trail Turn Assist is especially handy.
I sampled Lariat (with Tremor package), King Ranch, and Limited models on road, each with 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel engines and am impressed with their general driving dynamics. Each truck delivers a lot of power from rest, and while they aren’t particularly fast, they cruise along comfortably at speed.
Given their high center of gravity and long length, emergency handling isn’t a Super Duty strength, but once one adjusts to the truck’s massive size it’s less of an issue. Road and wind noise were noticeable, but not oppressive.
Finally, all the trucks I drove offered a high degree of comfort in the cabin, with a lot of amenities, comfortable seating, an abundance of technology, and many useful storage options for both front and rear seat passengers.
2023 Ford Super Duty: The Verdict
The 2023 Ford Super Duty is designed to be a workhorse, and potential buyers need not worry— it still has the claims with respect to payload and towing. But what also makes this truck appealing, apart from its many trims, cab, box, and engine options, is the way technology has been so smartly integrated.
Throughout the exercises, I was struck by how the various aids have been designed in a way that’s easy to understand and use. HD truck veterans may scoff at the rise of electronic aids, but I think even the most old-school rancher or contractor might find them useful, especially for saving time.
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405 hp, 445 lb-ft
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