I’m one of those people who snarks, “You don’t need a truck,” at nearly everyone who drives a truck, and I strutted into Ford’s Michigan Proving Grounds with the expectation that my viewpoint wouldn’t really change. Ford cut me off at the knees by immediately explaining all the ways that the 2023 F-Series Super Duty is actually necessary, purpose-built with tools that solve actual problems for a variety of customer segments, and then demonstrating those capabilities in ways that made sense. I’ll never need to haul 40,000 pounds of livestock feed or whatever, but I inherently understand how it’s relevant to life as an American, and I appreciate how difficult a job it is.
Take me to a closed, technical off-road course and tell me to take my pick of any super-capable truck in a lineup to tackle the bumps, ruts, and rocks? Hell, I’ll keep my big mouth shut about the real-world usefulness of these vehicles, and I’ll probably even wear a new sports bra for the occasion. If I come away with some cracks in the foundation of my worldview, well, that’s a fantastic off-road course and some time well spent in the driver’s seat of a good truck.
Work and play
Does the average American need a Ford Super Duty? Certainly not. Does the average truck driver need one? I wouldn’t wager my firstborn or anything, but I’m still leaning towards no. So, the big question is, who is the Super Duty for? Ford actually has coherent answers to this question.
Of all the automaker presentations I’ve ever attended, the Super Duty briefing with Ford’s team of experts was hands-down the most successful at explaining how a customer need was identified, analyzed, and acted upon to make a discernible improvement to the vehicle. And with the Super Duty, Ford didn’t do this just once or twice — there’s a pretty impressive list.
Ford categorizes Super Duty buyers by commercial/fleet (40% fall into this category), retail (you know, regular people), and “fleettail” (typically, small business owners who use the trucks on weekends for recreation). All three groups, Ford says, have distinct needs and wants. For example, commercial and fleet buyers are most likely to upfit a new Super Duty for a specific purpose, and to that end, Ford has made it as easy as possible to customize a new truck.
Design and upgrades
The Ford Super Duty is a fine-looking truck, but let’s be real here — shopping for a heavy-duty truck based on aesthetics is fully missing the point. Still, Ford’s added some nice upgrades, such as the LED taillights that come on Limited and Platinum models (with a really cool feature we’ll get to in a moment). Ford does offer several appearance packages with different color, trim, and wheel design combinations.
Far more interesting than the standard exterior design is the breadth of possibilities to upgrade and upfit a Super Duty truck or chassis cab. Ford says there are more than 300 certified Ford Pro upfitters in North America, and that 270,000 new Ford Pro vehicles went through upfitters in 2022. These services are key to industries like construction, utilities, emergency response, and land management. Ford will even coordinate a customer’s upgrades with an upfitter so the customer can simply take delivery at the dealership when it’s done. To make upfitted systems and tools even more seamless, these certified shops can integrate some upfit functions right into the Super Duty’s infotainment system.
Fleet managers should also take note that Ford has 650 authorized commercial vehicle centers with more than 1,000 mobile service vehicles. Ford requires service centers to offer a mobile service fleet, which is a huge time-saver for fleet companies — imagine a technician coming onsite to perform repairs and maintenance across the fleet instead of schlepping each truck to the service center and back.
Interior design and features
It should come as no surprise that Ford says this is the “most connected” Super Duty ever, since so many buyers use the truck as a mobile office of sorts. The Super Duty is capable of over-the-air updates, up to 10 devices can connect to the onboard Wi-Fi, and the new head-up display uses an aircraft-inspired design for a faster and more intuitive understanding of the information presented. In Off-Road mode or in Tow-Haul mode, the HUD displays information specific to those modes.
The Super Duty is comfortable, too, particularly in the plush upper trim levels. The base models are predictably plain, yet still perfectly acceptable, with plenty of space across both rows and easy access to the infotainment display. The display in the base XL and XLT trims measures 8 inches, while all other trims get a 12-inch display. Other features include four USB ports, an available wireless charging pad, a tablet holder in the center console, and seats that can adjust to provide an almost completely flat surface for resting. Regular, crew, and super cab configurations are available.
Ford offers the Super Duty with four engines. The base 6.8-liter V-8 offers 405 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque, and is totally capable of most truck functions. Yet, there’s a 7.3-liter V-8 with 430 hp and 485 lb-ft; a turbocharged 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8 with 475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft; and a turbocharged high-output 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8 with 500 hp and 1,200 lb-ft.
The turbo diesels are capable of towing upwards of 40,000 pounds in certain configurations with the heavy duty payload package and the gooseneck tow package, though even the F-250 with the high-output diesel can manage 31,000 pounds in conventional towing.
The Super Duty features rear-wheel drive standard and is available with four-wheel drive. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard across the lineup.
Whistle while you work
If you need to tow and haul through rugged terrain, or you’re just plowing through the woods for funsies, the Super Duty has a couple of great features. The Tremor package brings an exclusive 18-inch wheel design with Goodyear tires, a front end lift, limited-slip differential, off-road suspension tuning, and selectable driving modes.
Trail Turn Assist is one of those features you don’t think you’ll need, until you do. It’s new with the Tremor package for this year, having already been featured on the Bronco Raptor, and here Ford set up a sand pit to demonstrate. Trail Turn Assist, when activated, locks the inside rear wheel to tighten the turning radius on non-paved surfaces. There’s a bit of a learning curve, in the sense that it can be a little tricky to feel the system engage, but ultimately, it’s easy to use and helps the Super Duty make tighter turns than a reasonable person would think possible.
Hill descent control enables the Super Duty to creep slowly and safely down a steep grade. It’s easy to use because the center display guides the driver through the steps required to activate the system, and it’s set using the cruise control switch in 1-mph increments. Once the system’s set up and you’re heading downhill, you can use the trail camera to guide you down the path.
Those sweet LED taillights mentioned earlier? They actually help you determine if you’ve overloaded the truck, as part of the new Onboard Scales system. Across the Super Duty lineup, the center display shows if you’re exceeding the truck’s payload capacity, while in Limited and Platinum trims, the taillights indicate if your load is overweight.
The Super Duty also gets a rearview camera that works even when the tailgate is down to assist with unloading and towing, and the Pro Trailer Hitch Assist is new for the Super Duty line. This system guides the truck to back up with a target that appears in the display to align the hitch and receiver. When the target appears, the driver holds a button and the truck automatically reverses to make the connection. The smart hitch system confirms the trailer is locked into place, and the onboard scales confirm the total payload of the onboard cargo and trailer weight. It can even guide the driver to better balance the load.
Pricing and availability
The all-new 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty is available now. It can be configured in 250, 350, and 450 models and in XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited trims. Pricing runs from $43,970 for the base F-250 XL to $103,030 for the F-450 Limited, with tons of options in between those extremes. Keep in mind that the Tremor Off-Road Package is a compelling upgrade option, too.
The F-Series Super Duty is built at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant and Ohio Assembly Plant.