2023 Ford Super Duty Review
The new Ford Super Duty pairs high-tech with hard work, enhancing towing and off-roading. But does this heavy-duty truck still keep its rough-and-tough spirit?
ROMEO, Mich. —The Ford Super Duty is one of the most interesting vehicles I get to drive as an automotive journalist.
Unlike nearly every other car I drive, the Super Duty is nearly 100 percent used to get a job done. It's a tool. I got to see this firsthand at Ford's Michigan Proving Grounds a few weeks ago, when — in addition to the typical pickup truck testing of on-road and off-road driving — the assembled journalists got to see the all-new 2023 Super Duty put through its paces in a variety of industrial arenas.
There was the towing demo, including a very specific configuration of F-450 that can tow a 40,000-pound load — an outrageous amount that requires a commercial driver's license and is fast approaching what big rigs haul. Ford execs told me that 90 percent of Super Duty owners tow at least once a month, while that number is closer to 25 percent for the smaller Ford F-150.
To help those hauling horses or tractors or logs or boats or whatever you need to move from point A to point B, the new Super Duty is equipped with all manner of fancy technology to make life easier, and a couple of those are worth calling out.
One of the most annoying parts of towing is aligning the hitch with the ball at the back of the truck. You have to drive in reverse and get everything lined up with less than an inch of play. The advent of backup cameras makes this a bit easier, but it's still tricky, especially if you're alone — there's little more frustrating than getting out of a truck, seeing that you're not aligned properly, and needing to get back in and do it over. And over.
That's why Ford created Pro Trailer Hitch Assist. Everything on this truck is "Pro" something, it seems. The system can automatically locate the hitch on your trailer and automatically back the truck and align everything properly without you touching the wheel or pedals. Many luxury cars have been able to parallel park themselves for a few years now, and this is an advanced, towing-specific version of that.
I can already hear the truck purists gnashing their teeth and wailing that real truck drivers can back a truck up and hook up a trailer with their eyes closed, uphill both ways. But why would you want to work harder when the truck can do it for you, getting it right on the first try?
You don't send hand-written letters anymore, do you? No, you send a text. Work smarter, not harder. A few years ago, when Ford began introducing some towing-related driver-assist features in the F-150, company reps said it was starting there because those drivers might not be as familiar with towing. Now the tech has made its way to the bigger Super Duty trucks — the F-250, F-350, and F-450, depending on how much hauling capability you need — and we'll see if those folks towing trailers every day want to make use of all the newfangled sensors and tech.
Some of it is more immediately useful, too. Though trucks have had backup cameras for years, they were generally installed on the back of the liftgate. If you drop the liftgate, the backup camera immediately ceases to be useful. But in the new Super Duty, there's an additional backup camera built into the top of the liftgate — that means when the gate is down, you still get a backup camera. Why did that take so long to come to fruition?
There's a knob you can use to "steer" the back of the trailer when reversing, a feature called Pro Trailer Backup Assist brought over from the F-150. Ford demonstrated it by backing a 30-foot trailer into a slot with 6 inches of clearance on each side. Could a very experienced driver do the same? Absolutely, but now it's a lot easier.
And that's the whole point of this truck. It's a tool, with lots of technology and features meant to make your life easier. It's the first Ford pickup with a head-up display, a huge, full-color unit that will make long highway cruises a bit easier on the eyes.
There are off-road features like Trail Turn Assist, where the truck can lock the inside rear wheel to make extremely sharp turns on loose surfaces, something that will be of great use to off-roaders since this truck is absolutely massive, and anything that can narrow the turning circle is a good thing.
And there's even a cool new hardware interface for upfitters that allows all manner of add-on features, from plows and salt spreaders to cranes and water pumps, to be directly integrated with the in-cab screen and pull all sorts of data from the car. With this, deploying the crane could automatically engage the parking brake, or the salt spreader could be set to automatically adjust its speed based on how fast the truck is going. For commercial users, this feature alone could be worth the price of admission.
The Built Ford Tough slogan is more than just a tagline for the folks who worked on this truck. They live and breathe it, and so do the folks buying these trucks. More than once, Ford reps said that this was the truck building America. They're not wrong. Super Duty has a huge market share across a ton of different industries. Keep an eye out while you're driving around, and you'll see them working as fire trucks, utility vehicles, in construction, or for the phone company.
The Super Duty is everywhere, and now there's a new one. It's just like the old one, only with a bunch more Pro and more Assist. Let's get to work.
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