The Ford F-Series Super Duty lineup has been completely redesigned for 2017, and there has never been a better time to tow or haul with an F-250 or F-350 or, for that matter, an F-450.
Fresh styling highlights a new aluminum-alloy body. Beneath that, is an all-new fully boxed frame that’s significantly lighter yet dramatically stronger than previously, a benefit of its extensive use of high-strength steel.
The optional 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo diesel V8 produces an awesome 925 foot-pounds of torque. The standard 6.2-liter V8 is rated at 385 horsepower, 430 foot-pounds of torque.
New convenience features include a camera aimed at the truck bed, useful for hooking up a gooseneck. An optional tow camera setup uses four cameras for a 360-degree view around the truck. Backing up is eased somewhat with trailer reverse guidance visual cues on the rearview camera. Also available: a trailer camera, useful when backing up. Cameras every which way, seven all told.
The styling looks new yet familiar at the same time.
Though completely new, much of the 2017 Super Duty cabin will seem familiar to anyone accustomed to the previous-generation models. It’s the same, only different.
A large number of Super Duty trucks are basic XL models purchased for commercial use, people who buy trucks that other people have to drive. Lariat and King Ranch models are favored by those who buy F-250s and F-350s for personal use, towing trailers, hauling you name it. Crew Cabs are popular because they make for an incredibly capable and versatile vehicle.
Most popular for towing trailers are an F-250 short bed or an F-350 long bed dually. Choosing between them can be difficult. What we’ve found: The F-250 tows very well and is much easier to park. The long dually does indeed substantially increase stability when pulling a big trailer, but it’s less convenient as a daily driver.
A properly equipped 2017 F-350 is rated to a gooseneck capacity of 32,000 pounds.
The Ford F-350 compares with the GMC Sierra 3500, Chevrolet Silverado 3500, and Ram 3500, while the F-250 can be shopped against the Chevy Silverado 2500, Sierra 2500, Ram 2500, and the Nissan Titan XD.
XL models are basic work trucks, XLT are nicely trimmed with cloth upholstery, Lariat is the standard upper-trim level with leather seat covers, King Ranch features a western theme with cowboy leather, Platinum is distinguished by ventilated grille bars.
Regular Cabs, SuperCabs with small back seats and rear-hinged doors, and Crew Cabs with full-size rear seats and full-size, front-hinged doors are available. Beds are 6 3/4 and 8 feet in length. Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are offered, as are single rear wheels or dual rear wheels, and 6.2-liter V8 or 6.7-liter turbo diesel.
The square fender flares on 2017 models with dual real wheels are a departure from the previous round flares yet suggest the lines of a Ford dually from the 1980s, and they have a small round lip on top of the square flare that echoes the round lip on the single rear wheel models and harkens back to the round flares on the previous generation. So, the Super Duty appears to be moving boldly into the future while honoring its heritage.
The door handles on the new truck are chrome grab handles oriented horizontally, replacing the vertical black levers used previously. These flashes of car-like chrome along with black B-pillars and crisper body sides conspire to make the Super Duty look a bit less heavy duty. Plus the new handles are more comfortable. Only the chrome bars on the grille look heavy duty now, appearing to weight the truck down from some angles.
Any model, even the top trim levels, is available with a vinyl floor instead of carpet, an option worthy of consideration for trucks that see a lot of mud, snow or wet.
Between the available front bucket seats is a large console that offers wonderful storage space for all the driver’s stuff. Alternatively, a bench seat with a flip-up console is available for three-across seating in front.
Rear seat bottoms in the Crew Cabs flip up to reveal a handy storage area. They are not dog friendly, however. Unbolting and removing seats and storage bin may be the best option for a big dog.
The diesel is smooth and quiet at cruising speeds. The 6.7-liter diesel generates 440 horsepower and 925 foot-pounds of torque and comes with a six-speed automatic.
The 6.2-liter V8 engine is rated at 430 lb.-ft. and 385 hp and also comes with a six-speed automatic, though a different.
F-250 models powered by the 6.2-liter engine benefit from a new six-speed automatic Ford says is more responsive than the previous setup.
F-250 short-bed models (with shorter wheelbase) do an excellent job of pulling bumper-pull trailers and can handle weighty goosenecks. They are quite stable, much more so than an F-150 or any other light-duty pickup. In short, a Ford F-250 is an excellent choice for a tow vehicle. Parking an F-250 is a bit more cumbersome than parking an F-150, which feels like a car by comparison.
No question an F-350 with dual rear wheels and the longer wheelbase is more stable when towing, however. We thought there would be a significant difference, but back-to-back coast-to-coast driving in each configuration demonstrated to us that the dually is substantially more stable and, therefore, more enjoyable for long tows. Strong crosswinds in Wyoming and Kansas, tractor trailers blowing by, heavy rain storms, all are more comfortable when towing in the F-350. Parking one of these is more cumbersome than parking an F-250, more because of the length than the width, but unless you drive into New York City or some other metropolis with restricted parking, it’s entirely doable. We simply park farther from the door at shopping centers, restaurants, and motels. With its higher tongue weight rating, there is less concern about carefully distributing weight when loading the trailer. Finally, when pulling a trailer, a dually just looks cooler.
Another option is an F-350 long bed with single rear wheels, but unless you are primarily hauling or have some other special requirement, this configuration has all the downsides of the length without the benefits of dual rear wheels (highway stability, superior tongue weight capacity).
New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough reported from northern New Jersey.