Ford Super Duty steers toward tough tasks

Courtesy photoMost powerful Super Duty yet launches with two new engine offerings including all-new advanced 7.3-liter gasoline V8 and upgraded third-generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke® diesel V8; all-new heavy-duty 10-speed TorqShift® automatic transmission.

The Ford F-Series Super Duty pickup truck poses some challenges for casual drivers. Weighty, extra long, stiffly supported, it gets tough to maneuver.

I learned just how tough when I tried to navigate one into what had looked like an amply sized parking spot at a Home Depot.

The lane between the rows of parked cars was a bit narrow, which concerned me. And as a Crew Cab with a big, six-passenger cabin containing a large back seat, my Super Duty was long, another worry.

With the standard features built into its Lariat mid-level trim package, and with enough options to boost the truck’s $53,250 base price to a final list price of $74,110, I had lots of help. My Ford Super Duty came with a back-up camera and 360-degree surround-view display. It had beeping back-up sensors, cross-traffic monitors and more driving aids than we have room to mention. This Super Duty was one super truck.

I figured backing in was easiest. I cut the front wheels to their maximum steering angle and swung the back sharply. No, not enough. I adjusted the trajectory, wiggling as far forward as the narrow lane allowed and giving the back another sharp swing. Still not enough. I wriggled the truck again.

Eventually I cursed and gave up, and drove the Super Duty to a distant part of the lot where open space abounded.

And my evaluation model wasn’t even the largest Ford Super Duty available. People who want more truck can buy a long-wheel-base version that is close to a foot and a half longer than the 21-foot model I piloted.

Of course, the Super Duty isn’t made for casual drivers running to Home Depot to buy a light bulb. It’s made for workers who need the heavy-hauling capabilities of an extreme pickup. For them, the big, bulky, wide-steering, heavy-stepping F-Series Super Duty solves transportation challenges. So what if it’s more cumbersome to drive than a nimble little econo-car or, for that matter, more cumbersome than a standard-duty pickup truck?

“We sell a lot of them for commercial use, like to construction company owners,” said Chris Sawyer, sales manager at Portsmouth Ford in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. “It’s for people who really need to haul a big trailer behind them, or who need to pile a lot of stuff in the back.”

The Ford F-Series is the top-selling pickup in the United States by a healthy margin, which makes it the top-selling truck in the world. The large majority of Ford pickups are F-150 varieties, which are standard-duty models. Sure, they’re work vehicles. But a lot of people – men especially – use them as their everyday, get-around car for driving to work, shuttling the family, or running to the store for a light bulb.

The Super Duty is the rougher, tougher, more work-hardened and generally larger variation of the Ford F-Series. It is available with two- or four-wheel drive, and with three cab sizes that accommodate from three to six riders. Ford sells standard wheelbase and long wheelbase varieties.

The two engines available in the truck pack a lot of power. In both rear-wheel- and four-wheel-drive variations, the standard motor in this year’s 2019 Super Duty is a big, 6.2-liter V8 with 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. That high torque rating translates into a lot of heavy pulling power.

If it’s not enough, drivers can opt for a 6.7-liter diesel engine that provides 935 pound feet of torque. That gives it considerably more towing capacity.

The diesel-engine option adds a lot to the cost of a Super Duty – both during the initial purchase and for ongoing maintenance. “But it’s worth it for customers who need to tow 16,000, 17,000, 18,000 pounds,” Sawyer said.

When Ford introduces the model-year 2020 Super Duty this fall, the pickup will provide added brawn. In addition to the current V8 gas engine, Ford will offer a newly developed, larger and more powerful, 7.3-liter V8. The company also is improving the 6.7-liter diesel engine for 2020, to give it more horsepower and torque. Ford will pair both the upgraded diesel and the new gas engine with a newly developed 10-speed automatic transmission.

When promoting those coming power improvements, Ford notes that the new engines will give Super Duty its greatest towing and cargo-carrying capacities ever.

Those changes should please heavy-hauling business owners who are the “bread and butter of our Super Duty business” at Portsmouth Ford, according to Sawyer.

At the same time, the power upgrades certainly won’t scare off the occasional casual driver who buys a Super Duty for personal use.

“We’re seeing more customers who tow campers coming in for the Super Duty,” said Sawyer. “And we get the occasional customer who just wants a big truck.”

They’ll find that even for consumer use, there are times that the Ford Super Duty can out-perform other vehicles.

When I took my evaluation model to New Hampshire’s White Mountains with two hiking companions, the three of us learned that when the F-Series Super Duty is equipped with its full, six-person Crew Cab and four-wheel drive, the pickup can be better suited than the roughest and toughest SUV for rugged recreational and adventure travel. It accommodates family-sized groups with ease. Its four-wheel-drive provides superior traction over rough terrain and through muck. Its high ground clearance helps it step expertly over breaks, gaps, ruts and mounds. Its high-torque engine hoists it up mountain inclines with gusto.

But our mountain adventure also highlighted some shortcomings with the F-Series Super Duty in personal use. To keep our hiking gear dry, we had to carry it in the cab rather than the rear open box. So we sacrificed half of the back seat to cargo.

Also, when driving on a narrow, unpaved mountain road, some maneuvers demanded the same forward-and-reverse wriggling I had experienced in the Home Depot lot.

Even though the Ford F-Series Super Duty wasn’t any easier to park on a far-out mountain, it had brought us to where most other vehicles wouldn’t dare to travel.

Jeffrey Zygmont is an author of fiction, non-fiction and poetry books, and a long-time auto writer. Contact him at www.jeffreyzygmont.com.

2019 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Vehicle type: 2- and 4-door, 3- to 6-passenger, rear- and four-wheel-drive pickup truck

Starting Price: $34,745

Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles basic warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles powertrain warranty; 5 years/unlimited miles corrosion warranty; 5 years/60,000 miles roadside assistance

Base engine: 6.2-liter V8

Power: 385 horsepower at 5,750 rpm; 430 lb.-ft. torque at 3,800 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 142 inches

Length: 232 inches

Width: 80 inches

Height: 78 inches

Weight: 5,683 pounds

Fuel capacity: 34.0 gallons