With higher towing and payload ratings, Ford's F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickups offer a step up for those that need it. They also offer more robust frames, the ability to add dual rear wheels or a fifth wheel for towing and come with a myriad of options for contractor customization. For 2020, the Super Duty lineup is enhanced with a more-powerful 7.3-liter gas V8, a new 10-speed automatic transmission, updated front and rear styling and an off-road-themed Tremor package. Competitors include the Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD and Ram 2500/3500 pickup.
Like the F-150, the Super Duty is offered in regular cab, extended cab (SuperCab) or crew cab body styles. In addition, a 6.8- or an 8.2-foot bed is offered. Trim levels include: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited. Prices start as low as $34,230 but quickly climb to more than $85,000 on the F-250 upper trim levels.
The F-250 engine lineup includes a 6.2-liter V8 that makes 385 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque, a new 7.3-liter V8 that makes 430 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque and a 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 that makes 475 horsepower and 1,050 lb-ft of torque. The base 6.2-liter V8 gets a 6-speed automatic while the 7.3-liter V8 and diesel mate to the new 10-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all models with four-wheel drive being optional. Towing capacities can exceed 20,000 when properly equipped.
Safety features include forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning for the truck and attached trailer and a blind-spot monitor. XL and XLT are basic contractor fair wile the Lariat and above are better suited to double duty as work trucks and heavy-duty family haulers. The new Tremor package adds to the existing FX4 package a 2-inch front lift and shorter air dam, 35-inch all-terrain tires, retuned suspension, upgraded shock absorbers, locking rear differential, limited-slip front differential, rock-crawl mode and low-speed cruise control.
The F-250's base 6.2-liter V8 is a good choice for contractors as it provides the best balance of affordability, performance and fuel economy. However, those wanting a bit more oomph for towing should certainly check out the new 7.3-liter V8. It's powerful and quite docile, providing instantaneous acceleration at almost any speed. The engine mates well to the new smooth-shifting 10-speed automatic as well. Opting for the diesel requires a $10,000 commitment but brings stump-pulling torque that's ideal for max. trailer towing.
F-250s come standard with rear-wheel drive. Opting for 4-wheel drive brings a low-speed transfer case. However, the system does not have an auto mode and is not designed for on-road use on dry pavement.
When it comes to fuel economy, heavy duty trucks are exempt from EPA certification so there are no official numbers. But, with so many trucks doing double duty as family haulers today, fuel efficiency has become a major factor for many buyers. The new 7.3-liter V8 certainly isn't a miser as it will likely average about 15 MPG overall in routine suburban commuting - and that's with an empty bed and no trailer. Driven with care it's possible to eke out about 17 MPG in highway commuting. At least F-250 offers huge fuel tanks, with the largest being 48 gallons.
Though the Super Duty lineup still employs rear leaf springs, Ford has made huge strides toward providing a more civilized on-road ride. This is most noticeable on the highway where the F-250's, rigid structure, long wheelbase and high-sidewall tires eat up road imperfections with aplomb. Things can still get busy around town, especially on bumpy roads and with an empty bed. Overall, the F-250 rides with the composure of most large crossovers -- especially in Platinum or Limited trim. Though the F-250 trails the Ram 2500 and its rear coil springs, in overall ride refinement, most will find that it is pleasant enough as a daily driver.
Ask the F-250 to tackle a parking-lot gymkana and you're likely to get a "I can't change the laws of physics" from the engine room. To be fair, the F-250 is a huge, heavy and wide truck riding soft truck tires. Still, the painfully slow steering lacks road feel and the brake pedal acts more like an on/off switch than a dimmer dial -- both of these features should be better sorted.
One area that Ford has spent a lot of engineering time on is noise refinement and it shows. The F-250 is a very quiet truck. Engine noise is hardly noticeable when cruising and only intrudes slightly in hard acceleration. Wind and tire noise are nicely abated. Overall, the cabin is very quiet, even at extra-legal highway speeds.
Clearly Ford has done its homework on the interior as it provides a well-designed, user-friendly cabin. Materials range widely from the base XL to the top-line Limited but all are hearty and price appropriate. Large buttons and dials dominate and are clearly positioned and designed for ease of use. Even the tall and airy greenhouse, which offers exceptional visibility, makes the truck easier to drive.
Drivers face a traditional twin dial setup that is split by smaller ancillary gauges aligned in a row above a multi-function digital display. Overall, the effect provides instant access to the information drivers need with very little distraction. Moving over to the center stack, there's an available 8-inch touch screen that controls Ford's SYNC3 infotainment system and handy buttons and dials for the audio and HVAC systems. Other controls are well placed and clearly marked for easy operation.
Ford's SYNC3 system is easy to use and offers just enough customization to be supportive without being overly complicated. It makes extensive use of voice commands, if you are so inclined. It also supports Android Auto and Apple Car Play at no additional cost. It's nice to see that most safety features are standard on XLT and above.
As is the case with most heavy-duty trucks, the front seats could double as BarcaLoungers if necessary. They are wide, well padded and offer exceptional long-haul comfort. In addition, head and leg room are exceptional. Rear-seat room depends on cab choice. Extended cabs (SuperCabs) offer modest room for adults, but crew cab models are positively palatial with ample head and leg room and great seat comfort. Regardless of trim, the F-250 is a huge step up for most, making running boards a necessity.
With two bed lengths, you can tailor the F-250 to your needs. Ford also offers a number of dealer-installed covers and attachments to help make the bed more usable. Interior storage abounds with lots of open and covered bins. There are two gloveboxes and a huge center console bin. F-250 come with a column-mounted shifter, and, while that may seem antiquated, it frees up a lot of space in the center console for storage. The rear seat, if equipped, flip up to provide additional interior storage.
Bottom Line -- Like the F-150, Ford's Super Duty lineup is the best-selling heavy-duty truck for a reason, it's damn good at just about everything it does. Over the years Ford has focused on adding refinement, technology, safety and roadability to its big rigs and that shows. Obviously, trucks are territorial with owners being so very loyal. If you are in the market, you'd be doing yourself a disservice if you didn't at least give the F-250 a test drive before you sign on the dotted line. Its refinement and thoughtful interior might just win you over.