One hundred years ago, just four years after putting to use the moving assembly line, Henry Ford and his company introduced its very first pickup truck. The spindly looking but incredibly capable 1-ton 1917 Ford Model TT was based on the Model T car, introduced in 1908, only with a reinforced chassis and rear end. It rode on wooden wheels.
Ten decades later I’m powering through Los Angeles traffic in this new 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4×4 Crew Cab that features nearly 1,000 pound-feet of torque, an all-aluminum body, a voice-activated navigation system, heated and massaging front seats, adaptive cruise control and a sticker price of $77,505. Gulp.
Ol’ Henry never saw that coming.
Ford’s Super Duty line of heavy-duty pickups first hit the market back in 1998. And for almost 20 years that design has been tweaked and tucked more times than “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” It aged well, but like Lisa Vanderpump and her pals, it’s competing with younger, sexier models.
Despite the Ford Super Duty being the longtime leader in heavy-duty truck sales, Ford has given the line its first redesign to fend off competition from General Motors’ Chevrolet and GMC heavy-duty truck siblings and a similar offering from Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Ram brand. Ford has created something special.
My test truck, a white monolith with a Black and Brunello leather interior, was powered by the King Kong of Ford truck engines, the 6.7-liter Power Stroke Turbo Diesel, which is an $8,595 option. The overhead-valve V8 features an iron block, aluminum cylinder heads and impressive power ratings of 440 horsepower at 2,800 rpm and an incredible 925 pound-feet of torque at just 1,800 rpm. It’s partnered with an all-new steel frame, which Ford says is 350 pounds lighter and 24 percent stiffer than the previous model. The test truck had the standard smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission and an optional 3.55 electronic locking differential. Four-wheel drive is engaged with a simple knob on the dashboard. The combination is easy to drive around town and loves humming down the highway.
Passing is never an issue, and there’s enough acceleration — even at 70 mph — to push you back in the seat. In fact, speed can be deceptive in this truck. The F-250 diesel’s long surge of power, extensive wheelbase, stiff structure and very quiet interior make 65 mph feel like 50. At times, I thought I was cruising at a police-friendly 70 mph only to look down and see the speedometer cresting 80. It’s that refined. The truck got about 14 mpg during a week of about 350 miles of driving, including 200 on highways.
The interior is so quiet and comfortable that it rivals many luxury sedans. Engine noise is completely kept from reaching inside the cabin. Passengers don’t realize it’s a diesel until told. And wind noise is nonexistent, even from around its huge side mirrors.
The truck wore the top-of-the-line Platinum trim package that adds unique leather, heated and cooled power front seats, rear heated seats and a 60/40 flip up/fold down rear seat with underseat lockable storage. It had dual-zone climate control; power adjustable pedals; a 10-speaker Sony audio system; a blind-spot monitoring system specially tuned for towing as it provides coverage for the truck and trailer; parking sensors; and a heated, tilt and telescoping steering wheel. Also standard is Ford’s Sync 3 infotainment system that includes navigation. It’s easier to use than the previous version thanks to an upgrade that allows for phone-style gestures like swipe and pinch to zoom. It’s all included for the $62,110 base price, as are 20-inch wheels and tires, a remote tailgate release and adaptive steering, which adjusts the steering ratio to the vehicle’s speed. It makes parking this beast a whole lot easier.
Another $2,785 option — the Platinum Ultimate Package — packs the truck with safety tech and comfort features. It includes lane-departure warning, a massive twin-panel moonroof and the Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera system with a 360-degree view camera, which makes hitching up a trailer a one-man job.
Also included is adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support. This system detects slower vehicles ahead. If you’re approaching rapidly, it’ll warn you with red lights on your windshield and an alarm. If you don’t act, the truck will then pre-charge the braking system, so when you do hit the brake pedal you’ll get more immediate and harder braking to help avoid a collision.
Ideally, Ford would include all these active safety features standard on a $62,000 truck, or at least bundle them together in a safety package rather than force consumers to purchase a moonroof and other items to get these systems that insurance industry data prove reduce collisions.
My favorite stand-alone option was our truck’s power deployable steps that appear silently as you open a door. Close the door and they elegantly tuck themselves back home. They work flawlessly and make entering and exiting this tall truck a snap, even for my 11-year-old daughter.
The interior does have one flaw. The size of the touchscreen seems small in such a huge vehicle at this price point.
Depending on your perspective, it has either taken Ford 100 years or two decades to reach the technological peak of truckdom and complete the redesign of its new 2017 Super Duty. Either way this truck has been worth the wait.