What Is It?
While light-duty trucks have to strike a delicate balance between capability and everyday drivability, heavy-duty pickups are all about brute strength. To that end, the 2020 Ford Super Duty will be available with three engines to support its substantial hauling potential. The existing 6.2-liter gasoline V8 paired to a six-speed automatic transmission will continue to be the base powertrain for the F-250. (The F-350 will use a new 10-speed automatic.) A revised version of the 6.7-liter turbodiesel will be available (optional for the F-250 and the F-350 and standard on the F-450), which Ford says will make more power and torque than the existing engine's 450 horsepower and 935 lb-ft.
2020 Ford F-Series Super Duty First Look
Ford's Heavy-Duty Is More Powerful and Tech-Heavy Than Ever
What Is It?
But Ford's centerpiece is the new high-output 7.3-liter gasoline V8 (optional for the F-250 and F-350), which is aimed at buyers who need the extra towing power but prefer their dinosaur juice more refined. Both the diesel and 7.3-liter gas engines are also paired to the 10-speed automatic.
Ford has not released output for any of these engines or towing and payload figures. The current Super Duty is impressive enough, but Ford says payload and towing capabilities will increase with the revised engines. For the record, the current 2019 F-250 can tow up to 18,500 pounds, the F-350 can tow up to 32,000 pounds, and the F-450 can tow up to 35,000 pounds.
Even though the 2020 F-Series Super Duty receives plenty of upgrades under the skin, it's nearly impossible to distinguish between the old and new models. The cabin, for instance, is practically a carbon copy unless you opt for the top-trim Limited. That primo Super Duty now includes additional leather throughout the interior, black ash wood trim and a faux-suede headliner.
The exterior, on the other hand, sports a handful of cosmetic modifications and functional upgrades. A larger grille and redesigned front bumper help funnel more air to cool the powertrain, while dual rear-wheel models get an even bigger grille for increased airflow. The front and rear taillights are restyled, and the tailgate gets a fresh, new look as well.
A set of newly standard and optional technology and safety features will appeal to owners and businesses alike. Every Super Duty now includes a 4G LTE modem and Wi-Fi hotspot that supports up to 10 connected devices. While this tech seems like an unusual feature to standardize on a truck that comes with crank windows, it makes sense given the Super Duty's popularity in fleets. Ford offers a telematics suite for fleet operators so they can keep track of various vehicle data points, but it's currently only available on Lariat models and above. By including it on every Super Duty, even the fleet-oriented XL can be equipped with the suite.
Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist feature is now available on the Super Duty. First introduced in the 2018 Ford F-150, it helps drivers reverse with ease while towing a trailer. Drivers turn a dash-mounted knob to the left or right, and the system rotates the wheel to point the trailer in the correct direction. Unfortunately, in our experience, the Pro Trailer Backup Assist takes a while to set up and has a bit of a learning curve. Drivers might find it more worthwhile to use this time to learn how to reverse with a trailer manually.
A number of advanced safety features are now standard on XLT models and above, including lane departure warning for the truck and attached trailer, automatic high-beam control, a blind-spot monitor with trailer coverage, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection. The forward collision system and blind-spot monitor are also available on XL and STX models as part of option packages. Rounding out the tech features are standard USB-C ports and an available wireless charging pad.
The Super Duty will also be getting a more off-road-capable trim level. While it already offers the FX4 off-road package, it doesn't quite compete with the more extreme rock-crawling packages available on rivals. For the 2020 model, Ford is shaking things up with the even more capable Tremor package. The upgrades start with a 2-inch front lift and shorter airdam combined with 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratrac all-terrain tires and the transfer case and fuel tank skid plates from the FX4 package. These upgrades provide more ground clearance and protection should the Super Duty scrape against rocks.
The suspension and stabilizer bars are all retuned for off-road performance as well as twin-tube shocks with large 1.7-inch-diameter pistons to improve responsiveness and manage heat buildup. Also added are a locking rear differential, a limited-slip Dana front differential, a rock-crawl mode, and low-speed cruise control.
The Tremor package will be available on all trims except the XL and the Lariat, and available with either engine, when the Super Duty goes on sale this fall.
Why Does It Matter?
The light-duty pickup segment is the bread and butter of truck manufacturers. But consumers, businesses and government agencies also need vehicles with more payload, seating and towing capabilities than a light-duty can provide. Automakers have been steadily improving their standard offerings, and the big players are pushing those improvements into their HD trucks. Ford's updates are going to be necessary if it wants to stay competitive in the heavy-duty segment.
The more powerful engines and increased towing and hauling capacities will appeal to everyone, but Ford is clearly also looking to increase their appeal to fleet buyers with the added standard technology. It's also pushing the Super Duty more into the lifestyle market with the upgraded interiors and the new Tremor model — a clear shot at the Ram Power Wagon.
What Does It Compete With?
Redesigned versions of the Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD and Ram Heavy Duty are slated for release later this year, all with more available power, tech and creature comforts. We've had a chance to drive the General Motors and Ram competitors, and we were surprised to find that the HD segment looks like it will play out very differently from the regular large-truck segment.
Chevy and GMC have implemented some impressive new technology features of their own, and they've thought long and hard about usability. We were particularly impressed by how useful their new bed design is. Ram, meanwhile, is offering some staggering power and towing numbers, but it hasn't updated its heavy-duty trucks' cabs as thoroughly as it did the 1500's. We can't wait to get our hands on a Ford Super Duty to see how it competes.
New engine options and tech should add appeal to both individual and fleet buyers, but the 2020 Ford Super Duty faces stiffer competition than ever in a Heavy Duty class that's changing completely.