For ages, the most important aspects of a truck were its size and power. Or metrics like payload and towing capacities. You know, old fashioned muscle and grit. Hard-workin’ stuff like that.
And, sure, Ford did mention a few things in this regard at its first drive of the 2023 F-Series Super Duty. But in between the "up to 1,200 pound-feet of torque from a high-output 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel" and the "40,000 pounds of maximum towing capacity," the Blue Oval added, "Did you hear about our automatic hitch alignment? What about trailer back-up assist? And you gotta check out our tailgate camera!"
Welcome to a new era.
|Quick Stats||2023 Ford Super Duty F-350 Lariat|
|Engine||6.7-Liter Turbodiesel V8|
|Output||500 HP / 1,200 LB-FT|
|Price As-Tested||$90,005 (est.)|
Gallery: 2023 Ford Super Duty F-350: First Drive Review
Core Chassis Carries On
Ford built the previous generation Super Duty (2017-2022 model years) on the platform named P558, which effectively carries on for this new 2023 truck. There are a few alterations, however, largely focused on increased rigidity for towing. Specifically strengthening areas around the connection between the frame and the hitch. Furthermore, Ford changed the crossmember where the fifth wheel mounts in the bed.
But the main structure remains. No big news about more high-strength steel or bonding methods or weld points. And no mention of growth. Mind you, the short-wheelbase crew cab truck has a wheelbase of 159.7 inches and spans 250.0 inches from bumper to bumper. Assuming you get the 4x4, which all XLT and higher trims include as standard, even the F-250 is 81.4 inches tall and 80.0 inches wide. It didn’t need to grow.
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Tried And True, Yet Also New, Engines
Ford now offers four engines to choose from. The base engine, offered in the XL trim, is a new 6.8-liter V8 that pumps out 405 horsepower and 445 lb-ft. Here’s the catch: It’s basically the 7.3-liter V8 engine with a shorter stroke. The new pushrod mill makes an extra 20 hp and 15 lb-ft compared to the overhead-cam 6.2-liter V8 it replaces in last year’s truck. Old-school tech wins.
The 7.3-liter V8 mostly carries over from 2022, but not before receiving new pistons and piston rings, as well as a more efficient water pump that takes less power to run. All in all, you get the same peak 430 hp, but 485 lb-ft (an increase of 10).
Ford left well enough alone with the standard-output Power Stroke 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8. In 2020, it crested 1,000 lb-ft and kept right on going to make 1,050 in total. It’s largely unchanged for this generation truck, except Ford did upgrade the fuel injectors and increased cooling capability in the cylinder heads.
And the automaker did that because we now have a new, high-output Power Stroke. You’ll be able to tell it’s the flagship engine because the truck will say the "6.7L" part of the Power Stroke badge in red. Seeing red means you have 500 hp under the hood and – please sit down – 1,200 lb-ft of oil-burning twist! We are getting frighteningly close to class 8 semis here, and it’s glorious.
Ford pulled that feat off with the aforementioned larger injectors and updated cylinder heads, but also a water-cooled compressor side of the massive turbocharger, functioning much like an additional intercooler before air reaches the intercooler, and stainless-steel exhaust manifold parts to handle the additional heat from the added torque. The turbo generates 35 psi of boost. To keep cylinder pressure in check, Ford actually had to decrease compression ratio from 15.8:1 to 15.2:1.
Regardless of which engine you choose, a 10-speed transmission mates up to it, although the 6.8-liter’s version is slightly lighter duty than the others. And while every trim is available in four-wheel-drive, XLT and higher trims come with it standard.
Let's Talk Tech
Yeah, you’ll win a few barstool arguments with torque numbers like that, but the bigger step this truck takes is with technology offered in it.
When it comes to towing, the Super Duty will now reverse in to the perfect position to attach a hitch to the receiver by holding down a button. Called Pro Trailer Hitch Assist, it uses both rear mounted cameras and radar to see the hitch and drive right to it. Steering, accelerating, and braking is all done automatically. You’re still in control and everything stops once you lift your finger from the button. About two feet before you get there, it asks you to confirm the receiver is high enough to clear the ball and then it inches back, perfectly centered.
Pride may get in the way of the helpfulness of that feature, but the Super Duty now also has a way to weigh the tongue for you, which is a straight win. This is a feature of the F-150 as well, but unlike that system, the Super Duty uses position sensors to measure how much the springs have compressed, which is more accurate.
Input the weight of the trailer into the system, mount it, and a graph on the screen will show you whether you’re in an acceptable window for tongue weight. Ford also utilized four LED bulbs embedded in the taillights. Two center lights lit means tongue weight is good. Top one flashing? Too heavy. Bottom? Too light. This allows you to adjust the load on the trailer in real time. You can also check payload with this feature, by the way. This time the four LEDs illuminate one at a time as weight increases, with the top one flashing once you go over the limit.
Once mounted up, the Super Duty will also back into a tight spot for you. This one does require some prep work; the truck first needs to know a bit about the trailer. And you have to apply a sticker to it, to give the cameras a reference point. But once you do, with the use of the center console screen and a dial, you simply indicate where you want the trailer to go and the truck will handle the counterintuitive trailer steering for you to get it done. Again, pride may get in the way of that particular feature.
But the best new tech on the Super Duty is the also the simplest. Ford added a camera and three sensors to the top of the tailgate, which allows you to have a back-up camera with it down. That simple trick works wonders for reversing with long cargo or to prep for loading at a bay.
Drive With Omnipresent Power
All the tech aside, how does it drive? Parked outside the gates of the Michigan Proving Grounds, in a rural part of the state, Ford handed me the keys to an F-350 Lariat crew cab. A middle-of-the-road trim truck with the shorter 6.8-foot box outside and heated and ventilated seats and a heated steering wheel inside.
Someone ticked the $12,495 option for the high-output, turbodiesel V8, which meant I had some torque to play with. Stomp your right foot on the throttle and it’s not so much that you feel jerked back in to the seat, rather that you’re stuck in an accelerating centrifuge, with an omnipresent force continually adding pressure between your body and the seat. It’s unrelenting, unstoppable, mighty pull.
But with such superfluous power and torque, none of that is surprising. The shock came with how refined and well-mannered everything felt once I settled into cruising speed. The diesel quietly chugs along at well under 2,000 rpm, with several gears to choose from, including three overdrive gears. And despite a nearly 2-ton payload capacity, the suspension absorbs bumps and uneven pavement with way more civility than I thought possible.
Inside, the crew cab provides ample leg, hip, elbow, and shoulder room for four NBA stars, you’ll be fine. Moreover, the steering wheel electrically tilts and telescopes and the driver’s seat provides plenty of adjustment in a myriad of directions to get settled. Moreover, the seat will fold almost completely horizontal — Ford calls it Max Recline — allowing for nap time on the go. Once you get up and moving again, you’ll have three large, brightly lit screens to look at, a fully digital instrument cluster, a 12.0-inch touchscreen, and a massive head-up display.
Time for Towing
The least capable Ford Super Duty, which is an F-250 with the base 6.8-liter V8, four-wheel-drive, a crew cab, long wheelbase, eight-foot box, 3.73:1 final drive ratio, and fifth- wheel hitch, will tow 13,600 pounds. The best is an F-450 with the high-output diesel, two-wheel-drive, regular cab, and a 4.30:1 final-drive ratio. It can pull 40,000 pounds.
And I basically tested those extremes. Towing a 9,000-pound boat behind a Super Duty with the 7.3-liter proved easy work. Even with the trailer, acceleration is about as quick as a subcompact car, with plenty of muscle to get up to interstate speeds and cruise. At those speeds, the truck felt perfectly stable. And while steering felt light compared to a trailer-free truck, it maneuvered around tight bends with no trouble. Easy work.
Towing a 9,000-pound boat behind a Super Duty with the 7.3-liter proved easy work.
Less so when maxing everything out, as I did in a regular cab F-450 with 40,000 pounds worth of weight ratcheted down to a gooseneck trailer. I set off, slowly. First gear of the 10-speed transmission combined with a high final-drive ratio provides plenty of torque multiplication. You get moving just fine. But try to accelerate with any kind of authority and the reality of a near 50,000-pound load, truck and all, is a major task for any engine.
As I approached a seven-percent grade traveling at around 40 mph, another test arose. In addition to several radiators and intercoolers, there is also a transmission cooler built in, with several high-powered electric fans that automatically kick on the moment temperatures crept above operating temperature.
About midway up the hill, those fans kicked on in a glorious cacophony of chaotic air and the F-450 carried on, climbing the hill with fans whirring and big turbodiesel clattering away at 3,500 rpm. Noisily, all 50,000 pounds or so of us crested the hill.
Fine, but now we have to go down that hill. All of a sudden, all that inertia becomes momentum, and I started wondering about the health of the brakes. But Ford included another piece of technology to ease my mind and make more noise: a Jake brake, sort of.
Ford calls it a Turbo Engine Brake, it’s actually a function built in to the turbocharger to force air through the diesel engine and absorb all that energy amassed from descending weight. And it’s effective. With that system on, I only needed light braking to keep speed in check as I went down the grade. But, just as going uphill, I made a lot of noise. Regardless, even with all that weight, the Super Duty felt stable and in control.
Most Super Duty variants, especially versions falling on the consumer side, will tow between 15,000 and 25,000 pounds. Or, you know, plenty. That’s a large horse trailer, luxurious camper, or a look-at-me sized boat. Assuming you choose options accordingly, the Super Duty tows with ease and has the technology to make hitching and backing up less stressful than ever.
The Nitty Gritty
Just like the F-150, Ford offers a huge variety of ways to equip your Super Duty truck. But, unlike its smaller brother, the F-250s and up maintain a bit of the old school mentality. Hybrid nothing. Overhead cam nothing, even. Just big-displacement pushrod V8s and diesels. You choose between big and bigger. Tough and tougher.
For 2023, you choose from XL (the work truck trim), XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum and Limited trims. A base 4x2 XL F250 starts at $45,685 (including a $1895 destination charge). Prices quickly climb from there. If you go Limited trim and tick any options, six figures come fast. And any truck equipped with the high-output, turbo diesel V8 costs at least $58,360.
And yet, the big story here is still technology. New and more complete ways to automate various functions of the truck. Even the old school, blue-collar, hands-dirty kind of work now involves more computer power than 1960s NASA projects.
The good news is that Ford nearly universally put that automation into ways to make it easier to get the work done. Or harder to do it incorrectly. Then to top it off, built the Super Duty to drive more quietly and refined than ever before – as long as you can ignore the turbo brakes and cooling fans clattering away.
Welcome to a new era Indeed.
2023 Ford Super Duty F-350 Lariat