The Ford F-Series Super Duty line of pickups and chassis cabs is all-new for 2017; that’s the first time in 18 years that the trucks have been all-new. Considering that they are a huge part of Ford’s portfolio, sell in droves to public and fleet buyers alike and are workhorses of the highest order, that’s some pretty big news.
Chief among the changes for ’17 is the addition of an all-aluminum body (well, all-military-grade-aluminum, actually), but there’s plenty more to look for in these new motoring mammoths. Here are a few highlights.
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That’s no joke; the alloy used to construct the bodyshells is the same stuff you’ll see used in modern military vehicles. It’s light (helping fuel economy), it’s strong and it’s one of the earth’s more abundant metals. Those that are concerned about maintenance should find solace in the fact that the same shops that have been specially-equipped to service the F-150 series of trucks – now entering their third model year – can service the Super Duty (SD) vehicles as well. Up to 350 net lbs. (depending on equipment levels and body style) have been saved in the process.
Thanks in part to gratuitous applications of more high-strength steel (95% of the chassis uses it), chassis stiffness has been improved 24 times over. That’s no typo; the 2017 SD trucks have a chassis that’s 24 times stiffer than the outgoing model. Larger frame rails, fully-boxed front and rear ends and through-welded crossmembers (of which there are up to 10) all do their part to help stiffen the chassis. According to Ford the only reason we don’t’ see 100% high-tensile steel is that there needs to be some chassis flex for better crash safety.
Beefing it up
All the weight savings thanks to aluminum usage in the body and high-strength steel usage in the chassis means added strength elsewhere. Stronger axles, bigger brakes and larger fuel tanks can now exist without going over max GVWR.
In order to provide customers with more towing versatility, 2017 sees the first time a 3-inch hitch will be available. Since more customers are using 2- or 2.5 in. hitches, truck equipped with the 3 in. hitch get a set of sleeves that effectively turn their 3 incher into a 2.5 or 2 in. example. A tow pin sleeve will also come as standard. Fifth wheel and gooseneck hitches are also available.
Haul like a locomotive
Speaking of hitching up: The beefier frame also means the highest towing capacity ever; models equipped with the smaller of two gasoline engines can tow up to 21,000 lbs. with a hitch or 27,500 lbs. with a fifth wheel, while trucks equipped with the big-daddy 6.8L Powerstroke Diesel V8 and available dually rear axle can tow up to 32,000 lbs.
Of course, big towing means big power, and the 2017 SD has no shortage of that. Three engines are offered – a 6.2L gas V8, a 6.7L Powerstroke Diesel V8 and a 6.8L gas V10 — with the most powerful 6.7L diesel V8 example making a whopping 925 lb-ft of torque. The 6.2 L gas V8 makes 386 hp and 430 lb-ft, the V10 288 and 424, respectively. The V10 will likely be a candidate mainly for fleet trucks, however, as it’s available only on F-450 chassis cab models.
360 degree view
Thanks to the available fitment of seven cameras (six for parking aids, one for the blind-spot system), owners have no shortage of views out and around the car. The blind spot system can be set to work with a trailer, too.
Line it up
Ford says that as more and more families begin to rely on their trucks for more than just work duty, it’s necessary that they become a little easier to operate for more than the family truck expert. It started with more luxurious environs, retractable side-steps and so forth. Ford is continuing the tradition by using those cameras and their big infotainment screen to help with…towing? In short, rear facing cameras both above the hitch and the truck bed make it easier to line-up your traditional hitch, 5th wheel, or gooseneck hitch. There are even guidelines displayed on screen.
See the 360 degree camera in action
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Power steering plus
While the heavy truck segment continues to be one of the only segments to use hydraulic-assist power steering, the Super Duty trucks get an added bonus for ’17. Thanks to an electric motor mounted in the steering wheel hub, the Super Duty’s hydraulic steering is allowed to adapt to your speed, just like popular electronic-assist systems can do. You can lose up to an entire full rotation when going from lock to lock at low speed, making maneuvers in tight parkades (and when lining up a trailer) that much easier. Then, as speeds increase the steering weighs up, just like an electronic system. Drive trucks fitted with and without the tech – as we did – and you’ll notice a significant difference.
It’s not just about the numbers – though they are impressive, with a max 2,948 kg payload for the F-350 and all – but about how everything’s hauled. The cab floor in SuperCab and Crew Cab models (which have more room inside for this year) is flat at the outset, but a clever (optional) storage bin that sits under the rear seats in Crew Cab models can be deployed if need be. The bed, meanwhile, features available LED lighting, updated step assist, load ramps with an 800 lbs. capacity and Ford’s BoxLink system makes your payload easier to manage.
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