2018 Ford F-550 Super Duty Review - Put the Load Right on Me

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
Fast Facts

2018 Ford F-550 Super Duty Chassis Cab with Rugby Eliminator Dump Bed

6.7-liter Diesel V8, turbocharged (330 hp at 2600 rpm, 750 lb-ft at 2000 rpm)
Six-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy: not rated
10.5 (observed mileage, MPG)
Base price: $46,890
As tested: $70,360
Prices include $1,495 freight charge.

Of course the majority of my childhood toys were wheeled in nature. How else did I end up here? From tiny Matchbox cars, to plastic Tamiya kits, to an expensive lesson in destroying a high-end Team Associated remote control car, the playthings of my youth neatly foreshadowed the obsession that would consume my life.

My favorites, of course, were the seriously solid Tonka trucks that invariably ended up rusting over the winter because I left them in the sandbox. Otherwise indestructible, I imagined myself hauling tons of whatever to build whatever… not realizing that upon reaching adulthood, such work would require physical labor on an already-sore back.

So, when physical labor presented itself in the Tonn homestead — namely, a brick patio project — I looked to my past for inspiration. Fortunately, a 2018 Ford F-550 Super Duty with a Rugby dump bed recently appeared in the press fleet, which piqued both sandbox Chris’ and aching-back Chris’ interest.

Ford is somewhat unique among American-market automakers. While others offer a range of commercial vehicles alongside their passenger cars, Ford puts its big trucks right alongside the everyday stuff on the same website. Click the build-and-price tool, and you can build this F-550 (sans the aftermarket dump bed) just as easily as you can a Fiesta.

And, if so inspired, you can go incredibly wild building your truck. While the standard two-door model tested here is only offered in the relatively-low-key XL and XLT trims, opt for a Super Cab or Crew Cab and the rather nice Lariat trim becomes available. I wonder if I could head up to Ford’s Avon Lake big-truck plant and talk, Ohioan to Ohioan, to sweet-talk my way into a pimpy leather-lined King Ranch or Platinum interior in a medium-duty work truck?

Nah. You want the vinyl floors and hard-wearing cloth seats on a truck that’s going to be more of a tool than a commuter. You don’t buy a Class 5 truck to drive to the office — though that’s what I did for a few days. You buy this because your office IS your truck.

Ford accomplished a remarkable thing here — it made its larger trucks feel much like the industry standard light truck. The interior layout are intimately familiar to anyone who’s spent time in an F-150. The materials don’t feel as plush, as they are built for long wear under extreme conditions, but I felt immediately at home behind the wheel of the F-550.

This test truck was well equipped, of course, since journalists are loath to drive a stripped vehicle. The SYNC system worked quite well, with satellite radio and navigation serving as helpful aids to workers who may need to travel to an unfamiliar jobsite. I did need to crank the volume a bit to overcome cabin noise — it’s obviously not a luxury car. Most of the transmitted noise comes from either the big 19.5-inch tires or the squeaks of the big drop-side dump bed right behind the driver’s head, however — wind and engine noise was surprisingly muted.

Really, after my first tentative drive, where I seriously feared I’d clip oncoming traffic, the F-550 disappeared around me. The bulk fades away. You always know you’re driving something different — mostly due again to the noise of the bed — but it feels much like a smaller truck once you spend a few miles in the saddle.

Driving dynamics are dulled, of course, compared to a light duty half-ton truck. Those 19.5-inch polished aluminum wheels (as great as they look) and tires are built for hauling, not for comfort, and the tall sidewalls introduce a bit of slop to every movement of the steering wheel.

Similarly, the heavy duty springs, shocks, and sway bars that give the truck a 19,500 pound Gross Vehicle Weight Rating aren’t going to deliver Lincoln-like ride quality over speed bumps at the mall. The ride can be harsh, though it smooths out either with a load in the back, or at highway speeds. When I headed to the interstate in the F-550, it felt as if the truck hunkered down a bit on the springs to handle the ride.

[Get new and used Ford SuperDuty pricing here!]

That, or it just skipped over the bumps at speed rather than crashing over them individually.

As I mentioned, I have a brick patio to build. After grading the soil, the first real step in building a patio is laying down a layer of gravel for a solid base, allowing water to move through rather than upsetting the pavers. The typical homeowner move, at least for those who aren’t too cheap to pay someone else to do the work, is to load bags upon bags of gravel in a pickup at the big-box store on Saturday morning. That’s a lot of lifting.

My Saturday with the F-550 was a bit more simple.

I drove to a nearby landscape supply company, paid for a ton of gravel, and drove around back, where a bearded gentleman in a Bobcat swiftly tossed a couple bucketloads in the previously pristine dump bed. I drove home, backed up to my future patio, released the tailgate, and pressed a button on the pendant-style switch that hangs from a cord in the cab. I maneuvered the truck bit to redistribute my dump pile, and then grabbed a rake to smooth the gravel.

From rolling out of bed to the time I tossed the rake back in the garage, I was done in about an hour — and my back didn’t hurt.

No wonder those hard-working folks doing construction or landscaping don’t mess with light-duty pickups. Using the right tool for the job gets the job done quickly and efficiently. I’m not saying that I’m ready to give up my desk job for a shovel and a steering wheel, but I can see how this truck is the ultimate tool for moving a load.

Well, if you want to find me, I’ll be out in the sandbox, wondering where my beloved big truck has gone. I miss having such a capable tool in my driveway, even though I’d likely not use it to its capabilities but twice a year. The Ford F-550 Super Duty makes those tough jobs just a bit more possible.

[Images: © 2018 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • FIEtser FIEtser on Aug 21, 2018

    Is there an XL Hybrids retrofit system for these things? That should certainly help out quite a bit on the fuel economy side of things. Based on the reported consumption, a 2 MPG increase is a jump of 20% which is FAR more impactful than a 2 MPG increase in a Prius where it's only a 4% jump.

  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Aug 21, 2018

    Remind me of the thing I saw years ago, about marriage (I think), where kids were supposed to write advice. One kid wrote, "Tell your wife she's beautiful, even if she looks like a dump truck."

  • Michael Gallagher I agree to a certain extent but I go back to the car SUV transition. People began to buy SUVs because they were supposedly safer because of their larger size when pitted against a regular car. As more SUVs crowded the road that safety advantage began to dwindle as it became more likely to hit an equally sized SUV. Now there is no safety advantage at all.
  • Probert The new EV9 is even bigger - a true monument of a personal transportation device. Not my thing, but credit where credit is due - impressive. The interior is bigger than my house and much nicer with 2 rows of lounge seats and 3rd for the plebes. 0-60 in 4.5 seconds, around 300miles of range, and an e-mpg of 80 (90 for the 2wd). What a world.
  • Ajla "Like showroom" is a lame description but he seems negotiable on the price and at least from what the two pictures show I've dealt with worse. But, I'm not interested in something with the Devil's configuration.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I really like the C-Class, it reminds me of some trips to Russia to visit Dear Friend VladdyPoo.
  • ToolGuy New Hampshire