2020 Ford Super Duty First Drive - Long May You Truck

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
2020 ford super duty first drive long may you truck

It’ll not have escaped your notice that the pickup truck segment is a murderously competitive arena. In fact, if it were an actual arena, it would be much like the Roman Coliseum — or at least the upcoming 49er/Chiefs tilt in Miami — with bodies strewn across the playing field and the crowd roaring for more.

This helps explain why the Detroit Three are intent on beating each other over the head with towing and torque numbers that have climbed to dizzying heights. For 2020, Ford has unleashed a Super Duty pickup with available four-figure torque or a monster V8 the size of which hasn’t been produced by Motown in decades.

The last time Ford’s F-Series wasn’t America’s best-selling pickup, Montreal was hosting the Olympics, Jimmuh Carter kicked an unelected president out of office, and the Sex Pistols were causing Britons to clutch at their crumpets by swearing on live television. About the only thing that’s run for longer in America than that, besides our own Murilee’s curious fascination with Russian cars, is the mighty Route 66. It only seemed appropriate, then, that we saddle up a 2020 Super Duty and go find the thing.

“Saddle” being the operative term, as our whip is the King Ranch trim. Positioned as the luxury country estate foil to the urbanite Platinum trim, the truck’s interior is lined with seemingly acres of peeled cows, all tanned to a dark brown like a pair of gaucho boots. We’ll detail some carping about the Ford’s accommodations shortly but, first, we must examine what Dearborn has cooked up for power teams in 2020.

While the Glass House is quite proud of their latest diesel output, we are confident you weirdos would rather know about the monster 7.3-liter gas V8. Before heading to the Mother Road, we took a whirl in a Super Duty so equipped. Its spec sheet reads like something from the pages of history, despite being a thoroughly modern engine: 445 cubic inches, pushrod and rocker arms, cast iron block, two valves per cylinder. Sometimes, the proven stuff just works.

There’s certainly no arguing with the sound emitted from the 7.3’s sewer cannon tailpipe — a baritone roar that is deep and gruff, as if it has been drinking whiskey and smoking unfiltered Camels. Standing on the loud pedal unleashes 430 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque, all of which flows freely like a running faucet thanks to the absence of forced induction. The new 10-speed automatic, when lashed to the 7.3L, responded to accelerator prods with urgency. It is unequivocally worth the $2,045 on XL or XLT trucks and we should thank the automotive gods that it is standard equipment on Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum. It returned approximately 12 mpg in our speed racer hands.

But it was the headline act, the 6.7L Power Stroke making four-figure torque, that took us to the Main Street of America. Now making 1,050 lb-ft of torque, Ford beefed up the mill with structural enhancements to increase the strength of the cylinder head, block, connecting rods, and bearings to handle higher cylinder pressure and improved output. If you’re pondering what it feels like to stand on a throttle pedal connected to that much torque in a heavy duty pickup truck, simply attach a Roman candle to your back and ask a buddy to light the fuse. A total of 475 horsepower is also on tap, if you’re wondering.

The diesel V8, with a single turbocharger the size of a cabbage, shrugged off climbing the hills in Coconino National Forest on our way to Winslow with the indifference of a sullen teen. It was muted at cruising speed, as if it were in the next room underneath a pile of old coats. Goosing it provoked the diesel grumble people either love or hate. The 10-speed is a great dance partner, slightly stumbling over its mate’s foot only when asked to rapidly downshift while loafing along at highway speeds in 10th gear.

Arriving in the town made famous by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, we learned it was well after — nearly twenty years, in fact — the I-40 bypass was built that the community capitalized on the Eagles connection to attract visitors lost after the new highway showed up. This is one of the many rural American communities through which Route 66 speared through downtown and, once the main artery disappeared, so did much of the tourism industry. By building the park, they’ve created a good draw. Hey, it got me — and about 100,000 other annual visitors — to check it out … after a feed at the cleanest but most old-school Church’s Chicken your author has ever seen.

If Route 66 and an Eagles reference get the attention of tourists, then the King Ranch in which we were rolling got the attention of locals. Strangers, who are surely used to people taking photos of the town, appeared at my side to compliment the big Ford or to ask if it was equipped with “that new diesel”. Clearly, it isn’t just rural Texas that can be branded truck country in this nation.

In fact, Ford sold one F-Series pickup approximately every 35 seconds in 2019. At that clip, they’ve sold approximately 10 more in the span of time it’s taken you to read this article.

Ford spox told us that despite the introduction of a new and a heavily revised engine, this lightly restyled Super Duty actually represents a mid-cycle facelift. This was said in response to questions about the infotainment system, a unit which was fine a few years ago when it first appeared but now looks like an old Zenith compared to the offerings from crosstown rivals. The unit seen in snazzy versions of the new Explorer would do wonders.

While we’re on the subject, there were more than a few interior surfaces that suffered from a bad case of accountant-itis, a disease which afflicts many vehicles when beancounters get their way and flinty plastic ends up being used for trim on items like door pulls and air vents. Truck buyers do care about this stuff, especially ones popping for one like our test truck — which stickered at an estimated $80,000.

Which brings us neatly to buying advice. At $10,495, the diesel is a tough sell unless you make a living hauling the USS Nimitz. With gasoline and diesel both trading around $3/gal in and around Phoenix, and using our as-tested mileage of 12 mpg and 20 mpg for the gas and diesel engines respectively, it would take over eight years to break even on the initial cost of Power Stroke. This does not consider interest, extra maintenance, and the amount of child support you’ll need to pay after impregnating all those stop signs by driving past them with your manly truck.

Cruising parallel to I-40 on old sections of Route 66 was a trip, with crumbling pavement and weeds punching through at drunken angles in some places. Jackrabbit Trading Post is still a going concern, providing the opportunity to park this 2020 Super Duty alongside one of its ancestors from the mid ‘70s. People were invariably kind and welcoming as they were curious about the truck. It put the exclamation point on the thought that this road will always be here and, for most roadtrippers, will always be the king.

Ford is king in terms of truck sales and, for now, king of torque in the diesel arena and king of displacement in the gasoline field. That is, of course, until another gladiator enters the ring and tosses down a gauntlet. Things being what they are in the heavy duty truck segment, you can be assured that will happen before too long — perhaps before the end of the year.

There’s no doubt it’s a great time to be a truck fan. Like Route 66, some stuff just endures. Now, which way to Radiator Springs?

[Images: © 2020 Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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5 of 59 comments
  • Kcflyer Kcflyer on Jan 23, 2020

    Jim Z and Denver Mike. Wow. Anyway. If you need the height for the towing and load capacity why do the 2wd trucks offer the most capacity without the extra height? They still have solid axels and the same tire sizes. And no the increase load capacity over my 73 f250 camper special is not double for all of these trucks. Depending on configuration it ranges from the low 3s to over 7. So on the low end it is less than double and on the high end it is amazing. In any case can we have a conversation without the insults?

    • See 2 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jan 23, 2020

      @kcflyer There's been a few changes in the last 20 years and some, no doubt force a taller Super Duty. Front leafs were replaced by coils (about '05+) that have to be packaged above the axles and I'm sure more leafs in the rear. But F-450 pickups only come in 4X4 (and diesel), while the commercial 2wd F-450s are solid beam front axle. If Ford could make 4X4 Super dutys lower while keeping all its feature and functions, I'm sure they would. Except the other brand's 4X4s are about just as high. Although some appreciate there's no need for a lift kit to fit 37 inch tires, and or off road ground clearance.

  • EBFlex EBFlex on Jan 23, 2020

    Yawn. Another refresh Ford just phoned in. That Hackett moron really has no interest in building quality and reliable vehicles. Cheap interior, ugly (again) exterior, pencil whipped capability numbers etc. Yep it’s a Ford Super Dooty

  • Urlik My online research seems to indicate it’s an issue with the retaining clips failing and allowing the valve spring retainers to come out. This results in the valve dropping into the cylinder.
  • EBFlex Typical Ford. For those keeping track, Ford is up to 44 recalls for the year. Number one recalled manufacturer (yet again) by a wide margin.
  • Lorie Did they completely forget the damn 2.0 ecoboosts that have the class action lawsuit? Guess those of us that had to pay out of pocket for an engine replacement for a fail at 76k miles are out of luck? I will never buy a Ford again.
  • Mncarguy I remember when the Golf came out and all the car magazines raved about it. I bought an early one in the mid level trim, brown with a beige vinyl interior and a stick. I must have blocked out a lot about that car, because the only thing I remember is one day with my wife and infant in the car, the brakes went out! I could use the parking brake and made it home. There must have been other issues (beside an awful dealer who felt like they were doing you a favor even letting you come in for service) because I swore I'd never buy a VW again. I did get a new Beetle and later a Passat. That's another story!
  • Oberkanone The Chrysler - Plymouth - Dodge Neon's racing successes - SCCA and elsewhere (allpar.com)Inexpensive racing.