First Drive: 2023 Ford Super Duty Lineup

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

first drive 2023 ford super duty lineup

While Ford has been shipping all trims of its all-new 2023 Super Duty pickup line to customers since May, production issues have delayed things and you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone that’s actually driven one. Fortunately, the Blue Oval invited us to take a gander at the new trucks at the Ford Michigan Proving Grounds earlier this month.

As first impressions go, the Super Duty led off with a firm handshake and proved that it can be slotted into a myriad of roles. Ford offered up an impressive resume and a sound business plan and allowed us to beat on a few examples to prove its rigs were the correct vehicle for any job.

The company is exceptionally proud of its dominant market share for construction, mining, utility, and emergency response vehicles. But it’s clearly aware that it’s not going to maintain that position by resting on its laurels and is pulling out all the stops to remain strong in the commercial market.

(Full Disclosure: Ford invited me out to the 3,880 acres that make up the Michigan Proving Grounds in Romeo. While the manufacturer did not need to provide travel accommodations or lodging, I did enjoy the lunch they served during testing.)

All-new for the 2023 model year, Ford’s Super Duty pickup spans the gamut — offering humble commercial variants with a regular cab, luxurious crew-cab models, and just about everything in between. Trims should be familiar to most, with Ford offering the XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited.

Powertrain options have already been leaked and come with the same 10-speed TorqShift automatic found on the previous generation. Four-wheel drive is standard on everything from the XLT and up.

Motors have been tweaked to deliver better performance than their predecessors. The 6.8-liter gasoline engine (405 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque) has been tuned to deliver more low-end pulling power and supplants the 6.2-liter V8 as the default engine. Meanwhile, the 7.3-liter V8 (430 hp and 485 lb-ft) is said to have been issued improved air intake.

Even more attention was given to the diesel engines. The 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8 (475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft) is now supposed to be capable of longer intervals between oil changes, with Ford believing this will be a boon to fleet operators. The High-Output variant (500 hp and 1,200 lb-ft) was given some unique tuning to help deliver more power, along with a new water-jacketed turbine housing to keep the turbo cooler and cast stainless steel exhaust headers for added durability.

When properly configured as an F-450 Super Duty with the Gooseneck Tow Package and High-Output 6.7-liter diesel engine, that makes for a maximum towing capacity of 40,000 pounds. Though even the F-250 can drag around 20,000 pounds if you option one of the diesel motors. You’ll lose a few thousand pounds if you stick with a pickup burning gasoline. But it’s pretty difficult to configure any Super Duty to handle less than 15,000 pounds of towing. Max payload is likewise impressive at 8,000 pounds on the F-350 with the Heavy-Duty Payload Package.

Blue Oval allowed us to do a little testing on a section of the roughly 100 miles of road located at the facility. While yours truly doesn’t do much serious towing, every Super Duty seemed quite composed when towing at the limit and with much less drama than the old beaters I’m used to piloting. Though I spent the majority of my time lugging around 20,000-pound trailers on trucks set up to handle them and spent no time in the F-450.

Despite my being eager to take the Super Duty off-road, the tech Ford has dedicated to towing alone is genuinely impressive. A lot of thought was given to how to make the truck commercially viable, with the brand going so far as to come up with solutions to make one-man operations more feasible.

Pro Trailer Hitch Assist effectively backs up the truck for you, properly aligning the ball hitch with the trailer without your needing a spotter. Onboard Scales with Smart Hitch likewise provides operators with help estimate trailer tongue weight distribution by using the right-height sensors. While this can be achieved via the Sync 4.0 infotainment system, there’s also a lightbar in the taillights that shows you when you’ve hit the sweet spot. Towing setup is relatively easy, with the Blue Oval offering the ability to have the pickup run through all the lights automatically so the driver can check them.

Ford even added another camera and some sensors to the top of the Super Duty’s tailgate to ensure the experience of reversing the pickup remains the same when the bed has been fully loaded and left open.

While some of the above isn’t new, all of it is extremely handy if you’re using your pickup for tough jobs. It's all very clever and designed to help encourage fleet managers to stick with Ford, as two-person jobs are now easily achievable by a solo operator. But even retail customers can appreciate the inclusions, especially if they happen to have a particularly shrill and unhelpful spouse.

Ford had more tricks up its sleeve. With upgrades to the Super Duty focused on tech, Ford Pro is offering a new software suite tailored specifically for its commercial and fleet customers. The brand’s Upfit Integration now allows for seamless communication between the trucks and any utility items that have been installed. In our demo, the company focused on cranes and snowplows. But upfitters that have partnered with Ford should be able to install highly customizable controls for whatever gear is required and then integrate the applicable controls directly into the infotainment system.

Modified pickups can be programmed to behave similarly and without the need to add loads of external switchgear. While that’s probably not going to make the folks at JC Whitney happy, it does make for cleaner cabins and keeps Ford in the loop after vehicles have been modified. While the company said it wasn’t scraping any data from the upgraded Ford Pro service just yet, data acquisition is forthcoming — providing the automaker with a wealth of information about its commercial products.

I’ve certainly got mixed opinions about connected vehicles. But this is a smart play by Ford and something other automakers are definitely going to be envious over. My only gripe here is that the company really should open it up to customers. The interface seems easy enough to use and basically requires the installation of a $400 module (standard on chassis cabs) with a general understanding of the software. Being a certified upfitting partner with Ford Pro seems unnecessary and basically means smaller businesses won’t have access.

Ford also let us play around with the Super Duty Tremor on a few portions of its off-road development course, noting that some mining and forestry vehicles never spend a single day on pavement. While your author is neither the resident truck aficionado, nor an off-roading guru, they’re absolutely capable here thanks to their upgraded suspension and extra-gnarly tires.

I spent most of my time in the Tremor King Ranch, which massaged my back and butt while happily going over some brutal terrain. But Ford also offers lower trim variants that seem equally at home wading through mud and scrambling over rocks. While they’re still massive vehicles, Trail Turn Assist makes right corners possible without needing to reverse and was a lot of fun to test near its 12 mph limit. The Tremor’s off-road camera options were also handy and easy to use over bumps, as there has been a dedicated camera button added to the dashboard.

Obviously, one’s experience in the Super Duty is highly dependent upon how it’s been optioned. This is apparent whether you’re standing outside the vehicle or planted in the driver’s seat. All lower-trim models come with an 8-inch infotainment screen, whereas Lariat and above feature a 12-inch unit. Customizable digital gauges are standard, as is a customizable head-up display that was one of the best I’ve come across.

While the overall changes to the interior leave it looking a bit more basic, mimicking what we’ve seen with the F-150, the layout is fine, absolutely functional, and can be decked out as you climb the trim ladder. Meanwhile, the exterior just improves upon the look of the older F-Series and offers a more useful truck bed — one again following what we’ve seen with other Ford pickups. 

On-road impressions were good, though I did not spend much time on the expressway. If you don’t mind a vehicle that handles like a big truck (engineering has its limitations) then you can have an incredibly comfortable pickup that doubles as a working rig. Pot-hole-riddled streets are a non-issue for the Super Duty and higher trims are effectively luxury vehicles. Parking likewise isn’t bad and is made easier thanks to electronic helpers. City dwellers should probably look elsewhere. But those spending most of their time in rural environments, small towns, construction sites, and the suburbs could easily make the big truck their daily driver.

Ford also addressed the elephant in the room, saying that it was working tirelessly to address concerns about quality control. It’ll be a while before we see if those efforts have paid off. But the new Super Duty is probably the smoothest heavy-duty pickup I’ve ever been inside of. Bigger trucks are normally a little rough around the edges vs their smaller counterparts. But the Super Duty seemed exceptionally polished and largely indistinguishable from an F-150 until you need to flex any one of its giant motors.

When I’m thinking about what to buy, something like the Super Duty is typically at the very bottom of my list. However, if you gave me a wad of cash and the option of buying a Mercedes-Benz E 450 or well-appointed F-250 Lariat that costs about the same, I would have to mull it over for longer than I would have guessed before driving Ford’s new pickups.

Though these are not cheap trucks. A bare-bones F-250 XL with rear-wheel drive starts at $45,865, comes with a myriad of options, and can gain another $10,000 if you select the tamer version of the 6.7-liter diesel V8. Meanwhile, the F-450 Limited starts above $100,000 and has plenty of options to add, despite already being equipped with the fanciest gear. The 2023 Ford Super Duty certainly won’t be the vehicle for everyone. But commercial clients are probably going to remain loyal and interested retail customers can tailor it to their preferences if they’re willing to spend the dough.

Throw any questions you have in the comments and look for a more comprehensive assessment of the individual trims as they're shipped our way for full reviews.

[Images: Ford, © 2023 Matt Posky/TTAC]

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7 of 49 comments
  • Theflyersfan Theflyersfan on Jun 21, 2023

    As long as these sizes of trucks are exempt from pretty much all CAFE standards and not treated as personal vehicles and just as commercial vehicles, they're just going to get bigger and bigger and bigger... Yesterday I saw a new Ford Ranger stopped next to a new Ford F-350 and I swear the F-350 looked like Bigfoot next to the Ranger. And when I'm alongside any F-350, I know there is pretty much a zero percent chance they know I'm down there. Yes, there are some people with a real need with heavy industry and farming that need this kind of capacity. But to commute in something so heavy, cumbersome, that doesn't brake or corner that well compared to a smaller truck or car - that's putting other lives and property at risk.

    • See 4 previous
    • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jun 22, 2023

      In BC any trailer over 10,400 pounds needs an endorsement. You can get a stand alone air brake endorsement too. It's odd how they have limits on trailers or braking systems but on personal use vehicle size.

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on Jun 21, 2023

    There was a unicorn in those photos - a regular cab dually.

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