The upcoming sixth generation of Ford Motor Co.’s heavy-duty trucks has technology improvements that are as important as the sweeping mechanical and design updates in the line’s first major overhaul in five years.
The 2023 Super Duty line of trucks, which the company unveiled Tuesday, will come with on-board 5G modems, over-the-air (OTA) updates, and a raft of driver assist, visibility and productivity tools that aim to meet the needs of the two distinct buyer groups: heavy-duty recreational users and commercial operators.
The OTA updates even have the potential to provide real-time operational fixes, Raj Sarkar, general manager of product and strategy for Ford Pro, the automaker’s commercial fleet division, said in a prelaunch briefing.
“When a commercial customer looks for a truck, it’s a business decision, not emotional,” he said. That’s why Ford focused on smart technology and tools that will cut operating costs, maintain operating time and optimize safety.
The business-focused Ford Pro subscription service includes telematics tools that analyze fleet data such as fuel efficiency, route history and driver behaviour, as well as customer relationship management tools, Sarkar said. The base Pro Power on-board generator produces two kilowatts of electricity.
As the name suggests, heavy-duty trucks do a lot more than carry a few 2 by 4s from the local building store. These gargantuan vehicles, offered by each of the Detroit Three, can pull the longest trailers, carry massive payloads and deliver yeoman service to contractors who need a do-everything vehicle.
Ford’s Class 3 to 5 Super Duty chassis cab trucks have on-board scales that measure the payload and tongue weight of trailers, illustrated with a progressive light bar integrated into the tail lamp. (Medium and heavy-duty trucks range in classes from 2 to 8, with cargo capacities ranging from 907 kilograms to more than 14,969).
Recreational owners will also get tools to make towing heavy trailers easier. Ford says 96 per cent of Super Duty owners use their trucks to tow. Trucks equipped with the towing package will get a blind-spot information system, hitch assist (that will back the truck to the precise hitching point with the touch of a button), head-up display, alert-based trailer security and an optional camera system (hard-wired) that will provide 360-degree views of the trailer. The driver can even enter the height, weight and width of the trailer and choose a route to avoid impediments, such as narrow bridges or low overpasses.
The Super Duty trucks will have two new power plants. The 6.8-litre V8 replaces the current 6.2-litre and there will be a new 6.7-litre diesel with water-cooled turbocharger. The existing 7.3-litre gasoline engine will be retained. Horsepower ratings have not been released, but the current 7.3-litre produces 430 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque. Contrary to widespread prerelease rumours of electrification, no hybrid-electrical boost is offered.
The suspension and braking have been upgraded, with larger rotors and six-piston brake calipers.
Three trim packages are available: The off-road package includes front-end lift, tuned suspension, 35-inch Goodyear tires on 18-inch wheels, trail control and trail-turn assist – which will enable very tight turns. A 5,543-kilogram (12,000 pound) Warn-branded winch will be available as an option. The XL package includes 33-inch tires, raised air dam and axle vent tube for water fording, and ski plate to protect the undercarriage. This package is commonly used in the mining industry, said Andrew Kernahan, a Ford chief product engineer.
The frames on both Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs are largely unchanged. Pickup frames are fully boxed, and have been enhanced through computer modelling, Kernahan said. But chassis cab frames are boxed under the cab and then open C-channel aft of the cab to make it easier to add task-specific equipment. Ford has not released 2023 specifications, but the 2022 F-250 Super Duty with four-wheel drive, an entry-level heavy-duty truck, has an unladen weight of 2,893 kilograms.
Exterior appearance is familiar Ford, although there are evolutionary changes. The front and rear lamps are ringed with C-clamp-style LED halos and the familiar round fender cutouts have a small chamfer, or recessed edge, to reduce wind resistance. Design lead Ehab Kaoud said the grille has been extended to the vehicle’s edge to accentuate a wide look. Side steps, as on GM’s Sierra/Silverado, have been added to the side box and rear bumper.
The interior features an available 12-inch digital and customizable gauge display and 12-inch centre cluster. The centre console has been lowered, wireless charging added and there’s even a little slot to hold a tablet.
The Super Duty trucks have gone through five previous generations since their introduction in 1999. The Detroit Three’s ever-escalating arms race in pickup trucks has seen bigger, more powerful and more rugged machines with each upgrade, looking like steroid-fuelled wrestlers salivating at the prospect of flattening the competition. The new Super Duty line throws down the gauntlet to GM’s Sierra/Silverado line and Stellantis’s Ram division. It’s hard to imagine what’s coming next.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.