Back in May, I put together an OE Spotlight talking about the availability of the 2023 Super Duty, and wow, was it well received. As luck would have it, The spotlight is about to get a lot brighter. That is because I recently had the opportunity to fly to Detroit and get behind the wheel of a few different trim levels of Ford’s very optionable workhorse. But before I get into how the driving experience went down, I think I really need to tell you guys about some of the wildest and most user-friendly tech options I got to experience first-hand and that you can get on any Ford Super Duty.
Hooking Up In The 21st-Century
The latest Super Duty trucks are nothing like your dad’s F-250 work truck. In 2023, Ford made it a mandate to ensure that every truck built has everything anyone could need and want. Let’s start with the Pro Trailer Hitch Assist. While the Hitch Assist is not a new concept — Ford introduced it in 2015 — the system has definitely evolved over the years.
I like to think I am fairly adept at backing in to hook up to a trailer and then backing said trailer into position. However, with the Pro Trailer Hitch Assist, it is too easy. When connecting to any trailer, the Pro Trailer Hitch Assist completely takes over the truck’s controls. As it does this, it precisely backs up the truck to the trailer hitch. Previous iterations had guiding lines on the control screen that would give the driver an approximate alignment to the proper hitching point. The 2023 Super Duty offers so much more.
The Pro Trailer Hitch Assist system takes that functionality a step further with semi-autonomous hitch features. By pushing a single button, the function takes over and backs your truck into your trailer connection. Again, you do not utilize any controls (throttle, brake, or steering) while you hold a button and sit back and relax. After you have made the connection, you will eventually need to back up the trailer into a given location. Sometimes, inexperience at trailer parking can rear its ugly head and cause a very stressful situation.
2023 Super Duty Delivers Hands-Free Trailer Backing
Take for instance this scenario; you’re at a boat launch watching an inexperienced driver try and fail — repeatedly — to back their brand-new, $100,000 boat down the ramp and into the water. Thanks to Ford’s Pro-Trailer Backup Assist, even your kids — of legal driving age of course — can make it look easy.
How does it work? After some simple information is input into the truck’s control screen, drivers turn the knob marked “trailer backup” to reflect the direction they want their trailer to head. From there, the technology overtakes the steering wheel to guide the vehicle on your behalf. This means that, if you want your trailer to go left, all you have to do is turn the designated knob left, and off you go.
This truck represents the pinnacle of BUILT FORD TOUGH, strength, and capability, now with advanced technology that makes towing and hauling even easier and businesses more productive, – Tim Baughman, general manager, Ford Pro, North America.
While doing this, it is recommended that you watch the trailer’s progress using either the side-view mirrors or the images they generate on the control screen. The center control panel is connected to all of the cameras positioned around the truck, and the side cameras will show you both sides of the trailer on the dash screen. While backing up the trailer, simply make adjustments with the knob as needed. Keep in mind, the Back-Up Assist does not work if your hands are on the steering wheel. While it seems counterintuitive to let go of the wheel when the truck is in motion, Trailer Back-Up Assist is an unbelievably safe and really cool way to put any trailer where you need to.
“Our goal was to leave drivers with zero blind spots, even when towing the longest trailers,” says Andrew Kernahan, Ford Super Duty chief engineer. “Camera views provide every angle, from simulating a drone to making sure customers can see behind the truck even when the tailgate is down. Hitching and towing has never been easier.”
Speaking of any trailer, you can use Pro Trailer Backup Assist with up to 10 trailers. To do this, each trailer’s specifications would need to be input into the control screen, but once that is done, simply name each trailer and the Back-Up Assist is ready for any of the trailers you connect to with your truck.
What’s Weighing On Your Mind
Since I tend to use my trucks as… well… trucks, one of the coolest features of the new Super Duty is the Onboard Scales with Smart Hitch. This feature estimates cargo weight in real-time and provides guidance as to whether the truck is overloaded or not. Monitoring this function is easy and can be done either in the cab or at the rear of the truck. When loading cargo with the Onboard Scales activated, four lights in each taillight will let you know if you’re within the truck’s loaded capacity or not. If your load is too heavy, the very top light of the four lights blinks. When within range, the lights will all be on with no blinking.
This feature also helps when hauling a conventional trailer as it lets you know when you have achieved proper tongue weight. Although I was unable to test this functionality with a gooseneck trailer, I would think the Onboard Scales could be used to determine the trailer’s tongue weight.
Behind The Wheel Of The 2023 Super Duty And Hauling Heavy
While not many enthusiasts have a need for towing a trailer that creates a combined truck and trailer weight of 40,000 pounds, the 2023 Super Duty has a truck that can. Why would Ford create a pickup that requires the driver to have a CDL due to weight? Because they can and someone can use it. I actually had the opportunity to drive this F-450 with the aforementioned load weight, and let me tell you, the truck is more than capable.
Please keep in mind, to achieve this rating, Ford did need to keep the truck basic. For starters, the interior in the version I got to drive featured vinyl floor coverings and no center console/armrest/jump seat. If you want load-carrying capacity, some sacrifices need to be made. However, the truck did possess the High Output 6.7-liter Power Stroke and the ten-speed automatic transmission. I can say that this configuration did have a firm shift with the load, but personally, I like that aspect. Almost nothing feels worse to me than transmission shifts that feel almost like the unit is slipping.
Also, the 2023’s increase in towing capability betters the 2022 model by 3,000 pounds. This was accomplished by tweaking the frame. While the 2023 Super Duty’s frame is similar to the previous generation, it has been strengthened in key areas. Ford says there were updates to the connection between the rear-mounted hitch and frame, as well as updates to the fifth-wheel crossmember.
To test the mettle of the 2023 Super Duty F-450, I came to a portion of the Ford Proving grounds that features a seven-percent grade that extends for roughly half of a mile. I stopped the loaded behemoth at the bottom and then floorboarded the throttle. As I stared at the grade, my plan was to see how fast the truck would be traveling when I got to the top. I was thoroughly impressed as the truck actually stretched the suspension and yanked against the trailer. As I climbed the grade, the engine was screaming as each shift tried to quell the engine RPM. As the top of “the summit” was reached, the speedometer topped out at 48 mph. Remember, I was moving 40,000 pounds. Uphill. From a dead stop. The 1,200 lb-ft of torque delivered by the engine truly is one capable beast when it comes to a work truck.
After I cleared the hill, I proceeded to make a loop around the facility. I soon learned that I was not supposed to take the turn I did. I ended up hauling 40,000 pounds around the durability portion of the proving grounds. This section of “roadway” is designed to test the suspension of a vehicle. Imagine hitting potholes that are a mere several inches apart. It was a rough ride, but the road is designed to be that way. After I durability tested the truck and trailer I deemed the test as passed. My kidneys on the other hand…
Behind The Wheel Of A More Refined 2023 Super Duty
After an organ-adjusting stretch of the legs after driving the 2023 Super Duty F-450, I decided I needed to keep things in the real world. For most of my readers, that meant getting behind the wheel of something a little lighter. Enter the 2023 Super Duty F-350. Although it carries less hauling capacity than a 450, the F-350 has a maximum gooseneck capacity of 38,000 pounds. That is still substantial. A properly equipped F-350 dually can also pull 28,000 pounds with a conventional bumper-mounted hitch. That is still a hefty load to haul. If you are looking for a truck that is as comfortable as it is capable, that’s where the higher optioned packages found in the F-250 and F-350 come into play.
When I was given the keys to a new Limited F-350. I was happy to see what Ford was so proud of creating. According to Ford, this new truck is built to deliver the most towing, payload, torque, and horsepower of any truck that dares to play in this market. I would have no problem driving up the eastern seaboard in this Limited F-350. Although the interior amenities are unrivaled, my statement is more focused on the truck’s ride quality. Don’t get me wrong, I knew I was in a very large truck, but I never felt like I was “working” to drive it.
Although the list of available engines includes a gasoline-powered 7.3-liter “Godzilla”, like you, I am more interested in the 6.7-liter Power Stroke. The 2023 Super Duty is available with one of two diesel versions. First is the “regular” 6.7-liter Power Stroke which puts out a very strong 475 horsepower and 1,050 lb-ft of torque. However, the High Output Power Stroke packs 500 horsepower and a massive 1,200 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission available in the Super Duty is a 10-speed automatic. However, buyers can choose from either two- or four-wheel-drive. I was glad the Limited I got to test had the new high-output version.
The drive in the 2023 Super Duty Limited was — not surprisingly — much more refined than the F-450. Like any new truck on the market, the truck is very adept at providing a comfortable ride. It is also more than capable of delivering anything a new truck owner could want. I have nothing bad to say about my experience with both the F-450 and the F-350. Both deliver everything a truck owner could want — depending on needs.
The large control screen in the center of the dash was definitely something to get used to. This panel controls everything in the truck and might seem intimidating to those claiming to not be tech-savvy. I, for one, really like the new technologies Ford has included in the 2023 Super Duty. I will even go out on a limb and say that most people will.
The biggest takeaway I got from the Ford experience at the Proving Grounds was a firm grasp that Ford is more than a car and truck company. They are quickly becoming the go-to car and truck company for consumer technologies. Diesel trucks are alive and well at Ford and are more than just workhorses, they’re refined thoroughbreds.