Ford has rolled out its redesigned F-series Super Duty pickups for 2017, bringing to them the same type of aluminum-alloy body introduced two years ago in the F-150, and adding power, new technologies and increased towing capacity.
The optional 6.7-liter Power Stroke Turbo V-8 diesel engine, which was an $8,595 option on our F-350 Platinum Crew Cab four-wheel-drive tester (base price $63,285 plus $1,195 freight), cranks out 440 horsepower and a whopping 925 foot-pounds of torque.
That allows the F-350 with single rear wheels – like our tester – to pull trailers weighing up to 15,000 pounds. The F-450 with dual rear wheels and this same engine can tow a gooseneck trailer weighing up to 32,500 pounds or a conventional trailer up to 21,000 pounds.
Standard, at the base price, is the 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine, rated at 385 horsepower and 430 foot-pounds of torque. Max towing is also 15,000 pounds with this engine on the short-wheelbase F-350 with single rear wheels and four-wheel drive.
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Both engines are supported by a TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift.
Ford says the six-speed automatic was designed to deliver low-end pulling power more efficiently, a necessity when carrying or towing heavy loads.
Texas is the biggest market for the Super Duty, a vehicle designed to pull those big horse trailers that Lone Star State ranchers are so fond of.
The 2017 Super Duty models come with a new high-strength, military-grade, aluminum-alloy body and an all-new fully boxed ladder frame, composed of more than 95 percent high-strength steel. That cuts nearly 350 pounds of weight while increasing chassis strength by 24 times compared with the previous frame, Ford says.
With the redesign, the Super Duty makes available such new technological features as adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support for heavy trailers. Ford says that allows the trucks to climb steep mountain grades while maintaining their speed, even while towing a heavy trailer.
There is a new center high-mounted stop light camera that gives the driver a view of the cargo box – perfect for hooking up gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers, Ford says. There also is an available trailer-tow camera system that has four digital, high-definition cameras to give the driver a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the truck, similar to the Around View monitor system pioneered by Infiniti, but now being embraced by a variety of auto manufacturers.
Ford also offers Trailer Reverse Guidance to provide “visual cues and tips” to help with backing up a trailer; and the first factory-available trailer camera. This one can be fixed to the rear of trailer itself so you can see where it’s going when you’re backing it up.
That’s not all. Ford also has an in-cab trailer tire-pressure monitoring system. And the Blind Spot Information System with trailer-tow feature includes the length of the trailer up to 33 feet. It uses radar sensors in the taillights to monitor areas not visible to the driver, the automaker says.
The F-350 comes in five trim levels — XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum.
Our top-of-the-line Platinum four-wheel-drive came with the single rear wheels and a 159.8-inch wheelbase, and a long list of standard features that turned it into a luxury vehicle. With $14,105 in options – including the diesel engine – our test vehicle’s sticker topped out at $78,585, including freight.
Getting into the F-350 was a bit difficult for some of my shorter passengers, but that was helped some by the sturdy running boards. Getting out just meant making a short jump down.
Once inside, though, we found ourselves in a cocoon of luxury.
The F-350 Crew Cab has enough room in the rear seat for three full-grown adults to ride comfortably unless someone is elbowing someone else. There’s plenty of knee- and legroom, and visibility is good from the front or back seat.
Our truck had the pleasant Ruby Red Metallic exterior ($395 extra), and a luxurious Black/Brunello leather interior, with heated and cooled front bucket seats – 10-way power-adjustable for the driver and passenger.
There was a heated/leather steering wheel with cruise and audio controls and tilt/telescopic steering column; power door locks and windows, of course, with one-touch up and down for the front windows; and a 110-volt power outlet that can handle up to 400 watts.
Outside, our truck had quad-beam LED headlights, LED fog lights, and LED taillights; a tinted/power/sliding rear window with defrost; chrome tow hooks; illuminated scuff plates; and power/folding heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals.
The dash was stuffed with technology, including the Ford SYNC audio system with eight-inch color touch screen and voice-activated navigation, satellite radio, and a reverse-sensing rearview camera system.
Other standard features included adjustable foot pedals with memory; adaptive steering; hill-start assist; intelligent vehicle access, with pushbutton start/stop; manual locking front hubs; and dual-zone automatic climate control. We also had a standard spare tire with wheel lock.
The F-350 comes with Ford’s Advanced Security Pack, along with electronic stability control, safety-canopy air bags, and the keyless door-mounted keypad.
Besides the diesel engine, other extras on our test truck included the Platinum Ultimate Package ($2,785), which added a twin-panel power moon roof, adaptive cruise control with lane-keep assist, and the Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera system.
We also had a spray-in bed liner ($495), custom trailer camera/tire-pressure monitoring system ($725), the 3.55 electronic-locking rear axle ($390), and rear inflatable seatbelts ($185).
Hill Start Assist holds the brakes briefly when the accelerator is pushed to start the vehicle after stopping on a hill. The electronic-locking rear differential is designed to reduce wheel slipping on loose or slippery road surfaces.
In the past few years, upgrades to Ford trucks have made their interiors quite carlike, and the new Super Duty continues that trend. The cockpit can be outfitted almost as luxuriously as that of a premium sedan, and there are various options for work-related activities, including laptop computer storage.
The Super Duty also has a more-refined ride for 2017, as well as improved steering and overall roadhandling.
We had the short-wheelbase Crew Cab model, with a 6.75-foot cargo bed and overall length of 250 inches. An eight-foot bed version is available; it’s 266 inches long and has a 176-inch wheelbase.
As you might expect, the diesel gave our truck awesome power. We did not have the opportunity to pull any trailers, however. If you’re in the market for one of these trucks, though, you probably will be towing. Ford says 97 percent of Super Duty buyers use them to pull trailers. If you do, you won’t be disappointed with this truck’s capabilities.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Ford F-350 4X4 Crew Cab Platinum (SWB/single rear wheels)
The package: Heavy-duty, crew-cab, four-door, five-passenger, V-8 gasoline or diesel-powered, single-rear-wheel, short-wheelbase, four-wheel-drive premium pickup.
Highlights: Redesigned for 2017, the F-350 is a beefy pickup that can haul a work crew or a family, and pull some pretty big trailers. It’s quite powerful, especially with the optional turbo-diesel engine.
Deficiencies: Can get quite pricey with all the options, including the diesel engine.
Engines: 6.2-liter V-8 (gasoline); 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel V-8 ($8,595 extra).
Transmissions: Six-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 385 HP./430 foot-pounds (gasoline); 440 HP./925 foot-pounds (diesel).
Length (short wheelbase model): 250 inches.
Gross vehicle weight: 10,000 pounds.
Towing capacity (conventional): 15,000 pounds (gasoline/single rear wheels); 15,000 pounds (diesel/single rear wheels).
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Seat-mounted front air bags; roof-mounted side-curtain bags for front and rear seats.
EPA fuel economy: Not available.
Fuel capacity: 48 gallons (gasoline); 34 gallons (diesel, short-wheelbase Crew Cab model).
Major competitors: GMC/Chevrolet Heavy Duty (3500); Dodge Heavy Duty (3500).
Base price: $63,285, plus $1,195 freight.
Price as tested: $78,585 (Platinum 4WD, diesel, short wheelbase Crew Cab, including freight and options).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer's suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.