2018 Ford F-Series Super Duty Buying Advice
This is the best pickup for you if you want a rig available with luxury-car creature comforts and the strength to tow a small house. Super Duty is the name Ford bestows upon its heaviest-duty full-size trucks. These are a step above the F-150 range of half-ton models. Named loosely for payload capacities of three-quarters of a ton and up, the product range includes the F-250, F-350, and F-450. Ford also builds F-350, F-450, and F-550 models with no beds (chassis cab) for customers to up-fit to their own specifications.
Automakers are beginning to treat heavy-duty trucks with the same attention that’s given their light-duty siblings ever-increasing tow/haul capability and more luxury, convenience, and safety features. This in turn enhances their appeal as vehicles that can be driven to the jobsite during the week and to the yacht club on weekends.
It’s a winning strategy for Ford. While the company doesn’t separate Super Duty sales from its more popular F-150, the F-Series line sold just shy of 900,000 units in 2017. That’s an increase of almost 10 percent versus 2016 and means roughly 1 in 20 new vehicles sold in the United States during 2017 was an F-Series. Moreover, as an increasing number of customers purchase these trucks, they are paying more money for them. Even with sometimes heavy incentives, the average transaction price of an F-Series in 2017 was $47,800, which was $3,400 more than in 2016.
Should you buy a 2018 model or wait for the ’19?
Check out the 2018. Ford redesigned the Super Duty for the 2017 model year (its first ground-up re-do since 1999), and while the ’18 is mostly a repeat there are a few additions worth noting. First, the big-daddy F-450 Crew Cab is now available with rear-wheel drive (2017 versions were 4-wheel drive only). Second, Ford has upgraded the available turbo diesel V-8 engine to produce more power; more on that below.
The current Super Duty is 350 pounds lighter than its predecessor thanks to its aluminum cab and bed bolted to a fully boxed frame composed of 95 percent high-strength steel. Ford claims the chassis is 24 times more rigid than in the previous-generation Super Duty, while the body is more dent resistant. Capacities for payload and towing of conventional, fifth-wheel, and gooseneck trailers increased to segment-leading maximums of 7,630, 21,000, 27,500, and 34,000 pounds, respectively.
Body configurations include the two-door Regular Cab, extended SuperCab with rear-hinged back doors that don’t open independently of the fronts, and Crew Cab with four full-size doors. Wheelbase lengths (the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels) range from 141.6 to 176 inches. Available bed lengths are 6.75 and 8 feet. Ford offers buyers the choice of a gasoline or diesel V-8 engine, as well as rear-wheel drive or part-time 4-wheel drive (4WD) that includes low-range gearing for off-road use, but it should not be left engaged on dry pavement.
Styling: Having been redesigned for 2017, the 2018 Super Duty is mostly a carryover in the styling department. This truck is bold, brash, and in your face. It starts with, well, the face, and a grille that is nearly as wide as it is tall. In a nod to the tradespeople who depend on these rigs for their livelihoods, the headlights resemble C-clamps. The Super Duty name is stamped into the front of the hood, and the Ford logo in the center measures a massive 14 inches wide, just to remind vehicles ahead that you’re not in just any ordinary pickup. A pair of tow hooks on the front bumper are more for the things you can pull with the truck, not the other way around.
The contractor-spec XL consists of mostly blackout exterior trim. Silver and chrome bits start at the XLT, and its quantity increases as you move up the model ladder. The range-topping Limited sports a unique grille, satin-look tailgate addenda, and specific badging.
Inside, the cabin sees a similar range of decoration. XL models can make do with a vinyl bench seat and hose-it-out floor. At the opposite end, the Limited gets two-tone leather upholstery, leather-trimmed dashboard and door armrests, microsuede headliner, genuine ash wood inlays, and a badge on the console boxed etched with the truck’s serial number.
The Crew Cab has more passenger space than most SUVs. Five full-size adults can ride in comfort on highly supportive seats. Front and rear, headroom is vast, and there’s legroom for days. Platinum and Limited models offer multi-contour front seats with built-in massage, a welcome convenience to soothe sore bottoms after a long day on the job and a feature that was once exclusively the domain of only the most expensive luxury sedans. Interior storage also puts most vehicles to shame. Bins and cubbies abound in the doors, along the center console, and under the rear seats. There are two gloveboxes. The covered portion of the console can hold a laptop or hanging files, and its lid includes a handy built-in pen holder.
Drivers are masters of all they survey, thanks to the Super Duty’s super-tall build. Visibility is surprisingly good in all directions thanks to huge exterior mirrors with an available power-telescopic function. Also available is a 360-degree camera, which is a godsend for hooking up a trailer and maneuvering in relatively close quarters. The tailgate is dampened and available with a power opening function. A step and handrail built in to the tailgate are available, allowing for easier access to the bed. This is a smarter solution than the steps that are built into the bumper of the HD versions of the rival Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
Higher-end trim levels offer one of the most comprehensive instrument clusters of any vehicle on the road, allowing operators to keep tabs on nearly every aspect of their ride. It seems like information overload at first, but the screen is customizable so drivers can see only what they want. Fleet managers can order a specialized telematics package that collects and relays real-time vehicle data, alerting them when the truck needs service, or if a driver is speeding, accelerating or braking hard, and more.
The central dashboard control stack sports a multitude of buttons to govern the audio and climate controls, but everything is logically arranged. It’s easy to find what you need at a glance and most of the buttons are large enough that they can be operated when wearing heavy gloves. The primary infotainment interface on Lariat and higher models is Ford’s Sync 3 with support for imbedded GPS mapping, Apple CarPlay, and Google Android Auto. Sync 3 delivers crisp graphics and smooth operation with none of the crashes and glitches that plagued previous software versions. It would be nice if the screen were a bit larger, though.
Mechanical: While the light-duty F-150 offers five engine options, the Super Duty has just two. F-250 and F-350 come standard with a 6.2-liter gasoline V-8 that produces 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Optional on these and standard on the F-450 is Ford’s 6.7-liter “Power Stroke” turbo diesel V-8, which for 2018 gets 10 more horsepower and pound-feet of torque for segment-leading totals of 450 and an earth-rending 935, respectively. Both engines pair with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Only diesel Super Duty models have been made available for us to evaluate. An F-250 Platinum 4WD Crew Cab with this engine and the extended wheelbase can do 0-60 mph in a shade less than 7.0 seconds, which is very impressive for a vehicle weighing roughly 3-1/2 tons. Torque comes on almost instantly and stays with you until very near the engine’s 4,000 rpm redline. The transmission copes well with the engine’s prodigious torque, but its heavy-duty nature means it’s not exactly the smoothest shifter. Other diesel downsides include a very long wait before it reaches normal operating temperature, a nuisance on cold days, and an omnipresent exhaust note. It’s not unrefined, but its sound never fully goes away, even when cruising. Upper grade Super Duty models are surprisingly quiet otherwise, with little in the way of road or wind noise.
Large pickups aren’t known for their handling prowess, and this is no exception. However, Ford had made great strides in improving the Super Duty’s everyday maneuverability. We discussed the available 360-degree camera, which makes looking around easier. There’s also the available adaptive steering, which dynamically alters the steering gear ratio based on driver input and vehicle speed. While the system doesn’t improve the steering’s almost total lack of road feel (a common trait in all heavy-duty pickups), nor the vehicle’s gigantic turning radius, there is a noticeable improvement in its general responsiveness at low and high speeds. Adaptive steering also provides benefits when towing, allowing for greater stability when pulling a trailer.
Credit the Super Duty’s stiffer chassis for making its ride smoother and more stable than its forbearer, though you won’t mistake it for a Lincoln. There’s still plenty of rear axle hop when the bed is empty, but the truck is more capable of absorbing bumps as a single unit, with far less body jiggle and uncomfortable secondary suspension motions.
Features: The Super Duty can be as barebones or as luxurious as you want, depending on your budget. With literally millions of permutations and combinations, we’re only going to hit the highlights of standard and optional equipment.
The XL grade is basic, but it does have a tilt and telescopic steering column, two 12-volt power outlets up front and one in back for extended and crew cab versions, and a tailgate mounted rearview camera.
The XLT adds power windows, a power tailgate lock, remote keyless entry, heated exterior mirrors, and a basic version of Ford Sync that supports Bluetooth connectivity and the ability to have incoming text messages read aloud.
Lariat models are a noticeable step up, with standard leather front seats (the rears on extended and crew cabs are vinyl), 10-way power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, 400-watt AC inverter with grounded household-style power outlets, trailer brake controller, rear-obstacle detection, and a Sony-brand audio system with Sync 3, CarPlay, Android Auto.
The King Ranch has unique wheels and exterior trim with two-tone paint, specific upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, imbedded navigation, remote tailgate release, driver-seat memory function, power-adjustable pedals, LED bed lights, and fixed running boards.
Platinum grades add power running boards, 20-inch wheels (up from standard 18s), multi-contour front seats with built-in massage, adaptive steering, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, LED headlights and taillights, built-in tailgate step, and heated rear seats.
The Limited has additional unique interior and exterior trim, a panoramic sunroof, 360-degree camera, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking that even works when pulling a trailer, and a heated steering wheel.
2018 Ford F-Series Super Duty base pricing, inclusive of $1,295 destination fee, ranges from $34,185 for a rear-drive F-250 XL Regular Cab to $87,100 for the 4WD F-450 Limited.
Key options include the $720 XL Value Package, which has a larger center dashboard screen, upgraded audio system, chrome wheel covers and bumpers, and cruise control. The $915 XL Power Equipment Group adds telescopic exterior mirrors, power windows, power tailgate lock, and remote keyless entry. The $1,690 XL STX Appearance Package nets unique exterior badging, chrome bumpers and grille, and alloy wheels.
The $1,460 XLT Value Package adds fog lights, power-adjustable pedals, power driver’s seat (extended and crew cab), rear-obstacle detection, and Ford’s unique remote keypad entry system. Sync 3 is $450, and to that you can add built-in GPS mapping for an extra $570.
The $710 Lariat Value Package includes driver-seat memory, LED box lighting, power-adjustable pedals, heated and cooled front seats, power telescopic exterior mirrors, and remote engine start.
Lariat and King Ranch models offer adaptive steering for $1,000 and LED headlights and taillights for $1,080. The $2,150 Tow Technology Package includes adaptive steering, along with surround camera, automatic high-beam headlights, lane-keep assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
The King Ranch Ultimate Package ($2,960) consisting of LED headlights, foglights, and taillights, blind-spot alert with rear cross-traffic detection, power panoramic sunroof, multi-contour seats, power running boards, and tailgate step.
The Platinum Ultimate Package ($2,785) adds adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, surround camera, and panoramic sunroof.
Individual options, depending on trim-level selection, can include: Prep for running the gasoline engine on compressed natural gas or propane ($315), FX4 Off-Road Package with hill-descent control, specific suspension tuning, and underbody skid plates ($400), heavy-duty front suspension ($125), extra heavy-duty alternator ($85), drop-in or spray-in bedliner ($350-$540), blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert ($540), medium duty battery ($210), tailgate step ($375), running boards ($695-$740), 3.73 limited slip rear axle ratio ($390), 4.30 electronic locking rear axle ratio ($390), remote telematics ($800), and integrated upfitter switches ($160).
The 6.7-liter diesel engine is an $8,995 upgrade.
The diesel-powered Platinum and Limited are the most appealing Super Duty models, and we would recommend them if you have the cash. For most recreational buyers, we think a gas-powered Lariat Crew Cab with 4WD, Lariat Value Package, Tow Technology Package, spray-in bedliner, blind-spot alert, tailgate step, running boards, 3.73 limited-slip axle ratio, heated rear seats, and navigation is the best overall value with a sticker price of $58,630. Sometimes you have to pay to work and play.
The EPA does not require heavy-duty pickup trucks to go through its fuel-economy ratings program. Our testing of a diesel F-250 Crew Cab saw 13.1 mpg in a test consisting of mostly city and suburban commuting.
Depending on model selection, the Super Duty is available with fuel tank sizes of 29, 34, or 48 gallons.
The gas engine uses regular-grade 87-octane or up to 85 percent ethanol-blended fuel. It can also be converted to run on propane or compressed natural gas (CNG). The Power Stroke uses ultra-low-sulfur diesel with support for up to 20 percent biodiesel. It also requires the use of exhaust treatment fluid that requires periodic replenishment. You should buy the fluid from your dealer, but it doesn’t require a technician to top off.
Probably not much considering it was redesigned for 2017. If rival General Motors increases the horsepower and/or torque of its available turbodiesel V-8 engine to a level beyond that of the Super Duty, expect engineers to go back to the drawing board to try and put the Power Stroke back on top. Perhaps one day we will see one of these engines hit a torque rating of 1,000 pound-feet. We would like to see Ford adapt the F-150’s excellent 10-speed automatic transmission to the Super Duty, which would go some way toward improving fuel economy. Further, the company should consider making driver-assist features standard on more models, perhaps on everything from the XLT upward.