Every so often, a truck comes along that raises the bar for its entire segment. The current Ram 1500 raised expectations of luxury in the half-ton market. The Toyota Tacoma set the blueprint for the modern midsize pickup. The Ford Maverick showed that Americans would go nuts for a unibody truck, provided it was sized and priced right. Now, the 2023 Ford Super Duty will attempt to redefine what a commercial heavy-duty pickup truck can be.
Let’s start with the new base engine, a 6.8-liter pushrod V8. Based on the 7.3-liter V8, it features an identical 4.22-inch bore, but a shorter 3.68-inch stroke compared to the 7.3’s 3.98-inch stroke. Throw in a slight compression bump to 10.8:1, and this sounds like one interesting motor. Intake runner length is almost absurdly long, so expect decent torque out of this unit.
The second new engine is a high-output version of the 6.7-liter diesel V8. The big party pieces here are a water-jacketed turbocharger and new exhaust manifolds that should allow Ford to crank up the boost. How much boost? Ford won’t say, nor will it divulge power details for all four engine options. Despite the 7.3-liter gasoline V8 and 6.7-liter standard-output diesel V8 returning for 2023, there could be some calibration and/or hardware differences that affect final output.
The popular off-road Tremor package returns for 2023, packing some serious off-road goodies. It starts with 35-inch Goodyear tires, two of which are bolted to a Dana front axle with a limited-slip front differential and special vent tubes. That special axle attaches to slightly raised front suspension, while uniquely-tuned suspension and a litany of software tweaks round out the package. What sort of software tweaks are we talking about? Stuff like a special drive mode for rock crawling, and Trail Turn Assist which pivots the truck on the inside rear wheel by braking that corner. Neat stuff.
While that’s all well and good, the off-road package you really want is the new XL Off Road Package. It takes a base-model 4×4 single-rear-wheel work truck and adds 33-inch tires, a high-clearance air dam, skid plates, axle vent tubes meant for water fording, and a locking rear differential. It promises to be exactly as much truck as most people need to actually do truck things. Ford said in an earlier briefing that miners from America’s southwest inspired this option package, so it should be plenty popular.
Speaking of four-wheel-drive, it’s now standard on XLT models and above. Ford’s targeting best-in-class payload and towing, so the added heft of the four-wheel-drive system is likely negligible in the grand scheme of things. Oh, and all chassis cab models will come equipped with a power take-off, primed and ready for upfitting. Not only should this streamline production, it should help certain tradespeople seeking to buy a used chassis cab in several years.
What’s On The Outside
In contrast to most mid-cycle refreshes, Ford’s really gone to town on this new Super Duty’s sheet metal. Let’s start at the front, where everything is all-new. The headlights take on a more squared-off silhouette and are pierced by the grille, which almost looks like a mask. The front bumper is more heavily-contoured, the hood is new, and new fenders feature beveled arches and bigger functional side vents, both of which aid aerodynamics. In fact, all four wheel arches on single-rear-wheel models feature more subtle flares and beveled edges, while the bedsides and tailgate are also all new. Tail lights, you guessed it, adopt a more rectangular form than on the current truck.
What Ford’s done here is take an okay-looking truck and turn it into something a bit more handsome. Although most of the styling is great, I’m on the fence over the grille. While several grille options do look neat, virtually every option is just so busy in person. That being said, the new grilles aren’t busy in a posturing way, instead mostly looking like electric oven elements. The new Super Duty is definitely big, but it’s not nearly as shouty as a Chevrolet Silverado HD.
In the bed, you’ll be able to option Ford’s Pro Power Onboard inverter so your Super Duty can crank out two kilowatts of power. Ford’s also cleverly integrated side steps and GM-style bumper corner steps into the new Super Duty to make bed access easier. The optional tailgate step is still on the menu, now reaching lower than ever before. All cab lengths are available with a full eight-foot bed, while Supercab and Supercrew cabs can be paired with a 6.75-foot bed.
What’s On The Inside
Right, time to talk interior. With the F-150 getting a substantial interior upgrade just a few years ago, it was only a matter of time before such changes would trickle upwards into the Super Duty. I’m talking about the retractable shifter and console workspace, available Max Recline seats for the odd nap, an optional fully-digital instrument cluster, and an available 12-inch infotainment touchscreen.
What’s more, Ford has given the Super Duty some really interesting color and trim options. Smoke grey interior, anyone? For those seeking a bit of a throwback to the not-so-distant past, the King Ranch trim is especially reminiscent of the 2008 model. From available beige lower body paint to some serious throwback wheels, I could help but feel nostalgic when I first saw what Ford had planned for the trim. The 6.4-liter Powerstroke engine in the 2008 truck may have been junk, but the truck itself looked absolutely phenomenal. For the new truck to remind me of the 2008 model is a massive compliment to Ford’s design team. Of course, if the King Ranch trim isn’t your thing, Ford still has some fun color options for you. Several lovely blues and a deep candy red are available so you can really get the new Super Duty in a good color.
Anyway, nostalgia over, what about tech? Well, the new Super Duty offers a bewildering array of new gadgets. Let’s start with the craziest of them all, trailer navigation. We’ve all seen those videos of that particularly notorious bridge turning rented box trucks into convertibles. Ford aims to avoid this issue by letting you punch in your trailer dimensions and weight, and then planning a route that’ll help you avoid obstacles like low bridges and sharp turns. While most native navigation systems have fallen out of use due to the speed and reliability of apps like Waze, this system actually seems like it could be useful.
Another neat available gadget is a camera on top of the tailgate to make hitching up a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer that much easier. Drop the tailgate and you’ll still have a view of what’s behind the truck. Oh, and speaking of cameras, Super Duty buyers will now be able to get a full 360-degree camera view of their truck and trailer in addition to trailer blind-spot monitoring. A well-equipped Super Duty will even be able to automatically back itself up to a bumper hitch so its driver can just lower the trailer jack, lock the coupling, chain up, connect the harness, and go.
Ford’s been pumping connected vehicles lately, so it shouldn’t be terribly surprising that the new Super Duty has an embedded 5G modem supplied by Qualcomm. With service from AT&T, it can function as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 10 devices, allow for quick over-the-air updates, and let owners keep track of their trucks through the FordPass app. It’s a nifty little convenience for retail consumers, but that barely scratches the surface of what this truck’s connected nature allows.
Ford has been rather quietly building up its Ford Pro commercial program over the past few years and now it’s ready for prime time. This might be the most important telematics push ever. While telematics don’t offer huge value to retail customers, fleet operators must track several vehicles at a time. To help with this, not only is Ford Pro able to track maintenance and schedule service station visits, it’s able to do a whole lot more.
Let’s start with driver and vehicle monitoring. If you have multiple vehicles across multiple jurisdictions, you’ll probably want alerts on when registration is due. No problem, Ford Pro can handle that. It can also monitor drivers, provide in-vehicle coaching, track vehicle location, and compile fleet service history. A Ford representative told me that Ford Pro will even be able to check driver history, which sounds frightening until you realize that providing driver abstracts is often standard employee procedure. New on the Super Duty is something called Fleet Start Inhibit, which lets fleet operators flick virtual kill switches when vehicles are supposed to be off-duty. This should help close the door on unauthorized vehicle use, not only relieving fleet operators of liability risks but also potentially curtailing drive-away thefts.
What’s Up(Fit) With That?
Then there’s the matter of upfitting. Many commercial operators aren’t just buying a truck, they’re buying a truck with a special box, or a crane, or some other attachment. Ford Pro lets fleet operators finance these upfits along with their trucks, while the new Super Duty’s Upfit Integration System will let drivers safely operate attachments using the native Sync 4 infotainment while streamlining development for upfitters. In the past, upfitters would’ve had to figure out how to intercept vehicle signals to control certain upfit functions. Now, Ford is essentially giving approved upfitters a key to the Super Duty’s electrical system. This should speed up development of attachments while offering certain safety nets. One example Ford gave me was that bucket crane upfitters can lock a new Super Duty in park when the bucket is being operated, preventing an inattentive crew member from bumping the truck out of gear.
Should a fleet operator pop for the full package, there’s so much more to be unlocked. Fuel receipts can be compiled and streamlined using Ford’s software, Ford’s also partnered with Salesforce to bring small and medium-sized business operators a customer relations management program called VIIZR meant for invoicing and customer communication. All these functions could save fleet operators days of tedious paperwork, enhancing productivity and giving the new Super Duty a leg up on commercial competitors.
So then, that’s the 2023 Ford Super Duty. There’s a lot going on with this truck but it really offers something for everyone to like. From towing aids for the weekend warrior to software solutions for fleets, Ford really aims to set new standards in the heavy duty pickup segment. Expect to see a lot of these trucks everywhere starting early in 2023.
All photos courtesy of Ford