Key to Ford’s US$70-billion truck business in North America is the F-Series, which most drivers know as the Ford F-150 but is also available as a stronger Super Duty F-250, F-350 and even F-450. It continues on to be the powertrain and chassis of box trucks and utility trucks, hauling ever greater weight and forming the foundation of corporate fleets: government, construction, utilities, and oil and gas exploration.
For Ford, this is where the real money is. Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America, says, “If you were to take our North American truck and van business together, just our commercial business, it would be a Fortune 40 company."
More than 900,000 F-Series trucks were sold in North America last year, and more than a million around the world. The Super Duty trucks – F-250 and up – were redesigned in 2016, soon after the F-150 itself, and now they’ll be refreshed as 2020 models with a new 7.3-litre gasoline V-8 engine and a new 10-speed automatic transmission.
The existing 6.7-litre diesel V-8 is upgraded for a third generation with more power and cleaner emissions, while the current 6.2-litre V-8 gas engine continues basically unchanged. The chassis is also upgraded, and more driver-assistance technology is available.
The F-250 is favoured by owners who need to haul goods and tow great weight – if you see a horse trailer or large RV trailer on the highway, chances are it’s being towed by a Super Duty pickup. For those owners, Ford now offers Pro Trailer Backup Assist: instead of opposite steering and watching through the mirrors, the system uses a camera image on a screen to show where the trailer is going, and the entire vehicle is directed with the turn of a console dial. It’ll work for both fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers, too.
Most important for these trucks, though, is the strength of the powertrain, because they’re designed for greater weights than the average residential driver will experience. Ford isn’t revealing power and torque numbers for the new 7.3-litre V-8 – which will be Canadian-built in Windsor, Ont. – until closer to its release this fall, but stresses it will be “more” than the current 6.2-litre V-8, which makes 385 horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. That’s surely a hedge-your-bets understatement. The smaller V-8 engine will still be available as a less costly option. Prices will also be announced closer to availability.
In these trucks, the more popular diesel engine is the true monster, making 450 hp and 935 lb-ft of torque. Ram now makes a Heavy Duty 3500 pickup truck that finally broke the 1,000-lb-ft-of-torque barrier with its optional Cummins diesel engine. A properly equipped pickup truck can tow up to 35,000 pounds, or half the weight of a commercial tractor-trailer. Ford will surely tweak its output numbers to beat Ram and GM by the fall.
The new Super Duties will have the highest-ever towing and payload ratings for Fords in their class, says Dave Filipe, Ford’s vice-president of powertrain engineering. “We are the only heavy-duty manufacturer that designs, engineers and builds our powertrains, and we are raising the bar in that space,” he says.
The new 7.3-litre, cam-in-block V-8 “will be the highest-rated, most powerful Super Duty gas engine ever. Its big-block architecture is the right fit between our entry-level V-8 today and the high-output turbo diesel engine. It hits a sweet spot, we believe, for the customer. We’re going to make it compatible so it works well within an F-250 Super Duty all the way up to an F-750 Medium Duty.”
The diesel engine will have a new 36,000-psi fuel-injection system for precise metering of fuel, and a redesigned turbocharger, as well as a stronger cylinder head, block, connecting rods and bearings. Ford does not intend to come second in the current power and payload wars.
An all-new 10-speed TorqShift transmission, which is a beefier version of the 10-speed in the F-150, will be available to replace the current six-speed. It was partly developed with General Motors, and will have selectable drive modes for towing, economy, slippery roads and deep sand or snow.
On top of all this, the Super Duties will offer the most up-to-date technology and convenience features found in the F-150, including adaptive cruise control, emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and an embedded 4G LTE modem with WiFi access for up to 10 devices.
Stay on top of all our Drive stories. We have a Drive newsletter covering car reviews, innovative new cars and the ups and downs of everyday driving. Sign up for the weekly Drive newsletter, delivered to your inbox for free. Follow us on Instagram, @globedrive.