The light-duty pickup seems to have become just as much about fashion for some as it is function for others.
As a result, many trucks have developed into much more refined and civilized packages. Pristine heated and ventilated leather seats, tires that are shiny enough to show your reflection, and a bed that’s clean enough to eat off are all hallmarks of a truck that’s never seen a hard day’s work. It’s akin to people who consistently don sporty workout clothing but haven’t darkened the door of their local gym in years.
Stepping up to a heavy-duty truck, then, is a lot like dragging dumbbells around and never lifting them. If you’re not using it for truck stuff, you’re sacrificing a lot of comfort and convenience while spending a fair bit more money for no real value.
Heavy-duty trucks are also big business, with Ram, General Motors (GM), and Ford taking turns upping their power specifications over the years in an ongoing battle to achieve supreme bragging rights. For this test, however, I kept it fairly simple with the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty XLT Crew Cab 4x4. Over the course of the week, much of the time behind the wheel was spent towing a 2020 Kawasaki Teryx KRX 1000, because truck stuff.
I’d think that it’s more about what you can do rather than what you look like when it comes to this segment, but the F-250 is a handsome truck all the same, particularly when parked beside the visual vortex of the new Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty and its mammoth grille.
The Ford does, however, feature enough chrome on the front end to sink a cruise ship. Outfitted in Velocity Blue and done up in XLT trim, it certainly looks the business. From afar, the Super Duty’s appearance is similar to the F-150, but when parked side by side there’s a clear size difference. Despite the familial resemblance, the Super Duty looks like it’s been stocking up on steroids. Meanwhile, the interior is all business; no flash or fancy gimmicks here, but the higher you go up the food chain, the nicer the interior materials get.
Driver and passenger get front and side airbags, but only upper trim levels get side curtain airbags and modern active safety aids. XLT trim and above receive features like automatic high-beams, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, cross-traffic alert, blind-spot detection that extends to the length of the trailer, forward pre-collision alert, and automatic emergency braking.
You can’t get much more practical than a four-door, four-wheel-drive, heavy-duty pickup truck. Granted, finding a place to park in urban settings is a challenge, because it’s big. At 6,350 mm (250 in), it’s about half as long as the average city bus.
The classic column-mounted gearshift lever saves space on the centre console for a variety of uses. The four-door Crew Cab also offers a lockable box under the folding rear seats to keep items secured and out of sight. Other intelligent items that help make life easier are the folding rear tailgate step and structurally reinforced plates built into the box sides for secure tie-downs or integration with aftermarket accessories like storage bins or removable loading ramps.
User Friendliness: 8/10
Attempting to find my way towards a dropped pin on the GPS rather than an actual address, I inadvertently found myself in someone else’s small cottage driveway at the end of a narrow country road. Thankfully the large mirrors and tight turning radius, along with Ford’s trailer reverse assist function, allowed me to navigate my way out – otherwise I may still be there.
The touchscreen is complemented by physical knobs and buttons that are easy to access and operate, even when wearing heavy gloves. A host of auxiliary switches have been hardwired for whatever uses may be required – plow, lights, or a spreader, for instance. Opting for the Super Duty means a factory-installed trailer brake controller that is integrated into the anti-lock brakes and trailer sway control system.
Having a blind-spot monitoring system that immediately recognizes a trailer and accommodates for its length is of great assistance. The interior of the F-250 will feel familiar for anyone who has driven an F-150 lately.
The steering wheel houses a variety of redundant buttons and the eight-inch touchscreen provides access to Ford’s infotainment system. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity is offered but requires you to plug in your device. The system also allows you to easily swap back and forth from your smartphone and Ford’s interface. The $2,990 XLT Premium package consists of the chrome tubular step bars, fog lamps, adjustable gas and brake pedals, aluminum 18-inch wheels, a reverse sensing system, heated front seats, and an eight-way power driver seat.
Numerous USB-A and USB-C ports are offered, as well as 12V power, a 110V AC outlet, and an optional wireless charging pad in higher trims. Technology added to the Super Duty is less about luxury and more about practicality, such as the roll stability control and trailer sway control. This is a work truck meant for heavy hauling, so it is understandable and expected that it doesn’t have the creature comforts we’ve come to expect from our modern pickups that are often masquerading as luxury SUVs. The twin-panel sunroof brightens the interior, while heated seats and remote start will come in handy on those cold winter mornings or when you’re trying to warm up at a job site.
Ford says the 7.3L V8 under the hood of the truck I tested is the most powerful gas engine it’s put in a Super Duty yet, with 430 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque. Steep grades, quickly accessing highway speeds, on ramps, and passing were no match for the Super Duty’s acceleration – even when loaded with a trailer and gear for a weekend away.
The maximum tow rating for the F-250 with the 4.30:1 locking axle is 6,804 kg (15,000 lb), so the 860-kg (1,896-lb) curb weight of the Kawasaki Teryx plus its small single axle aluminum trailer didn’t even cause the Super Duty to break a sweat. Capable of hauling far more, it provided a basis of evaluation for how the truck would behave while towing a load. It doesn’t just tow with ease, it hauls ass. Once the trailer had been disconnected and passengers removed, driving the unladen truck felt like a downright sport truck.
Alternate engine choices consist of a 6.2L V8 good for 385 hp and 430 lb-ft of torque, or a 6.7L diesel V8, which is what you’d go for if you had serious hauling needs. Its peak 475 hp is available at 2,800 rpm and the massive 1,050 lb-ft of torque is on tap at 1,600 rpm. (Ram Trucks just announced its 2500 will boast 1,075 lb-ft of torque for 2021, so the battle continues.)
The more you spend, the more amenities are offered and the more coddled you’ll be. The cabin is quiet, even on the highway, suspension is nicely weighted, and seats are supportive and comfortable. The Crew Cab’s rear seating area is simply massive, easily accommodating three large adults who also have access to various charging ports and cupholders.
Driving Feel: 9/10
In my experience driving heavy-duty trucks, they have often been geared low and prioritized slower-speed driving without much concern for fuel consumption, handling, or comfort. The F-250’s steering feels light and precise while tracking straight or turning. Consisting of a solid front axle with coil spring suspension on a 4,060-mm (160-in) wheelbase, the ride is firm but nicely weighted for its purpose and certainly not abrupt like heavy duty trucks of old. The only time it felt out of sorts was when I encountered uneven surfaces in a turn while towing at speed, which felt a bit skittish but not unnerving.
Not only does the 10-speed automatic transmission assist with fuel economy, but it makes the truck a pleasure to drive. Shifts are almost imperceptibly smooth. If the dash didn’t feature a digital readout of the gear you’re in, you likely wouldn’t be able to guess. Electronic shift-on-the-fly four-wheel drive also came in handy. As I was slowly driving up a steep grade portion of a winding cottage road consisting of deep gravel, the 275-mm wide all-season tires started to slip then dig in. Shifting into four-low, I applied gentle, decisive throttle, and the front wheels helped pull the truck and trailer up the hill without incident.
Fuel Economy: 5/10
Pickups above a specific gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) aren’t required by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to provide fuel consumption ratings. There are also so many variations, configurations, and applications for each trim level that providing an estimate would be an uphill battle. As far as real-world fuel economy in the F-250 Super Duty with a Crew Cab, 160-inch wheelbase, 6 3/4-foot box, and four-wheel drive, I averaged 19.6 L/100 km over the course of a week with a loaded trailer, periodic passengers and a heavy right foot. Topping up the tank was not an inexpensive affair.
From a barebones two-wheel-drive single cab to a fully loaded six-figure truck, F-250 buyers are spoiled with an abundance of choice. Various trim levels, three engine and cab options, two- or four-wheel-drive and a long list of available equipment, buyers can outfit their truck for their own lifestyle, be it work or play. Options add up quickly, but you get what you pay for. People also rely on trucks like these to make their living, so cheaping out isn’t a possibility.
Offering three solid engine choices in a workhorse with intuitive, helpful features and the availability of options and technology that make it also work smart as well as hard, the F-250 Super Duty is an all-round impressive truck. Brand loyalty is a rare trait these days, but nowhere is it more evident than in the pickup truck segment. Buyers may be unwilling to cross-shop a bowtie and a blue oval, but whether you’re a repeat buyer or curious about changing teams, the F-250 Super Duty should be on your short list regardless of which engine choice you go with. Depending on the availability of diesel in your area, as well as what and how much you’re towing, the 7.3 L V8 makes for a good option.
|Peak Horsepower||430 hp @ 5,500 rpm|
|Peak Torque||475 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||19.6L/100 km observed|
|Cargo Space||2,223 L|
|Model Tested||2020 Ford F-250 XLT Super Duty|
|Price as Tested||$73,544|
$17,805 – 4x4, $3,500; 7.3L V8 Engine, $2,750; XLT Premium Package, $2,990; Trailer Two Camera System & Pro Trailer Backup Assist, $1,140; Fifth Wheel / Gooseneck Hitch Prep Package, $850; PowerScope Telescoping Trailer Tow Mirror, $800; Power-Sliding Rear Window, $550; Wheel Well Liners, $450; Tailgate Step, $300; Spray-In Bedliner, $550; Gooseneck Hitch Kit, $245; Navigation, $800; Upfitter Switches, $150; Remote Start, $350; Power Moonroof, $1,750; 40/Console/40 Seat Configuration, $460; All-Weather Floor Mats, $170