2023 Ford Super Duty First Drive Review: A High-Tech Toolbox for the Toughest Truck Stuff
The most extreme new Super Duty trucks can carry 8,000 pounds or tow 40,000. But the in-cab connectivity and technology are actually cooler.
The redesigned 2023 Ford Super Duty has some new high-tech tricks up its sleeve that aren’t just fun for barbecue bragging rights—they’re super useful for getting work done. The hauling and pulling power of these rigs is impressive, but this time around, their automation and digital features are even more interesting. Regardless of how you feel about the new styling, there’s so much to geek out on if you’re a truck fan who eats up engineering feats as well as big tires and brush guards.
Whereas work vehicles used to follow the “keep it simple, stupid” formula for reliability, the newest ones are increasingly complex for the sake of productivity. The trick is making them adaptable to the nth degree while still being easy to use and durable for the long haul. The 2023 Super Duty was clearly developed with this not only in mind but front and center to craft a package that delivers capability to everyone.
2023 Ford Super Duty Specs
- Base price (Max as tested) $45,865 ($110,685)
- Powertrain: 6.8-liter gas V8 | 7.3-liter gas V8 | 6.7-liter turbo diesel V8 with high output variant | 10-speed automatic | two- or four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 400 (6.8-liter) | 430 (7.3-liter) | 475 (6.7-liter) | 500 (6.7-liter HO)
- Torque: 445 lb-ft (6.8-liter) | 485 lb-ft (7.3-liter) | 1,050 lb-ft (6.7-liter) | 1,200 lb-ft (6.7-liter HO)
- Seating capacity: 5
- Max towing capacity: 40,000 pounds (F-450 4x2 regular cab with 6.7-liter HO and Max Tow Package)
- Max payload capacity: 8,000 pounds (F-350 4x2 regular cab with gas Heavy-Duty Payload Package)
- Max ground clearance: 10.2 inches
- Off-road angles: 21.2° approach | 18.5° breakover | 19.3° departure (Tremor)
- Quick take: Modern connectivity and technology beautifully applied to a time-proven work truck platform.
- Score: 8/10
What to Know About the 2023 Super Duty
It’s a big deal when the Super Duty is truly new like it is for 2023. Not only does it sport a different look, which seems to have grown on some people while turning others off completely, but it’s chock full of fresh tech and hardware to make it that much more handy. While I’ll leave you to make up your own mind about the restyled front end with the certifiably huge headlights, Ford blended form and functionality with other styling elements. Take the integrated bed steps on each side, for example. And each trim’s interior puts a big focus on convenience, whether it’s a utilitarian XL model with a traditional bench seat or a fancy Limited with Max Recline chairs made for napping.
The Super Duty now has four engine options. Well, more like two, each with two versions. There’s a 6.7-liter diesel rated at 475 hp and 1,050 lb-ft of torque, as well as a high-output diesel belting out 500 hp and a mind-blowing 1,200 lb-ft. Ford says the extra juice is achieved with dedicated turbine cooling, a stainless exhaust, and computer tuning.
I was able to take the high-output diesel out on a little field trip around town and to be honest, I expected the power to be a lot more intimidating. I mean, yeah, with traction control off and two boots on the pedals, it will readily start turning its rear tires into smoke and noise (I had to check, for science). But even without any cargo, the truck doesn’t feel fast. The real magic is when you throw a 20,000-pound trailer behind it and it doesn’t seem to go any slower.
The main gasoline engine is a 7.3-liter V8 claiming 430 hp and 485 lb-ft of torque. The base engine runs the same block, de-stroked to 6.8 liters, putting out 405 hp and 445 lb-ft. Ford doesn’t publish fuel economy figures for vehicles this size.
A High-Tech Hard Worker
The Super Duty’s coolest new features are all digital, pertaining to the cockpit, trailer-towing, and payload cargo management.
Base trucks have a good ol’ fashioned two-clock gauge cluster on the dash, but the nicer models get an absolutely glorious pair of information-rich interfaces plus a heads-up display. Heck, I don’t even like screens in cars, but even I have to admit that Ford did a great job allocating its pixels well. It’s not just a “screens for the sake of looking modern” situation; both the driver’s gauge cluster and the big center screen are highly customizable and dense.
I could do a whole separate post detailing every dash function, but here’s a short list of the stuff I really liked:
- You can save trailer profiles to the truck, then when you input what you’re pulling, fuel range changes to reflect towing with reasonable precision
- A maintenance minder that logs not only when your next oil change is due, but a huge and detailed checklist of truck and trailer parts that need to be monitored
- Three separate sections of the main cluster are customizable, with a big range of information and gauges to pick from
- The whole interface just looks great. Displays are clean enough to easily understand but cool enough to make the cab feel more fun and new
- The HUD has an off-road mode with pitch and roll functions, which looks like the display you’d expect in a fighter jet. Necessary? Probably not. Cool? Extremely.
For when you’re moving around a loading dock or anywhere you might need to reposition while taking on cargo, parking sensors and a camera are mounted on the top of the tailgate in addition to the rear, allowing those systems to work while the gate is down. I love this—not only does it make it incredibly easy to back right up to a loading area, but it also helps you avoid people or animals who might be moving around behind the truck.
Speaking of cargo, once you’ve actually got it into the bed, the nicer Super Duty trucks have a trick onboard scale system that reports how many pounds of whatever you’re carrying at any given time. Not only that but in the truck’s scale mode, the taillights fill up like a loading bar as you approach the vehicle’s payload max. Imagine dumping mulch or rocks into the back with another machine—you wouldn’t even need another person around, you could just watch the lights and know when to stop filling the bed. It’s decently sensitive, too. With the truck nearing its max payload capacity, my scrawny ass climbing into the driver’s seat was enough to push it from green to red.
A few years ago, Ford introduced a truck feature called Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Basically, it’s a little knob in the dashboard that acts as a reversed steering wheel when activated. This is quite helpful when you’re trying to back up a long trailer. Instead of doing geometry, you can just watch the trailer-mounted camera and “steer” with the knob as though you’re steering the rear wheels of the trailer directly.
Ford’s people told me the system had been improved from previous iterations, which is cool, but it also has a new trick that’s even cooler—under the right conditions and with the right options, a Super Duty truck can actually back itself right up a trailer and put a conventional hitch ball exactly where it needs to be. It’s fully automated, too. You just tell the truck to go and it drives, steers, and brakes until it’s perfectly parked under the hitch. I made the demo guy show me three times. It really is a thing of beauty.
Relatedly, a feature I’ve been glad to see permeate throughout the auto industry is a 360-degree camera system and blind-spot monitoring. With optional equipment, the Ford Super Duty’s camera and blind-spot suite can extend to the trailer. A Super Duty can even monitor trailer tire pressure and temperature from the cab while underway.
Super-Clean Upfitter Integration
Ford Super Duty trucks don’t always live their lives as pickups—many end up going to work as bucket trucks, snow plows, or wreckers. Even work trucks that keep a standard pickup-style bed are often bristling with accessories. Those accessories need to be controlled, and you may be familiar with the fact that many Ford trucks have a bank of “aux” switches ready to be wired to lights and such.
But the new Super Duty takes that accessory-readiness to a whole other level. Thanks to a dedicated module in the dashboard and a computer application, upfitters can spider aftermarket equipment straight into the factory touchscreen for a super-clean OEM-style look and operation. Plus, since that module is connected to the truck’s brain, it can rope various systems together.
For example, if you had a crane installed, the upfitter could program something like “must drop crane before going out of park.” Or, if you had a plow up front, it could be programmed to raise when the truck went into reverse. Meanwhile, upfitters can even customize how the controls are displayed on the screen. So instead of an ugly and annoying aftermarket switch to activate a salt spreader, you could get a touchscreen button that says “salt spreader.”
In the past, you’d be crawling all over the vehicle and hacking up a bunch of wires to get functionalities like that. With a new Super Duty, it’s pretty much plug-and-play. Ford’s people told me the screen customization will only be available to certified upfitters, but I have to imagine some civilian version will be on the horizon. How cool would it be to set your own accessory buttons in the OEM touchscreen?
And for companies that manage fleets of Super Duty-based work vehicles, some of those same in-vehicle sensors can also be leveraged for telematics. That means instead of using a third-party vehicle monitoring platform, fleet managers can run an in-house Ford Pro program that keeps tabs on truck conditions and driving behavior to centralize how a group of Super Duty trucks are being driven and stay on top of maintenance.
The high-feature luxe trim Super Duty trucks seem pretty darn nice when you open the door and make the long climb up into the cab. And they are nice … for work trucks. A few minutes and miles of scrutiny and you start to realize, compared to an actual luxury vehicle, an F-350 Limited is not a thing of elegance.
Where a Volvo has a gorgeously sculpted door handle, the Super Duty has a plastic-y chrome rectangle. Where a Lexus has deep, rich materials tidily dressed into the cockpit’s shape, the Super Duty has more rectangles. Even high-trim seats are like a Cheesecake Factory kind of luxury—the idea of fanciness is there, but the execution feels very mass-consumption. Ford’s B&O stereo, which critics have bagged on in the past, is still not very good.
Then there’s the vehicle’s size and ride quality. These trucks are not meant to be tootled around town with nothing in the bed, nor should they be. Even with an impressive suite of collision mitigation, and I’m not inexperienced in driving immense vehicles, I found it cumbersome to maneuver around small-town Michigan. Today’s Super Duty trucks are more compliant than their relatively primitive predecessors, but it’s still a bit of a bumpy ride without any payload.
That last bit isn’t really meant to be a dig on these trucks. Of course, it’s stiff without any cargo; a properly spec’d Super Duty can carry the weight of a whole-ass car in its bed. You ain’t doing that in a Volvo. If you have work that requires this truck’s capability, one of these is a relatively comfortable way to do that. But I do want to discourage the casual weekend warrior from thinking they could justify one of these because maybe, someday, they might want to tow a used car home on a U-Haul trailer. Do yourself a favor and buy a real luxury vehicle, or even an F-150.
I was surprised at how comfortable the Ford Super Duty felt off-road. Heavier variants can exceed 7,000 pounds, after all. Both the Super Duty XL Off-Road and Tremor were very competent in sand, mud, a very steep descent, and even an extra-chunky rock garden. Both models have skid plates, good tires, and a rear locking diff (the main ingredients to off-road capability) but the Tremor has considerably more luxe appointments.
The off-road display in the center screen, which comes on with the traction control system’s off-road mode, is hugely helpful for seeing over (through?) the truck’s hood, and moving tire lines let you see exactly where your treads are going.
Speaking of which, there are two off-road-oriented variants of the new Super Duty. The XL Off-Road is an old-school, base-model work rig with 32-inch knobby tires, skid plates, and a rear locker. You can even spec a Ford Performance winch on it and have yourself one heck of a badass backcountry work truck. The Tremor lets you take advantage of the higher trim’s standout features like a huge center screen and digital gauge cluster. That version also has huge 35-inch tires and a trick trail-turn feature, where it can lock one side’s rear brake and drag the wheel through the dirt to make a particularly sharp corner at low speed.
You can also order the FX4 package (softer shocks, skid plates, rear locker) on some of the other Super Duties.
This truck’s size and weight would make it a pretty goofy choice if you’re solely looking for an off-roader—you’d be much better off in something smaller like a Bronco or Ranger. But if you’ve got work to do off the grid, or toys like buggies and boats you like to bring to super-remote locations, one of these off-road trims could make sense for you. An off-road race chase vehicle, where you need to carry heaps of tools and fuel and tow a trailer, or an overland rig with a slide-in camper you want to take deeper than a standard campground, would both be great use cases for something like a Super Duty Tremor.
Respect this truck for what it is and it’s really impressive. The raft of driver and worker-assistance features is both cool-looking and useful, especially for people who might be flying solo. I think it looks great, inside and out, and the spec sheet certainly makes it seem up for big jobs.
For my money, the mid-tier variants are where the best value’s at. Get the big displays, skip the oil baron interior, and save your money for fuel. If your job or life really necessitates the towing or hauling power of a Super Duty-sized truck, one of these will feel like a nice place to be. But for most civilians who just want a truck to play around in and do house chores, stick with something smaller.
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