My wife Diane and I just wrapped a 1,7750-mile road trip from our home just outside town to Kenosha, Wisconsin.
We crossed mountains, took in the vast grandeur of the northern plains and marveled at the devastation — and stench — of the oil-well states.
And we saw trucks. Loads of trucks.
We’re surrounded at home by horse stables and small farms. People here use trucks to tow horse trailers, farm gear and the omnipresent RV.
We do see a few heavy-duty rigs, those beasts of burden whose capacities far exceed those of their light-duty cohorts. Our neighbor Mark hitches a snowplow to his diesel HD and keeps our roads drivable through the winter.
Ford says 90 percent of HD truck owners use their rigs for towing.
Reigning tow champ
Ford’s 2020 Super Duty lineup — F-250, F-350 and F-450 — is the pinnacle of the Blue Oval’s noncommercial truck lineup and the industry’s reigning tow champ.
The F-350’s six trims range from the work-focused XL ($35,500), with its hand-cranked windows and vinyl seats, to the unbridled luxury of the Limited ($85,105), which offers such extravagances as ambient lighting and massaging seats.
Every Super Duty is equipped with embedded 4G LTE Wi-Fi. Wireless charging is available. The available Ford Sync 3 infotainment system includes a 8-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Ford’s big trucks are powered by one of three engines, a pair of V-8s and a 6.8-liter turbodiesel. The diesel cranks out 475 horsepower and a monumental 1,050 pound-feet of torque.
Properly equipped, diesel models can tow as much as a class-leading 37,000 pounds and tote a 7,850-pound payload.
Backing up made easy
Our F-350 Platinum trim 4x4 Crew Cab tester was powered by a new-for 2020 turbocharged 7.3-liter V-8 (430 hp/475 lb-ft) with a 19,100-pound tow rating.
The base engine, 6.2-liter V-8 (385 hp/430 lb-ft) carries over from last year. It’s tow-rated to 16,700 lb.
An all-new 10-speed heavy-duty TorqShift automatic transmission is standard with the diesel and the new eight. It shifts smoothly and skip gears when possible to reduce fuel consumption. Drive modes include <ital>normal, tow/haul, eco, slippery</ital> and <ital>deep sand and snow</ital>. The 6.2-liter is matched with a 6-speed tranny.
Also new for 2020 is Pro Trailer Backup Assist, which makes easy work of backing big trailers into small spaces. Using preset trailer specs, it plots the essential angles. The driver controls trailer articulation with a dash-mounted knob.
New off-road package
An off-road package called Tremor debuts this year, with a 2-inch front-lift and key suspension upgrades. It includes a locking rear diff and a limited-slip front diff, a rock-crawl mode, low-speed cruise and skid plates.
The F-350’s massive cabin resembles that of the F-150, with its familiar dash and ergonomic controls. There is abundant — and cleverly designed — casual cabin storage. Crew Cab models add a large lockable box beneath the rear bench.
Available driver-assist technology includes Lane-Keeping Alert, Blind Spot Information System with trailer coverage, and Pre-Collision Assist with Automatic Emergency Braking.
Other options include tire-pressure monitoring for the trailer and blind-spot monitors that work for trailers up to 33 feet long.
With an empty bed and no trailer attached, the ride is predictably stiff and bouncy. Steering feel is syrupy and responses are sluggish and imprecise. The available variable-ratio adaptive steering speeds low-speed reactions and slows them on the road. Still, the F-350 feels heavy and unwieldy at highway speeds.
During our trip, we saw HD rigs tug livestock trailers and giant rolled hay bales. In oil country, they hauled tools of the extraction trade that sometimes were larger than themselves.
There’s a big difference between buyers who want a ton of power and those who need it. For the latter, a big Ford Super Duty presents a handsome, comfortable and immensely capable option.
Questions or comments? Contact Don at email@example.com.
2020 Ford F-350 4x4 Platinum
Vehicle base price: $35,500
Trim level base price: $67,745
As tested: $74,980 (includes destination and handling)
Options: 7.3L turbocharged gas engine; Rapid Red paint; electronic locking rear axle; all-weather floor mats; twin-panel panoramic moonroof; 5th-wheel trailer prep package; wheel-well liners; sprayed-in bed-liner
Tow rating: 19,100 pounds
EPA rating: Not required on HD trucks (est. 14 mpg)
Regular gas specified