One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: 2020 Ford Super Duty is better and boastfully dominant

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has earned the right to be boastful. The Dearborn-based automaker has engineered a heavy-duty pickup that has regained the towing and hauling capacity crowns while giving buyers a wide variety of engine, interior, and technology options.

The 2020 Ford Super Duty lineup ranges from XL to XXXL and prices range from around $30,000 to near the six-figure mark. On sale now, the newest collection of medium- and heavy-duty trucks comes with a choice of three engines, three transmissions, three cab configurations, six trims, 2WD and 4WD versions, single-wheel and dual-wheel options, and a variety of chassis cab models.

2020 Ford Super DutyThe Ford Super Duty is capable on-road and off.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford boasts six overall best-in-class features with the new pickups and claims the new Super Duty has leadership in 16 best-in-segment features:

  • Best-in-class maximum available diesel gooseneck towing of up to 37,000 pounds
  • Best-in-class maximum available diesel fifth-wheel towing of 32,500 pounds
  • Best-in-class maximum available diesel conventional towing of 24,200 pounds
  • Best-in-class diesel power and torque with available 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 delivering 475 horsepower and 1,050 ft.-lbs.
  • Best-in-class gas power and torque from all-new available 7.3-liter V8 delivering 430 horsepower and 475 ft.-lbs.
  • Best-in-class maximum payload capacity of 7,850 pounds with standard 6.2-liter gas engine

The list of updates for the 2020 model year is long and consequential. It includes new gas and diesel engines, an all-new 10-speed automatic transmission, and chassis upgrades. Technological advances improve connectivity, payload, and towing. Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist and Trailer Reverse Guidance technology is now compatible with fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers.

Designers have also made changes to the exterior and interior, and lowered the truck for easier access to the bed. The pickup's enhanced front-end design allows for optimized cooling and lighting performance under heavy loads. For the first time, all dual-rear-wheel Super Duty trucks are fitted with a uniquely designed high-airflow grille optimized for maximum powertrain cooling.

An all-new Tremor Off-Road Package brings 4x4 capability with its purpose-built design and 4WD technologies. The Super Duty also adds Trail Control, a technology that debuted on the F-150 Raptor and Ranger that functions in any driving mode and performs like cruise control for off-road driving.

2020 Ford Super DutyPro Trailer Backup Assist and Trailer Reverse Guidance technology is now compatible with fifth-wheel and gooseneck trailers. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Powertrain updates include a new 7.3-liter V8 with 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque and an upgraded third-generation 6.7-liter Power Stroke V8 turbo-diesel that gets 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque. A 6.2-liter V8 gas engine has been carried over from the 2019 model.

The engines are either paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission with double overdrive or a 10-speed heavy-duty TorqShift automatic transmission. The 10-speed has been re-engineered with a wider gear ratio and brings class-exclusive live-drive power takeoff for owners that use heavy-duty industrial equipment and accessories, such as snowplows. Drive modes include normal, tow/haul, eco, slippery, and deep sand and snow.

During my day-long test drive, I sampled F-250 and F-350 trucks in both 2WD and 4WD, and with gas and diesel powertrains. If you liked the Super Duty before, you'll like the new versions even more. Pleasing ergonomics and well-mannered driving dynamics make these large-sized workhorses feel smaller than they look in the mirror and predictably responsive with some lightness on their feet.

2020 Ford Super DutyThe interior of the Ford Super Duty is relatively unchanged in overall design but features upgraded features.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

High marks go to the new 10-speed transmission that brings smooth motoring with extra gears and offers new drive modes that enhance traction for a variety of surfaces and bring fuel savings. Both new engines have appealing features for different buyers; the diesel will impress with its quietness around town and when towing all but the heaviest loads, while both will reward owners looking to increase towing and payload capability.

Inside are more premium trims in the cabin, while the Limited is completely refreshed with new leather, exclusive wood, and upscale crafted details. FordPass Connect is now standard on all models and an embedded 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi allows access for up to 10 devices.

Super Duty XLT and above trim levels get standard Ford Co-Pilot 360, a suite of safety and driver assistance technology that bundles lane keeping assist, a blind spot information with trailer coverage, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and automatic high beams. Class-exclusive second-row seat belt pretensioners are standard on all models.

The 2020 Ford Super Duty is on sale now.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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Lincoln will not make a performance variant to compete with Cadillac.

Lincoln

TheLincoln Navigator and Cadillac Escalade have been duking it out at the top of luxury SUV rankings for decades, but there’s one area of the Caddy’s development that Lincoln won’t touch. In a recent interview, a company executive told Ford Authority that it has no plans to create a performance variant of the Navigator to compete with the upcoming Escalade V from Cadillac.

2022 Lincoln NavigatorThe new Navigator features several upscale touches and excellent tech. Lincoln

That means the Navigator will stick with the powertrain it’s carried for years, which is a twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine that makes 440 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a smooth ten-speed automatic and either rear- or four-wheel drive. While there’s more than enough power to get the hulking Lincoln moving, it’s not a powertrain that inspires excitement or engagement, and though beefy, it’s tuned much more for comfort and quietness than drama.

Though more than adequate, those specs are a far cry from the numbers we expect from the Escalade V. The full-size bruiser from Cadillac is expected to get a supercharged 6.2-liter V8, similar to the unit seen in the CT5-V Blackwing and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. We don’t know power numbers yet, but the engine should deliver horsepower and torque numbers in the high 600s.

Cadillac Escalade VThe Escalade V will be massively powerful. Cadillac

That Lincoln is taking a different approach isn’t surprising. The automaker has already announced its intention to go all-electric, so pouring more time and resources into creating a performance gas-powered SUV isn’t in line with its goals. Company executives have also expressed a desire to avoid imitating rivals, so the decision to leave a performance Navigator behind is not surprising.

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