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 Duty The 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 Duty Pro 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 Duty The 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.

McKinley Thompson Jr. was Ford's first African American designer and his influence lives on today.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford's design studio has churned out some of the most iconic models of all time. They're models so iconic that they need only be mentioned by one name - Explorer, Mustang, Bronco. With the Bronco, the design and engineering teams at Ford created not just the first Ford 4x4 sports-utility vehicle, but an iconic vehicle that has millions of fans nationwide.

McKinley Thompson Jr., like many automotive enthusiasts had his interest in the industry sparked by particular vehicle. The silver-gray DeSoto Airflow caught his eye when he was around 12 years old. "It just so happened that the clouds opened up for the sunshine to come through," he said in an interview documented by The Henry Ford. "It lit that car up like a searchlight." Thompson recalled running toward it, but the light turned green. "I was never so impressed with anything in all my life," he said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do – I wanted to be an automobile designer."

1963 Ford Bronco prototype This is one of the initial prototypes of the Ford Bronco from 1963.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After high school, Thompson served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II, learning drafting and working as an engineering layout coordinator. After the war, Thompson found he couldn't kick his enthusiasm for car design - not that he wanted to. In the early 1950s, he entered a design contest in Motor Trend magazine, submitting a turbine car with a reinforced plastic body. Both of those concepts were trendy in postwar America. That design won him the contest and solidified his decision to go to art

The Queens, New York was hired at Ford Motor Company in 1956 fresh out of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California with a degree in transportation design. Thompson is one of the many noted alumni the college has produced. The extensive list of venerable automotive designers that includes Chris Bangle (former Chief of Design at BMW), Wayne Cherry (Vice President of Global Design at General Motors), Willie G. Davidson (Vice President of Styling at Harley-Davidson), Larry Shinoda (Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang designer), Jeff Teague (former Vice President of Global Design at Ford).

He was the first African American designer that the company hired, 10 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball but 12 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation was illegal. His first assignments included working on a light-duty cab-forward truck and Ford GT40, and several concept sketches for the soon-to-be Ford Mustang.

Thompson also worked on the futuristic space-age Ford Gyron, a two-wheeled concept car that was on display at the Century of Progress exhibit at the Ford Rotunda in 1961.

Ford Gyron The Ford Gyron, a two-wheeled, gyroscopically-stabilised concept car, designed by Alex Tremulis and Syd Mead, USA, circa 1961. A fiberglass show car was exhibited at the Detroit Motor Show in 1961. Photo by Getty Images

"McKinley was a man who followed his dreams and wound up making history," said Ford Bronco interior designer Christopher Young. "He not only broke through the color barrier in the world of automotive design, he helped create some of the most iconic consumer products ever – from the Ford Mustang, Thunderbird and Bronco – designs that are not only timeless but have been studied by generations of designers."

It was Thompson's sketch of a prospective 4x4 that would influence a buyers for generations. "Package Proposal #5 for Bronco" was rendered July 24, 1963. Its design attributes carried over to the final first-generation Bronco design. In Thompson's proposed design showed the form and function of the wheels positioned at the far corners of the body for a confident and aggressive go-anywhere stance, while the curve of the wheel arches smoothing out conveyed speed.

Package Proposal #5 for Bronco This is Package Proposal #5 for Bronco, the sketch series that set the iconic design in motion.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

"I believe the hardest thing for a person like McKinley to do was working within the constraints given him to make a beautiful product," said Young. "Engineering dictates size and functionality, then manufacturing limits how it can be stamped and assembled, and finance says you have to build it for a low price."

In the years following the Bronco project, Thompson continued to have a transformative influence on the brand, and on the world. From 1969 to 1979, he worked to create high dream car in a rented garage in Detroit. He enlisted the help of Wallace Triplett, who had broken the color barrier as the first African American draftee to play for the Detroit Lions in 1949.

Together, they built a prototype and pitched the plans to burgeoning automakers in developing nations. Thompson hoped to change these countries for the better, much the same way Henry Ford envisioned with the Model T. That project never came to fruition.

1966 Ford Bronco From the first-generation Bronco to today, the model has had an exterior that sends the message that it's adventure-ready.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After his retirement from Ford in 1984, Thompson moved to Arizona and worked to design and build a concept he envisioned as an affordable all-purpose vehicle named the Warrior. The small utility vehicle was based on a one-piece fiberglass body.

A new program by Ford and Lincoln allows app users to shop for Nationwide insurance via app.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Shopping for new insurance? Ford and Lincoln have partnered with Nationwide to help owners of the companies' vehicles obtain the right type of insurance for their needs. All the "paperwork" can be done electronically via the FordPass or Lincoln Way app.

Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure, powered by Nationwide, offer an all-digital way to secure usage-based insurance coverage through Ford Motor Credit Company's licensed insurance agency. As part of the usage-based insurance plan, Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure policyholders consent to be enrolled in Nationwide's SmartRide usage-based insurance program and will share their vehicle connectivity information with Nationwide for the initial six-month policy.

2020 Lincoln Corsair A number of Ford and Lincoln models are eligible for the insurance.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

To get a quote, users simply have to log on to their FordPass or Lincoln Way app, click on the insurance tile, fill in some information, and submit the information. To assist with the process, the app automatically fills in key vehicle information on the form.

According to a release, "customers in 39 states with qualifying 2020 Ford or Lincoln vehicles can purchase a policy in minutes and become eligible to save up to 40 percent."

"This is the latest way we're improving the customer experience," said Elena Ford, chief customer experience officer at Ford Motor Company. "Insure makes getting insurance easier for connected-vehicle customers to cover one of their biggest investments – their vehicle – while saving money."

Once customers purchase a policy, the connected vehicle will track and share distance driven, hard braking and accelerating, idle time and night driving to establish a policy rate for renewal. The data are shared with Nationwide through the vehicle's embedded modem, eliminating the need for a special app or vehicle plug-in device. Any discount will be applied when the policy is renewed.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Users in 39 states are eligible for the insurance.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

As part of the plan, customers will have access to Nationwide's standard Accident Forgiveness option, as well as crash repairs using genuine Ford parts.

"Customers want to be able to purchase auto insurance as quickly and easily as possible," said Brad Lemons, Nationwide's senior vice president of Personal Lines Product and Underwriting. "Ford and Nationwide are bringing together the best of our businesses to help make this happen in a way that is sure to delight our customers."

States where Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure are available include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Launches in other states are planned over time.

The insurance offer starts with these models: 2020 Ford Explorer, Fusion, Mustang, Transit Connect, Escape, Edge, EcoSport, Expedition, F-Series Super Duty, Transit, Ranger and the upcoming all-new 2021 F-150; and 2020 Lincoln Aviator, MKZ, Corsair, Nautilus and Navigator.