Don’t for a second think that Ford, the uncontested king of the truck world, might relax while Chevy, GMC, and Ram roll forth new heavy-duty pickups. Later this year, freshened Ford F-Series Super Duty models will ring in 2020 with a new 7.3-liter V-8 engine, a 10-speed automatic transmission, and a comprehensive list of design and interior upgrades. This is where we’d report the on-sale date, price info, and power and towing specs if only Ford had not held back those details. The Super Duty will therefore remain partially wrapped until fall. That said, Ford claims every rating will top previous accomplishments.
Ford (and the competition) like to stress that the 3/4- and 1-ton classes are work trucks so improvements are mostly aimed at getting the job done more expeditiously, efficiently, and safely. Ford’s Super Duties were all new in 2016 when they adopted aluminum cab and bed construction; these latest changes are largely aimed at polishing the apple and spanking enemies.
As before, two gas and one diesel engines are available. The base 6.2-liter V-8 carries over while the bigger gas engine is all-new and the diesel is significantly updated. The 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8 is a third-generation design with a new high-pressure multi-squirt fuel injection system (up to eight squirts of juice per combustion cycle), a new variable vane turbocharger, and structural improvements to the heads, block, connecting rods, and bearings. Unusual features include cast steel pistons for durability and a hot-V layout with inboard exhaust ports and intake air routed through the valve covers to the outboard side of the cylinder heads. A larger air-to-liquid intercooler improves efficiency.
A clean-sheet 7.3-liter gasoline V-8 supersedes the 6.8-liter mill. This engine is the largest displacement gasoline engine available in the HD pickup class, and presumably the highest power and torque ratings. A 107.2mm (4.22-in) bore and a 101.0mm (3.98-in) stroke support a redline above 6000 rpm. Designed with the latest computer aids, the new 7.3 has a pushrod valvetrain, port fuel injection, aluminum heads, a cast-iron block, a molded-plastic intake manifold, a cast aluminum oil pan, and free flowing cast iron exhaust headers. A mechanized cam drive provides variable intake and exhaust valve timing at will. Main bearing caps are cross-bolted to the deep-skirt block for rigidity. The crank is made from a stout steel forging. A variable displacement oil pump reduces parasitic losses to improve light-load gas mileage. Jets squirt oil onto the bottom sides of the 10.5:1 compression ratio pistons to cool them. The cam followers and rocker arms both have low-friction roller bearings. This engine was designed for ready enlargement or downsizing, as well as cylinder shut down, if that becomes necessary. A CNG conversion kit will be available.
The new TorqShift 10-speed automatic, originally designed in collaboration with General Motors and found on both the F-150 and Mustang, has electronic controls and a broad ratio spread to help get heavy loads rolling from a stop and to keep engine revs during highway cruising. It replaces a 6-speed auto and is standard with all three engines. (As before, there is no manual transmission.) A nifty “live-drive” feature allows engaging power to hydraulic pumps and other equipment while the truck is in motion.
A new 4G LTE modem with wifi is standard equipment to provide connectivity for up to 10 electronic devices, assuming you pay for a data subscription. The options list includes lane-keeping alert, blind spot monitoring that also include the trailer, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection and automatic braking, wireless device charging, and several USB connection points. A class exclusive is the ability to back huge gooseneck, fifth-wheel, or conventional trailers with your hands off the steering wheel using a reverse camera and small knob on the dash.
Fresh makeup and jewelry
New grille, bumper, and air dam designs enhance cooling air flow and provide better access to tow hooks. LED headlamps brighten both the road ahead and the front-end appearance. Lariat trim level door and dash escutcheons are new while Platinum edition models get elegant Onyx Argento wood panels. Limited models receive revised leather, wood, and aluminum accents for 2020. Stitching, embroidery, and a suede headliner are available for Super Duty cowboys and cowgirls who only go first class.
Ford is spending 90 percent of its development budget on trucks and utility vehicles because they have consumed so much of the automotive market. According to the company’s North American president Kumar Galhotra, Ford trucks and vans account for $70 billion in annual revenue. That makes building them equivalent to a Fortune 40 company larger than Procter & Gamble. So, when you order a 2020 Super Duty to tow your trailer queen or your Lemons racer, remember that Ford considers your laundry list of needs and features its top priority.