First gigs for pimple-pitted teens are usually those with comically low stakes and a weed-dealing manager. Stocking shelves, pretending to babysit, and washing cars are all on the agenda. Not for me. At the age of 16, license all shiny and demerit-free, I was hired as a general worker by my town’s Parks Department, a job that entailed being entrusted with the keys to three mighty Ford Super Duty pickups.
“You ever drive a 250 before? Or haul a trailer?” my boss asked me that first day in his smoke-filled office. "No," I said sheepishly. He eyed me for what seemed like hours—then he got up and tossed me the keys to one of their new Ford F-250s. “Well son, time to learn.” I spent the next four years behind the wheel of Ford’s best, including two contractor-grade F-250s and an F-450 dump truck. I even learned to tow the shop’s 27-foot trailer, complete with 15,000 pounds and $100,000 worth of mowing equipment.
But more than a decade has passed since I left the wildlands of suburban Illinois, and Ford’s Super Duty lineup has changed drastically from those bare-bones workhorses. Power and torque have grown exponentially, as have their overall dimensions both inside and out. Range Rover-grade leather abounds in the 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty and a suite of assistance technology means anyone, and I mean anyone, can reverse a trailer as if it was an extension of their body. Times sure have changed.
The 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty, By the Numbers
- Base Price (As-Tested): $33,705 ($80,220)
- Powertrain: 6.2-liter V8, 7.3-liter V8, 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V8 | 10-speed Automatic transmission | rear- and four-wheel drive
- Horsepower: 385 hp @ 5,750 rpm, 430 hp @ 5,500 rpm, 475 hp @ 2,800 rpm
- Torque: 430 lb-ft @ 3,800 rpm, 475 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm, 1,050 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
- Towing: 13,300-22,800 pounds
- Payload: 3,040-4,290 pounds
- Curb Weight: 5,762-6,824 pounds
- Quick Take: If this was the F-250 I drove around in, I'd have never left the Parks Department.
I’ll forgive you for having trouble spotting the extent of Ford’s refresh; side by side with the old one, it becomes an I Spy spot the difference between the 2019 and 2020 models. That’s good judgment on Ford’s part as the F-Series has dominated pickups for four-plus decades. The last iteration, bowing just three years ago, ratcheted up heavy-duty truck warfare to a point where if Ford strayed too far from the path, ranchers, contractors, maintenance crews, and rich Texans would likely descend upon Detroit and tear down Ford’s head office, foundation and all.
A splash of new grille here, an updated headlight design there, an optional 12,000-pound integrated Warn winch, and a Tremor package meant to give homage to Ford’s "lesser" F-150 Raptor all make the 2020 F-250 more attractive. Four colors are replaced by four new ones, including Ingot Silver, Rapid Red Metallic, Star White Metallic, and Velocity Blue. Highland Tan leather replaces Camelback, and Pro Trailer Backup Assist, along with Ford’s Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System, all become optional extras.
Ford’s aces up its mechanical sleeve are the F-250’s powerplants. You can still get the 6.2-liter naturally aspirated V8, making 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Fine—but when there’s a new 7.3-liter V8 rated at 430 hp and 475 lb-ft of torque, why bother with the base? Customers not content with that can choose the updated 6.7-liter Powerstroke diesel V8, which tops the range overall with 475 hp and an earth-rending 1,050 lb-ft. Why that extra 50? To make the Ram 3500 and its measly 1,000 lb-ft bow before the new HD king, of course.
A new 10-speed TorqShift automatic transmission is the only transmission available and features Normal, Deep Snow, Sand, Tow/Haul, and Eco drive modes. Towing limits depend on engine choice, two- or four-wheel drive, cab choice, as well as conventional versus Gooseneck hitch, but Ford’s breadth of options ensure the F-250 is capable to tow up to 22,800 pounds. Those choices affect the F-250’s payload capacity, too, which tops out at a Ford Mustang GT500’s worth of 4,290 pounds—I want to see this, Ford.
And while most newer Super Duty owners won’t feel much of a difference from the spruce and facelift, as someone who hasn’t been behind the wheel of one in quite some time, it’s worlds apart from what I once knew.
Power to the People
“There’s 11,000 pounds behind you. Do you feel it?” asked a Ford engineer. “Not a f*cking thing,” I replied. And truly, there’s nothing quite like diesel torque, even when a 20-plus-foot camper is attached to the truck. All 3.5-tons of it may as well be a hummingbird’s feather to the 6.7-liter PowerStroke controlled by my right foot.
The tonnage reveals itself when inclines appear, though it's still hardly there. Put your right foot down and it’s as if a freight train is pulling you forward and nothing will stop it. That means unladen, it boogies away from lights, often smoking the rear wheels and leaving onlookers aghast.
Working harder is the new 7.3-liter gas V8. Ford’s newest is a great engine, full stop. It's punchy and powerful, plenty for a contractor using it for everyday assignments and lower towing workloads. The F-250 feels more nimble without the diesel’s extra mass, too. Under heavier loads, though, the 7.3-liter tends to bounce through the ten gears, working hard to stay in the V8’s powerband and balance higher gear fuel economy. A good engine, but it’s just not the superlative diesel.
In most of the Super Duties, when unladen by trailer or payload, the ride is, well, bouncy. Ford’s heavy-duty suspension components are the cause and not much can be done to smoothen the ride without sacrificing a critical truck metric; i.e. towing or payload. Filled to the brim or coupled to a trailer, the F-250 evens out, though the diesel’s added heft multiplies the effect.
Steering is light but direct and handled by an electrically-assisted hydraulic unit that allows Ford’s fancy-pants Pro Trailer Backup Assist to park your trailer for you, the rare party trick that's impressive and functional. What left me stunned, however, were the F-250’s up-market interior trappings.
The Parks Department’s trucks were work trucks with work truck interiors. Hosing them down after muddy days wasn’t out of the question, and we took a weird pride in beating the ever-living crap out of the seats with pocket knife clips, hammers, tool bags, half-eaten lunches, and all manner of leaky, half-assembled two-stroke engines for our weedwhackers.
Meanwhile, I’d hesitate to even drink a smoothie in Ford’s new fleet. Customers are still able to get tradesman interiors, but the 2020 F-250s I drove were draped in so many optional extras it would make a municipal accountant sob into their spreadsheets. Smooth leather, heated, cooled, and massage seats, soft plastics at all the touchpoints, and a healthy dose of sound insulation delivered far more than I expected from what is, for all intents and purposes, a work truck. An optional B&O stereo is ready to blow out your eardrums, though Ford has some audio tuning opportunities to make the bass less boomy.
If these F-250s were parked in the gravel lot of the Parks Department’s office back in the early Aughts, I’d have never left. Everything Ford’s done in the last decade has made towing, hauling, or just running to Home Depot a far more enjoyable task. And that's before we even talk about off-roading.
I Sense a Great Tremor in the Force
Ford’s F-250 Tremor deserves its own column for one reason, I love it. The Tremor is an off-road-focused F-250 that hopelessly wants to emulate the F-150 Raptor but foregoes the namby-pamby 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 for either the new 7.3-liter gas V8 or the almighty PowerStroke diesel. Rather than existing as a standalone model, the $3,975 Tremor package can be slapped on to XLT and above trims. Want a King Ranch F-250 with all of the following? You got it.
That bargain of the century nets you 35-inch Goodyear Wrangler Duratec off-road tires, a front end lift, custom twin-tube dampers, progressive springs, Raptor-like fixed running boards, Trail Control with Rock Crawl mode, and a locking rear differential with a new Dana limited-slip front differential.
Put that all together and the Tremor has 10.8-inches of ground clearance, a maximum approach angle of 31.65 degrees, and a maximum departure angle of 24.51 degrees. Rivers, swamps ponds, or the massive flooded pits Ford so perfectly built for the day's test are also no match as the truck will ford up to 33-inches of water before needing a snorkel, fins, and eventually a call to your insurance provider.
Stuck in the mud, Ford’s got you covered with an optional $3,000, 12,000-pound Warn winch integrated into the truck’s bumper. The unit has a useful clutch that makes pulling more cable out a cinch.
Like its Raptor sibling, the Tremor’s suspension modifications slack the tightly sprung standard heavy-duty components and make it a far more comfortable ride. And whether you’re rolling through town, using it as Ford-intended, rock-crawling the infamous Rubicon Trail, or railing the Tremor on a deserted Arizona gravel road where speed limits disappear, Robby Gordon delusions appear, and the red mist seeps into the cabin worrying your driving compatriots...well, let’s just say no matter the situation, the F-250 Tremor will be able to handle it. But will your wallet?
Capability Will Cost You
The sticking point, one that made my heart skip a beat, was the Super Duty’s price. Ford’s basic tradesman trucks start at a reasonable $33,705, perfect for Parks departments everywhere. One F-250 I drove, a Lariat with the Tremor package, the 6.7-liter diesel, and a few optional extras, hit an as-tested price of $80,220—somebody, catch me as I’m about to faint. That’s not the top either, as Super Duties can reach the $100,000 mark depending on what you count as a necessary feature.
Thankfully, most consumers have cooler heads than Ford’s PR staff who optioned the trucks in Arizona as the average Super Duty transaction price hovers around $59,100. Most don’t need a King Ranch Tremor equipped with 1,050 lb-ft of diesel-produced torque, though I won’t begrudge those who want one.
Ford’s 2020 F-250 Super Duty lineup is leaps and bounds better than the work trucks of your or my youths as power, torque, and capability have entered realms 16-year-old Jonathon wouldn’t have believed nor been entrusted with. More than that, the F-250, and indeed all Super Duties, are no longer just for the contractor, landscaper, hauler, or site foreman. Ford’s targeted everyone with the sort of options and everyday quality as you’d find in the brand’s F-150 and Explorer. Super Duties are still work-horses, but Ford's opened up the Heavy-Duty gates to anyone looking for a great truck—or to relive their teenage years, minus the awkward voice cracking and zits.