Auto review: 2020 Ford Super Duty proves that popularity doesn't always mean mediocrity

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2020 F-250 Lariat Sport Tremor in Star White. - JAMES LIPMAN/Ford/TNS

These days, a product’s popularity is often a poor indicator of its quality. Consider McDonald’s hamburgers, which don’t taste remotely like beef, and Starbucks coffee, which always seems burned.

Yet popularity can just as often indicate a product’s excellence, as is the case with Ford’s F-Series Super Duty medium-duty pickup. It commands more than 62% vehicle market share in mining, 60% of the government fleet, 50% of emergency vehicles, 50% share in the petroleum industry, 47% of the construction industry, and 45% share in utility services according to IHS Markit U.S. registration data. And it does so with good reason.

How does Ford engender such loyalty?

It starts under the hood, with a standard 6.2-liter V-8 that generates 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission, although most Super Dutys have a new 10-speed automatic transmission with normal, tow/haul, eco, slippery, deep sand, and snow drive modes. Not enough for you? Sample the 7.3-liter V-8 generating 430 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque, or the new turbocharged, intercooled 6.7-liter V-8 diesel engine rated at 475 horsepower and 1,050 pound-feet of torque, which delivers a maximum payload of 7,850 pounds, conventional tow rating of 24,200 pounds, fifth wheel tow capacity of 32,500 pounds, and gooseneck tow capability of 37,000 pounds — 1,500 pounds more than its closest competitor.

All come with rear- or all-wheel drive as a two-door Regular Cab, SuperCab extended cab, and Super Cab crew cab. Regular Cabs come with an 8-foot bed, while SuperCab and Crew Cabs come with a 6 3/4-foot bed or an 8-foot bed. Offered in ascending XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, Platinum, Limited trim levels, each has a distinct persona. The XL is a basic work truck with manual air-conditioning and vinyl floors, while the XLT adds a bit more civility, like power windows. The Lariat is fancy enough for most buyers, unless you’re a hedonist, in which case you’ll want the dude-ranch ready King Ranch, its city slicker cousin, the Platinum, or the fully-loaded Limited.

For the new model year, Ford has treated the Super Duty to a front and rear facelift, although the revisions are fairly conservative, so you can be forgiven for not noticing.

More importantly, Ford has made a useful truck even more so, by offering options that tailor the truck to your needs, be it the Snow Plow Prep Package or the Tremor Off-Road Package that includes such as Trail Control, which is basically cruise control for off-road driving. If you opt for the Tremor, consider adding the factory-installed integrated winch by Warn, with 12,000 pounds of winching power. Someday, you may need it.

Yet the Super Duty can also serve as your mobile office thanks to its embedded 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi access for up to 10 devices, as well as wireless charging and USB-C ports.

And it can tow tons, while making the task of backing up a trailer far easier thanks to Ford’s Pro Trailer Backup Assist. Being a novice at such maneuvers, I found it makes it as easy as turning a knob and watching the screen as it guides you on which way to back up. You’ll never again make a fool of yourself while towing. It’s standard on King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models, and optional on XL, XLT and Lariat. Other driver assistance features include trailer sway control, lane-keeping alert, blind spot alert with trailer coverage, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, and forward collision alert.

But the biggest surprise comes once you hit the road. Driving a Ford F-350 Limited unladen is truly comfortable, which you’d never expect. While rippled road surfaces are noticeable, they’re not felt at all when trailering, as the suspension provides a fuss-free experience, with little to no excess body motions and excellent bump absorption. This is one medium-duty truck that doesn’t beat you up.

Towing a 12,000-pound trailer in a Ford F-350 Dualie is stress-free, thanks to the effortless power of the new 7.3-liter diesel engine and automatic engine braking, a sort of cruise control for braking. As you head downhill, you let your foot off the brake, and that becomes your set speed, which the truck maintains. Large side mirrors with smaller secondary mirrors make it easy to keep track of the back of your trailer. Steering is light and easy, with just enough road feel coming through to keep things interesting.

Similarly, the Tremor proves remarkably adept off-road, especially considering its size. It will not only creep downhill but will do the same uphill. Its cameras give you front and 360-degree views, particularly helpful when cresting a hill or squeezing through a narrow spot. Its off-road ride is exemplary, with needed ride height, water fording ability and articulation to make traversing the forest primeval a snap. And on road, the only noticeable difference is the noticeably firmer feel over bumps with a bit of added road noise.

Altogether, it delivers a luxurious experience.

Interior fit and finish are impressive, and the Limited is upscale without being needlessly opulent. That said, the small infotainment screen makes the navigation system hard to use, as there are too many large buttons that rob space from the map. A bigger screen and updated software would be welcome.

Prices start at $34,035 for the F-250 XL Regular Cab, and top out at $90,860 for the F-450 Limited. Given the prices of trucks these days, you can pay this much and get far less capability.

Regardless of which trim you choose, you’ll get a big, burly pickup that’s ready to work or play, both on the tarmac and off. Ford’s redesigned 2020 Super Duty proves its name with its outstanding merits.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Larry Printz is an automotive journalist based in South Florida. Readers may send him email at TheDrivingPrintz@gmail.com.

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©2020 Tribune Content Agency

Most powerful Super Duty yet launches with two new engine offerings including all-new advanced 7.3-liter gasoline V8 and upgraded third-generation 6.7-liter Power StrokeAE diesel V8. - Ford/Ford/TNS