2017 Ford Super Duty First Drive: Fetes of strength

August 1, 2016

Looking back at it, we've grown a lot in 17 years. But some things are better left behind.

The Great Recession can stay right where it is—in history. Samesies for toe shoes.

About 17 years ago, Ford split off heavy duty trucks from its F-150 lineup and created one of the most lucrative lineups for the brand. Its timing couldn't have been better. Gas prices have see-sawed, but the Super Duty lineup for Ford has been, excuse the mob parlance, a good earner.

Despite three generations and hundreds of thousands pickups sold across North America, the Super Duty series hasn't changed all that much. Sure, new grilles, trims, toys, and engines have come and gone, but the bones in those behemoths have been the same since the Clinton days. (We mean Bill—for now.)

ALSO SEE: Here's how Ford threw away the old Super Duty and started from scratch

Now for 2017, Ford has significantly overhauled the Super Duty for the first time since it was new. It's not lip-service here either.

The Super Duty's frame is all new, bones and all. Ford ditched the open C-channel frame it had in the last generation in favor of a fully boxed frame with 95 percent high-strength steel, up from 15 percent in the previous generation. Two new crossmembers join the party to make up to 10 ladder steps to climb all the way up to the Super Duty's max hauling capacity: up to 20 tons.

That's half a semi's worth of weight on a frame that you can park in your driveway, jack.

The chassis details on this rig are almost as overwhelming as the eye-popping numbers it's capable of. New fully closed, through-welded middle frame rails are 1.5 inches higher this year than last; increased tubes on front and rear axles are roughly the diameter of a barrel-chested pipe fitter; and the Dana (or Sterling) rear axle housings can take a howitzer. One of those might be made up.

That all adds up to numbers with more commas than the first 400 pages of "Ulysses." In specific configurations, the Super Duty can tow up to 32,500 pounds; a front gross axle weight rating of up to 7,500 pounds; a payload capacity of up to 7,630 pounds; a fifth-wheel capacity of up to 27,500 pounds.

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We're missing one comma: The one up front in the new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8's torque ratings. It's expected that one of the Detroit 3 will crest the 1,000 pound-feet of torque rating soon, but the 2017 Super Duty won't be the first. The optional oil-burner up front has been rated for 2017 at 925 lb-ft and 440 horsepower this year. A carryover 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline motor that makes 385 hp and 430 lb-ft will get standard duty in F-250 and F-350—but none of the headlines. (A 6.8-liter V-10 is available in the F-450 and F-550 chassis cabs and surprisingly popular, according to Ford, which is why they've kept it in use since the Mesozoic era.)

Ford has an upgraded 6-speed TorqShift-G automatic for gas-powered F-250s with fuel-saving tech and smoother shifts—and it shows. Diesel trucks get the same 6-speed autobox as always. Don't ask if the 10-speed automatic jointly developed with General Motors, of all partners, will show in the Super Duty anytime soon. Ford won't say a word.

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