After a brief hiatus from driving the latest vehicles, it’s great to be back, and we’re back in a big way with the updated 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty XLT. The Super Duty is a staple of the jobsite, known for its massive list of configurations, all tailored towards helping hard working folks get the jobs done. As our economy starts to reopen, it felt fitting that we’re behind the wheel of a working-class hero; this Velocity Blue F-250 XLT 4×4 equipped with the brand new 7.3L gas engine.
The XLT trim is a step-up from the basic XL truck which is more or less targeted towards fleet buyers looking for no non-sense capability, reliability and low operating costs. The XLT takes a similar formula but adds enough frills to make just about anyone comfortable. Exterior styling remains very much in-line with traditional Ford pickups; huge proportions, blocky and industrial looks mean that the F-250 looks right at home at work, but slightly out of place parked on my suburban driveway. The sheer size of the truck is impressive to look at, with the height of the bed roughly equivalent to the roof height of a typical sedan. It towers above traffic and makes today’s crossovers look like subcompacts by comparison.
Inside the crew cab, the ‘big’ theme continues with acres of highly functional space. The interior in this XLT is also a reminder that this is a truck designed for work and not luxury, so you’re greeted with durable grey heated cloth seats, and lots of easy-wipe low sheen plastics. Controls are simple, well marked and fall to hand easily, and thanks to an eight-way power adjustable seat and power adjustable pedals, it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. One of the pluses of driving such a large truck is that visibility is great. Our tester came equipped with the optional panoramic sunroof which, when combined with the power sliding rear window provides excellent air flow. In fact, it works so well that I seldom used the A/C during the warm June week.
Of course, functionality is really what the cab is all about, and Ford scores big points here. There’s enough room in the back to comfortably fit three large adults, and they get their own power center on the back of the console with 12V, USB, and a 110V power outlet. There’s a large storage bin under the rear seat, and Ford has creatively solved the storage bin vs. flat loading floor debate by making the storage bin collapsible delivering a flat floor for those special loads. Up front you get similar treatment with tons of storage just about everywhere, including a deep center console.
It’s worth noting that while large, the console isn’t as versatile as competitors that more configurable features. The bed in our tester came with a thick spray-in liner and large tie down cleats on the tall bedsides. Ford’s tailgate step, though finicky, does make access to the bed easier, but the tall sides mean it’s impossible to reach into the truck from the side.
Our test truck is powered by the brand new 7.3-liter naturally aspirated pushrod V8 gas engine; currently the most powerful gas engine available in a heavy-duty truck, boasting 430 horsepower and 475 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000RPM. As a truck guy, what gets me most excited is the fact that, at its core, this is a simple engine. No turbos; just a good ole cast-iron block with four bolt mains. Time will tell the truth, but on paper this should be a very reliable and long-lasting powerplant.
It comes mated to the improved TorqShift 10-speed automatic with four selectable modes (Normal, Eco, Slippery, Sand/Snow). The new 7.3-liter has more than enough power to muscle the gargantuan truck around without breaking much of a sweat; but I do miss the whopping 1,050 lb-ft. available with the updated 6.7L PowerStroke diesel. Without that freight-train type torque you can only get from a diesel, you’re going to feel the weight of a truck like this. If you can’t stomach the near $10,000 charge for the PowerStroke, the 7.3 is the next best option.
On the road, the F-250 is surprisingly tame. Even though I spent my week with the truck hauling nothing but air, ride quality is very livable and highway cruising is quiet and relaxing. Steering is a familiar Ford truck feeling with a touch of feedback from the road, and lots of power assist, but on-center feel is not as tight or confident as I would like. While I didn’t have much heavy work to do with the truck, I did think back to the time I hauled a 9,000 loaded enclosed car trailer with the 2017 F-250 (reviewed here), and while that was a PowerStroke truck, its suspension handled the load effortlessly and ride quality actually improved with the extra weight. Since Ford has only improved the F-250 since then, with a long list of mechanical upgrades for 2020, I have no doubt that this truck would deliver the same confident experience.
While we’re talking capability, Ford’s updates to the F-250 for 2020 have allowed it to re-claim the best in class towing and hauling numbers in all categories. I am sure readers know it’s mostly a game of equipping the ideal-spec trucks to edge out the other guys, but it’s an impressive feat nonetheless. Payload for an F-250 tops out at 4,210 pounds and towing capacity ranges from 15,000 up to an impressive 21,900 pounds. Of course, the F-250 can be had with 4×4, like our tester, but one gripe is that there is no automatic 4×4 setting; just the traditional 2H, 4H and 4L selectable on the dash. Here in Ontario, where we have plenty of slick and slushy conditions, an automatic setting would be handy to have.
Power aside, fuel economy is typically where the gas powered heavy-duty trucks suffer compared to their pricey diesel counterparts. They don’t require the same standardized government fuel economy ratings as passenger vehicles, so there is no published efficiency rating for our test vehicle. However, after a week of mostly unloaded suburban driving with a couple of short highway trips my average sat at 18.0L/100km, and I am confident I could get it into the 15.5L/100km range on a highway run. Not quite diesel territory, but not as dismal as one might imagine looking at the truck.
Opting for the new gas engine over the diesel does help keep the pricing under control. The base price for our Super Duty F-250 Crew Cab 4×4 with the 6-3/4’ bed came to $55,189. Adding the larger 7.3 over the standard 6.2-liter adds a palatable $2,750 to the price tag. Our tester did come with a fairly lengthy list of options bringing the total as tested price on ours to $68,969. Notable options include 4×4 ($3,500), Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System with Pro Trailer Backup Assist ($1,140), XLT Premium Package ($2,990), power moonroof ($1,750), power sliding rear window ($550) and the tailgate step ($300).
Moonroof aside, these options are not exactly frivolous spending as they’re likely features you’d be using on a fairly regular basis, and the costs aren’t out of line either. The Premium Package is one nice way to splurge a bit if you’re looking to separate your truck from the fleet-spec examples out there. On the outside it comes with nice chrome PVD 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, big chrome running boards, chrome exhaust tip, tow hooks, mirror caps and door handles. Inside it adds heated seats, eight-way power driver’s seat, power-adjustable pedals, reverse sensing system and the Ford SecuriCode™ keyless-entry keypad.
The updated 2020 Ford F-250 Super Duty XLT is everything a hard working truck should be; rugged, functional, capable and pleasant to live with. If you can fight temptation and stay away from the higher trim levels, or checking off too many option boxes, you can have a commercial grade truck, with all the basic modern conveniences, and some nice features like our tester has, for less than a loaded up F-150. If you’re frequently working your truck hard, that could be a compelling option.