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2023 Ford Super Duty: Tech galore and towing 40k! [First Drive]


For the 2023 Ford Super Duty, the list of improvements, features and configurations is long and impressive. The really impressive part, however, is testing out a myriad of these on-paper improvements.

During a first-drive event at the Ford Motor Co. proving grounds, there was so much to cover, I created three videos, and I’ll include them in the appropriate sections.

New tech demonstrations

The event kicked off with various new tech demonstrations.

First, the 2023 Ford Super Duty comes with a new upfitter module, allowing you to utilize your add-on equipment like never before. This physical computer module incorporates the infotainment system on the truck, allowing upfitters to put buttons on the screen.

For example, you could add a button on the infotainment screen to activate a snowplow, turn on a salt spreader or use a boom from the driver’s seat. Imagine raising and lowering a utility worker on a boom truck from inside the cabin and not outside in the weather.

Next, Ford added the clever idea of putting a back-up camera and sensor on top of the tailgate. This means, when you are backing up with the tailgate down, you can still see what’s behind you. Also, the 360-degree camera no longer shows a blind spot with the tailgate down, and the back-up sensors work as well. With the back-up camera, sensors and 360-degree camera, you can get closer to the object you are backing toward.

Then, there is a smart hitch assist. This system operates via the existing trailer back-up button, and the truck will guide you to your trailer and put the ball right under the receiver with the push of a button. Crazy, right? And it works.

Plus, the back-up trailer assist has been updated to be much simpler to set up, only needing a sticker and for you to pull forward, back up, turn right and turn left.

There are a few things from the F-150  Ford incorporated into the truck — like the payload scales indicator on the infotainment screen and rear tailgates. Two of my favorite additions, however, include zone lightning (turning on lights around the truck illuminating the dark via the truck or app) and a 2.0 kW on-board power for remote power needs.

Getting dirty with the 2023 Ford Super Duty

On the off-road side of things, the Super Duty has an improved version of the Tremor package with its 2-inch lift, 33-inch tires and new trail turn assist. This last feature holds the inner tire when making sharp turns allowing the long wheelbase truck to turn on a dime.

It has an assortment of cameras showing the front, sides and rear of the truck when off-road and the heads-up display shows the incline angle and what angle the truck is sitting.

There is also a new XL off-road package. This package is meant for commercial operators who need more off-road equipment to get back into remote job sites. It has more aggressive off-road 33-inch tires, additional skid plates, a better approach angle with different air dam and a rear locking differential. Plus, it is available on all cab configurations and is a $995 up-charge.

Towing 40,000 pounds!

Lastly, the towing experience was, well, really something. I’ve never towed 40,000 pounds, and doing it with an F-350 is similar to riding a roller coaster.

The truck has a specific setup with a regular cab and long bed with the high-output 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel and its 1,200 pound-feet of torque. Hooked up to a trailer, which was carrying weights, a Ford engineer and I set out to climb different grades, and even more important, to go down various grades, coming to a complete stop.

Behind the wheel, the truck pulls the load with a little struggle off the line — it is 40,000 pounds after all. And it climbs up 7% grades while holding the speed with the gas pedal firmly planted to the floor.

Climbing the grade is one thing, but every person who tows knows stopping is really the key. On the way down, the exhaust brake alerted me (and everyone within a half mile around us!) we were descending. To my surprise, the truck came to a complete and composed stop.

While the truck will do that much weight, the cabin was loud to say the least, and the experience was more akin to riding a bucking bull than a pleasurable experience. The box trailer was a much easier towing experience.

Towing the weight was impressive, but I think for most people, the technology in the cabin is the real winner. When setting up your trailer, you can not only add Ford accessory blind-spot monitors and auxiliary cameras for more safety, but you can also set up maintenance reminders. These reminders cover literally everything on the trailer from checking tire for wear and tire to making sure you greasing your wheel bearings at various mileage intervals. Plus, if someone borrows your trailer, you can edit the mileage on the screen to incorporate those miles.

Finally, the cameras now stay on for as long as you’d like. In the past, they would turn off once a certain speed or time limit was reached. So, if you were watching your cargo in the bed through the bed view camera, it would turn off while driving. Now, according to Ford, through a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration waiver, the cameras stay on all the time. The argument is it is safer to have the cameras on to see your cargo or what you are towing versus the distraction caused by looking at the screen.

The bottom line

Simply put: There’s a reason why Ford owns important commercial segments like utility services, mining, emergency response and construction. Not only does the fleet business volume and discounts out match others, the truck backs it up. The variety of cab-and-bed offerings, new technology and the numbers truck options make it impossible not to get the truck you want.

Ford has yet again raised the bar on heavy-duty trucks leaving the competitors in their dust.

Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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