Ford Puts More ‘Super’ into the All-New 2023 Super Duty

The voice of the customer rang loudly in developing Ford’s latest heavy-duty trucks.

The 2023 Ford Super Duty targets the most towing, payload, torque and horsepower of any heavy-duty full-size truck. (Ford)

Customer woes had the full attention of the teams developing Ford’s 2023 Super Duty. But when the all-new truck reached the testing phase, another human stressor surfaced. “Some of the testing that’s conducted on the proving grounds is so arduous that we used robots because we couldn’t get the human drivers to tolerate going around a loop multiple times,” said Andrew Kernahan, the program’s chief engineer.

The all-new 2023 Ford Super Duty was subjected to millions of miles of testing during its development. (Ford)

That machine-as-driver testing — within geo-fenced areas — allowed the truck to experience repetitive road surfaces with human oversight elsewhere. “This was the first time we did this type of testing with Super Duty,” Kernahan said, referring to activities in Michigan and Arizona. The 2023 Super Duty underwent more than three million miles of testing, a massive product-development tally.

Kernahan and other Ford truck specialists spoke with SAE Media in advance of the 2023 Super Duty’s global debut on September 27 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. The F-Series Super Duty covers the F-250, F-350, and F-450 pickup trucks as well as the F-450, F-550 and F-600 chassis cabs. The latest Super Duty arrives with a new powertrain lineup and more driver-assist technologies. “We are very focused on what matters most to our customers,” said Kernahan.

The 2023 Super Duty will offer two gasoline and two diesel-fueled engines. The 6.2-L gasoline V8 that generates SAE-certified 385 hp at 5,750 rpm and 430 lb-ft (583 Nm) at 3,800 rpm in the 2022 trucks was dropped from the Super Duty portfolio and replaced by a new 6.8-L V8. The 6.8-L “is a derivative of the 7.3-L ‘Godzilla’ that is already offered,” Kernahan said. It features variable cam timing, port fuel injection and a forged crankshaft and will serve as the base engine that is standard for the XL and XLT trim levels. “Our intent is for best-in-class performance for an entry-level gas engine,” Kernahan said. Horsepower and torque numbers for the 6.8-L will be released closer to the start of production. The 7.3-L ‘Godzilla’ that returns is slightly modified to improve performance. As currently configured, it generates an SAE-certified 430 hp at 5,500 rpm and 475 lb-ft (644 Nm) at 4,000 rpm.

Best Super Duty aero

Design sketch shows the interior of the 2023 Ford Super Duty Limited. (Ford)

The 6.7-L PowerStroke diesel V8 returns, along with a high-output version. The latter adds an upgraded turbocharger, forged stainless steel exhaust manifolds and calibration changes, engineered to manage the extra heat that’s a byproduct of the increased performance, Kernahan noted. In its 2022 presentation, the returning 6.7-L diesel engine produced an SAE-certified 475 hp at 2,600 rpm and 1,050 lb-ft (1424 Nm) at 1,600 rpm. All four engines will be mated to the Ford-designed and -built TorqShift heavy-duty 10-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift. The prior 6-speed automatic transmission has exited the Super Duty lineup. “We believe we will be the first OEM in the segment to offer 10-speeds across the board,” Kernahan said.

Other performance-related changes include the braking system and the suspension. The truck gains new rotors and calipers and a six-piston hydraulic control unit to improve the stopping performance. Axles across the Super Duty line-up have been upgraded to accommodate higher towing and payload capability; the ring gear in the largest rear axle now measures 12.4 in. (315 mm). Exterior vehicle dimensions are essentially unchanged.

The 2023 Super Duty sports new body panels, including a side vent that functions as an engine-bay air extractor. “We did aerodynamic wind tunnel tests in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the truck’s development to obtain continuous improvement. This will be the best aero Super Duty to date,” Ehab Kaoud, chief designer for Ford Trucks in North America, asserted. “We literally spent days with customers, taking photographs and videos to understand what they do with their truck,” said Kaoud, whose first Ford vehicle project was the inaugural 1999 Super Duty.

The 2023 Ford F-Series Super Duty is built at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville, Kentucky, and Ford's Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake. (Ford)

Customers typically accessed the incumbent Super Duty’s cargo bed from the side by stepping on a wheel spoke and/or the tire. “No, that does not work!” Kaoud exclaimed, noting the 2023 truck bed can be reached via a body-integrated side step. The truck bed also can be accessed by the tailgate’s integrated grab bar and step, which has been lowered 3 in. (76.2 mm) from the prior version.

In its horizontal position, the tailgate provides the driver with vital information about the exterior surroundings. “It’s an industry-first with the camera and the back-up sensors embedded into the tailgate’s top. Those sensors aid with towing and hooking up a fifth-wheel, or with hooking up a trailer,” Kaoud said. The tailgate-down reverse-sensing system provides audible and visual alerts.

Another technology aiding driver vision is via the Super Duty’s new 360-degree trailer camera system. “To have visibility around the trailer with a stitched [digital] image on the center screen is so helpful,” noted Aaron Bresky, vehicle engineering manager. “For instance, rather than having family or friends exit the vehicle to help the driver maneuver the trailer into a campsite without hitting a large boulder or putting a wheel into a fire pit, everyone can stay in the vehicle as the camera system provides the assist.”

With trailer navigation, the driver inputs the trailer’s height, length, width and weight to find a trailer-compatible route. “A customer will never again encounter a low bridge, or a tight turn,” Bresky said. A blind-spot information system is now available for fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailers. Super Duty’s new pro trailer hitch assist will automatically reverse the truck and align the conventional hitch ball to the trailer receiver. Also new for 2023 is a full color head-up display with an industry-first towing view that provides towing-related information, such as gear state and tachometer. “We obsessed over improving the towing experience,” Bresky said, noting the truck is forecast for best-in-class towing.

New onboard scale

Bragging rights to best-in-class payload capability is also expected. The 2023 truck features a new onboard scale and ‘smart’ hitch system that provides the driver with payload information. According to Mike Pruitt, chief program manager for commercial vehicles, payload information can be obtained via three different locations: the taillamp; the center touchscreen and the FordPass app. “Customers will be able to zero it out and measure the tongue weight, so that will help them understand the weight distribution on the trailer,” Pruitt said.

Pro Power Onboard, providing 2.0 kW of exportable power, now is available on Super Duty. Power outlets are accessible in the cabin and the cargo box (an outlet installation kit is offered for chassis cabs). The new Ford Pro Upfit Integration System (UIS) digital solution provides aftermarket equipment makers with improved access to Super Duty’s electrical system and signals. Cloud-based software connects UIS to enable equipment providers to add digital buttons that allow drivers to control utility cranes, snowplows, or other equipment from inside the truck.

Interior features include an available 12-in. (305-mm) center screen, customizable 12-in. digital instrument cluster, four USB power ports, and an available wireless charging pad. Super Duty will be the first pickup truck in the U.S. with embedded 5G capability, Ford claims. Patented Max Recline front seats (that debuted on the 2021 F-150 full-size truck) that fold horizontal to almost 180 degrees are a new-to-Super Duty feature that will be priced later.