Diesel engine. Regular Cab. Rubber floor mat. No running boards. This isn’t a status symbol for MBAs who want to exude an air of masculinity in the parking garage at the office park: this is a pickup truck for getting hard work done. You’re going to pay for it – dearly – but it will do just about anything you’d expect a truck to do, and then do a whole lot more.
What is it?
The 2017 F-250 Super Duty XLT is a heavy duty pickup truck with a Power Stroke diesel engine. There was a lot of news about the F-150’s switch to an aluminum body when it was introduced in 2015, but the controversy appears to have worn off with the introduction of the Super Duty lineup, which shares most of the F-150’s styling, and its aluminum body.
Pricing and trims
Like all pickup trucks — with the exception of the Honda Ridgeline — the F Super Duty lineup has a stupefying array of driveline, trim and option configurations. It’s made even more complicated in the case of Super Duty trucks, which also allow buyers to order different axle ratios, payload configurations and upfit packages for specific jobs like towing or plowing. That’s a good thing, but just be aware that if you’re planning on ordering an F-250 Super Duty and not choosing something off the lot, you’re in for something akin to studying for the bar exam.
For the purpose of this review, we’ll just focus on the basic configurations and trim levels available on the F-250 Super Duty. First, there’s the cab configuration. The F-250 is available in three: Regular Cab, Super Cab and Crew Cab, for seating from three to six.
Cargo box length is your next consideration. Regular Cab F-250s are only available with the longer, eight-foot cargo box. Super Cab and Crew Cab trucks can be equipped with either the eight-footer, or a six-and-three-quarter foot cargo bed.
Any of the F-250 bodystyles can be equipped with either two- or four-wheel drive. The four-wheel drive system is a shift-on-the-fly operation that runs in 4×2 under normal circumstances, and then the driver shifts to 4×4 by using the rotary dial on the dash.
Next up is the engine. F-250 shoppers can select either the fantastic 6.2-liter V-8 engine, or the titanic 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8. More on that a bit later.
Our base configuration is an F-250 Super Duty, 4×4 Regular Cab. From that base, there are two trim configurations available:
The XL trim with the gas engine starts at $35,330. The XLT raises the price to $39,450.
Our test truck, though, came with the Power Stroke diesel engine. That changes the pricing picture drastically. The truck we drove priced out at $48,135 before ordering any options off the lengthy menu.
Safety equipment in trucks has changed drastically in the last decade and a half. It wasn’t long ago that trucks weren’t even equipped with headrests. Now, the F-250 has most of the same basic safety gear as the Ford Fusion: front airbags, Ford’s Safety Canopy system of side airbags, and child seat tethers; antilock brakes and traction control. There’s even the option for inflatable seatbelt airbags in Crew Cab models.
There’s a ton of additional safety equipment for the F-250, including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, adaptive steering and blind spot monitoring, but it’s either optional or only available on higher trims. Features like Trailer Reverse Guidance make backing a trailer a lot easier for novices, but for experienced hands, it’s overkill.
Safety rating agencies like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety don’t evaluate heavy duty pickups like the Ford F-250 for crashworthiness. Occasionally, the NHTSA crash-tests 3/4-ton pickups, but since the 2017 edition is an all-new truck, the model’s previous crash test ratings shouldn’t be taken as an indication of the new version’s ability to protect occupants.
It’s not safety equipment per se, but the new range of Super Duty trucks has excellent lighting. Regardless of whether you’ve selected the low or high beams, all of the lights stay illuminated.
About all you need to know about our test F-250’s performance is held in that torque figure. 925-lb.ft. of torque is globe-churning, house-hauling, stump-pulling torque.
If you’re just driving around with the bed empty and the hitch receiver unoccupied, though, you won’t confuse the 2017 Ford F-250 with some kind of a drag racer. Ford’s in-house Power Stroke diesel clearly wins the torque wars, but it “only” generates 440 horsepower at 2,800 rpm. Couple that with our tested truck’s 3.31:1 axle ratio and the truck gets up to highway speed, but you won’t find your head snapped into the headrest.
That 440 horsepower is what it takes to move a truck like this at all. These are immensely heavy vehicles. In its lightest form, the F-250 regular cab 4×2 with a gas-powered V-8 is 5,638 pounds. Throw in four-wheel drive and the potent Power Stroke diesel and that curb weight skyrockets by over half a ton to 6,885 pounds, making it one of the heaviest vehicles for sale in America. F-350 Crew Cab duallies tip the scales at just over four tons.
Of course, these trucks are built to do jobs, not look good in a swimsuit. Much of that weight is made up of intensely rugged materials meant to allow the F-250 to tote heavy plows, muscle feet of snow aside, and haul trailers that weigh up to 15,000 pounds.
That’s where you start to realize how amazingly powerful 925-lb.ft. of torque is. When you crack the throttle wide open on the Power Stroke diesel, it hits its peak at 1,800 rpm. From there, the power just flattens out at that peak, all the way up to the point where the engine just won’t spin any faster. It’ll do that either empty, or with a fully loaded car trailer in tow.
The engine mates to a TorqShift six-speed automatic transmission with a tow/haul mode and driver-selectable gear shifts.
The 6R140 was designed and built by Ford, and when it was introduced in the 2010 model year as the Power Stroke diesel’s dance partner, represented a leap forward in heavy duty transmission technology. The transmission features a cavernously deep first gear for quick starts even when towing, and a double overdrive for maximum fuel economy. A Line Drive PTO provision allows auxiliary equipment to run any time the engine is running. When it was introduced, Ford made hay with the transmission’s ultra-long, 150,000-mile service interval. Now a lighter-duty version of the same transmission partners with the 6.2-liter gas engine.
Ride and handling
It’s foolhardy to try and evaluate the ride and handling of a truck like this without two yards of crushed stone in the bed. Unloaded, the 2017 F-250 is stiff, and the shortest wheelbase of any cab configuration only amplifies the rigid ride. But the overall comfort of the truck, even in a lower trim like the XLT, goes a long way toward soaking up those bumps.
It’s hard to remember that pickups even came in regular cab configurations. In the 1980s, regular cabs were the bulk of pickups sold, but Super Cabs and Crew Cabs far outweigh the sales of three-seat F-Series trucks today.
Yes, there’s a place for a Super Cab or a Crew Cab on a jobsite, allowing crews of workers to arrive in one vehicle, saving gas and parking space, but the popularity of extended and crew cab pickups didn’t hit their stride until middle managers with families started purchasing full-size pickups as everyday commuter cars.
You can still get a small family in a regular cab, though.
For people who work their trucks, regular cab pickups have a lot of advantages. The greatest advantage is visibility. Even without the standard backup camera, the driver can easily see every corner of the F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab, which makes parking this behemoth a bit easier.
The other great advantage is maneuverability. In our configuration, the F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab is 231.8 inches long. The shortest Super Cab adds seven inches. Step up to a Crew Cab with the full, eight foot bed (the only choice if you’re actually planning on working with the truck) and the length grows by almost three feet to 266.2 inches — over 22 feet.
Ford doesn’t list the turning circle in the 2017 specs, but an older version from 2016 gives you an idea of the impact on maneuverability: An F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab 4×4 can pirouette in 46.1 feet. Crew Cabs need 56.5 feet.
When you’re plowing dozens of driveways in a raging snow storm, that’s hours worth of additional time and effort. The same holds true for backing up a trailer. The long-wheelbase trucks may be fine on the open road, but in tighter confines, you’ll appreciate the regular cab.
The F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab only comes in one box configuration: The full eight-foot bed. Super Cab and Crew Cab trucks offer the shorter 6 3/4-foot bed.
One spec a truck owner should be aware of is the 38.7-inch drop from an open tailgate to the ground. If you’re planning on throwing full trash barrels over the bed sides, we’d suggest saving up for Tommy John surgery, because your rotator cuffs won’t last long under that kind of abuse.
To make the bed accessible, Ford integrates a complicated, folding step with a grab rail inside the top of the tailgate. It works, but simpler options like Nissan’s foot-operated folding step, or just cutouts in the bumper like Chevrolet/GMC’s will work until the end of time.
Infotainment and controls
The Super Duty XLT pickups come with Sync Basic as standard equipment, but our test version came with the vastly improved Sync3 system, which makes smartphone integration a whole lot more elegant. The audio system in the XLT is fairly basic: an AM/FM Stereo with a Single-CD and MP3 Capability, with four speakers. (Super Cab and Crew Cabs get six speakers).
Our truck was light on the options, but it had a ton of potential was the Upfitter Switches, a full row of switches ready for auxiliary use. Ford has offered this option for a while, but previously, the switches were dash-mounted. Now they’re on the overhead console. It might just seem like a gimmick to make the F-250 seem more like a big rig, but because of the additional space afforded by the console, you get a full array of six switches, rather than four in earlier years.
The F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab XLT 4×4 owns the full-size truck market. If you’re looking for a truck to just haul the family around and bring trash to the dump on Saturdays, there are dozens of other trucks better suited to the task. But if you’re looking to do difficult work and truly need a heavy duty truck, you really don’t have to look much further than this truck. It’s not fancy, it just gets its job done masterfully.
The only two reservations: the wildly pricey MSRP (though trucks are typically offered with heavy incentives), and the gargantuan height, which makes ingress, egress and access to the bed challenging. Other than those two items — which are typical of full-size trucks no matter the manufacturer — this truck became an instant favorite.
2017 F-250 Super Duty Regular Cab XLT 4×4
Base price (F250 Super Duty Regular Cab XL, Gas engine): $39,540
Price as tested, $50,860 including destination charge (Note: We received a non-official Monroney sticker with the truck, which did not include a final price with options. We estimated the price using Ford’s configurator at Ford.com, but the price may not be exact.)
Tailgate Step: $375
Spray in Bedliner: $495
Electronic Shift on the Fly 4×4: $185
Upfitter Switches: $165
- Prodigious power
- Reasonably priced additional options
- Visibility and maneuverability of the Regular Cab
- Bed height
- Price, especially with the diesel
- We didn’t have a fully-loaded car trailer to adequately test towing