When it comes to pickup trucks, the old adage “Bigger is better” still dominates the segment. While light duty models like the Ford F-150, Ram 1500, and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 will represent the bulk of pickup truck sales, customers in need of a heavy duty workhorse will no doubt be drawn to their heavy duty counterparts. With their beefy hardware, massive size, and immense towing and hauling capabilities, these big beasts are always distinctive sights out on the open road. But can they still function as daily drivers while delivering the capability customers demand? or is this an imperfect balance? To find out, we got behind the wheel of the biggest of these road warriors, the 2017 F-450 Super Duty and put it through its paces.
The exterior styling of our tester does not hide the fact that this is a big beast of a truck. Unlike more work oriented F-450s, our King Ranch grade rig featured healthy amounts of chrome accents, as well as a sharp and handsome two tone white/brown paint job that made it standout in a crowd. But what makes an F-450 stand out from the slightly more mundane F-350? On the surface the 350 and the 450 share alot of the same traits, including the same bumper tow rating (21,000 lbs) and the same 14,000 GVWR figure. However, peel back the layers, and its what lies underneath that truly makes it standout.
The F-450 features larger brake rotors, 10-bolt wheels (versus the 350’s 8-bolt units,) as well as a wider front track. This helps fortify its towing credentials, while also further enhancing the big rig attitude that the F-450 projects. Unlike other Super Duty models which offer a diverse selection of cab and bed styles, all F-450’s are built as crew cab models which feature an eight foot long bed, and standard dual rear wheels. As a result, this beast measures in at nearly 22 ft long and has a girth of 96.0 inches. These dimensions help it loom large over rivals like the Chevrolet Silverado 3500, as well as the Ram 3500 Longhorn, while also allowing it to be quite the sight out on the freeway. However, its massive size also proved to be an occasional hindrance when commuting in town, especially parking, where our tester required a special parking space on the front lawn of a house to fully accommodate its bulk while me and my girlfriend attended the Armada State Fair. Thankfully, our tester came equipped with a 360 degree view backup camera which helped make maneuvering the truck onto its designated patch of real estate much easier.
This ample size also translates into a spacious cabin that not only offers luxury car grade levels of comfort, but also room to spare with arm room that can be measured in feet, and rear seats that are roomier than many other crew cabs in the segment. King Ranch models like our tester wield a base price of $73,950, which is the third highest base MSRP in the entire Ford lineup. In fact, only two other Ford products surpass this number, the $450,000 Ford GT supercar, and its range topping companion the $78,620 Platinum variant. While the western theme of the King Ranch’s cabin may take a bit of time for folks to get used to, these same buyers will immediately fall in love with the supple leather seats that adorn our tester. While they do lack good side support, these beefy thrones still deliver ample levels of long haul worthy comfort, and even come with built in seat massage. Other goodies include navigation, smartphone integration, power running boards, as well as a big dual-pane sunroof.
Visibility was good all around, with the chunky outside mirrors being valuable allies when it comes to making sure that the eight foot wide truck isn’t encroaching into the space of other vehicles in opposite lanes. Head and legroom are equally abundant, and the F-450 is one of the few offerings that allows its occupants to truly stretch out and relax, a key virtue when out on long road trips especially for family gatherings.
Speaking of long road trips, they also served as the perfect opportunity to test the F-450’s performance credentials. While heavy duty trucks will spend the majority of their time out on busy work sites, King Ranch models like our tester were designed to also appeal to buyers that either tow a large boat, or large fifth wheel trailers to distant camp sites. To find out how well it fared in this regard, we embarked on a three hour plus road trip from Metro Detroit to the tiny village of Wolverine, which is just shy of the Mackinac Bridge in northern Michigan. Our destination was picked by this writer’s equally large appetite, which craved a burger from The Thirsty Sturgeon (a popular stop for vacationers on their way north.) With 226 miles separating the village from our Michigan outpost, the trek north allowed us to get better acquainted with the F-450’s performance chops.
Our tester was motivated by the optional 6.7 liter turbocharged Powerstroke diesel V8 which produces a stout 440 horsepower, and trumps its domestic rivals by offering a segment leading 925 lb-ft of torque. Lucky buyers will be pleased to know that much of this twist is available from 1800 rpm, and take further comfort knowing that this lofty torque figure is 15 more than GM’s 6.6 liter diesel engine, and a whopping 25 more than the Cummins diesel in higher grade Ram models. With 4.5 tons of steel and aluminium to move around, the F-450 is not exactly a track darling, but the turbocharged oil burner does help produce a commendable 8.0 second 0 to 60 time, and allows the F-450 to effortlessly pass traffic out on the open road.
In addition to its smooth diesel engine, our tester also had an impressive degree of maneuverability and poise for a vehicle that makes its living on being big and massive. Wheras parking will always require a three point turn and careful maneuvering, freeway driving completely melts those initial drawbacks away, with our tester occasionally making us think that we were driving a vehicle much smaller than it really is. Unlike the Ram 3500 Limited we briefly tested, our unloaded F-450’s rear suspension had less bounce, and helped produce a smooth ride over most road imperfections with sharp divots briefly reminding drivers that they are driving a heavy duty truck. Eventually we arrived safely in Wolverine, and not only did the Thirsty Sturgeon have parking big enough for our tester to relax its fenders, but the food also exceeded our expectations, and was certainly worth the long trip. We even made it to Wolverine on one tank of diesel, though expect mileage to dip accordingly when it is fully loaded. For those that are curious, our tester achieved 14 mpg on average during its stay with us.
Pricing for the 2017 Ford F-450 Super Duty starts at $53,945 for the base XL model with XLT and Lariat models starting at $58,810 and $65,835 respectively. However for those willing to be friends with their local credit union, or the town lottery winner, the luxury factor truly begins with King Ranch models like our tester. A base price of $73,950 makes it on par with the Silverado 3500 High Country and the Ram 3500 Longhorn. Our tester wielded $8,810 in optional equipment which shot the price all the way up to $82,760 a figure that is slightly higher than a base F-450 Platinum.
When it comes down to it the 2017 Ford F-450 Super Duty still has what it takes to be a distinctive presence both on the open road, as well as at the local Ford dealer. While some will question the logic of owning something as massive as this beast of a truck, the lucky few that do will secretly know that the F-450 has plenty to bring to the table, while continuing to be the perfect end all solution for extreme hauling needs.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.