Ford announced this week that driver-assist technologies on its new 2017 F-Series Super Duty pickup will increase driver confidence and control, and in the process hinted that the pickup line itself could receive a boost in maximum towing capacity for the coming model year.
The addition of adaptive cruise control for 2017 uses Super Duty’s 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine brake to assist drivers as they take on steep grades, Ford says, while towing trailers weighing more than 31,500 pounds. The note of a 31,500 pound trailer weight is significant because that is about 300 pounds more than 2016 Super Duty’s published maximum tow rating.
While Ford has not yet released the official number for 2017, a 31,500- pound max tow capacity would put Super Duty at the top of its class and give what Ford Super Duty Marketing Manager Brian Rathsburg calls “the toughest, most capable Super Duty ever” another feather in its cap.
“With a host of driver-assist technologies, it is also the smartest Super Duty ever,” he adds.
In addition to adaptive cruise control, adaptive steering and Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) with trailer coverage are two more of the new class-exclusive features available to heavy-duty pickup truck drivers for the first time on Super Duty.
These 17 new class-exclusive features are available in the all-new Super Duty pickup:
Drivers can set cruise control at a comfortable following distance using Super Duty’s adaptive cruise control, which uses radar to measure the distance and speed of vehicles ahead. It automatically slows the truck and trailer to maintain a preset distance at speeds above 20 mph.
Craig Schmatz, Ford Super Duty chief engineer, says engineering sophistication enables adaptive cruise control to determine speed uphill and downhill with a trailer, adding Ford has torture-tested the technology in high elevations and on significant grades at places like Davis Dam in Arizona, Loveland Pass in Colorado and the mountain roads surrounding Beckley, West Virginia.
A number of systems work in tandem to enable adaptive cruise control, including powertrain control, trailer brake control and the anti-lock brake system. Speed is further controlled on descents with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke engine’s integrated engine brake, which is enabled with the push of a button. Extra engine braking power helps reduce wheel brake wear, especially on downhill grades.
Adaptive cruise control is optional on Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum Super Duty pickups, including the Ford F-450 Super Duty.
Adaptive steering helps give Super Duty drivers more confidence to maneuver on tight work sites and in parking lots.
Adaptive steering is a new generation of power steering technology that Ford says reduces the amount of steering input needed to change direction at low speeds. It also reduces sensitivity to steering input necessary at higher speeds and is designed to help improve heavy towing.
The technology changes the ratio between the driver’s actions at the steering wheel — the number of turns — and how much the front wheels turn. Vehicles without the technology have a fixed ratio, but with adaptive steering, the ratio continually changes with vehicle speed and is designed to optimize steering response. Housed entirely within the steering wheel, the precision-controlled actuator, an electric motor and gearing system, can add to or subtract from a driver’s inputs. Ford says that the result is a more connected, engaging driving experience at all speeds.
BLIS with trailer coverage uses radar hidden in the taillights to detect a vehicle entering a driver’s blind spot while driving or backing up, and alerts the driver with a yellow light in the sideview mirror. For Super Duty, BLIS can extend to the back of the trailer, helping to make the driver aware of vehicles entering the trailer’s blind spot.
“BLIS automatically knows when it’s attached to a trailer and is adjustable to the trailer’s length, based on the customer entering length in trailer setup screens,” Ford Truck Communication Manager Mike Levine told Hard Working Trucks.
“When the truck isn’t towing, BLIS shifts to monitoring the truck’s blind spot only.”
Another driver-assist technology, lane-departure warning, vibrates the steering wheel to mimic rumble strips when the driver begins to drift over a lane marker.
The 2017 Super Duty will be built at Kentucky Truck Plant. It goes on sale late this year.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason Cannon is the equipment editor of TLC sister publications Commercial Carrier Journal and Overdrive. Tom Quimby, associate editor of another sister publication, Hard Working Trucks, contributed to this report.