Leaving the bustling commercial district of Biddeford’s Route 11 West, the Velocity Blue Ford Super Duty, in off-roading Tremor edition, soon finds the selected route for more rural motoring — Route 35 to 5 and on to Route 160 as we meander toward Center Ossipee, N.H.
Carving along the mostly deserted and undulating terrain past expansive old farms, handsome stonewalls, as well as a mix of modern new homes in Limerick, Parsonfield and scenic Porter, the big 1-ton crew cab pickup is graceful, compliant and a silent companion.
On to the busier Route 25 into New Hampshire, the road widens and the pace quickens. You hardly notice as the brute force of the Ford’s 7.3-liter gas V-8 spins out a linear 475 pound/feet of torque managed by a new 10-speed automatic. The powertrain feels perfect for this 7,400-pound work-truck, which is under no stress this day.
After multiple stops in New Hampshire, it’s back across the border at Fryeburg, down to Bridgton and Naples and then a quick scoot over to Auburn on the snake-like Route 11 and other backroads that used to be a real driving chore in a truck like this.
No more. As owners of today’s late-model heavy-duty pickups can testify, these refined workhorses belie the sense that they are brutish, unpolished tools. Chassis engineers have ground the burrs off from punishing spring rates and stiff steering systems. Work limits have increased — peak payload capacity in the Super Duty is over 7,800 pounds, while a conventional hitch can pull up to 24,000-pounds of weighted trailer, when properly optioned. Add the diesel engine, with torque over 1,000 pound/feet, and peak towing rises to an incredible 37,000 pounds with a gooseneck/fifth-wheel layout.
And this is why you would want a Super Duty versus an F-150 — work capacity is exponentially greater, while the cabin is now as comfortable, supportive and human-friendly as the lighter F-series. Ford’s ability to massage both of these platforms — for work, pleasure and play — is the primary reason why it has been the top-selling pickup truck lineup for over 42-years, and the best-selling vehicle lineup in America, regardless of class, for well over a decade.
At Auburn, the Blue Oval Tremor gets pointed north on the turnpike; time to make some time heading for home. Here, the 430-hp, 7.3-liter V-8 barely hums as we pace other swift traffic on a similar path. The fuel gauge, up to this point reporting a credible 15 mpg for this winter day, slides back to 14 mpg overall once we return to rural Hancock County. In this regard, the Super Duty’s optional diesel engine (there is also a 6.2-liter gas V-8 with 385 hp) gains an approximate 5 mpg edge over its gas-powered siblings. However, the Powerstroke engine commands a healthy $10,000 premium for that extra torque plus beefier batteries, starters, cooling system, etc.
All day, and all week, the Tremor exhibited pleasing ride compliance despite the added efforts for enhanced off-road performance. The Tremor is 2 inches taller (definitely need those Raptor-like running boards) with its twin-gas shocks capably suppressing most surface interruptions. Steering feel, once a real bugaboo in solid axle Super Duty trucks, proved to be virtuous here, with direct feel and no-fiddling to maintain your path accuracy on the superslab.
In featured XLT trim ($47,635 base, $62,770 as shown), the Crew Cab offers a spacious cabin, front and rear, utilizing sensible ergonomics complemented by large knobs and dials with efficient touch points for other functions. There is no keyless ignition, and the 4WD setup still lacks an auto-AWD mode, but the heated cloth seats, dual-pane mirrors and versatile console with a column shifter are strong points for those drivers who really need a truck to be a truck.
Standard fare includes hill-start assist, pre-collision assist braking, lane keeping alert, FordPass Connect with 4G Wi-Fi hotspot, tilt/telescope steering wheel, trailer brake controller, trailer sway control, rear privacy glass, split-folding rear seat with flat load floor, blind-spot detection and rear cross-traffic system and much more.
Start checking the options boxes, 7.3-V-8, XLT premium trim, Tremor package ($3,975) power sliding rear window, stowable loading ramps, Pro Trailer back-up system ($1,600), bedliner, rear step, roof lamps, fifth wheel prep package, and you are soon at the aforementioned $62,000.
GM sold more full-size pickups (Chevy and GMC) than Ford last year — first time in several years. Yet the combination of quiet power, easy-to-drive dynamics, a friendly cabin, as well as class leading work capacities, will always be a draw for anyone looking for such a versatile tool. The Super Duty Tremor will definitely please Blue Oval fans.
Next week: Ram 1500 TRX