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Testing Ford’s Brawny, Big-Brained Super Duty

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Video produced by John V. Turner

We travel to the Sonoran Desert to test Ford’s tech-savvy, powerful 2020 Super Duty lineup.

The boat was a 21-foot Mako; a sun-faded Johnson 70 sat on her transom. The truck—a long-bed Ford F100 Ranger with bench seat and 3-on-the-three manual trans—was borrowed from a nearby boatyard where I worked, as was the two-axle trailer. Both boat and truck were remarkable, loved workhorses in their own right. But when the boat had to be hauled, or it was decided the Mako was to splash elsewhere for a day or so of exploring, the problems and stress began.

I had thought I understood the generally accepted hand signals, along with the shouts and whistles that go along with backing trailers down as both driver and director (it was always a two-person affair). But the guy at the boatyard and his oddball shuffle steps and hollers veered wildly from my friend’s set of visual and aural instructions. My buddy’s father, a mason, was the easiest to follow but he was also a hothead. Each seemed to speak a different language and the results were often similar: many failed attempts, trailer jackknifed, expletives hurled back and forth along with blame. A lot of friendships (and marriages) meet their maker at the boat launch.

VIDEO: Testing Ford's Pro Trailer Backup Assist

It’s been a long while since I had to tow a boat and since that time both outboards and towable boats have significantly increased in size. Today one regularly sees vessels with two, three, even four outboards towed hither and yon on a custom trailer adding up to weights exceeding 15,000 pounds. And on many occasions, it’s not a professional behind the wheel of a behemoth, converted big rig but the boat owner or captain in the driver’s seat of a domestic pick-up.

Just like in the marine industry, technology has been infused in a way to make things, in nearly all cases, better. We’ve seen joystick controls and self-docking take a big bite out of one of the most stressful aspects of boating—both are excellent tools and continue to be refined.

The author takes in the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert

The author takes in the grandeur of the Sonoran Desert

For our on-road counterparts, tech is also a big player and a major component of their offerings. It’s the brawny and brainy vehicles of Ford’s Super Duty lineup that recently brought us to the Sonoran Desert about 70 miles outside Phoenix, Arizona. We came to road-test their towing capacity matched to a suite of technological options, from Pro Trailer Backup Assist combined with Trailer Reverse Guidance—and up to seven camera angles available at the console touchscreen—to make all aspects of trailering a stress-free endeavor. With best-in-class horsepower and torque in both gas and diesel powerplants and intuitive, 10-speed transmissions, we put the tech to the test in a myriad of towing situations and came away impressed.

And then we stayed for the exhilarating, off-road course in those same Super Duty pickups, treated with Ford’s new Tremor package. Stay tuned here and in the next issue of Outboard for more on our experience in the desert with Ford and the Super Duty lineup; it’s light years away from that beloved F-100 and its sagging bench seat.