Ford introduces aluminum 2017 Super Duty pickup

24 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty Sheds 350 Lbs. With Its Aluminum Body.

Ford’s 2016 F-250, F-350 and F-450 trucks sit on a new high-strength steel frame and have aluminum body panels. Ford is doubling down on the use of aluminum-bodied vehicles with the unveiling of the 2017 F-Series Super Duty pickup planned for later today at the State Fair of Texas.When Ford pulled the wraps off its aluminum-intensive 2015 F-150 at the 2014 Detroit auto show, the assembled crowd paused and then, almost in unison, whispered, “Huh.

It marks the first time that the Super Duty body uses military-grade aluminum alloy, which Ford claims is more dent- and ding-resistant than the outgoing steel body and is not subject to red rust corrosion. It’s the first major update since the Super Duty’s introduction in 1999, and Ford executives say it’s more revolutionary than the smaller F-150’s switch to aluminum in 2015. “It’s the leader in the market,” said Craig Schmatz, Super Duty’s chief engineer. “It was a huge opportunity to take a significant step forward.” Through the first six months of the year, Super Duty sales represented 43 percent of the heavy-duty segment.

For quite some time it was rumored that the new Super Duty would take advantage of the same light-weighting strategy the half-ton truck pulled off by making all of its body panels aluminum instead of steel. The fully boxed frame consists of more than 95-percent high-strength steel, making it up to 24 times stiffer than the previous frame, enabling the most towing and hauling capacity ever delivered by Super Duty.

The current version includes best-in-class horsepower, fuel economy and towing, but Doug Scott, Ford’s truck marketing manager, said the team needed to “improve the productivity of the Super Duty.” The truck is 350 pounds lighter than the current steel-body truck. Ford took a risk when it converted the body and bed of the popular F-150 to aluminum, which required taking two assembly plants down for months and which dented sales in the final months of 2014 and well into this year as inventories of the new model slowly built up. All 2017 Super Dutys use the exact same cabs — crew, extended and regular — the F-150 uses, which means the configurations offer more interior volume and a much flatter rear floor when compared to the current generation. Kentucky Truck has a new body shop that is almost complete and will make it easier to ramp up the new truck when production starts in the fall of 2016 as the outgoing model is phased out.

The aluminum body saves 350 lbs.—less than the switch made on the F-150 trucks, which Ford says was due to the choice of bulking up other components, from the steel frame to the rear axles. As many as seven cameras help drivers see more angles and monitor conditions around the truck, while a center high-mounted stop lamp camera gives visibility into the cargo box.

Actual numbers to go with that capability claim will be part of the slow trickle of information dripped out between now and the start of production in fall 2016. Although the fascia retains the same blocky, almost-futuristic theme, Ford took the opportunity to move some things around and to fully commit to the LED craze. Ringed by LED driving lights, the quad-beam headlamps are themselves lit by LEDs and have been pulled forward, leaving only the turn indicators to sweep back into the fenders. The grille is a hybridization of previous Ford-truck styling efforts, utilizing the two-bar main graphic, now dotted with perforations in some versions. As near as we can calculate, switching to aluminum for all the body materials for the 2017 Super Duty saved somewhere in the neighborhood of 700 pounds, depending on configuration.

The truck includes Ford’s latest technology, including the Sync 3 infotainment system, seven cameras that can help with trailering, and safety features like brake assist, blind spot information and lane departure warning. According to Ford, the weight savings brought in by the aluminum construction meant that they could beef up the axles, drive-line, suspension and add a stronger transfer case. Knowing that HD truck buyers always want more capacity, capability and towing, Ford engineers took advantage of those weight savings and upgraded the frame and driveline, beefing up the drive shafts, axles and four-wheel-drive transfer case.

This is the first all-new cab for the truck that was first introduced 17 years ago, said Dennis Slevin, vehicle engineering manager, and the first truck in the segment to have an all-aluminum cab. The lighter material allowed engineers to introduce sturdier parts such as larger axles, brakes and hitches, stronger driveline and transfer cases — and still reduce overall weight by up to 350 pounds, Slevin said. Nor did it specify by how much towing capacity had increased over its current high of 31,200 lbs.; in recent years the Detroit automakers have played games over such numbers, tweaking engine figures until the last possible minute to win the title of toughest tow rig. The new frames will be different for F-250 and F-350 pickup trucks, offering a boxed frame from tip to tailgate with an extra cross-member under the bed for more confident fifth-wheel or gooseneck towing. Chassis-cab models (F-350, F-450 and F-550) will have a flat, thick C-channel frame starting at the back of the cab and running the full length of the back end of the truck.

SuperCab and Crew Cab owners will be pleased to find a flat floor in the second row, the better to handle whatever cargo they might wish to stuff back there. The base-level engine is the 6.2-liter V-8, followed by the bigger 6.8-liter V-10, with the 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbo-diesel finishing out the lineup.

All transmissions are the same in-house-designed 6R140 TorqShift except for F-250s with the V-8 engine; they will get the all-new six-speed TorqShift-G transmission that is reported to deliver significant fuel economy improvements for the three-quarter-ton pickup. It can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/FordTrucks and there will be simultaneous events at the world headquarters in Dearborn as well as the Irvine design studio in California, said Brian Rathsburg, Super Duty marketing manager. It uses the cameras in the side mirrors (part of the 360-degree view system) to look back behind the truck, so that the system still functions with a trailer attached. Up to seven cameras are available to help drivers keep an eye on their surroundings, including a 360-degree bird’s-eye view provided by four HD cameras. You can see the resemblance to the F-150 in the Super Duty’s styling, but lead designer Gordon Plato says the heavy duty version has more of a horizontal theme in contrast to the vertical lines of the half-ton.

Out back, a remote tailgate lock and release function is integrated into the key fob, and dampers gently drop the tailgate into the full open position. Hmm… There are two transmissions available: a new “TorqShift-G” 6-speed automatic transmission for the F-250 and the venerable TorqShift® Heavy-Duty 6-speed SelectShift automatic transmission for the larger Super Duty trucks.

Although Ford didn’t reveal any specific horsepower, torque, or towing figures, it did offer this rather ambiguous tidbit: “Super Duty customers will be able to tow and haul more than ever before.” Ford also touts “heavier-duty four-wheel-drive components, driveline, axles, and towing hardware” but didn’t release any details on those changes. Aside from the leap from steel to aluminum bodywork, it seems the 2017 Ford Super Duty strays very little from the formula with which it has made so much hay: Give a highly capable vehicle a square-jawed, burly exterior and offer a luxury-level interior, and they will come. There are 16 segment-first new features – from LED lighting to adaptive cruise control – that assist Super Duty drivers to make driving and work situations easier and more comfortable. Adaptive steering provides for increased confidence to help make towing the heaviest of loads easier and brings greater ease to navigating job sites and parking lots – with or without a trailer. The technology reduces the amount of steering input needed to change direction at low speed, while reducing sensitivity to steering input at higher speeds.

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