This year Ford is launching the first major revamp of its Super Duty pickup line since 1999. The company is very proud of the trucks’ massive cargo capacity, and an objectively cool new cupholder design it’s patenting. It’s a shame Ford will never share data that’s more relevant to customers, like fuel economy figures. They don’t release those figures and neither do any competing automakers—and that’s because the government doesn’t make them.
(Full disclosure: Ford flew me to Colorado and provided lodging and food for about 36 hours so I’d have the opportunity to test their product.)
I recently spent half a day with the 2017 Ford F-250, F-350 and F-450 pickup trucks playing and pulling at altitude outside Denver, Colorado. The short story is that they feel powerful, well built and the driver-aid technology on the options list is truly impressive. And my God, did Ford tout those cupholders!
I’ll tell you what I would have loved to share—the Super Duty’s fuel economy ratings. I didn’t get them though, despite my pleading and stamping and eventual throwing of the shrimp table.
The answer to “how much fuel does the truck use” ranged from the flat “we don’t have that information for you guys” to the slicker but extremely disingenuous “it’d hardly be relevant since all our customers’ usage and needs are unique.”
But fuel economy for heavy-duty trucks is relevant. And it’s the one metric Ford and other automakers refuse to provide to consumers.
Why not? Because trucks the size of the F-250 and up (and Chevy Silverado 2500 and up, Ram 2500 and up, and now also the Nissan Titan XD) are classified in a different bracket than trucks like the half-ton F-150, Silverado 1500, Ram 1500, Tundra and Titan.
This is based on the maximum weight the trucks are “rated” to carry. Those ratings, according to some engineers we talked to, come from the automakers. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what that means for now, but if you want a little more detail on which trucks are rated in what class, check out our in-depth guide.
On any truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 8,500 pounds—meaning the manufacturer certifies the total weight of the truck and its cargo can be up to 8,500 pounds—said manufacturer does not have to submit fuel economy estimates to the EPA or even put them on a window sticker. Automakers don’t publish fuel economy ratings for three-quarter ton and larger pickup trucks because they don’t have to. And though they certainly could if they wanted to, I’ve yet to see a company advertise so much as an optimistic MPG estimate on a heavy-duty pickup.
I hypothesize this is because Class 3 trucks like the Super Duty have generally been intended for vocational use. (A request for clarification from the EPA wasn’t returned as of publication time.) Business-to-business regulations tend to be less protective than business-to-consumer, and that attitude prevailed when the decision was made as to whether or not these trucks would need an MPG figure on the window sticker.
Unable to learn the “official” fuel economy ratings for the new Super Duty, I decided to figure it out for myself.
Unfortunately my “real-world” results on the trucks’ MPG gauges weren’t much more helpful. A handful of 15-mile laps is not enough of a sample to draw an accurate conclusion. With that caveat in mind, I will say the best figure I saw on a dashboard was about 14 MPG after 20 miles in an F-250 single cab 4WD diesel.
So far the only real hint we have about the 2017 Ford Super Duty’s rate of consumption is the new optional 48-gallon fuel tank. Forty-eight gallons. That’s like, 350 pounds of diesel.
Now on the same PowerPoint slide where we learned the Super Duty could be optioned with a fuel tank big enough to breed orcas in, we were shown a map graphic with a line tracing the route between Denver, Colorado to Chicago, Illinois.
We were left to infer that was the range the truck could travel without refueling. So let’s break it down: Google Maps calls it 1,003 miles. Divide that by 48 gallons, it translates to 20.895; we’ll call it 21 MPG.
That sounds really impressive, right? Especially since we’re talking about a 6.7-liter V8 engine in a three-quarter ton work truck, and I barely squeezed 23.5 MPG out of the 2.7-liter V6 in a 2015 F-150 half-ton.
Of course, we don’t have any other figures to compare it to in the heavy-duty segment because no automakers publish fuel economy estimates for trucks this size.
The Ford Trucks marketing tagline is “We own work.” And what Ford says about the 2017 Super Duty is that it’s the “toughest, smartest, most capable” truck ever. These are the attributes vocational truck buyers value most in their equipment, Ford’s comms people insist. But they left out a big one: “operational cost.”
You can talk about reliability saving hypothetical downtime (“time is money” and all that) and resale value easing cost of ownership over a vehicle’s lifetime, but the cost of ownership that everybody with one of these trucks is going to see and feel every single week is how much they’re paying at the pump.
Mulch isn’t getting heavier. Horses aren’t getting fatter. The extreme maximum-capacity tow and payload ratings Ford’s waving as “Best In Class” nebulously apply to a very specific configuration of the vehicle that very few customers will actually buy. My point is, those specs don’t matter.
The ultra-luxurious $80,000 F-450 I saw at Ford’s event wasn’t made for the blue-collar construction worker, it’s made to be a “luxury car with a pickup box.” Actually, somebody with a Ford badge fed me that exact phrase.
These trucks are being marketed as regular, multipurpose vehicles. We should be forcing them to report the same ownership-cost estimates every other regular car is obligated to present. At least then we’d have a useful metric to pull out of the ad copy.