2023 Super Duty: First Impressions

I’m excited. Ford recently unveiled the new 2023 Super Duty. The new model appears to mostly be a cosmetic makeover of the existing model, and that’s fine. The 2021 Super Duty I own is a solid performer.

Ford makes great trucks, but so do Ram and GM. There is a lot of competition in the HD truck space, and in several areas, Ram and GM were pulling away. This new model has a few really interesting new innovations, but it is mostly about catching up in a few areas the Super Duty was falling short. Did they succeed? Until we all get to see them in person, its going to be hard to tell but there is a lot of good in what I’ve seen announced so far.

Before we start, I’m an RVer. I full time in a fifth wheel with my wife and kids. Consider my opinions through that lens. Your experience may very dramatically from mine, especially if your truck is part of your job. Some things I see as a plus, you might see as a negative. I look forward to a lively discussion in the comments.

Ford also made some interesting engine changes, but I’m going to cover that separately. There are os many changes, I thought it better to break these up. You can see my engine coverage here.

Let’s do a run-down of the changes that caught my eye.

Overall interior material improvements (Ram & GM)

The AT4 package I had is a step up from the Lariat. Its like a Platinum Tremor, if Ford made one. The AT4 interior was nicer than my current Ford Lariat. Especially at the higher trim levels, Ram is even nicer. The interior feel is hard to judge from pictures, but it sure looks like Ford moved in the right direction.

I don’t have any major issue with the interior in my current truck, other than the cup holders being noisy. I hope these upgrades don’t upgrade the price.

New Seats from the F-150

Of all the vehicle parts I need to interact with, the seat is the most important to me. I’m going to be spending hours at a time in the seat, it needs to be comfortable. I’m very happy with the seats in my 2021 and I don’t think they needed to make a change, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

I had a GMC AT4 HD and it has really cool-looking seats, especially compared to the boring black leather of my Lariat. I don’t spend much time looking at my seats, though. I sit in them. The Ford seats are some of the most comfortable I’ve owned in any vehicle. I’ve haven’t spent long hours in Ram seats, but from that time and I have sat in them, I’d guess they are great for long drives too.

The GMC seats pinched my thighs and put my legs to sleep. I’ve sat in almost every iteration of the GMC and Chevy seats, and they all suffer from a poor design that doesn’t allow for enough cushion above the frame.

I’m 6’3” 230 pounds with a 35” waist. Maybe smaller people don’t have a problem, but I hate the GM seat. I can’t say enough bad things about it. I’m convinced no one at GM sat in that thing before they committed to it.

The 2023 Super Duty has new seats. Until I get a chance to sit in one, I can’t be sure they’re an improvement, but they definitely look comfy. They appear to be the same as what is in the current F-150. The lay flat feature seems a little gimmicky, but my kids like to poke me and tell me I fell asleep. Maybe I can get an afternoon nap in my truck.

Head up display (GM)

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With all the other things I’m trying to pay attention to while towing, I really liked having my speed projected on the windshield of the AT4. It also showed the next turn from the navigation system, which is much better than having to peer over at the center of the dash. The Ford implementation looks roughly the same as GM’s, and I think that is just fine. I’m a little worried about the cost on this feature and its availability in lower packages.

Screen with multitasking (Ram)

In higher models, the current Ram screen is large, tall, and can display two different… lets say apps for lack of a better term… it can display two apps stacked vertically. Ram also uses a higher resolution, the screen looks much crisper. In comparison, my screen looks like a toy.

I kinda don’t feel the big screen is a major feature because I look out the window when I’m driving. I feel the new head up display is more important, but Ford did make the screen big enough to display two apps side-by-side. Right now, I can’t make radio changes without leaving my Google Maps directions. It looks like that is solved with this bigger screen. Again, I think the HUD is going to show me the next turn, so its maybe not that big of a deal.

Screen shows side camera when turn signal is on (GM)

Speaking of the screen, it appear that Ford borrowed another idea from GM (this is going to be a recurring theme). From what I saw in the videos they showed, I think the screen will display camera views form the mirrors when using the turn signal. My AT4 did this when the trailer was attached and it was a nice feature. Its faster for your eyes to find the center screen than the far mirror, and sometimes your front passenger leans forward at the wrong time.

Blindspot monitoring for trailer (GM)

Another GM feature is blindspot monitoring while towing. With my current truck, a little light in my side mirror turns on if there is a vehicle on that side. Very helpful when you’re looking to change lanes. However, that feature turns off when towing. Somehow, GM managed to make it work.

The new tech docs on the Super Duty mention blindspot monitoring that covers the trailer, but refer to a sensor that has to be placed on the trailer. My big question is, will these sensor require wiring? I think I would prefer sensors that transmitted to the truck wirelessly so that I didn’t have another cable to connect.

TPMS sensors are wireless, but if their signal is a little delayed, its usually not a major problem. With blindspot monitoring, that signal needs to be reliable and real-time. For this reason I’m going to guess they went wired, but we’ll see.

TPMS for trailer

Speaking of TPMS systems, Ford is going to have trailer tire sensors that tie into your dash. My current truck will display pressures for my truck tires, but I have a second screen mounted to the dash for the trailer tires. Being able to eliminate that screen and remembering to charge it and turn it on is a minor win.

If you tow the same trailer with multiple trucks, having a separate portable system is probably a better option.

Navigation with trailer routing

I’m getting quite annoyed with Google Maps. I pick a route because I’m pulling a trailer and I don’t want to go on side roads, but when we hit even mild traffic, Google keeps trying to get me to change.

I could buy an RV GPS unit, but I don’t want to add another screen to block my view. Plus, with CarPlay, Google Maps displays on the main screen and it plays through the truck speakers.

I didn’t order navigation on my current truck because it didn’t offer anything I wasn’t already getting from Google Maps. When you add in the ability to route based on trailer size plus being able to display the next turn on the HUD, built in navigation just might be worth it. Unfortunately, we don’t know how well it works. Since dealers have these truck sold before they even hit the lot, its a gamble.

Backup sensors and camera with the tailgate down

This one is cool, even if just because it stops the dings and warning messages.

I’m going to guess this feature is going to only be on Lariat and up. Work trucks tend to be XL and XLT packages. I don’t think people that tow gooseneck trailers for a living really need this one anyways.

This feature seems to be aimed at RV owners like me and I love it.

Auto up & down tailgate

This one is might have a broader appeal than the down tailgate camera, but I think its a big quality of life plus for people with fifth wheels. I hop in the truck to get hooked up and then remember the tailgate is up. With this feature, I can drop the tailgate from the cab. When I get to my destination, I can disconnect the trailer and pull up the tailgate from the cab as well.

Our AT4 had the ability to only open the tailgate and it was also very helpful when coming out of a store.

Onboard scales (Lightning)

Onboard scales is a big question mark for me. This feature came from the electric F-150 Lightning. As I understand it, its basically a distance sensor. As the truck gets closer to the ground, the more weight it must be holding. If I have this wrong, please let everyone know in the comments because the rest of this won’t make sense if I’m wrong.

My issue with this system is that it relies on a knowable compression of the suspension system compared to the load weight. As the truck gets older and I lose a little spring from the leaf springs, won’t it give me inaccurate numbers? What if I add airbags or change my shocks? Hopefully, there is an easy way to calibrate this system.

2kW “generator”

The 2kW Onboard Pro Power costs $995 on the F-150. As I understand it, this is an inverter just like the 2kW inverter I have on my trailer.

The generator feature on the 150s has made it to the big trucks. I think this will be popular with both the RV crowd and contractors, eliminating both a generator and gas can from their beds. I would guess 2,000 watts would be sufficient for a lot of contractors, especially now that so many tools are cordless. I think a lot of RVers are going to wish it was a little bigger.

If I ordered a truck today, I don’t know if I would add this on. I’m pretty sure I could get one A/C running on 2kW if I added a soft start, but then I need to idle my big truck to do it. Not only does that mean added wear on a very expensive truck, it also means if my wife goes somewhere with the truck, she’s taking the power source with her.

Alternatively, I could buy an inverter generator with comparable output for around $600. I already have 660 watts of solar on the roof of my trailer. If I upgraded the RV inverter to one that can mix battery and generator power, I could do a lot with a small generator.

In cooler temps, I think Pro Power inverter will work well with an RV if you don’t need it often. If you want to run A/Cs in summer, you probably want a separate unit.

Bed side and bumper steps (GM)

The last big new feature is the bed side and bumper steps, blatantly stolen from GM but I don’t care. Ram needs to do it too. In both cases, these steps are taking up otherwise unused space. They are also extremely useful.

The side step is great for reaching the fifth wheel or gooseneck hookup. You can also access items stored against the cab. People with behind-the-cab toolboxes will appreciate this too.

The bumpers on HD trucks are so high, I’m relatively tall and its a stretch for me. Putting a step in the bumper makes it just a few inches easier to step up. I don’t think this step is nearly as important as the side step, but it so easy for manufacturers to add.

I have a flip down step under the bumper that is a simple aftermarket addition and I use it all the time. I would probably add it again even with the bumper step. It’s lower to the ground. Even being tall, the bumper step is a little high.

I also have the step built into the tailgate. It was a total waste of money. Not only does it make the tailgate heavy, but I rarely use it. Maybe bumper pull people use it more, but I can’t store much in my bed with the fifth wheel. Its so much faster to flip down the corner step for the few things I need to get.

New face

For the most part, the exterior hasn’t changed much, with two exceptions, the grill and the side badges.

The front grill is a blatant rip off of GMC. I saw it immediately when those first spy photos hit the webs. The front of this truck looks like the GMC van straight out of the 80s that Mr. T drove on the A-Team and I’m here for it. I’m half tempted to switch to a bumper pull so I can get this thing, add a bed cap to mimic the van shape, and add a spoiler on top. I pity the fool that thinks my 7.3L gasser can’t make it up hills!

Anything Missing?

I’m sure there are quite a few new small changes that we haven’t heard about yet. The one I’m still hopeful for is a new fifth wheel mounting location. As an RVer, this truck is my vehicle. Being able to park at a store or fit in a drive-thru are necessities, and having a short bed helps. It would be great if I could get a little better clearance with that shorter bed.

GM mounts their puck system a couple of inches further back than Ford and Ram. This makes it a little easier to reach while setting up and also provides a little more clearance on standard beds that allows for slightly tighter turns. It would be nice to find out Ford did this too.

If I could have just one more wish, it would be more payload. It appears the base truck here is unchanged, so I doubt it, but one can hope. Maybe the online build tool will have a payload estimator this time so at least I’ll know what I’m ordering.

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