Review: 2020 Ford F-250 XLT

Review: 2020 Ford F-250 XLT

The Ford Super Duty Series of truck is an interesting beast for me; when it was announced that the Super Duty’s smaller F-150 sibling would be moving to all-aluminum construction, we knew it was probably only a matter of time before the bigger truck followed suit but even then, it was hard to believe. After all, these Super Dutys need to haul and tow all sorts of heavy loads; aluminum would never hold up, would it?

Of course, it pays to remember that with aluminum construction, you do save weight, which means you can haul larger loads and stay within the rules when it comes to maximum gross vehicle weight rating. So, in effect, done properly, aluminum construction could actually increase a truck’s capabilities. Lo and behold, in 2017, the Super Duty got the “military grade aluminum” treatment so not only was it light, but it was capable, too.

Take my F-250 XLT tester, for example. It is not the most haul-worthy truck in the line-up in that it gets a 6.2-litre gas V8 good for 385 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque as opposed to a Powerstroke diesel V8, which offers 475 hp and – wait for it – a claimed 1,050 lb-ft. There’s also a larger 7.3L gas V8 that splits the difference between the two. Still; it’s good for a 12,500 lb. tow capacity in 4×4 form, enough for a number of load types and all done without having to worry about the noise and uncouthness of a diesel.

Speaking of available configurations: the F-250 comes as either a Regular Cab, SuperCab or Crew Cab depending on trim (for its part, you can have your XLT with any of the three) and with either a 6 ¾- or 8-foot box and yes, you can get the big box with the big cab.

While my truck is a fairly basic model – only the XL sits below it in the line-up — I wouldn’t say that it necessarily looks the part. The chrome grille — so large you could use its reflective quality to check your teeth before stepping into an important meeting – and various accents on the mirrors, door handles, bumpers and running boards add a touch of classy toughness. The 20-inch chrome wheels do well to complement all of that.

It does all come at cost, however; the wheels are a $1,490 option that, added to the $1,350 you have to spend to get the rest of the chrome bits, means you’re dropping almost three grand to add some shine. Not that too many truck buyers will balk at that, but it pays to know that there are no free lunches here.

What doesn’t cost any extra, however, is my truck’s paint job which gets probably the best name in the pickup world today: blue jeans metallic. Yep, that’s about right and at the end of the day, I think the Ford may just be the best-looking truck in the segment. It has the necessary brashness of a big truck but without the ultra-swoll grille of a Ram 2500 or GMC Sierra HD and without the…well, everything, really, of the Chevrolet Silverado HD which has one heck of a confused mishmash for a front fascia.

What’s surprising is that my truck’s FX4 off-road package adds just $400 to the total because it comes with a pretty good selection of gear: transfer case and fuel tank skid plates, premium off-road shocks, hill-descent control and special graphics. That’s a lot of kit of what amounts to just $100 apiece, and it gives the F-250 a higher ride height and a whole lot of presence. Keep in mind, though, that the solid axle and leaf spring rear suspension means there is no trick access-height lowering going on here; you’ll need to make use of the F-250’s deployable step and handle if you want some help getting to the box. Which you most likely will do as the FX4 package does increase ride height and it ain’t like the F-250 is a lowrider to begin with.

The bigger cost when it comes to option packages on this truck is that of the “Lariat Ultimate Package,” which rings in at $5,675 and adds all sorts of creature comforts: navi system, moonroof, lane keep alert and tailgate step – that last one is important for reasons mentioned earlier. That’s all fine, but I do bemoan the lack of automatic climate control, heated seats or a heated steering wheel. The $2,990 Premium Package does provide heated front seats (as well as a few other bits and bobs including some chrome trim and reverse sensing system) but still no heated wheel or automatic climate control. That’s not great.

Added to which, the full-bore Lariat truck with its standard heated leather seats, B&O audio, automatic climate control and reverse sensing system is only going to run you about five grand more than an XL, and while that doesn’t come with navigation, you can always use Google maps via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto instead. Which, as it happens, you can also do on my tester through the intuitive and fast SYNC3 infotainment portal which continues to be one of my favourite interfaces in the biz thanks to its simplicity.

Of course, you could say that part of the charm when it comes to my truck is the fact that it’s a pretty interesting contrast; you’ve got the tech provided by SYNC3 infotainment, but it comes surrounded by more basic stuff like cloth seating (that, I must say, is somewhat fleet-spec in terms of colour) and the big, plastic panels all over the place. It’s unassuming and a bit retro, but right there in the present when it’s time to load a playlist or find your way to the distant relatives you only visit once a year. I like that.

And of course, it should come as no surprise that the Crew Cab is cavernous; without looking it up, it seems there’s at least as much room in the cabin here as there is in the first two rows of the Ford Expedition, and probably more. There’s also a flat bottom floor to make loading your gear that much easier and a rear underseat storage bin for your more valuable items.

While this may not be the most powerful engine Ford offers for this truck, it’s still a smooth powertrain that’s punchy enough and does well to get the most out of that engine and six-speed automatic transmission. Said transmission is

operated by a column-mounted shifter so there’s ample room between the front seats for four, count’em four, cupholders and two sizable storage bins; the item underneath the armrest appears deep enough for a small office’s worth of paperwork, although the shelf that sits atop the affair kind of gets in

the way. If this were my truck, I’d get rid of it for easier access to the main bin.

While no one is going to call a big, heavy Super Duty truck like this “fast,” the get up and go is pretty good and there’s even a bit of a V8 burble as you drop the hammer, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

In terms of ride quality: we mentioned the rear leaf springs before, so you’re going to get some bounce out of the back end when unladen, which should come as no surprise, of course. What I found a little more disconcerting, however, was just how light the rear end got under braking. Indeed, with off-road tuned shocks like this that provide a little more give, you’re going to get a little more front-end dive and so just a little more weight is going to come off that rear axle.

Keep the braking smooth, though, and you’ll iron most of that out. What you’ll be left with, then, is a properly capable truck that looks good, comes well-equipped inside and has room to spare in the cab. Throw in the lightweight aluminum construction, and it’s job done.