Heavy Duty Pickup Truck Battle Deepens

Most consumers in the market for a pickup truck have no need for the heavy duty variety, the type of truck offering a turbo-diesel engine and, in some cases, dual rear wheels. However, construction crews and sport enthusiasts who bring six men to a job site or who regularly pull a large boat or camper can benefit from these larger and heavier trucks.

Raw Power

Turbo-diesels offer owners optimum levels of horsepower and torque, making it easier to haul heavy loads while providing decent fuel economy. All three American pickup truck manufacturers offer them: General Motors sells the Chevrolet Silverado 3500 and GMC Sierra HD, Ford offers the Ford Super Duty and Chrysler has the (Dodge) Ram 3500. Each truck line is diesel-powered, with Ford and GM building its diesels in-house. Dodge procures its engine from Cummins, Inc., the Columbus, Ind. engine and power generator builder.

The Ford and GM diesel engines are V-8s while the Ram features an inline-six. Ram is not a disadvantage as that engine is a smaller version of powerful Cummins engines used in construction grade equipment. The displacement for all three engines is about the same, with Ford and Ram at 6.7-liters and GM at 6.6-liters.

Diesel Battle

A battle for customers began to heat up in the second half of 2010 when Ford announced that the company had tweaked its Power Stroke engine to produce more horsepower and torque via a software upgrade. Suddenly, the Ford engine replaced GM’s engine as the most powerful engine on the market. Ford’s diesel is now rated at 400 horsepower and 800 lb.-ft. of torque, edging out Chevrolet and GMC as its engine is rated at 397 horsepower and 765 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Ram series offers 350 horsepower and 610 lb.-ft. of torque and, on the surface, seems to be operating a significant disadvantage to its chief rivals. However, that disadvantage fades with the introduction of a high output version of its Cummins diesel, an engine option available as of the second quarter of 2011.

Torque Leaders

When equipped with the high output turbo-diesel and paired with a six-speed automatic transmission, the torque rating on the Ram truck jumps to 800, the same rating offered by Ford. Horsepower remains the same with the high output engine, however the new engine calibration provides an extra 40 horsepower when cruising down the highway. That’s advantageous for the driver who is pulling a big load and needs to maintain enough power always.

Ram has two other advantages over its competitors. Maximum towing capacity is a whopping 22,700 pounds, the highest in the segment and the gross combined weight rating is 30,000 pounds. It is also the only heavy duty diesel pickup truck that does not require diesel exhaust fluid, a convenience likely to be appreciated by drivers.

Expanded Battle?

Will GM attempt to match Ford and Ram or will it be content with following the pack leaders? Likely, we’ll see this battle expand, perhaps to eventually include the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan, neither of which offer diesel options with their top of the line pickup trucks.

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