By on August 11, 2017

2018 Ram 3500 Cummins towing, Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Healthy competition lowers the price of consumer goods, the economists tell us, but it also raises torque ratings. Nowhere is this more apparent than among the Detroit Three automakers, with Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles locking horns, crossing swords (keep it clean…), and firing arrows at each other in a heavy-duty pickup war that’s only heated up in recent years.

It comes down to stump-pulling, gravel-hauling, trailer-towing twist. In 2015, the Ram 3500’s 6.7-liter Cummins inline-six turbodiesel topped the Ford F-350 SuperDuty’s 6.7-liter turbodiesel V8 by 5 lb-ft of torque — 865 to Ford’s 860. This clearly couldn’t stand, so for 2017 Ford upgraded the Power Stroke’s torque rating to 925 lb-ft, kiboshing Ram’s 2016 attempt to stay ahead with a 900 lb-ft rating.

With 2017 came further aggressions. This year saw GM pulling ahead to second place with its 6.6-liter Duramax V8, now upgraded to 910 lb-ft, knocking Ram down to third place.

Well, FCA’s having none of it. Just a day after Ford’s unveiling of a newly powerful second-generation 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 and 5.0-liter V8, Ram fires this salvo: a Cummins with more grunt than any other rival.

Announced this morning, the Cummins-equipped 2018 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty again tops Ford’s best effort by 5 lb-ft, now making 930 lb-ft. Horsepower remains unchanged at 385, less than Ford’s 440 and GM’s 445.

FCA claims the extra twist allows owners of the largest fifth-wheel trailers the option of avoiding Class 4 or 5 vehicles for tow duty. Using a new hitch design engineered by Ram, the automaker promises 30,000 pounds of fifth-wheel towing ability. In contrast, the Ford F-350’s fifth-wheel hitch can only handle a maximum of 27,500 pounds. A GMC Sierra 3500 HD tops out at 22,700 pounds.

Using a gooseneck or conventional hitch, the diesel HD Ram’s maximum trailer weight ratings stand at 31,210 pounds and 20,000 pounds, respectively. Sadly for FCA, Ford’s F-350 beats these numbers by a hair.

FCA achieves the extra 30 lb-ft of torque by way of more air and more fuel arriving in the straight-six’s combustion chambers at the same time. Go figure. Cummins ratcheted up the engine’s boost limits by way of a variable geometry turbocharger, increasing the fuel flow rate at the same time.

Not everything is known yet about this engine, so we’ll assume a carryover of the six-speed Aisin automatic. Whether fuel economy changes at all remains unknown, though buyers of tow trucks for ultra-heavy trailers usually don’t put gas mileage at the top of their list of concerns.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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47 Comments on “Another Flare-up in the Great Torque War: Ram 3500 Takes the Lead...”


  • avatar
    RS

    Who will have 1000 ft/lbs first? There must be other components that need part of these upgrades as well. New transmissions are probably next.

    • 0 avatar
      Ko1

      From what I’m seeing so far, the rear tires have become the sacrificial weak link. 5/32nds difference between the front and rear after only 10,000 km on the factory tires is pretty common. Of course, the owners all claim that they don’t even drive the truck hard only to peel out of our lot after the service like they’re driving a sports car.

      You need/want the big man’s truck, you pay the big man’s bills.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    So for how long can the engine make the full 930 lb-ft without overheating?

    I don’t think a rating on a truck engine should be valid unless the engine can run indefinitely at rated torque or power, at low speed, in a black truck on a hundred-degree day. Heavy truck/bus engine ratings are like that. These are not.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Probably not very long, but still longer than you can floor it on a public road without killing yourself.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        With a 31klb gooseneck trailer, going uphill, you can stay near the torque peak for pretty long without being in any danger of going too fast.

        I’d be curious to see continuous EGT readings for a trip up to the Eisenhower Tunnel, towing that kind of trailer, on a hundred-degree day. A Cummins ISX pulling 105500 lbs. wouldn’t break a sweat.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          “With a 31klb gooseneck trailer, going uphill, you can stay near the torque peak for pretty long without being in any danger of going too fast.”

          You may not run into the governor but you’ll surely run out of hill.

        • 0 avatar
          No Nickname Required

          Dal, I’m curious if you’ve ever pulled 105500 lbs up the mountain to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Because my instincts are telling me that you would need a pretty seriously hopped up ISX to be able to do that without breaking a sweat. Sure, a stock ISX could do it without cooking itself, because the computer would derate to keep things cool. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t believe it would be able to maintain the speed limit up that mountain.

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            No way could it maintain the speed limit. All I’m saying is that it wouldn’t have any thermal issues, ever.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      Why would you think it can’t make that torque for very long? Now that the tow ratings are all SAE certified testing I’d think it should be fine. The difference between 900 and 930 is pretty small really and they put on a different turbo. TFL trucks tested the 900lb version up to the Eisenhower Tunnel and temps weren’t an issue and if anything is going to blow one up, that’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      The answer is at least up the Davis Dam Grade on Arizona State Route 68 while pulling the stated load. This is what’s required in order to achieve the SAE J2807 rating. That’s on a 100 degree F day with A/C set to max.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        SAE J2807 just says you have to be able to make it up the grade once without check engine lights, driver warnings, loss of coolant, or component failures. It doesn’t require engine temperature to stay within normal operating range or provide any guarantee that the engine is operating sustainably while the truck is climbing the grade.

        I would like to see the requirement be that the engine be able to operate normally in all thermal parameters, indefinitely, in very hot ambient air, while producing max rated torque. And I think such a rating for this class of engine is probably pretty close to where Ford rates the 6.7L Power Stroke when installed in the F-650 and F-750: 675 lb-ft, 275 hp.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          That route was selected by the SAE for the reasons you stated. It’s pretty much the most grueling test of a truck. If it’s not setting overtemp DTCs and not de-rating, then it’s not overheating. If it can do that, you can be reasonably assured that you won’t encounter any issues.

          Max torque under harsher and longer conditions doesn’t really exist, so why insist on testing beyond it?

          • 0 avatar
            dal20402

            There’s always a harsher application somewhere.

            The transit agency I used to work for tried twice, seduced by fuel economy promises and low purchase price, to buy minibuses based on Ford E-series chassis with the famous 7.3/E4OD combo. Both times, the buses were hobbled by constant powertrain issues, and both fleets lasted less than five years in service (compare with a normal bus expectation of 12-15 years). The frequent starts and stops with little engine airflow cooked engine components, and the transmission couldn’t handle them either.

            I’d have a lot more confidence in an engine with a rating that was lower but sustainable under the harshest possible conditions (as opposed to the harshest conditions someone judged likely, which is what J2807 is).

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            I’d say bus duty in the city in hot weather is a pretty harsh test – but it is a very different test than towing up a hill. It isn’t going to be using anywhere near full rated torque for more than a few seconds at a time. To be in a situation where you are using full rated torque for any length of time in one of these you are also going to be moving at a pretty good clip, not starting and stopping. So the airflow issues just aren’t going to be an issue. The even bigger commercial trucks are lower rated because commercial operators care a lot less about performance and a lot more about economy and durability. These trucks should do what they say on the tin, but not anywhere near as long.

            And let’s face it, if you were the one making the payments you are not going to drive it up hills the way the magazine testers do. I was curious about the Davis Hill test, googled it and came across and article where they were doing 0-60 runs on the steepest part with a maximum load. IMHO, if you can even GO 60mph up a hill like that with a maximum load you bought too darned much truck and are wasting money. Slow down, put the hazards on, and save. The power wars have gone plaid.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          How long before overheat, is very dependent on how fast you are moving, as well as how hot it is. Make the hill steep enough that you’re stuck in 1st gear towing 31000lbs, and you won’t last that long. Even more so, if you’re putting the truck in park, and using the engine as a generator, or to drive a hydraulic pump.

          In practice, the old guys with big 5th wheels and new, expensive trucks (they’re all old, and all guys…) are more concerned about having enough intermittent torque for reasonably safe freeway merges, and to avoid the indignity of a downshift up a shorter hill, than about perpetual climbs from Badwater to the moon mid summer.

          Anyway; for a realistic somewhat higher duty cycle rating of these engines, just look at the ratings for their class 4 and 5 chassis’ (they have the same radiators and grilles). Which are usually around 600-650 ft-lbs, as that is the input torque rating for many/most medium duty transmissions.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    I looked at the newer one-tons a bit over the last few months. My old F350 is just that – getting old. Lots more horsepower, ridiculous amounts of torque on the new ones which would make towing my 41′ three-horse w/living quarters doubtlessly effortless. Research and the expressed knowledge of my friends who own post-2008 diesels with the DEF and intricate and problematic soot trap systems shut me off to the newer generation of these trucks. Therefore, regardless of the “whip it out and compare sizes” of these newer ones I’ll continue to pull my 16k trailer with my 235hp, 500ft/lb 7.3. It’s not much slower, gets 12mpg pulling at 65 to 70mph on the interstate and, at close to 18 years old and with 270k miles on the clock, just getting broken in.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Have you considered (dare I say it?)…

      Gas? (GASP!)

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        a 41 footer might work a gas motor pretty hard. I steer lots of people away from modern diesels because of the high maintenance costs, but bullnuke sounds like a customer who actually needs all the power of a diesel.

        Modern diesel emissions equipment can be problematic, but over the road users get the best service out of them. It’s the high idle time that really kills them. They soot pack their EGR systems and eventually DPFs from lack of proper regen. Hot shotters don’t have as many issues.

        • 0 avatar
          AVT

          This. More than anything, it’s the 5 minute drives to the grocery store or gas station and school that cause issues. The engine never gets up to temp so none of the components of the system ever reach normal operating cycles. This kills the EGR systems faster than anything else. Our 2011 GMC Sierra 3500HD Dually only gets used for towing 5th wheels. Anything less than that its just overkill. That being said, at no point have I ever really thought, man another 100 ft ibs of torque would be great, but than again, I live in Minnesota. The most we have for elevation change is coming and going out of Duluth towards the Twin Cities.

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Actually PrincipalDan I have and I’m still checking them out. The hemi in the Ram’s is pretty strong (and sounds good when ya get on it!) at 175hp more but 70 ft/lb less torque; the 6.2 Ford has 150hp more but 70 ft/lb less torque; the GM twins (the 6.2 is outa my price and weight range – ridiculous packaging upgrade to get and optional on lesser GVWR vehicles) have the 6.0 which has 145hp more but 120 ft/lb less torque. All three of the gas options require fairly high rpm to utilize their power/torque and work harder/longer. Only the Ram with the 6.4 Hemi is rated to pull a trailer in my weight range but requires a 4.10 rear end to do it. Might just be the way to go but research show this Hemi gets just a bit more mpg unloaded than I presently experience pulling. Rams just feel so cheap inside even compared to my old crank-window XL.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It’s just a bit unnerving to run an engine “wide open” at 5,000+ RPM, for several minutes at a time.

          That’s what I experienced with my 1st “gas engine” truck having run diesels since I could drive. A gas engine pulling a 20,000+ lbs setup seemed a bizarre concept, but since they were basically giving away a fairly “late model” truck for almost nothing (with a tired, massive blow-by gas engine and slippy trans) I decided to give one a shot.

          1st the fan-clutch kicks in with a load roar, temperature spikes and you can basically smell the heat “coming off”, on older trucks.

          But gas engines do the job just fine. You just gotta keep it “floored” and trust it’s not gonna explode before you reach the summit. So you get used to the slow lane with the bros in the diesels pulling toy-haulers flying by at 80 mph, rolling coal. So what?

        • 0 avatar
          Scout_Number_4

          Just replaced my truck this summer. Though I badly wanted a diesel, I couldn’t justify the added cost and was fearful of the expensive repairs down the road. Plus, my trailer only weighs about 6000 lbs. Chose the RAM 2500 with 5.7 Hemi and was able to get a much newer truck with my budget. Just finished a 1200 mile road trip and am very happy–I pulled grades at 55+ mph at will in the 100F heat with no issues other than single digit gas mileage. Could I have gotten by with a 1/2 ton? Certainly, but I sleep better knowing a have lots of towing capacity left over.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            I pull a 24 foot enclosed car hauler with my hmei half ton and it works great for me as well. Single digit mpg is what you’ll get but it doesn’t otherwise complain or lose speed.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “The hemi in the Ram’s is pretty strong (and sounds good when ya get on it!) at 175hp more but 70 ft/lb less torque;”

          you can make up for that with gearing.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The right gears are everything. That’s why there’s “Gear Vender” splitters. They turn a 6-speed into a 12-speed, keeping the RPM in the sweet spot. They’re a cost effective upgrade, plus fuel-saver, double overdrive. Cheap mod, relative to $50,000+ trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            At what point would you say it makes sense to go diesel today?

            I agree with you that for “casual” towing, they make no sense at all. You have to save a heck of a lot in fuel to pay the difference in upfront and maintenance costs. God help you if it breaks out of warranty too.

            Interestingly, my hometown is switching from diesel back to gas for much of their school bus fleet for cost reasons. They don’t put enough miles on them to justify diesel anymore – town is less than 50 square miles in size, most of the buses do two runs a day and just sit around. One of my cousins runs the town garage.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Like danio says, if you actually use the diesel truck to tow a 16K lbs trailer for any distance, and don’t much use it for unloaded, short hop daily driving, the emissions equipment “shouldn’t” give you too much problems. And you’ll save lots of money on fuel, and won’t have to stop by the gas station every 150 miles when towing. And, the 2-3 times greater radiator area (and more efficient combustion) on the diesels, is nice if you tow in hot weather.

          The fleets that are converting to gas, are those who need HD pickups and chassis for the load capacity and upfits, as those duty cycles can clog up emissions equipment. And doesn’t really warrant the upfront charge for the diesel in the first place. Those who need an HD specifically for the tow capacity, still buy the diesels.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        16,000 pound trailer.

        The RAM 3500 with the 6.4 V8 is rated for … just barely over that (16,500 or so).

        The F350 with the 6.2L tops out at 15,000.

        The Silverado 3500 with the 6.0 is rated for 14,600.

        I would not tow a 16k trailer with any of those.

    • 0 avatar
      redapple

      Powerstroke 7.3.
      One of the best.
      Keep it as long as you can.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      I’m with you on that, I’ll be holding on to my 05 dodge for a long time. But, the thing that I really like about the new ones are the transmissions.

    • 0 avatar
      IBx1

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with that 7.3. Chug on, school bus engine.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Old 7.3, 6.0 “pre emissions” trucks in excellent or restore/refreshed condition have a lot of advantages over new trucks, besides the approx $20,000 savings.

      You can build an older truck to your specific needs/tastes, with cash to spare. I know of 2 companies that specialize in restoring “old” 7.3/6.0 trucks to near showroom condition, including various “bulletproofing”, “turnkey” ready to go. It’s no wonder they have customers lined up with cash in-hand, no haggle.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        What is a 6.0l “pre emissions”? They were designed from the onset to be early tier II compliant.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          A simple EGR, cooler and soot trap is purdy much “pre emissions” to what we have today. The later 6.0s (’05 to ’07) are fast becoming the “go to” used Super duty, with all the right bulletproofing/tuning of course. A huge variable turbo, full diagnostics, coil front end, and a rubust trans.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “It’s no wonder they have customers lined up with cash in-hand, no haggle.”

        Probably all named “Cody” and “Zane,” with bicep tats and a confederate flag decal ready to go on their truck with a 6″ exhaust pipe to blast soot into any open windows.

        • 0 avatar
          No Nickname Required

          Jim, at some point you’ll have to just let it go.

          Anyway, here you go, this one has 7″ pipes.

          https://desmoines.craigslist.org/cto/d/sick-diesel-dually-f350/6248332153.html

        • 0 avatar
          No Nickname Required

          Actually this one fits your stereotype even better.

          https://desmoines.craigslist.org/cto/d/2001-fpowerstroke-6-speed/6251162487.html

          P.S. If you are easily offended, do NOT copy and paste. You can’t say you weren’t warned.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Probably only half are Cody or Zane, but most likely anyone looking to save about $20 with a “like new” truck that’s a modern “muscle truck”, but before things got real crazy with emissions.

            The one dually in the link, the dude wants $30,000+ for 13+ year old (very clean, very low mi) truck. He may get $28,000 but the point is, there’s very high demand for these “pre emissions” 6.0 Power stroke trucks, with or without EGR “deletes”, upgrades, tuning, etc., but there’s no shortage of buyers with 20 to $30K burning a hole in there pockets (and purses!).

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    All the current diesel trucks have more HP & torque than you’ll ever need. Honestly, who’s buys one of these trucks today based on who has the highest torque/HP numbers. It would be completely irrelevant to me and I’d think most buyers when buying.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      It’s irrelevant to you, but alot of people who buy trucks in this category actually tow stuff. You typically don’t get a dually unless you really need it because they’re kind of a pain. So ya it is irrelevant to ‘most’ truck buyers, but if it is relevant to ‘you’ then it’s probably VERY relevant.

      As fancy as these 3500s can still be inside, they aren’t good mall cruisers.

      • 0 avatar
        Carlson Fan

        You missed my point. Let’s say you need a truck to pull the travel trailer in the picture. When your towing something that heavy and pushing that much air out of your way a diesel really is your only option. The diesels in the Ford, Chevy/GMC & Dodge all have power to spare for pulling that load. None of them will hardly know it’s back there. So it becomes irrelevant which has the highest HP/torque numbers.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Towing stuff is fine.

        Towing crazy heavy stuff is fine.

        But “I gotta get this one because it has *15 more torques than the other*”, out of *over 900*, is silly; it’s not even 2% of peak torque, and you gotta think at some point transmission durability and the like ought to be more important than another 15 lb-ft.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    The photo shows a Ram 3500 crew dually but IIRC the only way you can get max capacity tow ratings with the Ram is if you buy the fleet spec regular cab dually. I rarely ever see those.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      That’s true but it isn’t a *huge* difference.

      The reg cab 4×2 DRW Aisin with 4.10 is rated at 31,210. The mega cab 4×4 DRW Aisin with 4.10 is rated at 30,100. All the other configurations fall in between.

  • avatar
    Tele Vision

    Five guys at work now drive four-door; 8′ or 6.6′ bed; 4X4; 1- or 3/4-ton Diesel pickups there and back, every day, because they tow massive trailers to a campsite and back once a year. The Chev and Dodge guys like to brag and argue about their respective numbers, not realizing that they’re all negated by using such capable and powerful vehicles as commuters.

  • avatar
    Efrem Hug

    Before I see dyno sheets of each truck, peak numbers are USELESS.. 2 stroke dirt bikes have great power and torque numbers, but they happen in a narrow powerband.
    you want a WIDE powerband for towing, and a peak number isn’t going to tell you anything about that.
    Inline 6’s are known for good lugging ability, my old 12V makes 440 hp and 1000 ft lbs of torque at 2200 RPM.., that power number stays flat until 3200 RPM though torque drops (evidently). I NEVER ask that much of it when I’m towing because it’s just too hard on the rest of the truck, but it is sure handy if you have to pass


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