QOTD: Who's Brave Enough to Challenge the Torque King?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

Monday mornings are probably responsible for more murders than infidelity, but yesterday brought a glorious thing: the official launch of the next-generation Ram Heavy Duty. Be still my pounding heart.

Sure, I’d seen the embargoed images and even published alluring spy shots taken after the entire product line “accidentally” paraded itself down a known photog route (“See anything you like, boys?”), but it’s always nice when automakers make things official. Monday, Fiat Chrysler made another thing official — a 1,000 lb-ft torque figure for the more powerful of its two revamped Cummins six-pot diesels.

Boom. Minds no doubt reeled in Dearborn and the Renaissance Center, if insider info hadn’t already tipped them off. There’s a lot of bragging rights FCA doesn’t have access to, but HD pickup torque is not one of them. Surely, plans are by now afoot. Who will be first to end the king’s reign?

First off, allow me to admit my schoolgirl-like glee upon first seeing the new Ram HD, especially in regular cab form. Both future and current-gen non-dually Ram HDs are my pinups. In the world of Steph, these vehicles are akin to a Tiger Beat poster of a doe-eyed Disney actor in the bedroom of a precocious tween. I’m the one on the bed, scrawling hearts around scribblings reading “Steph 2500/3500 Limited Willems” in my diary.

With that unsettling image out of the way, here’s the reasoning for my burning lust: Look at the thing, then look at its Detroit rivals. Until its pending — and quite controversial — redesign, General Motors’ big boys were too much on the plain side; soon they’ll be over the top, depending on trim. I referred to the new crop’s design as an experiment, and I stand behind the statement. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Ford’s Super Duty line once garnered much of my attention, but subsequent redesigns and refreshes added up to a face too blocky and branded to stimulate much interest.

Ram’s designers aren’t interested in experiments, apparently, and for that, I applaud. Just look at this seductive temptress:


But we’re not talking about bodies today — this is torque talk. For years, and especially for the last few, Detroit Three automakers have engaged in a pitched battle on the diesel torque front. As soon as one company ceded stump-pulling ground to another, in came a counterattack to retake the lost territory, Western Front-style. It’s been entertaining watching the joust between the Cummins, Duramax, and Power Stroke camps. You’ve read about it here.

Now that FCA and its high-flying Ram brand has the crown, that hi-po Cummins is in more crosshairs than a mob informant. For the 2018 model year, Ford was on top. Its 6.7-liter diesel V8 churned out 935 lb-ft of twist (yes, fucking twist — twist, twist, twist), which had catapulted the brand mere meters ahead of Ram in the Battle of the Somme-like torque war a year after FCA held the ridge. Now, instead of hopping forward by 5 or 10 lb-ft, Ram and Cummins went ahead and broke the four-figure barrier with all the swagger of Chuck Yeager. It’s a barrier writers know all too well, as we all envy those plutocrat thousandaires.

While 65 lb-ft doesn’t seem like a lot, maybe Ford and GM hadn’t set aside the cash necessary to bridge a gap of that size. For 2019, Ford remains at 935 lb-ft for its Super Duty diesel and GM, which has a new HD in store for 2020, sits way back at 910 lb-ft with its Duramax 6.6-liter.

My money’s on Ford, which can’t stand relinquishing a truck crown for long, but who knows. Maybe GM has a trick up its sleeve. Who wins, and when?

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

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  • Maxb49 Maxb49 on Jan 15, 2019

    People misunderstand/misapply torque ratings. Flywheel torque tells you what your powerband is. Horsepower is the rate at which torque is produced. More horsepower = more pulling power. The benefit to the higher torque ratings is that more power is generated at lower engine speeds, which is important for a diesel that cannot reliably sustain high RPM due to internal friction associated with heavier parts. TL/DR: Horsepower is still the important figure. Torque tells you where in the RPM range that power is produced. Neverhteless, a 450 horsepower/400 lb. ft. gas engine will out pull a diesel engine making 380 horsepower/1,000 lb. ft. of torque. It's just physics.

    • See 2 previous
    • Maxb49 Maxb49 on Jan 15, 2019

      @SPPPP You're right, and the answer to your question is yes, but modern transmissions make up for that.

  • Matt Foley Matt Foley on Jan 15, 2019

    So who would win a tug-of-war: a 2019 Ram HD, or ten NA6 Miatas? And all the Miatas had working viscous limited-slip diffs, and the tug-of-war took place in the dirt, so all 11 drivers had to deal with wheelspin and the Ram driver couldn't just floor it while the Miata drivers were friggling around trying not to fry their clutches? How about nine NA6 Miatas and a Clydesdale horse? Just finished a work project...not eager to start the next one.

  • Lorenzo All the efforts made over decades to reduce/eliminate NVH in ICE cars, and now they're putting noise and vibration into electric cars. It reminds me of efforts to make veggie burgers taste like meat. Vegetarians don't want the taste of meat, and meat eaters will want meat, not veggie burgers.
  • Jalop1991 A true golf cart.Sure, it's a penalty box inside. But you're not in it for more than a few minutes at a time during commutes and in between charging stops.Ergo, it's the perfect...golf cart.
  • Zipper69 I'm sure it will sell just fine at all trim levels.I'd only note that IMHO the dashboard is a bit of a busy mess.
  • MaintenanceCosts Why do you have to accept two fewer cylinders in your gas engine to get an electric motor? (This question also applies to the CX-90.)
  • Zipper69 Do they have unique technology that might interest another manufacturer?