By on June 25, 2019

America’s truck wars are in full swing, with torque ratings going though the ceiling and the level of manufacturer braggadocio reaching a fever pitch. Where one goes, the other attempts to stomp.

That level of competition was on full display at last week’s drive event of the new Chevy Silverado HD. With Ram having snatched the torque crown to the tune of 1000lb-ft, The General was quick to point out their trucks accelerated faster despite the difference in twist. Ram, predictably, was quick to clap back.

Asserting their acceleration dominance, GM reps showed stats alleging their 3500 DRW diesel pickup scoots to 60mph in 7.4 seconds, two ticks quicker than Ram. Burdened with an 18,000lb trailer, that gap stretches to 2.6 seconds — measured as 19.9 and 22.5 seconds respectively.

Here’s our question: would any of this matter to you as a HD truck buyer? Would you sign on the line that is dotted simply because the truck has four-figure torque? Or because of manufacturer-provided acceleration times? At what point is it all for bragging rights instead of actual functionality?

Your author, of course, loves this stuff and encourages truck manufacturers to after each other with hammers and tongs. Competition improves the breed, whether that’s interior comfort, powertrain tech, or trailering aids. I think it’s great. How about you?

 

[Image: © 2019 Matthew Guy]

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52 Comments on “QOTD: Is Too Much Not Enough?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    No, torque is just one of many measurements I would use to judge a vehicle. Slight differences in hp/torque numbers don’t mean a lot in drivability, but if everything else were equal, they never are, then I might use those numbers as a deciding factor. There are just so many important points to judge a truck, like transmission and gear ratios, that a few hp or torques isn’t going to make that much difference. Not to mention quality, payload, towing, dependability, price… the list is long

  • avatar
    ajla

    Acceleration times are fairly high on my buying criteria and if I’m being honest a .2 difference likely would influence my decision.

    That said, I don’t buy trucks in the first place so I’m not the best person to ask.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      Acceleration times are fairly high on my list too, but not at 2/10ths of a second. As long as they’re within about 2 seconds of each other, I’m more likely to go for one whose looks and capabilities better meet my desires than I am for which one is fastest. And honestly, for all that I don’t like full-sized trucks (I call them Road Whales™ for a reason,) the Ram is currently the best looking one of the bunch–and that includes the Titan and the Tundra in the bunch.

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        The Ram HD looks like a Ram should.

        Fiatsler erred a bit by changing the looks of the half-ton. Fortunately for them, GGM REALLY went off the reservation on their new trucks!

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      0.2 seconds can literally be wasted just by having a slow RT, or compromised traction off the line. Better still, have a slight rolling start (less than 5mph like some tests) and watch your 0-60 improve dramatically.

      In other words, you won’t really notice it.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Interesting question and a relevant one because the company I work for, we are looking at a truck (likely not a HD-model…that would be overkill) to haul supplies and materials.
    More than torque is important to me. No one will win an arms race with HP and torque. Higher numbers just seem to materialize every year. What’s more important to me is actual cost of ownership. Is the truck going to bleed me/the company dry with each fuel stop? The difference between 14mpg and 20mpg when thousands of miles are driven each month is a huge deal. How about service intervals? Not every model/dealer offers free/reduced price service.
    When you’re just hauling yourself and a briefcase/gym bag and living the image that a huge truck provides, the difference between 800lb-ft and 1000lb-feet is moot. Even if you’re just hauling a few ladders and mulch, a HD truck is way too much for the job. But if you’re hauling machinery, multiple vehicles, or those massive pieces of construction equipment that take up the width of 1.5 lanes on the interstate, then it’s time to look at all of that torque.
    But what’s really important to me is also the image of the truck. If I needed one, I don’t want it to look like some kind of caricature of a big rig. Almost all of the HD trucks, and I’m REALLY looking at you Ford, thinks that a massive 7′ diagonal grille overloaded with chrome with pinched headlights added as an afterthought is the apex of style. All that means is that it’s a brick, and it probably won’t age well. I have this vision of these design meetings with designers yelling LARGER, LARGER, LARGER!!! when designing the grille, not thinking about what it does to the rest of the truck.
    Make a truck last, get acceptable mileage, and not look hideous – three more important things than the average suburbanite who thinks he/she might need a HD truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      The grille was so important to Chevy that they added a second story to their grille

      • 0 avatar
        theflyersfan

        And then hired a kindergarten class with some worn out Crayolas to design it.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        Like the double stacked headlights on the Fords. I think they look silly on a vehicle that never gets dirt on it and hitting the curb on a right turn is the closest thing it’ll ever get to offroad. It’s definitely image, I’ve said it before, but it’s the same thing as buying a sports car and never taking it to a track.

        People have the right to look silly but believe they look cool. To each their own!

  • avatar
    jack4x

    Up to a point. The truck needs to be not just capable, but comfortably capable of anything I might throw at it. I’m the type of truck buyer who buys much more than I “need”, because a safety margin is more important to me than ease of parking, MPG, ride quality, or any other argument for a smaller truck.

    That said, there’s a bright line for me at diesel vs. gas. I would buy the biggest, baddest big block gas engine, damn the cost, but I won’t touch another diesel as long as I live. They could offer 2000 lbs of torque and it wouldn’t matter as long as they are an order of magnitude more expensive to fix, the fuel is pricier, the emissions more finicky, etc. Gas engines are capable enough that I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything. 1000 lb-ft is impressive on paper but it doesn’t tow my car trailer or plow my driveway appreciably better than my truck.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Maybe I could address this discussion with something my Father-in-Law once told me about some trucks he drove. Horsepower means nothing without torque but while torque influences acceleration, where it’s most effective is its ability to maintain speed on a grade without needing to downshift. He demonstrated this with a pair of 350 horse trucks going through the mountains (non-turbo) where the first lacked the torque to maintain speed on a 1%-2% grade while the second never even slowed down and walked away from the first. So while the first could get a good start on accelerating through the gears, the second was able to maintain speed better.

    Now, I’m not relating this to anything PUTC has done over the course of its ‘shootouts’ with different classes of trucks but maybe it’s time for a new HD-class comparison to see how well the different torque numbers work out with the new trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “where it’s most effective is its ability to maintain speed on a grade without needing to downshift.”

      Wouldn’t that have as much to do with the transmission tuning and gearing as the engine’s output? Especially if we are talking about vehicles with similar (within 5% of each other) torque ratings?

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I also wonder what altitude the vehicles were at. That would also hurt the N/A motor.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          To answer both Ajla and sporty, they were both NA going through or along the Appalachian mountains, not the Rockies. I-81 parallels the mountain chain from Tennessee into New York and crossing the chain twice, in southwestern Virginia and northeastern Pennsylvania. More than once I’ve seen turbo trucks blow their turbos on those grades. I’ve also watched N/A trucks pass other N/A trucks on those same grades, driving that highway an average of four times per year over the last 23 years. I’ll tell you, when those turbos blow, the truck loses all sense of power and its speed drops from 60mph to 30mph almost immediately and I’ve seen some forced to come to a complete stop and call for help.

          It’s also why I refused to buy the new Ford Ranger as I intend to to a travel trailer with my Colorado and don’t want to even risk a turbo blow-out on a grade. And yes, I chose the N/A V6 under the hood than either of the I-4 (gas or diesel) available. Similar horses than the EcoBoost and only marginal difference in torque but Probably better fuel economy under load and no risk of turbo failure.

      • 0 avatar
        JimC2

        If the transmission *doesn’t* have to downshift to go up a long, steep hill then the truck is wasting a lot of gas the 90% of the time it is cruising on a level highway… and making more noise droning along at higher rpm too. Simple as that!

        Why do consumers and carmakers seem to misunderstand this simple fact? What is so wrong about a quieter vehicle that uses less gas just because it has to downshift to drive up big hills?

        Sheesh!

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          The factor is in knowing if you even NEED to shift. I clearly described a 1%-2% grade where such a shift should be unnecessary, vs your 5% where such a shift is better off pre-emptive shifting rather than waiting for the revs to drop too low.

          • 0 avatar
            JimC2

            Oh yes, I understand. I didn’t intend for my comment to come across as arguing with you on your point (slight upgrades).

            I probably should have been clearer instead of dropping off a random rant like that.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Sehr gut (very good), Jim. With my automatics, I’ve had to teach them when to shift under normal conditions and both my Jeep and my Chevy know to downshift about 300revs sooner than factory programming. As a result, no ‘hunting’ and no need to drop two gears for a minor grade and shifts earlier than factory even for steeper grades.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        For ease of climbing grades, you can always go more aggressive on gearing, but you’ll pay more at the pump. It depends on where your priorities are.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Knowing how to train the transmission helps, too, DM.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Once the gas pedal goes to the floor, the trans, “trained” or not, won’t hang on to the wrong gear for too long. But a “pre-emptive” or forced downshift could overrev the engine. Get to know your truck!

            You want to downshift into the sweet spot of the engine, or higher if you’ll be losing speed and that may take coming off idle, or better yet, coasting down for a second.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @DM: Obviously you don’t know how to train a dragon (transmission.) You have to treat it with ‘love’ rather than whipping it all the time. Why would I want to floorboard the gas when I’m only wanting to maintain speed on a grade, hmmm? Even cruise control knows it doesn’t have to floorboard the accelerator just to get a little more power out of the engine. It only needs enough to force a downshift. But if you train the tranny, it learns when to downshift without having to add that much power, therefore saving gas (averaged 27mpg traveling upstream beside the Susquehanna River over 130 miles.)

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            Whether you floorboard it, or just give it some extra beans, the concept is the same. But neither wastes gas. Unspent fuel returns to the tank. Except once it downshifts, it’s a different story.

            No matter well you think you have it “trained”, no trans will read your mind. Once you start losing momentum, you have to prompt it, or how does it know you’re not wanting to slow down anyway? Like approaching slowing traffic? Or approaching the top of the grade?

            Just holding the pedal firm, midway or whatever, as you lose speed, will prompt the trans to downshift. Btw, I learned to drive when diesel pickups had mechanical injection, so you had to keep backing off the throttle as you lost momentum, or could downshift. All stick shifts.

            Unspent fuel wouldn’t return to the tank, but would burn in the exhaust manifolds, they could warp, blow the head gaskets, and or kill the turbo.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            You really don’t understand today’s automotive technologies, do you DM? Today’s automatic transmissions are computerized and designed to ‘learn’ your driving habits. Many, if not most, have some means in the transmission controls to manually control shifts; most certainly BOTH of my vehicles do. You can tell the transmission to downshift earlier than it was pre-programmed to do, eliminating the “hunting” once ubiquitous among 6-speed-plus automatics. A few applications of this type where the transmission shows signs of waiting too long to shift trains the system to shift sooner, before revs drop too low for a smooth, single-gear downshift to simply maintain speed rather than a two-gear drop to accelerate back to cruising speed.

            In my Jeep it took about three trips to the in-Laws for it to learn the shifts, in my Colorado it took only two–one of those towing an 8′ U-haul trailer behind it. Now when running cruise control on the drive, it downshifts where I used to shift with my manuals and it never has to ‘race’ the engine to maintain speed.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @DM: Oh, and to the question of, “Once you start losing momentum, you have to prompt it, or how does it know you’re not wanting to slow down anyway?”, the computers can read the load on the engine/transmission and if the load increases OR decreases beyond your chosen limits, it will know to automatically downshift to maintain your set speed. Yes, it can even help you control downhill grades to some extent, though not as well as it can uphill grades.

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      @all the above: This is why you need a manual transmission and why OEM’s should offer one! No training necessary!

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @Jon: But when your wife can’t drive a stick and she needs to be able to drive both family vehicles, guess what? That’s right–you train the tranny instead. Tried to teach her on three different manuals and could never quite get the coordination down–especially on uphill starts but even on the flat. Add to this the truck will be pulling a travel trailer (about 25% of the time with her behind the wheel) and the choices are extremely limited. Easier to get what works than risking a mistake under load.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          The problem is, how we train. Start with “the hill” exercise first. Use a car with a center-mount handbrake, which you’ll control, keeping it from rolling back. Then the learner can focus on “foot coordination”, and only that.

          Clutch in, clutch out, clutch in, clutch out, all the way up the hill, with you ON and OFF the handbrake where necessary.

          That only takes minutes, then the learner can move on to keeping the car from rolling back themselves.

          The rest is child’s-play after that. I’m telling you I’ve trained a half dozen pupils to drive a stick in a 1/2 hour max.

          • 0 avatar
            ttacgreg

            Controlling roll back can be done with an under the dash pedal emergency brake too. Set the brake. Hold the brake release. Ease out the clutch in gear, when the clutch laboring against the set brake is felt, pull the brake release.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            @DM: I spent ten years trying to teach my wife that, in–as I said–three different vehicle types over that time. She simply could not coordinate three pedals, even when a handbrake was available for those hill starts. And where I live, stalling your engine at a traffic light gets you a lot more than just dirty looks and horn-honking.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            I meant YOU control the handbrake from the passenger side, as the trainer.

            But your wife has earned the right to just say No to manuals. Just for putting up with YOU all these years…

            Unless she wants to learn. Except the place to learn is an abandoned, dead end, etc, road. One less thing to worry about, like rolling backwards. Or you could set the E-brake on just a couple ‘clicks’, just enough to stop or slow the backwards roll. But I guess it’s easier to train a kid.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Like I said, already tried. You really need to learn that you can’t teach a fox new tricks when said fox grew up on those tricks. It’d be like trying to teach you how to suck eggs. (Lots of protein in them thar aigs, too!)

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    This is all “Whip it out and measure” stuff that’s getting a bit silly. I’m with jack4x – recent diesels are powerful but laden with crazy-exotic and failure-prone electronic plumbers nightmare emissions controls. I’ll stick with my old 235hp/500lb-ft 7.3L. It pulls 16k adequately (there are some hilly areas where I am down in 1st and granny to get through) and still averages 12mpg while doing it. I did look at gassers a year or so back and if there’s ever one that can match/exceed my current truck’s capability I may seriously consider it. But none of these “new tech” diesels for me.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      A lot of it is driven by hotshotters and others pushing 40,000 lbs and more. There’s definitely a need, but I’m wondering if there could also be a need for 3.0 liter 6 cylinder diesels in HD trucks for those not trying to set the trucking world on fire, possibly for utilities, cities, etc, needing HD payload, and mostly run regular cabs.

  • avatar
    Jon

    Number of gears and transmission gear spread are more important than torque output (up to a point). Id rather have a engine with 650lbft of torque and ten speeds over an engine with 850lbft of torque and six speeds.

  • avatar
    TimK

    All that mighty torque, and it routes through a 8, 9, 10-speed slush box with how many parts?

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    The torque/towing wars in pickups is just the same as the HP wars of the current crop muscle, pony, sport cars. Does anyone really need 700+ horsepower in their cars? No, but it sure makes for good bragging rights.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Actually, Yes. 700 HP/Tq is about the bare minimum acceptable for a halo pony car or high spec sports car. Part of it is simple evolution, but mostly you don’t want your A$$ handed to you by a backwards cap wearing kid in a slammed ’98 Acura.

      Aftermarket tuners have been flirting with excess of 1,000 HP/Tq for years now, on daily driven cars. It had to happen.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    If anything this screams of desperation in GMs part. They know their truck is awful so you have to point out “weak” points on the best truck sold.

    But any rational person will know that speed isn’t really important when towing. What’s the point of having speed when the ride and interior materials are terrible (Ford) or the truck overall is uglier than sin (GM)? I’ll take the slower, more powerful, more comfortable Ram.

  • avatar
    SD 328I

    No different than any other segment. Have you looked at muscle cars or premium sedans recently?

    The spec wars have expended to every single segment, especially the power wars.

    The difference is that with trucks, you actually haves spec that have a real life benefit to the World. The rest are just for fun in the other segments.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Torque is a force, Power is the rate of application of that force.

    Torque tells you how much work you can do, while power tells you how quick you can do that work.

    So yeah the truck with more power is faster.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Not always. We’re assuming respective trans and axle-ratios are the same/similar, and they never are. Often, not even close.

      Except once we know the Torque figure, “HP” is fairly irrelevant. But only knowing the HP figure, leaves a lot of questions.

  • avatar
    JimC2

    Just think of that rear window as a huge canvas for a great bit Calvin-urinating decal!

  • avatar
    JMII

    Not in the HD truck market but in the midsized market and yes torque matters. However its not the only thing. So when one truck has better numbers then another it could easily be offset with mileage or gearing or options packages. I buy the whole vehicle not just the engine.

    I’ve owned two trucks now and the different in HP/TQ is very apparent and makes towing my boat easier. Previous I had a V6 4.0l Ranger and now have a V8 4.7l Dodge Dakota. Currently my Dakota is more HP limited, its TQ seems fine for the job mainly because my boat is only 2000lbs. The Ranger was limited in both HP and TQ, it did the job but struggled even in flat FL. I’ve towed with a friends full size diesel and it was totally effortless, like the boat wasn’t even back there. Having the power to tow like that makes getting to and from the boat ramp way more relaxing.

  • avatar
    MrIcky

    .2 seconds unloaded is pretty meaningless to me. Getting up to speed to enter a freeway with a trailer attached is pretty dang important. It’s pretty scary when you struggle to merge- so that 2.6 second figure MAY be important to me.

  • avatar
    427Cobra

    Price creep seems to be in full effect… and getting a bit out of hand for my wallet. (price is my biggest concern) In 2016, I decided to replace my 2000 SuperDuty supercab v10 4×4. I just needed more room for the dog. The prices on used trucks were to the point where it wasn’t much of a stretch to buy new. I looked at a leftover ’15 SuperDuty, but they just wouldn’t deal on it. I bought a ’16 Ram 2500 crew cab 6.4L Hemi 4×4… Tradesman (base) trim level. It has everything I need/want… cloth/carpet interior, chrome package, 4.10 gears, trailer brake controller, park sense, backup camera, LED bed lights, etc. It is the most comfortable/quiet vehicle I own. I got nearly $11k off of sticker. I am extremely happy with the truck AND the deal.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    In the end, it is all about bragging rights. It is human nature.

    Similar to whether your audio amplifier has 8,000 or 10,000 watts, it will still be deafening.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’m more interested in the way a vehicles looks and its overall cost of ownership as long as its specs are adequate to get out of it’s own way. I don’t tow so wonder if there is a functional difference, really between these fire breathing diesels of today and the less powerful forerunners. I legitimately wonder if the 2.7T in the current F150 is functionally better than the 4.9 I6 of 22 years ago.

    My car is commonly derided as being slow, but I have never felt the need for more power.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Vehicles are primarily marketing and fashion. There will aways be trends that eventually burn themselves out. I rather expect pickup trucks that are half the size of a school bus to be a trend that burns out.


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