Another Flare-up in the Great Torque War: Ram 3500 Takes the Lead

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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