For decades, heavy-duty pickup-truck manufacturers have fought a number of shortcomings—reliability and longevity come immediately to mind—in winning the business of the all-important commercial buyer. Nowhere have those skirmishes been more frequent and intense than in the pursuit of power output and towing capacity.
The latest salvo over maximum muscle in the work-truck wars has been fired by Ram Trucks. Starting with the new 2018 model, the Ram 3500 will feature performance specs and towing capabilities once reserved for Class 4 and Class 5 trucks.
It all comes down to the numbers, says Mike Manley, head of the Jeep and Ram brand for FCA Global. “Ram maintains capability leadership by delivering the highest-ever torque rating for a pickup truck and the heaviest fifth-wheel trailer towing capacity,” he says.
To put that statement in real-world contractor terms, Manley is talking about the available 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel engine that cranks out a class-leading 930 lb-ft of torque.
Ram power-train engineers worked closely with longtime engine partner Cummins to reach this new level of power. “This higher torque number is the direct result of higher boost limits that were made possible by a variable-geometry turbo and the corresponding flow-rate increases in the fuel-delivery system,” explains Jeff Johnson, head of Ram’s heavy-duty marketing division.
These changes to the engine’s design have brought some very practical benefits for professional customers looking to perform the work of a larger pickup truck, according to Johnson. “With a best-in-class 930 lb-ft of torque, even the largest loads or steepest grades become more effortless with our proven 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel,” he says.
Other notable upgrades for 2018 Ram 3500 models is the ability to tow a whopping 15 tons via a fifth-wheel hitch. With a goose-neck hitch, towing capability tops out at 15.6 tons.
“Our previous optional factory fifth-wheel hitch was rated at 25,000 lb [or 12.5 tons],” Johnson explains. “So, we added a more robust skid plate and beefed-up legs and added more attachment points, all of which was enough to boost maximum fifth-wheel capacity to a class-leading 30,000 lb, enough to tow the heaviest trailers out there.”
The natural comparison with these increasingly heavy-duty pickups comes when they bump up against medium-duty models in the Class 4 to Class 6 categories, which have been the workhorses of construction for decades. But the new Cummins inline six-cylinder diesel engine under the hood of 2018 Ram 3500 models—not to mention the turbodiesel V8 powering its closest rival, the F-350 Ford Super Duty—may make the greater initial price for the larger vehicles a more difficult decision compared to the 3500’s base price of $35,000.
Todd Westby, civil superintendent for Spokane-based concrete contractor Cameron-Reilly LLC, says that, while contractors primarily use bumper-pull trailers in their work, that doesn’t mean having the new 2018 Ram 3500’s extra power would be lost on them.
Westby says, “Having that much additional torque turns out to be kind of important, as it means less strain on the engines when we’re towing equipment and materials, especially on steep grades.”