HD Trucks: Battle for Supremacy - Sway Control
1,000 lb-ft: Insanity or Inevitability?
The past couple of years have made our heads spin with the quantity and quality of innovation happening in the fullsize truck segment. Things really kicked into high gear with the introduction of the ’09 Ram 1500, followed by the ’11 F-150 with the EcoBoost, and it has been relentless ever since. The new Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon brought some much-needed fresh sheetmetal to the stale midsize segment, and our 2015 Pickup Truck of the Year, the Ford F-150, made the industry stand up and take notice of the potential of aluminum use in trucks.
"I half-jokingly asked the question, but the other half of me was dead serious."
However, if you’re not buckled up already, brace yourself, because another tidal wave of truck innovation is coming in the form of HD trucks. Ford has already publicly stated the next-generation Super Duty will have an aluminum body, likely along with a lot of other innovations Dearborn isn’t talking about yet. We know General Motors has a next-generation Duramax V-8 diesel right around the corner that promises to bring the heat to the Ford Power Stroke and Ram’s Cummins. And don’t think that Ram is going to rest on its laurels for long with its HD models. Both FCA and Cummins are ambitious, innovative companies that are determined to stay at the top of their game. Even with the forthcoming introduction of the Nissan Titan XD, the two companies have a rock-solid relationship with their HD trucks that’s endured more than 25 years and will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
Two years ago, at a Ram event and, admittedly, after a glass or two of wine, I asked an engineer what the likelihood was of a Ram HD with 1,000 lb-ft of torque. I half-jokingly asked the question, but the other half of me was dead serious. After all, since the LB7 Duramax debuted in 2001 with 520 lb-ft, we’ve seen torque ratings skyrocket. The current high-water mark is the Ram 3500’s 865 lb-ft. Is another 135 lb-ft really that inconceivable? The engineer gave me a surprisingly serious and rational answer. He said HD trucks are meant for work and that achieving that benchmark would only really make sense if it offered a tangible benefit to the buyer. Sure, he admitted, it would be worth some bragging rights, but the company wouldn’t do it just for the sake of vanity. He went on to explain the systems approach engineering takes, and that the increased output, although well within the Cummins 6.7L’s potential bandwidth, would require a beefier transmission, driveshafts, axles, and a bigger cooling system.
Right now, it may seem crazy that a factory-built truck would roll out of the showroom with that level of torque. Nevertheless, the diesel aftermarket has surpassed that benchmark long ago, with many tuned trucks making over 2,000 lb-ft.
What level of torque will the ’17 Super Duty have? 870 or even 880 lb-ft isn’t unlikely. Naturally, GM or Ram will counter soon afterward with 900. What’s the next step? 905 lb-ft? 920? At that point, why not go for a grand? You can bet whoever gets there first will promote the fact triumphantly, engineering rationality be damned. Is 1,000 lb-ft ridiculous overkill or the logical next step?