Sometime during the night of September 29, 1913, Rudolph Diesel, 55 years old, roughly 10 million marks in debt, and racked by debilitating headaches, disappeared from the liner Dresden as it crossed the English Channel. In Diesel's cabin was found his inventor's notebook. Under the date of his disappearance, there was nothing but a small cross, marked in Diesel's hand; 11 days later a passing ship found his floating body. At that point, there'd been little progress in commercializing the Paris-born Bavarian's highly efficient engine. And its future seemed to go over the rail along with its creator.

Had Rudolph Diesel, at that railing, clairvoyantly seen, say, 91 years into the future, he might not have made that fatal leap into the sea. For he would've witnessed us whistling up and down the steep incline called the Grapevine, north of the Los Angeles basin, in a trio of turbodiesel trucks towing an 8500-pound boat and trailer rig like it was a Zodiac inflatable. There we were, the toast of the truck lane. The dandies of dieselland. Thanks, Rudy.

None of this is to say these behemoths make quite the same sense uncoupled from this profound payload. Trailerless, the Cummins-engined Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 Quad Cab SLT, the Duramax-equipped GMC Sierra 2500 HD 4WD Crew Cab, and the Power Stroke-propelled Ford F-250 Crew Cab 4x4 (this one in spectacular Harley-Davidson orange, black, and chromes, no less) are awkwardly incomplete arguments. Uncoupled, they're inexplicably huge. They're insanely noisy. On irregular concrete, they can erupt into fits of bull-ride shuddering that would throw you into the back seat were you not buckled in. And for your trouble, diesel refueling stations have an uncanny knack for vaporizing exactly when you need them ("please, please, let there be a fourth number on that gas station's price board...").

However, with your speedboat looming in the side mirrors and a steep grade facing you in the windshield, everything snaps into logical sense. Instantly, the size is right, the roar is reassuring, the ride settles into a fluid lope. What perfect tools these three are for the megatowing job at hand. And 500-plus pound-feet of diesel torque doesn't seem the least bit excessive. In 1892, Rudolph Diesel was awarded a patent for finding a way to exploit the theoretical benefits of a high compression ratio; 112 years later, we decided it was time to explore its real-world value in our own high-compression comparison and towing matchup.