GM offered reporters a brief ride in the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado HD with the new engine. Hitched to the pickup: a trailer with 10,000 pounds of ballast. We were encouraged to drive it hard. Despite the heavy load, the Silverado effortlessly blasted from 50 to 70 mph in less than two seconds. It can hit 60 mph without a trailer in just over seven seconds. That’s a pretty incredible feat for a vehicle with a curb weight of around 3 tons.
In the last 15 months, Ram and Ford have boosted the power of their diesel pickup engines in heavy-duty trucks. Ram was first to hit 900 pounds-feet, last summer, then came Ford this summer, and now GM can boast going over 900. To those of us who live in Detroit and other places where pickups are used mostly for daily transportation and the occasional Home Depot run, that torque figure is fairly meaningless.
But in Texas -- where customers buy more pickups than any other state -- the escalation in torque is serious business.
“We live in the country. We pull big trailers with everything from trucks to John Deere tractors and bales of hay,” said Eric Castillo Sr., a rancher from Rio Medina, Texas. “Each bale weighs a thousand pounds, and we put 20 bales on there. So when you are pulling 20,000 pounds plus the trailer, the torque makes a big difference.”
While I was in Dallas, I watched the traffic on Interstate 30 to get a sense of what trucks are tasked with here. Some unscientific observations: About 8 out of 10 pickups that passed by me had something in the bed, such as a heavy steel toolbox or construction equipment.
Roughly four out of 10 were also towing something, from a light trailer with lawn equipment to large horse trailers and other very heavy loads.
Castillo, who runs a fleet of Chevrolet pickups, closely follows the torque ratings, though he says if Ford or Ram ease ahead of Chevrolet, it won’t cause him to switch brands.
Doug Scott, Ford’s truck marketing manager, said Texas accounts for 17 percent of all F-series sales, the industry’s top-selling nameplate, and that Ford constantly mines data from Texas truck buyers to improve the breed.
In the 2017 F-series Super Duty, Ford engineers boosted the output of the Power Stroke turbodiesel V-8 to 440 hp and 925 pounds-feet of torque and reduced the vehicle’s weight. That gives the big pickup the ability to tow a maximum of 32,500 pounds using a gooseneck-type hitch.
Think about that for a moment. That 32,500-pound payload equals about nine 2016 Mustangs. That’s amazing power from a 6.7-liter V-8 engine.