After bumping the Chevrolet Silverado into third place in U.S. sales of large pickups during the first quarter, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Ram truck is stepping on the gas in an effort to keep the General Motors truck in its rearview mirror.
The latest salvo is aimed at Chevy's engine bay: The Ram's reworked EcoDiesel turbo 3.0-liter engine just posted higher torque numbers than the all-new 3.0-liter inline-six coming for the Silverado as soon as it completes EPA certification for fuel economy.
With the return of the EcoDiesel and the launch of GM's Duramax 3.0-liter, all three Detroit automakers now offer a light-duty diesel engine.
The horsepower/torque race looks like this:
Ram 1500: 260 hp/480 pound-feet
Chevrolet Silverado: 277 hp/460 pound-feet
Ford F-150: 250 hp/440 pound-feet
You might think Ram's 20-pound-foot torque advantage over Silverado won't be felt much by the driver, and you'd be right. But that's not what that number is about. This year, Ram rocked the pickup world by jacking up the torque of the Cummins diesel engine in the heavy-duty version to an astounding 1,000 pound-feet, the most powerful consumer diesel pickup engine -- measured by torque -- money can buy.
Unlike with cars, torque is the more important measure of truck performance. Torque is a measurement of the engine's twisting force. The more torque an engine generates, the more weight it can haul. Horsepower is more a measurement of top speed. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is rated to haul 12,560 pounds, while the F-150 diesel checks in 11,400 pounds. GM has not released ratings for the Silverado 3.0-liter diesel.
Now with the strongest light-duty diesel engine and strongest heavy-duty diesel engine, Ram's marketing people will go to work and continue driving wedges between owners and their competitive trucks to help loosen the bonds behind their loyalty. And that's a strategy that seems to be working: Lure potential buyers with the promise of more power, and then close the deal with interiors that blow away the competition.
The latest Ram has taken truck interiors to a new level. It's been wooing potential buyers with bespoke-styled interiors constructed of high-quality leathers and flourishes of design that give the trucks a custom-made look.
GM has been slow to ramp up output of the latest Silverado as it switches to a mixed-metals manufacturing process that reduces weight. Still, the truck has received a fair amount of criticism for styling and for an interior that is widely viewed as being eclipsed by those in Ford and Ram pickups.
While nothing is going to threaten Ford's large pickup leadership, all bets are off for second place. Ram officials are saying loud and clear that they think whatever GM can do with pickups, Ram can do better.
This year, GM President Mark Reuss said he was confident GM would have the "most powerful" light-duty diesel pickup — and he's not wrong when horsepower figures are compared. He also said GM was aiming for the "best performing diesel in the segment." We don't know yet what the fuel economy figures are for the EcoDiesel or the Silverado. And so, GM could hit two of the three most important measurements for light-duty diesels. Ford currently leads the pack with a 30-mpg highway rating on the F-150.
But with fat profits from trucks basically paying the bills at GM, the fading Silverado could be the biggest crisis the company has faced since its financial troubles a decade ago. It's one product that GM has to lead in every metric important to consumers. And Ram just made that more difficult.